The church’s tender concern for children

Well damn. As Andy Gilmour reminds us in a comment on the last post, the Archbishop’s record on concern for children isn’t what it might be. Isn’t so flawless that he is really the ideal person to be saying what kind of person should be ruled out in advance from eligibility to adopt children. Maybe he really ought to worry about gay couples less given that he did such a bad job of worrying about a priest before.

One of the most senior figures in the Catholic Church in England and Wales has defended his decision to allow a known paedophile to continue working as a priest, despite warnings he would re-offend. A BBC investigation found evidence suggesting Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O’Connor ignored the advice of doctors and therapists that Father Michael Hill would carry on assaulting children.

It may have been just a case of compassion, of believing that the priest had changed and ought to have another chance, but even then, the Archbish could have erred on the side of caution out of concern for children and givent the priest another chance in a different kind of job. But he also, according to the BBC, ignored advice.

Documents seen by the BBC suggest the archbishop ignored the advice of doctors and therapists who warned that Hill was likely to re-offend. Archbishop Murphy-O’Connor has now agreed that boys abused by the priest should receive compensation, but as part of the settlement they were required not to speak publicly about what happened.

What right does the church have to set conditions? And how does the church square that with its vaunted conscience and its boasted principles? Why doesn’t it put the children ahead of its own interests? Why in this case didn’t it simply prostrate itself in guilt and remorse and sorrow and do everything it could to make amends, rather than making conditions and silencing the victims?

In short, what principles? What conscience?

A BBC News investigation in 1999 revealed evidence that some Catholic bishops in the UK were failing to follow the church’s child protection guidelines, allowing priests accused of child abuse to continue working. Since 1994 the Catholic Church has had strict rules in place which state that if a complaint is made against a priest, social services should be informed and the priest removed from parish duties.


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