LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Speaking of his “shame and sorrow,” the archbishop of Birmingham in England announced two reviews by “independent experts” into sexual abuse in the archdiocese – one looking into historic abuse and the other into safeguarding practices and culture – revealed “serious” shortcomings.
Archbishop Bernard Longley had the reports prepared ahead of a government inquiry into sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Birmingham.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has been looking into abuse at Catholic institutions – and those run by other religious and societal groups – since 2014.
The inquiry was established by the British Home Office – which oversees similar areas as the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security – but is independent and does not answer to the government.
The inquiry recently released a report on serial abuse in two Catholic prep schools in the north of England.
Longley and the former Birmingham archbishop – Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster – will testify before the inquiry at hearings about the Archdiocese of Birmingham taking place Nov. 12-16 in London.
“Cardinal Vincent and I are at one in our sense of shame and sorrow. We are at one in our willingness to assist this public Inquiry and to learn from its findings how best to safeguard all in our care and to respond promptly and compassionately to those who have been abused,” Longley wrote in a letter read at all Masses in the archdiocese Nov. 3-4.
The archbishop said it was “abhorrent” to him that any person – but especially a child – should have their trust undermined and their life “criminally violated,” adding it was “doubly offensive” when this abuse takes place at the hands of the clergy.
“I am determined to do all that I can, within this Archdiocese and with the help of those who support me, to make the abuse of children and of those who are in vulnerable situations a thing of the past,” Longley wrote.
The archbishop said the two reports commissioned by the archdiocese have highlighted serious past failures and current areas requiring significant improvement in diocesan practice, promising that “we are acting promptly to put their recommendations into action.”
“Both reports have been disclosed to IICSA and they will also be shared with other dioceses and with our national safeguarding structures so that everyone can benefit from them,” he said.