Friday, 3 May 2013

Archbishop’s Chichester Visitation – Final Report Published

Updated Friday night

Lambeth Palace announced this evening that the final report for the enquiry into the operation of the diocesan child protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester had been published.

The full text of the report (a 4.8 MB pdf file) is available for download.

Here is the accompanying press release.

Archbishop’s Chichester Visitation – Final Report Published
Friday 3rd May 2013

The final report for the enquiry into the operation of the diocesan child protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester has today been published.

The report was written by Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC who were appointed in 2011 as the former Archbishop of Canterbury’s commissaries to carry out the enquiry.

In responding to the final report, Archbishop Justin has made the following statement:

“I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to not only the Commissaries for their care and concern in the course of carrying out this Visitation, but also to the survivors of abuse who have been able to share their experiences. The hurt and damage that has been done to them is something the Church can never ignore and I can only repeat what I have said before - that they should never have been let down by the people who ought to have been a source of trust and comfort and I want to apologise on behalf of the Church for pain and hurt they have suffered. I remain deeply grateful for their cooperation in the work of the Visitation.

I would also like to thank Bishop Martin and diocesan staff for their assistance and cooperation with the Visitation, and their continuing work with the police and statutory authorities in helping to turn around safeguarding in the diocese.”

In December 2011 the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, appointed Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC to carry out the enquiry. They were tasked with advising the Archbishop on any steps that need to be taken to ensure the highest possible standards of safeguarding in the dioceses. This involved examining current child protection arrangements as well as making recommendations for the future.

The Commissaries recommendations were published in an interim report in August 2012 and the full text of that report can be read here.

We would encourage anyone who has suffered abuse to come forward – their privacy and wishes will be respected. A special helpline has been set up in conjunction with the NSPCC on 0800 389 5344. Victims can also make a report to police.

We would urge anyone with any concerns about a child protection issue to contact the police.

The Church of England press office has issued this statement.

Response to Final Report of the Archbishop’s Chichester Visitation
03 May 2013

The Bishop of Southwell and Notts, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, Chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Committee, said: ” The publication of the Commissaries Final report encourages both the Diocese of Chichester and the National Church to move forward in responding to the mistakes made and the lessons learned. Nationally we have been working hard behind the scenes on turning the recommendations made into action; this work continues. In Chichester itself whilst there have been terrible failures in the past and there is much work to be done I am confident that Bishop Martin and the Safeguarding Team are well placed to ensure that the diocese is safe in its practices now and in the future. I would also like to repeat the statement I made at the publication of the interim report last summer.”

And there is a statement from the current Bishop of Chichester.

Bishop Martin responds to the Archbishop’s Visitation report

“We welcome the Final Report that brings the Archbishop’s Visitation to a formal conclusion. This is the moment for us to record our profound thanks to Dr Rowan Williams, who instituted the visitation while he was Archbishop, to the present Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev’d and Rt Hon Justin Welby, and to the Commissaries themselves, the Rt Rev’d John Gladwin and His Honour Judge Rupert Bursell QC.

“The Visitation has enabled us to comprehend the damage done to so many people’s lives. I hope that all victims and those affected recognise in the words of the Interim and Final Reports that their concerns have begun to be heard, their determination recognised, and their extraordinary courage honoured.

“We believe that there may be many more victims of abuse who have never come forward to report their experiences. We wish to reassure them that we will listen to and respond in any ways that are appropriate to a report of abuse by priests or Church workers.

“Finally, we welcome the attention drawn in the Interim and Final Reports to the scope of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. It is vital that our procedures engender trust and confidence among our partner agencies, among survivors and their families.”

Update - early press reports

Madeleine Davies in the Church Times: Chichester Visitation concludes with warning against complacency
BBC Diocese of Chichester child abusers ‘may have gone unrecognised’
Victoria Ward in The Telegraph Church of England urged to take ‘urgent’ action on child abuse
Ben James in The Argus (a local paper published in Brighton, in the diocese of Chichester) More church child abuse cases may yet to be uncovered

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 3 May 2013 at 8:55pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

There is much good stuff in this report, but I was expecting something rather fuller. The issue of certain clergy officiating under PTOs (as Roy Cotton did at Sedlescombe, Whatlington, Ninfield and Hooe) was not addressed, although this formed a material element of the Butler-Sloss Report.

One thing that has occurred to me is that, although Cotton started his career in Chichester at South Harting on the Surrey/Hampshire border and there is the Denford/Mytton case at Burgess Hill (Mytton having had a prior criminal career at Uckfield), much of the abuse occurred at the relatively neglected easternmost end of the diocese. Cotton was at Brede with Udimore; Colin Pritchard was at Sedlescombe and St Barnabas Bexhill.

