LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A new report on the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in England and Wales says the Church’s response to the victims and survivors of abuse “is not yet adequate or complete.”

The report issued on April 30 by Durham University is titled The Cross of the Moment, and opens by saying it explores “the impact and implications of clerical child sexual abuse (CSA) in the Catholic Church in England and Wales.”

The Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Abuse was observed on April 30 in England and Wales.

A government-established inquiry into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in England and Wales said in 2020 that “real and lasting changes to attitudes have some way to go if the Roman Catholic Church is to shake off the failures of the past.”

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The report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in England and Wales found that between 1970 and 2015, the Catholic Church received more than 900 complaints involving over 3,000 instances of child sexual abuse in England and Wales.

The new report from Durham University explores how the abuse crisis has been experienced by different groups within the Church, “most painfully by victims and survivors of abuse and their families, and also affecting parish communities, laypeople, priests, deacons, bishops, religious communities and others.”

“It is a crisis because it has tested and, in some ways, broken crucial parts of what we thought we knew about ourselves as a Catholic community,” the report explains.

The Cross of the Moment notes that although safeguarding practice is well established and independent auditing is underway to ensure high standards are met, “there has been no visible communal process at a significant level of listening and learning from those who have carried the worst of the harm done.”

The writers propose is that “restorative approaches” could offer the most valuable way to explore what repair is possible and what kinds of justice could be done.

The report notes that sexual abuse of children causes deep anguish, fear, guilt and shame in those abused. It says abuse can undermine their sense of who they are and disrupt the development of self-worth and self-confidence at the point when these should be embedded in the self, adding the damage can be long-lasting – “many live with the effects all their lives.”

“It had harmed their education and subsequent life-chances; their relationships and their capacity for sexual and emotional intimacy; their physical and mental health and their family life,” The Cross of the Moment says.

“In their personal lives and relationships, some survivors have struggled with their sexuality. Some described a series of broken relationships or being unable to trust others and build long-lasting stable relationships,” the report adds.

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The authors say there was a consensus from many voices that safeguarding is now being taken seriously in most dioceses and religious orders: Systems are stronger, and the resources needed are in place.

“The shift from diocesan safeguarding roles being held by priests to the appointment of professional qualified staff with backgrounds in fields such as social work and policing has been significant, although it has brought new complexities as incoming staff may have limited experience of Catholic life,” the report says, adding this affirmation of progress was always accompanied by a recognition that becoming a safe and healthy Church is a process which continues, with much more yet to be achieved.

“Changing the mind-set of the Church is a slow process. There are also areas where tensions are still experienced. Whilst the bishops who took part in this research were clearly committed to listening to their safeguarding advisers and accepting their advice, safeguarding staff in a different diocese described a relatively recent experience of feeling powerless to compel decisions that they think are needed from diocesan leaders or to ask challenging questions,” the authors say, adding there was also awareness of the risk of thinking the problem has now been solved.

“I think there’s that need to grow in self-awareness and not to rest on our laurels. I think a lot of good work has been done… a lot of good has been achieved but that good potentially risks us becoming complacent and thinking, oh we’ve actually weeded this issue out, when you can’t weed it out, it’s endemic …. Though those of us at the younger end of the spectrum have always perceived this as something historic, within a particular culture and a particular historical context, and when it manifests in the present day … that makes it all the more shocking,” one priest is quoted in the report.

The Cross of the Moment says some capacity for action in response is possible for all of us.

“We can all choose in small steps to grow out of clericalism; to resist and break silences; to take responsibility. We can all bring these concerns and the people whom they have affected into our prayer, and we can support the initiatives which make visible both the pain and failure which needs recognition and the desires and possibilities of all that helps and heals,” report says.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome