The Catholic Church in England and Wales notes the findings of the report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse into the child migration programmes and looks forward to continuing to work with and assist the Inquiry in its deliberations.
As stated at the opening of this part of the Inquiry, the Catholic Council, and the organisations it represents, stand wholeheartedly by the expressions of regret and the apologies that have already been made on behalf the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
All sexual abuse of children and vulnerable people is both criminal and harmful and the Church condemns without reservation any such action or behaviour.
The Church is fully committed to the safeguarding of all children and vulnerable adults and, following the Nolan and Cumberlege Reports, Dioceses and Religious Orders are committed to following nationally agreed guidelines and robust policies to promote safeguarding.
Bishop Marcus Stock, vice chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, who gave evidence before the Inquiry, apologised to all of those who were involved in the British Government’s migration programmes as children, and expressed his sincere regret for their suffering, including in many cases as a result of child sexual abuse, and the deep wounds which that abuse has left on them as adults.
Bishop Stock said:
“If any former child migrant, not only those who have testified before this Inquiry, would wish to meet with me privately I would welcome the opportunity to do so. I appreciate that some may feel that these apologies and regrets are too little, too late, and for others they may not wish to have anything further to do with the Catholic Church. I would fully respect those views, but I remain open to listening and learning from them.
“So far as the Inquiry is concerned, and as the Catholic Council has made clear on a number of occasions, the Catholic Council and the organisations it represents are committed to learning from the past and taking all appropriate steps in the future to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. This will include, of course, learning from the Inquiry’s conclusions on the issues identified.”
The Inquiry has found that:
Catholic institutions in England and Wales have provided numerous support services to former child migrants from 1989 onwards;
The Catholic Church responses have been considerably better than those of some other organisations.
The recommendation that HMG sets up a Redress Scheme for surviving former child migrants is noted.
The Catholic Church looks forward to continuing its assistance to the Inquiry.
A number of individuals provided witness statements to the Inquiry concerning the role of various Catholic organisations in the child migration schemes to Canada and Australia.
Many of the organisations involved at the time no longer exist, and none of these individuals have first-hand knowledge of their operation at the time. Nevertheless, they have sought to assist the Inquiry by setting out their understanding of the involvement of their respective Catholic organisations, based on the records currently held by them, as well as their personal involvement, where relevant, in more recent activities such as the process of family reunification, support of various kinds, and the provision of information to various inquiries and commissions.
In responding to the needs of former child migrants and reflecting the presenting issues of the former child migrants, the priority for organisations such as the Catholic Child Welfare Council, the Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster), Father Hudson’s Care and the Southwark Catholic Children’s Society, and for the various religious orders involved, has been family reunification and tracing projects, together with associated and necessary support such as counselling, therapy, assistance with travel, accommodation and general support.