July 27, 2010
The head of child protection for the Catholic church in England and Wales has said the Vatican should remove the statute of limitations on prosecution of of priests for child abuse offences.
William Kilgallon, the chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC), argued that the time limit was unhelpful and failed to reflect the long-lasting effects of abuse.
He described the Vatican's recent decision to double the time period from 10 years to to 20 as "better than it was", but said he would have preferred its abolition.
He was speaking at the launch of the NCSC's annual report, which highlighted developments in the protection of children and vulnerable adults.
When asked to comment about the latest guidelines from the Vatican, Kilgallon replied: "It is good the time limit has been extended; my advice would have been to remove any limit. It is better than it was, but I would have preferred to see the removal of limits entirely."
He explained that the church in England and Wales was becoming more aware of the serious impact of abuse, and how the effects persisted with people into their adult lives. Events late in life could trigger feelings and trauma, forcing people to relive their experiences, he told the press conference.
"Very often, people who have been abused don't report things. They think they won't be believed," he said. What happens is, they see someone else has talked, and that gives them the confidence to come forward."
The panel asserted its independence from the Vatican by saying local churches were not waiting for instructions on how to deal with sexual abuse.