Tuesday 21 October 2014

Editorial: Church must work harder to prove it is truly protecting children

Published 08/03/2014 | 02:30

After a catalogue of cover-ups and poor practices, which led to an outrageous and systematic abuse of innocent children, the Catholic Church now claims to have some of the most robust child protection measures in place of any major organisation in the country.

As the Catholic Church now seeks to win back the trust of its flock it seems that this appalling saga is far from over, with the former head of the church's own protection watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, Ian Elliott, telling the Government of his serious concerns about the handling of a particular abuse case by the Diocese of Down and Connor.

"What was known to the diocese wasn't shared with us," says Mr Elliott, who took up his position in 2007 and retired in June 2013. During his time as the child protection watchdog, Mr Elliott was fearless in his work and highlighted resistance whenever he encountered it.

So far the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church has completed reviews of 22 of the 26 dioceses and seven major religious organisations. It is extremely worrying that he has now claimed that elements in the church are trying to limit the scope of these reviews by "covert means" such as funding cuts. It is only through embracing the work of its own National Board for Safeguarding Children and demonstrating a complete cultural change that it can reassure members of the church that children are safe in its care.

What happened in the Catholic Church cannot be reversed overnight. It is only by working with this child protection agency and accepting its guidance that it can regain a modicum of its credibility.

There is no room for further unnecessary controversy.

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