Church has 'lot to learn' on abuse

The Roman Catholic Church in Britain still has "a lot to learn" about dealing with allegations of child sex abuse, a Catholic archbishop said yesterday.

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Birmingham, was reacting to a survey of 486 British priests. Three-quarters of them said they felt inadequately prepared to deal with allegations of child abuse.

"There are no surprises," he said in a statement. "The correct handling of suspicions, allegations or incidences of the abuse of children always involves difficult judgments. Children must be protected. The accused, too, has rights which must be respected."

Nichols, who heads the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, said real progress was being made, but that "the pain and suffering of abuse still remain".

The polling agency ICM sent an anonymous self-completion questionnaire to 2,704 randomly selected Catholic priests in England and Wales, of whom 18 per cent - 486 priests - returned a completed questionnaire.

Some 95 percent of the respondents said the way the church deals with child sex abuse claims has changed for the better over the past decade, and 56 percent said they trusted the church to take care of problems with its own clergy.

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