THE author of the damning investigation into clerical abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne has applauded the Catholic Church for having undertaken “a truly remarkable” journey to a place where it could yet become a champion of child protection.
Chief executive of the Catholic Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), Ian Elliot robustly defended recent efforts by the Church to right its dismal record describing an “increasingly evident” sense of purpose and commitment to child protection.
“There are champions for children in the Church that deserve the highest praise. They are at all levels of the Church and many are within the hierarchy. The aim of establishing the Church as an exemplar for best safeguarding practice has gained major support. We are in a very different place to where we were two years ago.”
He said over the past two years, those in authority within the Church had learnt that “vital lesson” that “the safety of the child must be put first before all other considerations”.
Mr Elliot cautioned however that this was “a positive start” and that the Church has a “great deal” more to do. He also admitted there “was an element” of the Church “being forced” to address its failings in the face of public anger. “I don’t think this change is happening just because of the inquiries. They have slowly recognised this problem is solvable. The NBSC is also trusted now by the Church. They now see it will treat them in a fair way.”
“I do feel we can achieve the aim of being seen as an exemplar for best practice in the field of safeguarding children.”
Mr Elliot said that earlier this year, one of the cardinals and up to 12 bishops immediately signed up for a child protection training course he organised. “This would not have happened two years ago,” he said.
The former social worker told those gathered at the Biennal Children Protection and Social Work Conference at UCC that the NBSC’s document ‘Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance for the Children’ was a groundbreaking document as all the 184 constituent parts of the Church agreed they would implement guidelines fully and agreed to auditing and review by the NBSC.
“Nothing of this nature had ever happened before and this achievement represented the single most valuable development that has taken place during the short but eventful life of the national board, and also for me as its chief officer.”
Noting that the Church had previously attempted to develop a uniform approach to child protection in 1976 he said the new guidance had to be supported by a verifiable commitment to implement it or else it would suffer a similar fate.
Describing the enormity of implementing uniform child protection he said small and poor dioceses often suffer due to a lack of resources and said he wanted to ensure resources were directed at them.
He also called for further recruitment of experienced child protection professionals across the Church and a continued effort to “build trust” with abuse survivors, priests, the faithful and all members of the hierarchy.
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