An independent review has demanded a "culture of vigilance" throughout the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales to prevent further cases of sexual abuse of children by priests.

The review, chaired by Lord Nolan, a retired senior judge, made 50 recommendations in its "essentially practical" first report, including a child-protection representative in every Catholic parish, a national database of applicants for the priesthood, and laicization—effective dismissal from the priesthood—in severe cases of child abuse.

Under the recommendations, which also cover lay workers, applicants for church positions would have to give details of any convictions for offences against children and young people, and to agree to a check of police records.

Bishops and religious superiors are urged to carry out risk assessments to determine whether the individuals concerned are a current threat.

The Catholic leader in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, praised the report as "extremely constructive and helpful" and added: "We are committed to ensuring that the Catholic Church becomes the safest of places for children."

However, some victims of abuse and various media commentators were skeptical of the church's commitment to resolve an issue in which it has often been accused of protecting its own image rather than dealing with the problem.

The report was issued ahead of a meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, scheduled for April 23 to 27.

Tom Horwood, the bishops' spokesman, confirmed to ENI that the report would be a main agenda item and that Lord Nolan and members of his committee would be meeting the bishops.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor set up the Nolan Review last year after a series of sex-abuse cases ...

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