Most senior Catholic leader in England and Wales 'prioritised church over victims of sexual abuse'

  • Words and interview by ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner

The most senior Catholic leader in England and Wales prioritised the church over victims of sexual abuse, a report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has found.

The report looked at the Catholic church's failure to safeguard children and found it had missed opportunities to stop abusers.

In a damning list of failings, the report found that often the priest - or person accused of abuse - was moved to another parish rather than being reported to statutory authorities such as the police.

The time frame examined was between 1970 to 2015 - during which time there were more than 900 reported allegations involving more than 3,000 incidents of abuse.

But the report says the abuse has continued and it is "wrong to regard this as an historical report".

Watch Julie's full interview with Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Indeed, there have been around 100 reports of abuse every year since 2016.   

But the report is scathing about Cardinal Vincent Nichols - the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The report hones in on what it says are his own shortcomings as leader, it says he demonstrated "ineffective moral leadership" and "a lack of understanding" of the impact of abuse on some victims and "seemingly put the reputation of the church first".

Even when he apologised in 2018 the report claims that he did not acknowledge his "personal failings, or responsibility" or "show compassion" for victims.

Cardinal Nichols is accused of presiding over a "laboriously slow " pace of change.

It took 13 years to bring in a new Code of Conduct for bishops that was recommended by the Cumberledge report in 2007. 

The report concludes: "For decades the Catholic Church's failure to tackle child sexual abuse consigned more children to the same fate."  

It summarises that: "It is difficult to engage in good leadership if you engage in bad practice."

Speaking to ITV News, Cardinal Nichols said he was "sorry" for "failings in the Catholic Church" and said he had reported all allegations he was aware of to the police.

He continued he was "angry about what has happened in the past", something he could not change, but promised action would come, although "no organisation has a silver bullet".

Cardinal Nichols said the church "had not been sitting on its hands" and a "one church structure" would be established to deal with any abuse.

He continued that in the last 15 years, victims of abuse were prioritised above the Catholic Church.