A Message from Archbishop Bernard Longley

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Bishops of England and Wales have met in prayer and dialogue to respond to the final IICSA Report into the Catholic Church.  The report shows institutional failures on the part of the Church which failed to keep the vulnerable safe from abuse and failed to offer compassionate responses to those who suffered.  It is with shame and profound sorrow that we recognise these failures and accept our need for a change of heart.  Our first thoughts and prayers must always be for those who have suffered.  In their terrible suffering we must also recognise that they are our best teachers on how to improve.

The bishops have also responded to the Elliot Report.  This independent review and report was commissioned by the bishops to recommend changes that are necessary to ensure best practice in safeguarding in the Church at every level.  Victims/Survivors of abuse in the Church have played a crucial role in presenting the bishops with these necessary recommendations.  The bishops have accepted and will implement all the recommendations contained in both the Elliot and the IICSA Reports.

Safeguarding is the work of all of us in the Church.  I wish to thank all the volunteers and clergy in our parishes who help to ensure that they are safe places for all-comers.  The IICSA Report acknowledges the vast improvements over the last 20 years in safeguarding practices.  The acceptance and implementation of the Elliott Review recommendations will help us all improve further.  The Bishops’ Conference, under the leadership of Cardinal Vincent, is committed to improve our practices and our responses to those who have suffered.

Abuse has no place in the Church.  The Archdiocese will always report allegations to and co-operate fully with the police and statutory agencies.  I invite anyone who has suffered abuse to contact the police or if appropriate to contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Team: [email protected].  

I would encourage you to read the Bishops’ Statement in full.

Thank you for your prayers for all those who have suffered abuse, within and beyond the Church, as well as for Cardinal Vincent and the bishops at this important moment.

With my prayers and every kind wish.

Yours devotedly in Christ,

Statement from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales

The account given in the IICSA Report of abuse known to be inflicted on children in the Catholic Church in England and Wales in the past 50 years is shocking and overwhelming. At our meeting this week, we Bishops have stood together in profound shame. We express our sorrow and contrition before God.

We have reflected on our need to reach out afresh to those who bear the wounds of permanent damage caused by this abuse. We commit ourselves to listen more intently to those who have been abused so as to learn from them and benefit from their wisdom. It is through learning from their testimony that hearts are changed.

We are grateful to those survivors who have come forward, not only to lay before us their experience of abuse, but to help us understand the depth of their pain. We invite anyone who has experienced abuse to come forward, no matter how long ago the abuse took place. We undertake to listen carefully to them with open heart and mind and support them on a journey of healing.

We have carefully considered the recommendations of the IICSA Report and formally accepted them. We have already begun work towards their implementation.

The IICSA’s generic hearings into the Church began last October. Around that time we commissioned an Independent Review of our Safeguarding Structures and Arrangements in the Catholic Church in England and Wales. This was carried out by Mr Ian Elliott, an experienced safeguarding professional who has worked across the world in this area.

This week, alongside the IICSA Report, we have also examined in depth the Final Report of the Elliott Review and fully accepted its recommendations. It is a searching analysis of our safeguarding work, in its weaknesses and strengths. It proposes a number of remedial and forward-looking recommendations, which accord with the IICSA Report’s own recommendations. The work of implementation will begin immediately. It will be carried out in close cooperation with the Religious Orders who play such an important part in the life of the Church.

In all our activities, our desire and resolve is to be a Church in which every child and vulnerable person is not only safe but nurtured into human flourishing.  These recommendations present us with steps towards this goal.  Key to them is a standards-based approach to safeguarding together with a specially commissioned national body with powers of effective audit and oversight of safeguarding in both Dioceses and Religious Orders.

Everyone in the Church will be required to work to clear, published standards of behaviour and action. Most significantly, the Elliott Report has been fashioned with the participation of survivors of abuse. Their insight and wisdom has been crucial. We thank them for their great courage and generosity in working with us and we look forward to continuing this growing collaboration.

The Elliott Report builds on all that has been achieved in our safeguarding ministry in the past 20 years, achievements also recognised in the IICSA Report. Therefore we thank profoundly all who contribute to the work of safeguarding in the Church today: the thousands of Parish Safeguarding Representatives, the professionals who work in our Safeguarding Offices in every Diocese, the Safeguarding Commissions who oversee this work and give objective and professional advice to guide our decisions, the staff of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service and those who serve on the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission. These, and many others, have contributed greatly to the current work of safeguarding in the Church.

Today, however, we acknowledge without hesitation, our failings, our mistakes, our lack of adequate cooperation. We express our deep sorrow and ask forgiveness, especially from victims and survivors. We affirm our resolve to effect the next step in our work of safeguarding and care for survivors.

In prayer we turn to Christ the Good Shepherd, the fount of healing and compassion, asking that this moment of painful truth becomes a time of grace as we strive to fulfil the ministry entrusted to us as bishops in an unshakeable unity of purpose.

Download PDF version of this statement.

Press Conference

You can listen to audio from the virtual press conference on the Church’s response to IICSA and the independent Elliott Review here.

Cardinal’s Statement

President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols has given a personal statement on safeguarding.

Independent Review

In October 2019, the Bishops commissioned an independent review of the Catholic Church’s Safeguarding Structures and Arrangements in England and Wales.

Ian Elliott was the Independent Chair of the Review. Published on 20 November 2020, the final report and recommendations, therefore, are sometimes referred to as the ‘Elliott Report’. Mr Elliott is an experienced safeguarding professional who has worked across the world in this area.

Read the report and its recommendations.