There has been extensive coverage of the report and conclusions by IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Sexual Abuse) into the historic cases of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. That report criticised the leadership of the church in failing to take appropriate action against the perpetrators of sexual abuse. The moral purpose of the Church in the protection of children was betrayed over decades. Church leaders sought often to protect the reputation of the Church instead. The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has accepted the findings and conclusions of the IICSA report. He has apologised for the failure of the Church to exercise the leadership expected and for the fact that survivors continue to suffer.
Two previous inquiries commissioned by the Church were undertaken by Lord Nolan in 2001 and Lady Cumberlege in 2007. These brought about some changes and improvement, but their recommendations were implemented too slowly and incompletely. The former Archbishop of Cardiff, Peter Smith, was anxious to address these issues since 2007 and did so by establishing the Archdiocesan Safeguarding Commission for Children and Vulnerable Adults. His successor, Archbishop George Stack, has ensured the momentum of the work has continued. The Commission was initially small in number, comprising of members of the clergy and some lay people, supported by a small team of part time staff. Since then, it has grown significantly. The original co-ordinators were Mgr. John Maguire followed by Canon Peter Collins before the appointment of Martin Mahoney to the post. He was a retired Probation Officer who gave great service and served for ten years in the post. His recently appointed full time successor is Chris Mullane, a retired Detective Inspector.
Today the Commission comprises clergy together with a wide range of professionals in child protection. These include Police, Health Probation, Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), the legal profession, and the judiciary. It usually meets quarterly, but can do so whenever circumstances require. The last three meetings during the Covid-19 pandemic have been held virtually by TEAMS. The workload is heavy and varied. It includes the investigation and reporting of all notifications of possible inappropriate behaviour by any person connected to the Church, lay or clerical. The reporting is made to the statutory authorities – Social Services and the Police – when required. Records of all communications and paper trails relating to these cases are maintained as well as communications with the statutory authorities.
The work of the Commission at present primarily consists of cases of historic abuse, some going back decades. All referrals are investigated. A number of referrals are made to the Commission by the police and/or social services. They relate to ex-offenders, convicted of sexual offences who wish to continue practicing their faith having completed their sentence. Before being allowed to attend church, these offenders are subject to a Safeguarding Plan. This is drafted by the Diocesan Commission following a risk assessment, sometimes with the assistance of the probation service. Copies of this Safeguarding Plan are sent to the individual, the local priest and the statutory services.
DBS checks are undertaken on every individual who volunteers for church related work with children and vulnerable adults. These checks are updated regularly. Volunteers are expected to undergo Safeguarding training. It is paramount that all those engaged in church related work, whether full or part time, or volunteering engage with this training. These training sessions are delivered by external providers such as Social Services or the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. The cost of running them is met by the diocese.
The work of the Commission is greatly assisted by the network of Parish Safeguarding Representatives who are the key to good communication. They alert the Commission to any concerns they may have as to questionable behaviour of practice within their parishes. All such reports are considered and investigated. The work of the Commission has itself recently been audited by the Charity Commission. Both the work completed to date and the proposed schedule of work and operational plans for the future received a clean bill of health.
The safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is a continuum. It requires ongoing professionalism expertise and vigilance. This work is built not on fear, but on our confidence in Gospel values and the values of God’s kingdom. The Catholic Church is determined to learn lessons from the past and ensure that previous mistakes should not be repeated. Should you wish to contact the Commission you may do so by one of the methods listed below. A link to the response of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales to the IICSA Report is also appended below.
Safeguarding Commission Chair for and on behalf of Archdiocese of Cardiff Safeguarding commission.
Safeguarding office – firstname.lastname@example.org
Safeguarding Coordinator, Chris Mullane – email@example.com