Letter: Catholics learn by experience

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The Independent Online
Sir: Andrew Brown's article, "A hypocritical church desperate for priests" (2 August), may describe the Catholic diocese of Dallas at some time in the past. But his claim that the Catholic Church as a whole is "not facing facts" seems unfair.

The typical British Catholic diocese where I worked in clergy selection for 40 years always took the greatest care in selecting candidates for training. We made detailed enquiries about the background of each candidate, more especially those who applied later in life. In recent years, we introduced psychological screening of each applicant. On occasion, we would not ordain a student if we were uncertain about his suitability. Moreover, even if it meant that we would have insufficient priests for future years, we were never "prepared to take almost anyone on board". The fact that every Catholic diocese in Britain is, and will be, short of priests shows how unlikely it is that we were alone in taking this care over selection and ordination.

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have certainly faced the facts. Once child abuse by clergy began to be discovered elsewhere, we started work on our common policy which, amongst other things, involves each diocese working closely with the local child protection units. Far from not facing the facts, we have shown ourselves to be always ready to learn by experience.


Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle (1974 - 1992)

Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria