Sexual abuse is ‘a worldwide problem for the church’, says child protection campaigner

Sexual abuse is ‘a worldwide problem for the church’, says child protection campaigner

Pope Francis celebrating Mass on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, at the Vatican on Wednesday. Image: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Jonathan West, a child protection campaigner has said that child sexual abuse “seems to be a worldwide problem for the Church.”

Pope Francis removed two cardinals from his informal cabinet on Wednesday after they were implicated in the Catholic Church's sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

The Vatican said that Francis has written to Chilean Cardinal Javier Errazuriz and Australian Cardinal George Pell thanking them for their five years of service on the so-called Group of Nine, or C-9.

Mr West, who helped bring an abuse scandal at a London school to public attention, told talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright: “It does seem to be a worldwide problem for the Church. Before I started learning about what had gone on in Ealing, I had been seeing problems in America and Ireland.

“Unfortunately there seems to be no end to it. Every new story we hear just seems to get more horrifying.”

A former Catholic abbot Laurence Soper abused boys at St Benedict's School in the 1970s and 1980s was jailed for 18 years, in December last year. 

He was found guilty of 19 charges of indecent and serious sexual assault against 10 former pupils.


'Major change of heart' 

Pope Francis as he celebrates a mass for the Our Lady of Guadalupe on Wednesday. 

When asked whether this meant the Catholic Church was “getting to grips” with the issue, Mr West said they had barely started.

“I don’t even think they have made a start on it. They are still thinking in terms of a PR issue to be handled,” he said.

“Rather than thinking in terms of the bad PR they are getting is deserved, because people in the Church have done very evil things, and others have covered it up.

“The problem is that until the Church starts to think in terms of serious changes rather than saying ‘oh well, people have made some mistakes and it is all forgivable’.

“Until there is a really major change of heart, I don’t see how the Church is ever going to be capable of coming to grips with this.”

Mr Errazuriz, 85, has been accused by Chilean abuse survivors of having covered up for predator priests while he was archbishop of Santiago, a charge he has denied.

Mr Pell, 77, took leave from his job as the Vatican's economy minister to stand trial in his native Australia on historic charges of sex abuse, which he denies.

The Vatican did not mention the accusations against Mr Errazuriz and Mr Pell in explaining their departures, and said for now they would not be replaced.