Tuesday 7 February 2012, Cathedral House, Birmingham
Statement by the Mt Rev Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham
On Tuesday 7 February, Bede Walsh, who served as a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, was convicted by a jury, following a 10-day trial at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, of 21 sexual offences against eight boys. The offences took place between the 1970s and the early 1990s.
These are horrendous crimes, and l first want to express my deep sense of shame at what has taken place. It is the most serious betrayal of trust. I also want to express my profound sorrow, and deep regret to each of the victims, then children, now adults, for the abuse perpetrated by Father Bede Walsh, whom they and their families trusted as a priest.
I now want to offer a few words to the victims themselves: I realise that this has been an indescribably difficult and distressing time for you, your families and friends. I recognise that these crimes can cause deep and lasting damage. It is my sincere hope that as a result of this conviction, and with the help of God, you will now be able to begin to take up again the rebuilding of your lives.
I thank you for the courage that you have shown in giving evidence to the court in order that these crimes might be brought into the light of day. My thoughts and prayers are with each of you and the members of your families at this particular time. My door is open to you, and I am willing to meet with you, individually or with members of your families. It is right that you have the chance to tell me how the actions of Bede Walsh have affected you, and I am ready and willing to listen.
The Archdiocese of Birmingham has worked closely with the police throughout this case and we shall continue to do so.
I wish to make clear that Bede Walsh has not been in active ministry as a Catholic priest since 2004, before any of the allegations associated with this conviction were made. Because of the seriousness of the offences committed by Bede Walsh, I will begin immediately the process of Iaicisation, which will lead to his removal from the clerical state.
This is an horrific case that has shocked and appalled me, and it has cast a shadow over the lives of many people: victims and their families, fellow priests, and also the people of the parishes where he has served as a priest.
Recognising the damage caused to these communities, there will be a special parish visit to St Giles’ Parish, Cheadle, All Souls Parish, Coventry and St John’s Parish, Banbury. I and those who work most closely with me will be available to speak with parishioners and to attend to their distress and anger.
It is important for me to say that there are today robust safeguarding policies in operation throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham and indeed the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Policies relating to safeguarding in general and child protection in particular, are systematically enforced. Any abuse reported to us is immediately passed to the police and other relevant authorities.
I invite anybody who has been affected by this case to contact the Archdiocese of Birmingham Safeguarding Co-ordinator, Mrs Jane Jones, at Cathedral House in Birmingham. You can find the phone number below.
You will understand that for legal reasons I am not able to add anything further to this statement or to answer any questions.