LONDON (ChurchMilitant.com) - At noon Tuesday — two hours before the release of the Vatican's long-awaited McCarrick Report — the United Kingdom's Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published a damning report lambasting Pope Francis and archbishop of Westminster Cdl. Vincent Nichols.
In contrast to the Vatican's report, which commends Francis for acting promptly against the homopredator cardinal, the IICSA quasi-governmental investigation condemns the "Holy See's limited response" against abusive clerics which "manifestly did not demonstrate a commitment to taking action."
The Vatican's "lack of co-operation" in providing witness statements and other information "passes understanding" and is "at odds" with the number of statements issued by Pope Francis "on the subject of the Church's response to child sexual abuse," the report stated.
Speaking to Church Militant, Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon who represents 32 survivors in IICSA, said: "The report is utterly excoriating about the Holy See and calls out the blatant hypocrisy of Pope Francis in claiming to tackle clerical sex abuse whilst at the same time seeking to frustrate the work of the inquiry."
The Pope's credibility on this issue is now in tatters — he simply cannot be trusted. This is an absolutely damning report. It highlights the shocking scale of abuse, the disgraceful slowness of the church's response, the abject failures of leadership by Cdl. Nichols and the Vatican's appalling refusal to cooperate properly with the inquiry.
"If you believe the McCarrick Report, Pope Francis is trying to tackle clerical sex abuse. But the #IICSA report today says the exact opposite — it condemns the Vatican for refusing to cooperate," Scorer tweeted.
The IICSA investigation also slammed Cdl. Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, from whom "there was no acknowledgment of any personal responsibility to lead or influence change."
"He [Nichols] did not always exercise the leadership expected of a senior member of the Church, at times preferring to protect the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales and in Rome."
"Nor did he demonstrate compassion towards victims in the recent cases which we examined," the report lamented.
A day before the release of the IICSA report, Nichols wrote to clergy on the occasion of his 75th birthday, pointing out that he had offered his resignation to the Holy Father "some time ago." Bishops and cardinals resign once they are 75 years old.
Nichols elaborated: "The Holy Father formally accepts my resignation and, at the same time, has decided that I am to remain in office until, at his decision, other provision is made."
"So it is in this same peaceful spirit that I will now continue as your bishop," Nichols added.
"Cardinal Nichols needs to go right away — in any other walk of life he would be gone immediately," Scorer remarked.
Members of the survivors' group White Flowers Alba also called upon Nichols to "resign immediately."
This is a Church that cannot be trusted to protect children. The only way forward now is a mandatory reporting law, so that abuse cannot be covered up and independent external oversight of Church safeguarding. The Church cannot be relied on to put its own house in order, and so without these changes, children will continue to be at risk.
According to IICSA, from 1970–2015 the Catholic Church in England and Wales received more than 900 complaints involving over 3,000 instances of child sexual abuse against more than 900 individuals connected to the Church, including priests, monks and volunteers.
Since 2016, there have been more than 100 reported allegations each year. The systemic abuse involved masturbation, oral sex, vaginal and anal rape, sometimes accompanied by sadistic beatings and often involving deeply manipulative behavior by those in positions of trust.
"Child sexual abuse was swept under the carpet. Resistance to external intervention was widespread," the investigation found. "Real and lasting changes to attitudes have some way to go if the Roman Catholic Church is to shake off the failures of the past."
Responding to the IICSA report, Nichols said:
Abuse is an evil act against the most vulnerable. It must never be excused or covered up. Abuse committed against children and the consequent damage to people's lives cannot be undone. For this, we apologize without reservation, and we are committed to listen attentively to the voices of those who have been abused.
However, the cardinal did not acknowledge personal responsibility in the statement.
Church Militant reported on earlier IICSA investigations, which found that victims of sex abuse in churches and religious institutions were particularly damaged by the loss of their faith.
In June 2019, the Truth Project Thematic Report reported that one in five of the victims lost their faith as a direct consequence of their horrific experiences.
In the same period, an IICSA report accused the archdiocese of Birmingham and Cdl. Nichols, its former archbishop, of protecting pedophile priests and allowing child sex abuse to continue in order to preserve its reputation.
In May 2019, Church Militant reported that the Vatican's reluctance to release evidence on sex abuse cases risked sparking off a diplomatic row between Britain and the Holy See.