‘With all my heart, I urge any survivor of abuse to speak out’

On the weekend that Archbishop Oscar Romero is to be made a saint, in company with Pope Paul VI and others, Bishop Alan Williams has written a pastoral letter to parishes about the example both men showed and how it speaks to us today.

“Despite threats, Archbishop Romero, who was assassinated in 1980, had become an outspoken voice for the poor in defence of truth and justice,” says Bishop Alan. “His witness is a model for each of us, and in a particular way for bishops. As he visited the towns and villages of El Salvador, and saw the violence against the people, Romero said: ‘The ones who have a voice must speak for those who are voiceless.’ How true this is for children, and vulnerable adults, yet in recent months we have been shocked and saddened by the example of bishops who have covered up the truth and therefore allowed injustice to flourish.  We have heard stories of survivors of sexual abuse whose most basic rights have been violated by Catholic clergy or other members of the Church.  The lives of survivors have been violated and in some cases destroyed by the crimes of the abusers.  Those in authority in the Church have often failed to act.

“In Brentwood Diocese, the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults has developed significantly over the last twenty years, and now involves many staff and volunteers at diocesan and parish level, and in our schools. Our Diocesan Safeguarding Commission includes representatives from the Metropolitan Police, the legal profession and social workers, together with clergy and lay people who have extensive experience in education and youth ministry.

“With all my heart, I urge any survivor of abuse to speak out.  I know that this can be very difficult, and so I promise, as your Bishop, that every allegation of abuse will be met with a response that is both pastoral and professional.  I thank our parish safeguarding representatives for the work that they do, and I affirm that safeguarding must be the concern of all of us who are able to give a ‘voice to the voiceless’.  It is one of the ways in which, in the words of Pope Paul VI, we ‘proclaim the Gospel by our witness’.

He adds that, during their recent visit to Rome, the Bishops’ Conference decided to commission an independent and comprehensive review of safeguarding structures that currently operate within the Catholic Church of England and Wales.

“Our children and vulnerable adults must be safe in the Church of Christ.  We need to respond to survivors as we heed the words of Pope Francis, ‘no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening’.

Read the letter in full: Pastoral-Letter-for-the-28th-Sunday-of-the-Year.pdf