BY SIMON CALDWELL
THE SPIRITUAL leader of the Catholics of England and 'Wales has refused to resign in the wake of the jailing of a former priest for sexual offences against boys.
Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, announced to the nation that he would not step down as a result of renewed media pressure following the conviction fast month of the former Gatwick Airport chaplain, Michael Hill, for six new charges of indecent assault.
The Cardinal told the
BBC's Newsnight programme that he had been "naive and perhaps ignorant" in his handling of the priest, who had previously undergone therapy following complaints of abuse.
But he said: "The question of resigning for me doesn't arise, it really doesn't arise and I suppose to be absolutely frank, I think that my fellow bishops and the Catholic community on the whole would want me to continue to do this work, to continue to deal with the most sensitive issue of child protection for the years that I remain here. That's what I'll do."
Under questioning from presenter Jeremy Paxman, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor refused to discuss his criticism of the media in a letter to The Times.
He dismissed new allegations of negligence by insisting that, apart from the Hill case, he had always referred abuse complaints to the appropriate authorities.
His position was later supported by his successor in the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, Bishop Kieran Conry, who told The Catholic Herald that diocesan files contained no hidden scandal.
"There is none that we know of," he said. Bishop Corny also aligned himself with the views of Bishop, Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth, who last week issued a statement in which he said it was wrong to criticise the media for its attacks on the Church over the alleged mishandling of clerical abusers.
Bishop Corry said: "The media have been getting a bit of a bashing, but we must recognise that they can be useful allies in dealing with the problem of child abuse."
However, writing in The Times on Saturday, Fr Timothy Radcliffe, former
Master of the worldwide Dominican order, implicitly criticised both the media and the recommendations of Lord Nolan's committee on child protection.
He said the principle victims of abuse were always the people who suffered at the hands of offenders. But he said the Church had also become a victim of unfair criticism and some priests were made victims of harsh treatment by the authorities. "There is a virus of victimhood," he said.
He said the Church "must show that it has registered beyond any doubt the terrible
pain of the sexually abused, a priority recognised by the cardinal on BBC Newsnight this week".
But he added: "Bishops have endlessly apologised for the sins of the clergy and for their own failures to deal with them, and yet these apologies appear not to be taken seriously, either by the victims or by the media."
Fr Radcliffe said: "The press needs to reflect upon its reporting of these cases. The media is in part motivated by a righteous indignation against those who have gravely abused their power in preying sexually on the young. The media should be alert to such failures and, thanks be to God, is free to report them. Yet the virulence, bias and wilful inaccuracy of some reports suggests that this indignation is fuelled by older and less reputable fires . . . the Press must show that it is more concerned with the abused that with the hounding of an institution against which some journalists still have deep prejudices."
Fr Radcliffe, who is favoured by some observers as a possible successor to the Cardinal, also made a critical allusion to the Nolan Report, which requires a priest to be immediately suspended as soon as an allegation is received.
He argued that it would be unjust to isolate priests on the "slightest whiff of suspicion" when guilt had never been remotely established.
"There is the question of the Church's care for priests accused of abuse," he said. "The Church must be seen to stand by them. offer them support and assume, their innocence until their guilt is proved, or else a third group of victims may be created."
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