BY SIMON CALDWELL
A BISHOP has contradicted claims that some parts of the media have behaved badly in fomenting paedophile hysteria against the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth, the chairman of the Catholic Media Trust, issued a statement in which he said the latest bout of media criticism of the Church over its handling of clerical sex abusers was justified.
The statement, sent out to the parishes of his diocese and published in the Portsmouth diocesan newspaper, contradicted Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster; officials of the Archdiocese of Birmingham; the Catholic press and some national newspapers, who had all publicly said that the recent attacks by The Times and the BBC were unwarranted.
Bishop Hollis said: "When the Church is under relentless attack, it is in instinctive and good to seek to defend the Church we love, to which we belong and in which we minister. However, we must not forget that we are in that relentless media spotlight because children have been sexually abused and we have not always handled this-matter in -a proper
It does not help to castigate the media for bad coverage we have been given; they, by and large, are doing their job and we are at fault for our mistakes, however uncomfortable and unhappy thatthey make us feel.
"The children who have been abused — and many of them are now trying to come to terms with abuse in their adult lives — are the real victims. The Church is not the victim in all this — the children are."
A week earlier, the Cardinal also spoke of a "relentless attack" in his letter to The Times, in which he denied media allegations of turning a blind eye to paedophilia and paying "hush money" to victims of clerical abuse. "You suggest that some may feel a sense of betrayal arising from mistakes the Church has made in the past, including in relation to paedophilia," he wrote.
"I suggest in turn that many others feel deeply concerned by the apparently relentless attack by parts of the media on their faith, and on the Church in which they continue to believe."
Peter Jennings, spokesman for Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, described The Times' reports as a "load of bunkum".