10 November 2020

Catholic Church failed in their duty of care to survivors of sexual violence

Second report in 6 weeks shows another religious institution protected perpetrators and failed to support survivors of sexual violence


Faith based organisations, such as the Anglican and Catholic Church, must lead publicly in offering unstinting support to sexual abuse survivors and hold perpetrators to account. The cultural shift to uphold a duty of care in supporting sexual abuse survivors should be seen at all levels of the Catholic and Anglican Churches, according to Mags Godderidge (pictured), Chief Executive Officer of Survive, a York-based charity specialising in counselling and support work for sexual trauma survivors.

Mrs Godderidge comments follow a report released by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) released at midday on Tuesday, 10 November 2020. The 147-page report found that the Catholic Church’s moral purpose has been betrayed by those who sexually abused children, together with those who “turned a blind eye” and failed to act against perpetrators. 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. Since 2016, there have been more than 100 reported allegations each year. It noted the true scale of abuse over the last 50 years is likely to have been far higher. This report finds that the Catholic Church repeatedly failed to support victims and survivors, while taking positive action to protect alleged perpetrators, including moving them to different parishes. Victims described the profound and lifelong effects of abuse, including depression, anxiety, self-harming and trust issues.

“In a second report on traditional churches in little over a month, it has again been highlighted that sheltering perpetrators of child sexual abuse and protecting the reputation of a Church was considered more important than protecting vulnerable children.

“This indulgent and disturbing attitude towards perpetrators kept them in a position to commit more sexual abuse crimes against more children as the problem shifted from one diocese or parish to another. The fear of reputational damage and concerns for the perpetrator’s welfare meant the sexual predators were not called to account through the United Kingdom’s judicial system and remained free to commit further atrocities.

Mrs Godderidge highlighted the need for continued vigilance by religious institutions had not gone away. “The latest report shows the continued prevalence of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church with 100 allegations being made to leaders each year since 2016. The Anglican Church report (released on 6 October) showed that as recently as 2018 there were members of the clergy or officers of the church in positions of trust who had been convicted of sexual offences against children.”

“The Survive team sees time and time again that survivors battle on their own with what has happened to them – taking months, years, even decades to seek the help that they need to recover, rebuild relationships and reach their full potential,” Mrs Godderidge continued. “Churches should never shield predators of sexual abuse. Churches should be places where sexual abuse survivors – whoever they are – are protected and given help, support and encouragement to recover.”

In recent weeks, Survive has created a pathway for survivors of historical child sexual abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough or at Ampleforth College to approach the charity directly for support. This will be funded by the two respective organisations. Says Mrs Godderidge: “This new initiative is to a step forward and we can reassure survivors that we have agreed with both organisations that no identifying information will be shared with them.” Anyone needing support should call Survive in confidence on 01904 638813.

Back to top

Sign up for our e-newsletter to receive regular updates on how we are helping survivors of sexual trauma rebuild their lives, relationships and reach their potential.