The new head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Murphy-O'Connor, has been in the headlines for allowing a paedophile to continue as a priest despite warnings that he would re-offend. A BBC investigation found evidence that Murphy-O'Connor played a crucial role in allowing 'Father' Michael Hill to continue his duties despite several complaints that had been brought against him.
Documents cited by the BBC relate to the early 1980s, a time when the Archbishop was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. They prove that he ignored the advice of doctors and therapists who warned that the priest was likely to re-offend. Hill was eventually jailed in 1997 after admitting nine counts of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency relating to abuse over a 20-year period.
Reports by therapists and doctors told the then Bishop Murphy-O'Connor that Hill was a high risk paedophile who was likely to re-offend. The mother of one of the boys abused by Hill in Surrey told the BBC that she went to see the Bishop personally and told him what was going on. He said that he would deal with it, but the priest was simply moved to a different parish and eventually made Chaplain of Gatwick Airport where he continued to abuse young boys. It was only when one of the boys he had abused during his time at Gatwick reported him to the police that the priest was arrested and charged.
The reaction of Murphy-O'Connor to this whole affair was not only predictable, but nauseatingly typical of the corruption in the hierarchy of the Church which he leads: he maintained, and still maintains, that he acted "properly" in the affair. What other response could be expected from a Church which makes a profession of never admitting to having done wrong?
The corruption, however, does not end there. Although Murphy-O'Connor has now agreed that boys abused by the priest should receive compensation, the Roman Catholic Church has imposed a gagging-order on the victims to stop them telling their story, which amounts to paying them to keep silent about the real facts and extent of the abuse.
Moreover, since 1994 the Church of Rome is supposed to have had strict rules in place which specify that if a complaint is made against a priest, social services should be informed and the priest should be removed from parish duties. Clearly, those rules have not been followed. In 1999 a BBC News investigation revealed evidence that some Roman Catholic Bishops in the UK were failing to adhere to their Church's child protection guidelines and instead allowing priests accused of child abuse to continue practising. It appears that to these Bishops the concept of acting "properly" includes breaching the guidelines of their own Church.
The never-ending saga of Rome's paedophile priests continues. Hill's victims and their families say that their faith in the Church has been badly shaken. If it takes an incident such as this to raise their doubts about the propriety of that organisation, it is high time that they examined more closely the corruption that lies at the root of its whole system and familiarised themselves with the catalogue of unspeakable crimes that litter its bloody history.