SNAP applauds move to have Nazir Afzal lead Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency

At least two survivors have already welcomed Nazir Afzal's appointment to chair the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA). We also applaud this move to bring in an outside expert to coordinate and guide a better response to the sex abuse of children within the Catholic Church of England and Wales. Hopefully, Mr. Afzal's experience in bringing a notorious human trafficking ring to justice, as well as prosecuting English media personality Stuart Hall for child sexual offenses, will serve this agency well because  "a seismic shift in culture" is indeed needed.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) previously examined how Catholic institutions in England and Wales handled their obligation to protect the most vulnerable from criminal assaults.  The Inquiry reportedly received more than 3,000 complaints of child sex abuse against almost 1,000 individuals connected to the Church between 1970-2015. With a population base of 4.2 million Catholics, this equates to one perpetrator for every 4,200 parishioners. These numbers are very close to the ratios we see in the United States (one to 5,000) and Australia (1 to 3800). Clearly, the IICSA findings continue to demonstrate that the Church worldwide has a systemic problem with abuse and cover-up, as well as an intense desire to minimize the ongoing scandal.

Apparently, the CSSA has been given the authority to sanction offending clergy. While Mr. Afzal will definitely need this enforcement tool, if his efforts are truly to bear fruit, we also hope that he will report all crimes directly to law enforcement for investigation and prosecution. We believe involving independent governmental agencies provides the best solutions to this ongoing scandal.  While we are encouraged by Mr. Afzal's reputation, we know that the Church can employ a lot of pressure on those who work directly for it. Our hope is that he will not succumb to Catholic officials' intimidating tactics.

The reports previously gathered by the  IICSA may well be only the tip of the iceberg of Catholic abuse in England and Wales. If Mr. Afzal's agency can gain the trust of Catholic survivors, the number of complaints might grow, as well as the number of accused clerics and lay employees. The CSSA must take the steps necessary to use its authority to remove these dangerous men and women from ministry, as well as provide parishioners and the public with accurate information on what is learned.

Victims deserve justice: those who harmed them and those who enabled that harm need to be exposed.

CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Treasurer (415-341-6417, [email protected]), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (267-261-0578, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is

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