"The care of children is at the forefront of the teachings of Christ," Lord Nolan said at the launch of the first report of the Independent Review on Child Protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales on Tuesday. The Church should become an example of best practice in the prevention of child abuse and in responding to it, he said. The Independent Review committee, chaired by Lord Nolan, was set up last summer at the request of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, with a brief to: "to examine and review arrangements made for child protection and the prevention of abuse within the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and to make recommendations." Lord Nolan said that out of the ten members, eight came from external organisations and six were non-Catholic. He explained: "The Review has met nine times and received over 150 submissions from individuals and organisations. This first report is being published in advance of the meeting of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales from 23 to 27 April. The Review's final report is expected to be published in the summer. Lord Nolan said: "This is essentially a practical report. Our overriding aim has been to create a secure environment for children. Our proposals are meant to improve existing diocesan and national structures and procedures so that parishes are supported in their efforts to protect children in their care. We also want to ensure a consistent and effective approach across the Church to allegations of child abuse." The report makes 50 recommendations including: *That the whole Catholic church in England and Wales and the individual bishops and religious superiors should commit themselves to a single set of policies, principles and practices based on the Home Office document 'Safe From harm' . *That there should be speedy and effective implementation in parishes, dioceses, and religious orders, including a programme to raise awareness and train those involved. * That every parish should have a designated child protection representative to ensure that diocesan policies an procedures are known and followed. * That not only each diocese but each religious order should have a child protection co-ordinator. They would ensure that guidelines are implemented and are regularly reviewed, that parishes are helped to apply the guidelines and facilitate training and awareness events. * the establishment of a single national database of information on all applicant candidates for ordination. * that allegations should be responded to swiftly when they arise, and risk assessments undertaken. * that there should be more pastoral provision to help victims and support parishes. * that cautioned or convicted abusers should not hold any position that could put children at risk. In the most serious cases clergy should be laicised. Lord Nolan said: "Our hope is that this report will help to bring about a culture of vigilance where every single adult member of the Church consciously and pro-actively takes responsibility for creating a safe environment for children and young people. Our recommendations are not a substitute for this but we hope they will be an impetus towards such an achievement." Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said: "I am very grateful to Lord Nolan and his committee for their extremely constructive and helpful independent report, which will form a major item for discussion by all the bishops of England and Wales at our meeting next week. I would also like to thank all those who have contributed to the work of the Review in their submissions. "We are committed to ensuring that the Catholic Church becomes the safest of places for children, and I am sure that this First Report, and the ongoing work of the Review, will help us to achieve this." Dr Jim Richards, director of the Catholic Children's Society (Westminster) told ICN: "I think the bishops have grasped the nettle in appointing Lord Nolan's committee and I feel they will accept its recommendations unanimously." Dr Richards said he felt there would be more to come in the final report. One key proposal in the report - the establishment of a National Child Protection Unit, (page 22 5.1) he said, was of vital importance. Dr Richards said the Catholic Catholic Children's Society already has in place strict guidelines and procedures for protecting children. "If a child comes to us with a problem we alert the authorities whether it has happened in a family, or any other situation." He said each Children's Society would study the report very closely and examine their own procedures in the the light of the new findings. Background notes (source: CMO) In November 1992, the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales approved a paper on The Sexual Abuse of Children. It said: 'The sexual abuse of a child is a reprehensible act directed at a most vulnerable member of our society.' Following the report, the Catholic bishops asked for more specific guidelines for dioceses on the procedures to be adopted in cases of alleged abuse by a priest or church worker. Some dioceses adopted their own guidelines while this was in preparation. (In September 1993, the Home Office published a code of practice for voluntary organisations, Safe From Harm). The Church's report, Child Abuse: Pastoral and Procedural Guidelines, was approved by the bishops in April 1994. This was believed to be the first such report by a religious organisation in Britain. It emphasised that the welfare of children is paramount, and that the Church must work closely with child protection teams, statutory authorities and other professionals. In his introduction to the guidelines, Bishop Budd said: 'I wish to apologise sincerely to the survivors of abuse and their families and communities, particularly when there has been abuse by people exercising responsibility in the Church. They have been hurt, not just by the abusers but also by mistaken attitudes within the Church community at all levels. I acknowledge that far too often there has been insensitivity and inadequate response to their hurt.' He also said: 'In commending this document to the dioceses, I wish to repeat once again the Church's commitment to dealing with this evil wherever it occurs.' Since its publication, the dioceses of England and Wales have adopted the guidelines, and many have additionally drawn up local guidelines or amended existing guidelines in the light of it. The Bishops' Conference began a review of the national guidelines in November 1999. In November 1993, the bishops asked for further advice on how the Church could best offer care and support to victims and survivors of abuse, their families, and others affected by abuse. The report, Healing the Wound of Child Sexual Abuse: a Church Response, was published in September 1996. The introduction stated the importance for everyone in the Church to 'appreciate the depth of pain in the lives of those who suffer; listen carefully to those who are victims and survivors, and acknowledge their prophetic voice in the Church; promote open dialogue about child sexual abuse in the Church; activate pastoral resources'. In September 2000, the Archbishop of Westminster announced an independent review, chaired by Lord Nolan, of the child protection procedures of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Statistics In the five year period 1995-99 inclusive, 21 Catholic priests were convicted of sexual offences against children. In addition, 2 were tried and acquitted; ten were charged but the charges were dropped; 63 were investigated but never charged; and six were given a police caution. There are a total of around 5,600 Catholic priests in England and Wales. [Home Office research published in 1997 indicated that, in England and Wales, 110,000 men aged 20 or over had a conviction for a sexual offence against a child (Research Findings No. 55, The Prevalence of Convictions for Sexual Offending). NSPCC research in 1998 revealed that in 40% of cases abusers were fathers or stepfathers; 30% other relatives; 5% friends, neighbours or carers; 4% teachers, doctors, priests or lodgers: 91% knew the abuser (Childhood Matters).] For further information visit the CMO website through our links pages under: Catholic Church in England and Wales. The Nolan Review First Report is at: www.nolanreview.org.uk.
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