Widespread ideas about nature of paedophilia in 1970s and 80s influenced decisions, says former MP
Former minister Ann Widdecombe has said there is nothing unique about the Catholic Church’s failure to address child abuse.
Writing about the scandal in her autobiography Strictly Ann, published next week, the Catholic convert wrote that the way the Church dealt with paedophiles was in line with much of the thinking in the 1970s and 1980s, which was shared throughout society.
She wrote: “I was a Samaritan in the 1980s and we received special training on dealing with child victims but if the perpetrators rang up there was no suggestion we should call the police: confidentially was essential. It was not until the 1990s that this country had a register of sex offenders and not long before that when we finally came to understand the addictive and repetitive nature of paedophilia.
“The Church thought wrongly that if it detached a priest from the source of temptation that all would be well – as if he were attracted to a grown woman, not realising that the reaction would be simply to find another child. It was a disastrous policy but not unique to the Church.
“Child abuse is a scourge upon the innocent. It is found in all manner of churches, in the Scout movement, in care homes, in schools, in choirs and most of all in families. There is nothing unique about the Roman Catholic Church but that does not excuse what happened: it just sets it in context.”
She also added that: “Some of the loudest condemnations came from the BBC, which thanks to Jimmy Savile scandal, now appears to have been more heavily mired in this disgusting scenario than most.”
Miss Widdecombe, who was a Conservative MP from 1987 to 2010, was raised an Anglican and converted to Catholicism in 1993, describing the ordinaton of women as “the last straw, but… only one of many”.
She has since become a regular on television and used her fame to support a number of Catholic causes, including Aid to the Church in Need’s attempts to raise awareness for persecuted Christians in the Middle East.