Catholic panel to screen British clergy candidates for child abuse
All aspirants for the Catholic priesthood would be vetted by a new national body under proposals being considered by an independent committee set up to root out child abusers.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that the proposals are being taken seriously by the Nolan committee, established by Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Church in England and Wales, following a string of damaging revelations about child abuse by clergymen.
Senior officials said they now recognised the need for thorough screening of candidates for the priesthood - carried out nationally to ensure consistency. At present, each diocese is responsible for training and monitoring its clergy and, although the Church drew up national procedures for child protection in 1994, these have not been uniformly applied.
The committee is also under pressure to recommend that clergy undergo regular assessments throughout their careers to ensure that priests who develop paedophile tendencies are identified. Such a move would, however, be strongly resisted by the clergy, and Church officials said there were already assessment procedures in place, although these might require strengthening.
In one damaging recent case, it emerged that the Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Rev John Ward, had ignored warnings about one of his priests, Fr Joseph Jordan, who was convicted of child abuse in October and jailed for eight years. Archbishop Murphy-O'Connor was himself in the line of fire last year over his handling of the case of Fr Michael Hill in his former diocese of Arundel and Brighton.