Cardinal holds media briefing over historic abuse allegations

 Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Bishop Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, held a media briefing this afternoon on the historical allegations made against priests in the Arundel and Brighton Diocese. Introducing the briefing the Cardinal said that "grave and serious" allegations had been made in the media and he was concerned for "truth and transparency in all these matters." The briefing dealt firstly with the issue the files of ten priests (not including Michael Hill) about whom allegations had been made. The Cardinal explained that the files had been passed to an assessor at a firm of solicitors for expert advice, and their report had been completed last week, showing that: "the correct procedure had been carried out in full". He said that the papers were now being passed to the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults. Questions then focussed on one priest from Leatherhead in Surrey, who, in 1995, Cardinal Cormac, then Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, had allowed to continue in parish ministry, despite repeated warnings that he was a threat to children. A case against the priest had collapsed because the alleged victim, a girl aged nine, could not give evidence, apparently due to a medical condition. The Cardinal said that a professional assessment of the priest at the time had said that in its judgment the priest should not be given primary responsibility for children but that he was not a threat to children. He explained that he had allowed the priest back into his parish for two months "to wind up his affairs." He said that under the new Nolan regulations, the priest would have been taken out of his parish immediately. The priest was then made chaplain to a convent. His new home, next to the convent, was also next to a primary school - but the Cardinal said he did not see that this posed a risk to children, as the priest had not been found guilty of any crime. Bishop Kieran Conry said: "procedures in the past are not what they are now". He emphasised that the protection of children in his diocese and victim support were a priority in his diocese. Cardinal Cormac said he had no intention of resigning over this issue but wanted to "see what we can do to be more supportive of victims." BBC2's Newsnight be reporting on this subject at 10.30pm.

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