Increase in number of abuse reports after Papal Visit

Baroness Scotland, Adrian Child at today's conference

Baroness Scotland, Adrian Child at today's conference

After Pope Benedict's visit to the UK last year, the number of people reporting that they had been abused in the past by priests more than doubled - Baroness Patricia Scotland Director of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission  (NCSC) told a press conference this morning.

Speaking at the launch of the NCSC's Annual Report 2010-11, Baroness Scotland said there had been 40 complaints in 2009, and 83 in 2010.  She said the commission was both "challenged and heartened" by this and attributed the increase to the fact that Pope Benedict had met with abuse survivors on a few occasions. She said that more people had felt confident enough to come forward to report incidents of abuse in the hope of finding some kind of reconciliation and closure.  "Pope Benedict had a few opportunities to listen and clearly connected with people in a way which was palpable and genuine."

The Pope had shown leadership and given an example of pastoral care that he hoped the bishops would emulate, Baroness Scotland said.  She hoped this would give people confidence to approach the Church in the knowledge that they would be supported.

'Working to provide a safe and encouraging framework to support survivors is the top priority for the NCSC," she said.

Baroness Scotland said the report highlighted many positive developments in the safeguarding ministry in the Catholic Church in England and Wales,  while also acknowledging that there is "no room for complacency and indeed there is much still to do."

During the last year,  the NCSC has been working to achieve its three strategic priorities: Developing a more appropriate response to survivors; Monitoring safeguarding practice through a national audit process; and organising and hosting the Anglophone Safeguarding Conference in Rome, June 2011.

Baroness Scotland said the selection process and training at seminaries has greatly improved. "If we look at the US experience" she said, "more than 83% of abuse cases took place before the 1970s."

Baroness Scotland said there was also a need to sensitize the Church in how to deal with abuse in the wider community. Many bishops and archbishops at the Rome conference were shocked to learn about the level of abuse, including domestic violence, outside the church, she said.

The vice chair of the NCSC, Sister Jane Bertelsen, FMDM and the director of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS), Adrian Child, also attended the press conference.

The full report can be found on the Bishops Conference website:

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