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Agnostic to lead Catholic anti-sex abuse unit

Ananova reports that the Church has named an agnostic single mother as the new head of its drive to stamp out sex abuse among priests in England.

Eileen Shearer, 50, says she has been "pleasantly surprised" to be appointed as director of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA).

Her appointment follows 83 recommendations set out last year -- including the creation of the new national unit -- in the Nolan report on paedophile priests.

Ms Shearer, the mother of a 16-year-old daughter, who has never married, said she had been brought up an "active Anglican" but was no longer a practising Christian.

"I feel I understand the Christian ethos and I think that both my personal and professional values are consistent with Christianity, although I am not a practising Christian," she said.

She added that she had been "pleasantly surprised" that the Roman Catholic had the courage to appoint her.

Her duties will include directing the work of the unit in advising and promoting best practice in child protection within the Roman Catholic Church, including selection procedures and training standards for staff and volunteers.

She said she was confident that she would be able to overrule Church hierarchy when making decisions on child protection.

"That was one of the key issues for me when going through the selection procedures and deciding that I did want to put myself forward for this post," she said.

Her salary, as director of the Birmingham-based unit, will be on a level with a director of social services and will be paid by the Church.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, COPCA's chairman, said Ms Shearer's appointment was a "demonstration" of the Church's commitment to taking a "serious" and "conscientious" approach to the children in its care.

"Eileen Shearer is a leading professional in her field and brings with her valuable experience and the highest credentials," he said.

"The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales unanimously endorsed the comprehensive report into this area carried out by Lord Nolan's committee."

Ms Shearer, who currently lives in Wellington, Somerset, has a 25-year career in children's services, including 16 years work for the NSPCC in positions from frontline services to senior management.


Media Release from Catholic Media Office, London