On Wednesday Bishop John Mone was welcomed to the meeting of the English and Welsh hierarchy's discussion on the Nolan Report and had the opportunity to meet with both Lord Nolan and Sir Swinton Thomas, Vice-Chair of the Committee.
Bishop Mone, on behalf of the Catholic Church in Scotland, welcomed the work of the committee and was sure the Catholic Church in Scotland would benefit from insights in the report. The Church will be guided by the paramountcy of the principle of child safety and has set up a variety of initiatives to create and sustain a culture of vigilance in all work with children under Church auspices.
The Current Scottish Situation
The Catholic Church in Scotland has worked to nationally agreed guidelines for two years. These are currently being reviewed and recommendations will be put to the autumn meeting of the Bishops' Conference. There is much sharing of information, expertise and resources among the eight Scottish Dioceses. There is also liaison between the Catholic and Reformed Churches in Scotland and a developing relationship with other Churches in Britain and Ireland.
We have a national co-ordinator, a national Advisory Group, eight diocesan advisors and diocesan child protection teams are developing in each diocese. Individual bishops are briefed regularly by lay diocesan Child Protection Teams and the Bishops' Conference is kept informed by the Episcopal Chairman, Bishop John Mone.
None of the diocesan Chid Protection Advisors is a priest. All are lay or religious volunteers. All have social care or child-care background and half of them have current or recent expertise in front-line civil child protection.
The Catholic Church in Scotland already follows the 13 principles in "Safe from Harm".
Criminal Record checks at application and pre-ordination stages of student for priesthood are recommended.
The Church recognises that the statutory authorities are the responsible bodies for investigation. All people disclosing abuse or making allegations should be advised of their rights, and even their duty, to report such matters to the statutory authorities.
Initial Reactions to the Nolan report and its Recommendations
Risk Assessment is a specialised task and may become a delegated responsibility to a small number of the diocesan protection team.
Help for victims is patchy and of varying styles. More quality help must be made available if the Church's role as a healer is to be sustained. Both in-house and other reputable help will be encouraged.
Parish Support is necessary but has to be skilfully done by those with appropriate knowledge, understanding and sensitivity.
It is clear that convicted abusers should have no opportunity to work children. Convictions are comparatively rare and the Church may be faced with situations where circumstantial evidence is all that is available.
Laicisation or Suspension should be used where appropriate. It is important that statutory authorities are informed so that supervision is continued after the person leaves the direct supervision of the current superior.
Already diocese have asked parishes to draw up a full list of children's groups and adults with child contact.
The Catholic Church in Scotland has taken action to make the protection of children and vulnerable adults a priority. We fully agree with Nolan that the Church should be an exemplar of good practice and actively work to protect children. The Scottish Catholic Church believes it has acted in the best interest of children and while our existing guidelines are excellent we are not complacent. Every organisation including the Church, must continually reassess its child protection strategies. A full review of our existing guidelines will be done by the autumn. In this regard we welcome the proposals of Nolan and will follow developments closely. We look forward to ever-closer liaison and co-operation with our brothers and sister Catholics in England and Wales.
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