Cardinal takes strict line over sex abuse

Arifa Akbar
Monday 20 January 2003 01:00 GMT

Roman Catholic bishops found to be flouting new guidelines on child protection will be held to account or expected to resign, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said today.

The head of the Catholic Church of England and Wales, which has been plagued by child abuse scandals in recent months, pledged his determination to implement the guidelines, drawn up by Lord Nolan in response to the crisis.

He said: "If they [guidelines] are not being implemented by a bishop and, if a bishop deliberately ignores them, that bishop puts himself in a very serious position. If there are serious failures, the bishop would be held to account."

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Archbishop of Westminster admitted he would have handled cases differently while in his former diocese, Arundel and Brighton, had the Nolan guidelines been in place at the time. He said he might not have allowed Father Tim Garrett, convicted of taking indecent photographs of boys in the 1980s, to move from Portsmouth diocese to Arundel and Brighton.

The Cardinal said he had never contributed to a "cover-up" for priests and admitted to feeling "tested as a man" during the months of allegations.

He denied the claim that he had offered a bribe to the convicted paedophile priest Michael Hill, now serving a five-year sentence in Belmarsh prison, in return for his silence.

Meanwhile, a church source said the Vatican had not yet announced whether it planned to defrock Hill.

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