A CALDERDALE lawyer is leading a campaign demanding the Roman Catholic Church open its “secret archives” on child abuse.
Richard Scorer, who lives in Hebden Bridge, is a senior solicitor with Manchester-based legal firm Pannone.
He is now heading a team of the country’s top lawyers in the field of child abuse, which this week has asked the Government to order a public inquiry to force the Catholic Church to open up its archives to scrutiny.
If successful, the Church will be forced to make public its closely guarded files which for centuries have remained under lock and key and for the eyes only of Catholic Church leaders.
Mr Scorer, who has a 20-year career acting in some of the most infamous Catholic Church paedophile cases, believes it is vital the Church becomes more transparent and accountable and sheds its cover-up culture.
He said: “We have seen clear evidence of cover-ups on some of our cases and we believe these are the tip of the iceberg.
“The culture of cover-up has been embedded in the Catholic Church for decades, if not centuries.”
He asaid the Church was “too compromised” and “failed to police itself effectively” and the only way to gauge the extent of sex abuse was to submit to a public inquiry.
“It will never be effectively challenged without full public scrutiny, something which only a pubic inquiry, with powers to documents, including each Catholic diocese’s secret archive can achieve.”
Mr Scorer said each diocese had a secret archive where complaints of sexual abuse made against its priests would be carefully documented.
“These secret archives, according to canon law, cover matters of morals and criminal cases and historically bishops have kept them under lock and key.
“What usually happens is once a complaint is made against a priest, that priest is moved to another area but then they are free to continue with their abuse with a new set of victims.
“The only way to break this cycle and address the scandal of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is through a comprehensive public inquiry and we are urging ministers to do this without delay,” he said.
Mr Scorer said he and his fellow solicitors were aware of 41 Catholic priests who had been convicted of serious sexual offences in “the recent past” but in many cases, the complaints of abuse had been covered up by the Catholic Church.
He said he and his fellow solicitors were heartened that their campaign received a boost from a high-profile figure within hours of being launched.
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, wife of the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg is throwing her weight behind it, urging for better protection for abuse victims.
The international lawyer is urging people not to doubt children’s tales of abuse.
Mr Scorer said he believed that because of the success of bringing paedophile priests to book, many more victims were now coming forward.
“We have made great strides over the years and thankfully more victims feel they can come forward without the fear of stigma or shame but there are still many people who are suffering and whose lives have been affected through sexual abuse.”
Tomorrow: Spearheading the fight.