On 21st April Cardinal Vincent Nichols was interviewed on BBC Sunday Programme. He either blanked or sidestepped questions on child abuse in the Catholic Church. Our post concentrates on this aspect of the interview including the cover up of child abuse in the Archdiocese of Birmingham where Nichols was Archbishop from 2000 – 2009. The Archdiocese was part of IICSA’s Catholic investigation undertaken – Nichols gave evidence.
Presenter Emily Buchanan: [after topic on persecution of Christians in Sri Lanka] … of course and the other big issue facing your own Church has been the sex abuse scandals and the Pope and indeed you yourself have had to apologise over cover up – in your case it was in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. This must have affected you personally. What have you yourself actually done since apologising?
Nichols: Well, you know – the fact that we live with child abuse having found a home in the Catholic church is something that is a continual point of reflection for me, for me and for many many other people.
You won’t mind my saying but I look around our society and see that this is a challenge that we all face in many many different sectors in society and the learning curve is steep, and one of things that we learn – not just in the church but everybody has to learn – is the lasting effect of childhood abuse and the need to listen with the heart [interruption] to those who speak of this.
Mandate Now Comment : Nichols did not answer the question, we are therefore left to conclude he’s done nothing. Doing nothing has been the default of the Church for millennia. His lame attempt to deflect the listener onto child abuse in wider society is an institutional default, and Nichols embraced it.
Presenter: But one of the things that many of the things that victims talk about – certainly one we had on the programme – is that the Catholic church could respond in a different way; not just apologise, which just comes and goes, but actually not put these victims through these gruelling trials in which they often just – their will is ground down. Can you make this process of trying to get justice less painful?
Mandate Now Comment: The interviewer was referring to a recent interview with Patrick Raggett who was abused by Father Michael Spencer at a Preston Catholic College. In Raggett’s interview with Donna Birrell on 3/3/19, he explained the challenge of seeking damages from the Church whose lawyers fought every aspect of his case. Raggett’s interview was exclusively about his experience of the Church’s behaviour towards him during civil proceedings. Raggett is a barrister himself.
Nichols: Child abuse is a crime: and a crime has to be responded to according to the legal systems of any state and there is no way round it – I’m very sorry. I know – I’ve sat with people whose lives have been as damaged by a trial as by the original abuse. But it is a crime, and that’s where we have to start, and there’s no room for it in the church, and as with every crime, the full force of law must be used against it.
Comment: Nichols sidesteps the question by talking of the criminal justice system which Emily Buchanan did not ask about.
Presenter: Cardinal Nichols, I’ll have to stop you there, thank you so much.
Nichols: I’d like to wish everyone a very happy Easter. This is a really wonderful day on which Christ is risen and that is the proper [emphasised] focus for our thought this morning so a Happy Easter to everybody.
Comment: ‘Proper focus’ indeed. Maybe Nichols should act on President Obama’s thoughts when he went to Sandy Hook Elementary School :
In his two comments Nichols reveals why the Church is incapable of delivering functioning safeguarding on which reliance can be placed. He didn’t achieve it as Archbishop of Birmingham, why should we expect him to change? Safeguarding will have no chance of step improvement until the introduction of well designed mandatory reporting to Regulated Activities including faith.