The former director of the NSPCC in Belfast says Pope Francis’ record on child protection has been “a dismal failure” and that Catholic bishops’ commitment on the matter has been “a lot of lip service”.
A Presbyterian from Dublin, Ian Elliott was chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children for the Catholic Church in Ireland from 2007 to 2013, when his contract was not renewed.
Prior to that he was director of the NSPCC in Belfast and led child protection in the Department of Health.
Ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to the Republic of Ireland this weekend, Mr Elliott said the pontiff’s record on child protection “has been a dismal failure” and “he needs to come [to Ireland] with a mind-set that it’s not good enough to simply apologise for what has happened”.
He told the Irish Times that Pope Francis “needs to say: ‘This is what we’re going to do now, this is how we’re going to move forward, these are the initiatives we’re going to drive through’.”
The problem is not being managed effectively anywhere by the global Catholic church, he said; canon law must be reformed and outside independent monitoring introduced.
Although he personally created the Catholic church’s child protection policies in Ireland, he would not do it again because of resistance from bishops, he said.
Their commitment to child protection was “a lot of lip service” and there was “very limited commitment”.
He added: “I came into the post being told that I would be pushing on an open door. Everybody wanted reform. They recognised there was a problem. They wanted to solve that problem. They were committed to solving that problem and they wanted me to come in to lead that process. That proved not to be the case.”