Town Councillor writes book on sex abuse in the English Catholic Church
Wednesday, 2 April 2014
Hebden Royd Town Councillor Richard Scorer has written a book describing how patterns of abuse, denial, institutional complicity and cover-up that defined the Catholic Church scandals in Ireland, the USA and elsewhere have been present here in England too.
He dismisses the view that there were relatively few cases in England and that the Catholic Church here rapidly put its house in order.
Publishers Biteback Publishing described Betrayed: The English Catholic Church and the Sex Abuse Crisis (published 27 March) as "a devastating exposé of past misdeeds and a vital call to arms in the fight to ensure that the sins of the Fathers are not visited on a new generation."
Richard Scorer, in a piece for the National Secular Society, has written: "Underlying this issue is a tension between the secular approach to child protection and the approach mandated by canon law, the internal law of the Catholic Church.
"At the heart of modern child protection is the 'paramountcy principle'. This is the legal principle that the interests of children have primacy and so (for example) if a person is suspected on credible evidence of abusing children he/she may be suspended from contact with children whilst a full investigation takes place. Canon law operates very differently: a priest cannot be suspended without a full canonical trial and a verdict meeting the standard of 'moral certainty'. That canonical trial, of course, would be presided over, in secret, by the suspect's fellow priests, so as a mechanism for dealing with abuse allegations canon law is inherently unsuitable.
"The history of Catholic abuse scandals in England and Wales shows why the secular approach to child protection is so necessary. Time and again, allegations about priests were simply dismissed or the priest was moved elsewhere where he would be free to abuse again. The protection of the institution was paramount, not the protection of children.
"As a result of various scandals, in 1994 the Catholic church of England and Wales issued guidelines for dealing with abuse. These guidelines included, in theory, support for the paramountcy principle, but the guidelines had no legal force within the church and so were completely ineffective. In my book I give examples of cases where the guidelines were simply ignored by Bishops, resulting in paedophile priests being allowed to carry on abusing children."
As well as being a Hebden Royd Town Councillor, Richard Scorer is head of the abuse unit at Slater & Gordon lawyers.