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Cardinal 'ashamed' at how he handled sex abuse

By Benjamin Wright

Published 23/05/2015

Former Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has admitted he is deeply ashamed of the way he handled sex abuse allegations concerning a priest in the 1980s.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor told a festival crowd how, as the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, he allowed priest Michael Hill to become the chaplain of Gatwick Airport despite Hill confessing to him that he had abused young boys.

The 82-year-old cleric said he sent Hill for therapy before moving him to a new parish after being given assurances he would have no contact with children.

While at his new airport post, Hill went on to sexually assault a young man with learning difficulties who had missed a flight.

Hill was jailed in 1997 for a string of attacks and then again for another five years in 2002 after disclosing fresh abuse during a sex offender treatment programme.

Speaking at the Hay Festival in south Wales, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said he would have done things differently now.

He said: "I'd like to say something I wouldn't have said 20 or 30 years ago - think first of the victims and how important it is to listen to them and their story, the anger and the pain.

"I knew child abuse was wrong and removed him from the parish. Now, under the new regulations, he would go to the social services and the police automatically.

"But I don't think we were aware of the addictive nature of paedophilia and the terrible damage that's done to the victims. Now I know much more about that."

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor made the remarks while taking part in a Q&A session.

He denied that the way he acted following Hill's confession was tantamount to a cover-up and aimed to "put the good name of the church" before victims or justice.

"I can't remember thinking about protecting the good name of the church," he replied.

"I thought 'this man is damaging children' - so I moved him out and put him into a therapy centre.

"I made the grave mistake of sending him to Gatwick Airport and... he did abuse again.

"What we need to do now is that if there is any allegation of child abuse then it goes straight to the police."

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