Over recent years the Catholic Church has become embroiled in a series of allegations of serious sexual abuse, causing the institution itself to suffer enormous damage to its credibility and threatening its very survival. Our abuse compensation team alone has provided legal representation to a number of people who have been abused by members of the Church. The abuse appears to have been widespread and endemic. There is overwhelming evidence that the Catholic Church worldwide has let its members down by failing to do all it could historically to prevent the abuse from occurring or dealing with known cases when they arose.

It is therefore welcome news that Pope Francis has given his approval to the formation of a commission of experts that will advise him on the introduction of new measures to combat clerical sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. Furthermore, the expert panel is hoped to facilitate better provision being made for pastoral care for victims.

The panel will be tasked with studying some of the issues surrounding abuse in the Roman Catholic Church and will make recommendations regarding the ways in which these issues can be addressed. As well as suggesting new initiatives, the panel will examine existing child-protection programmes and consider the ways in which they can be improved. The topics that are likely to be explored relate to the training of clergy and anyone involved with the Church who will be working with children. Furthermore, there are likely to be measures to screen priests and introduce professional codes of conduct. Although the experts who will sit on the panel have not yet been appointment, it is speculated that they will consist of a mixture of men and women.

The Church has been subject to criticism for not doing enough to sanction bishops who have been found to have protected or failed to report abusive priests in their diocese to the police. It is therefore hoped that this is a move in the right direction to ensure that sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church is dealt with in an appropriate and timely manner in the future.

The measures indicate that Pope Francis is aware of the serious problem of sexual abuse in the Church and is committed to take the necessary steps to address these issues at long last.

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