"As lawyers working on behalf of children and vulnerable adults who have suffered sexual and physical abuse in institutional care, we write to call for a public inquiry into abuse within church organisations in England and Wales.
Officials of church organisations hold influential and highly respected roles within the community; historically they have enjoyed both the trust of the public and unquestioned access to children. This has undoubtedly created extensive opportunities for abuse. From cases we are handling currently, we are aware of some 41 Catholic priests who have been convicted of serious sexual offences in the recent past. Yet these very same organisations, particularly in the Catholic Church, have persistently ignored and in many cases covered up complaints of abuse.
We have seen clear evidence of cover-ups on some of our cases and we believe these are the tip of the iceberg. The culture of cover-up has been embedded in the Catholic Church for decades if not centuries. It will never be effectively challenged without full public scrutiny, something which only a public inquiry, with powers of access to documents, including each Catholic diocese's secret archive, can achieve.
The Church of England has similarly been criticised for a lack of transparency. The available evidence shows that the practical implementation of new safeguarding policies in both the Catholic Church and the Church of England (and indeed in other denominations) has been tentative, patchy and has met significant institutional resistance at senior levels in the church hierarchy.
There is now overwhelming evidence that religious organisations are too compromised by their own failings to police themselves effectively. The only way to address the scandal of sexual and physical abuse in these organisations is through a comprehensive public inquiry, and we urge ministers to order this without delay."
Richard Scorer, Pannone Solicitors; David Greenwood, Jordans Solicitors; Tracey Storey, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors; Jonathan Wheeler, Bolt Burdon Kemp Solicitors; Malcolm Johnson, Malcolm Johnson & Co Solicitors; Alan Collins, Verisona Solicitors; Tracey Emmott, Emmott Snell Solicitors; Peter Garsden, Abney Garsden McDonald Solicitors