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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church Investigation Report


F.4: Safeguarding conference in Valladolid in 2019

7. Bishops have a regular cycle of in-service training. Every two years the spring plenary assembly is designated either a spiritual retreat or an “in-service training conference”.[1] In May 2019, the spring plenary meeting for the English and Welsh bishops was held in Valladolid, Spain and was focussed entirely on safeguarding. Baroness Hollins, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, devised the training programme which covered bishops’ safeguarding experience and concerns, safeguarding during formation, international perspectives and CSAS’ work.[2] Baroness Hollins told us:

The guiding theme of the programme was to help the bishops to understand more clearly the importance of listening to and accompanying people who have been abused and those close to them and to recognise the long-term effects of abuse.[3]

8. The training team included members of the SAP and other survivors of sexual abuse, and the bishops heard testimonies from survivors of clerical abuse.[4] Baroness Hollins said that although the bishops “probably had met victims and survivors of clerical abuse … what I think is that they hadn’t all actually had the confidence and the skill to really sit and listen”.[5] She thought the training helped the bishops develop “an emotional empathy with victims and survivors[6] and all the bishops referred to the testimonies of the victims and survivors as one of the most significant features of the conference.[7]

9. Cardinal Vincent Nichols summarised the meeting as:

days which have touched every bishop very deeply. We have listened to the deep and lasting confusion, pain and despair, inflicted by the people who abused them. We have listened with horror to the ways in which precious gifts of our faith have been used to groom and dominate both children and vulnerable adults in crimes of abuse. We humbly ask forgiveness of all who carry this pain, for our slowness and defensiveness and for our neglect of both preventative and restorative actions. (For us Bishops these days are a watershed.)[8]

10. As explained in Part E, the Bishops’ Conference has drafted a decree (law covering the Church in England and Wales) which states:

Clergy, religious and lay persons exercising appointed offices, roles or responsibilities within the Church will be required to undergo personalised safeguarding training, some of which will be designated as mandatory by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales”.[9]

11. The decree states that failure to undertake this training may “result in removal from office or restrictions being imposed on ministry, or the exercise by clergy, religious or the lay faithful of a role or responsibility”.[10] Cardinal Nichols told us that this was similar to the current position but that the general decree would give this the “force of law” and “gives much greater strength to the duty for us to undergo appropriate training”.[11]


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