Outrage at appointment of cover-up Cardinal to abuse inquiry panel

In a development that almost defies belief, the Vatican has appointed Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the former leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, to head an abuse inquiry in Ireland.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “I cannot think of anyone less likely to inspire confidence in this inquiry than Murphy O’Connor. Accusations about his own covering up of abuse when he was Bishop of Arundel have never been satisfactorily resolved. When the BBC was investigating the accusations against Mr Murphy O’Connor, the Church accused the Corporation of ‘persecuting’ him and the BBC dropped the inquiry. However, it was perfectly clear that the Cardinal had, indeed, covered up the activities of horrific abuser Father Michael Hill, thereby facilitating him to continue his activities at different locations.

“We now know that in the 1960s his Church opened a special centre in Brownhills in Gloucestershire treating priests involved in sexual abuse including child abuse. It was run by an order that had warned the then Pope in 1963 about this compulsion.

“This is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile with the claim in 2002 by Cardinal Murphy O’Connor that in dealing with child abuse cases in the 1980s he was "naive and ignorant" and that “there was a genuine ignorance among bishops, priests .... about the compulsive nature of child abuse”. And also for this to be true, the Church, an organisation keen to claim its moral authority, would also have to concede that it was ignorant of something so fundamental appreciated by many of the population at large.

“Why has Cardinal Murphy O’Connor never been made to answer for these cover-ups? Why has he not been subject to a police inquiry?”

Mr Sanderson said that the Vatican’s choice of Murphy O’Connor to lead investigations into the systematic and widespread abuse of children in Ireland by priests was a further desperate attempt to cover up the unforgiveable. “Unless the Vatican replaces him immediately, victims will rightly feel that the church is slapping them in the face yet again with a further charade whose sole object is to protect the Church.”

The National Secular Society wrote to the former Prime Minister last year objecting on similar grounds to the proposed granting of a peerage for O’Connor.

See timeline of Michael Hill saga