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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church (EBC) Case Study: Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School Investigation Report

G.2: Responsiveness

3. In his evidence to the Inquiry, Abbot President Jamison set out the steps that the EBC is currently taking to provide support and redress to survivors of child sexual abuse.

4. In November 2018, the EBC held a seminar on the question of redress. The seminar was attended by a range of stakeholders, including lawyers for the Irish Government’s Residential Institutions Redress Board and for the Lambeth Children’s Home Redress Scheme.[1] Following this seminar, the EBC has concluded that it is currently beyond its capacity to organise and administer a comprehensive redress scheme for survivors (ie a scheme designed to provide reparations and support to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, including in the form of financial compensation and counselling and psychological care). Abbot President Jamison has outlined some of the challenges to the establishment of such a scheme. They include how to determine whether a claim is valid and how to assess what the basis for a payment would be. In his view, “the levels of expertise and staffing required to address … these matters to a high standard, reassuring rather than distressing survivors, is a challenge for a relatively small religious order such as the EBC[2] and that care must be exercised “not to raise expectations falsely by promising what [we] would struggle to deliver”.[3]

5. Accordingly, the EBC has decided that a better approach would be to create a general support scheme for the Catholic Church in England and Wales as a whole, which could in turn be part of a government scheme.[4]

6. In the meantime, in the absence of a redress scheme, guidelines are currently being developed on the principles and processes that will be applied when a claim of child sexual abuse is brought against any part of the wider Catholic Church in England and Wales.[5]

7. Abbot President Jamison told us that:

What one is trying to do is to find a way of saying to those who approach us, ‘This is how you can expect people to respond to you’ and to hold people to account to respond in that way. Because at the moment we don’t have guidelines, and, as the inquiry has heard, this can be very distressing, meeting so many different responses. I think that the key to this is to get some agreement in guidelines. For example, that … when it is an offence regarding somebody between the ages of 16 and 18, that one will not use a defence of saying, ‘But there was consent’. One could rule that out and in advance and say, ‘We will not say that. We will accept your claim.’[6]

8. The guidelines are presently being considered and expanded upon by the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) and a lawyer from Catholic Insurance Services Limited.[7]

9. Abbot President Jamison also told us that individual EBC monasteries have met with survivors and apologised for sexual abuse, and that the majority of survivors who had sought financial redress had now received compensation.[8] He also said that the EBC is investigating how it can provide more immediate forms of support, including by directing survivors to seek support from suitable services.[9]

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