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For abuse victims, justice is still elusive

SIR – The fairly new Catholic safeguarding system might curb further crime and is a well-meaning attempt to do that. But there is still no possibility at all that victims of past abuse will get justice from the Catholic Church without an almighty battle in each case.

All codes of practice are conspiracies against the public; this is true for lawyers, doctors, accountants, architects, journalists, any and all professions, not just the Church. The reason is that they are all driven in the first place by the need to protect the institutions and their members. Protection of the public is never the primary drive.

In dealing with sex abuse, the Catholic Church has as its first value its own existential continuity. Second comes its reputation. Third comes dealing with and caring for its offending members. Fourth come its coffers. None of these concerns is unworthy in itself but they mean that the victims of sexual abuse might come fifth if they are lucky.

To this hour it remains the mode of the Church to muffle and minimise the charges against its offenders. I write from close knowledge of actual cases. Again and again we hear that the crimes were long ago, the priests are dead or in dementia; be merciful, try to forget. But it is often only years later that victims find the words, the understanding, to report what happened to them. The elapse of time is never acceptable as a defence.

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