The structures of the Chichester diocese are largely the creation of Eric Kemp, whose episcopate was very long (1974-2001) and decreasingly effective. Whilst his immediate predecessors, George Bell and Roger Wilson, had been capable administrators, they had struggled with the fact that the Palace is at one extreme end of Sussex, and - as is so often remarked - there are some parishes abutting Romney Marsh that are closer to France than to Chichester; for this we must blame St Wilfrid for having established the diocese out of Selsey. Chichester is not unique in this (viz., Carlisle, Peterborough, etc.), but it has been a recurrent problem for the diocese. Bell had tried to confront it by spending much of his time resident at Hove. Kemp based much of the diocesan bureaucracy at Hove, but this created an unsatisfactory situation with some of the administration remaining at Chichester and some at Hove. This could have been overcome if Kemp had been a capable administrator - but whatever his gifts were as a canonist and historian - he seems to have had little aptitude for administration. The Butler-Sloss Report refers to blue files housed at Chichester being poorly kept, and the Meekings Report referred in passing to administrative disarray within the diocese.

Another Kemp innovation was the creation of episcopal areas: he delegated (some might say abdicated) an unusual degree of authority to his suffragans of Horsham and Lewes, whilst retaining a portion of West Sussex for himself. This meant that the bishops of Horsham and Lewes became de facto diocesans, and the area covered by Lewes was that of a substantial diocese in its own right. For much of the time during which the abuse occurred the bishops of Lewes were Peter Ball (1977-92), now facing legal difficulties of his own, the late Ian Cundy (1992-96) and the controversial Wallace Benn (1997-2012). It is possible that, if there had been more effective central control from Chichester, some of the errors of judgment made at the suffragan level might not have occurred.

Whilst the appointment of Martin Warner was viewed with apprehension in some quarters - on account of his refusal to ordain women, and because of the desire of many to have a non-party man - he seems to have overcome many of these misgivings by having made such a fine start. He has defused some tensions by undertaking to secure the appointment of a bishop of Lewes who will ordain women (I understand that the appointment has been made and will be announced shortly). He has got a firm grip on the diocesan administration. He is tackling the need for overdue pastoral reorganisation. Above all, he has taken the step - revolutionary by Chichester standards - of not only visiting every deanery but staying in each one for a period of time, and therefore acquainting himself thoroughly with conditions at the parochial level. He has thus made himself truly peripatetic, at least for the time being, after the model of St Wilfrid and his immediate successors. In any event, the eastern end of the diocese - where the Church has been historically quite weak - is finally receiving long over-due attention. It is to be hoped that this excellent model of pastoral care will make it much less likely that the sort of criminal activity we have seen, and which has made the diocese a byword, will recur.

A question for the Boundaries Commission: Should parts of East Sussex be detached from Chichester and annexed to Canterbury and/or Rochester? It is worth noting that the archbishops once had an extensive peculiar jurisdiction in Sussex (the deaneries of [South] Malling and Pagham and Tarring), so there is ample precedent for this.

Posted by: J Drever on Saturday, 4 May 2013 at 12:36pm BST

Interesting note on page 10 (footnote 7) which appears to be weak in its view that there should be reconsideration of the issue of the seal of the confessional. It doesn't quite say that, but a number of these cases must have been hidden through a penitent priest seeking absolution. It would be interesting to hear the views of the clergy on this. Some countries are seeking to impose a strict duty to report regardless of a confession. Withholding absolution may be the device necessary, but surely the priest should go to the police, not his or her bishop.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Monday, 6 May 2013 at 8:23am BST

I have heard a (now retired) Bishop, and one who as a priest had had a considerable ministry as a confessor, offer this view:
When a confession of this kind is made, then the penance set should include a requirement on the penitent to go, with the confessor, to the police. Not only is the completion of that penance a condition on the absolution, but an unwillingness to complete the penance demonstrates that this was not a true confession, and the seal of the confessional no longer applies.
I am not sure how comfortable I am myself with this interpretation, but such a policy being known would certainly prevent the confessional being abused.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Monday, 6 May 2013 at 9:22pm BST

As the report states, it does not pursue the issue of ongoing complaints under the clergy disciplinary measures. I imagine that this is why there is nothing further here about the role played by Bishop Wallace Benn.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 7 May 2013 at 2:04pm BST

Anthony: 'Interesting note on page 10 (footnote 7) which appears to be weak in its view that there should be reconsideration of the issue of the seal of the confessional.'

At the very least, the phrase 'his own life may be called into question', in the unrepealed Proviso to Canon 113 of the Code of 1603, needs to be updated to 'he may himself be held guilty of an arrestable offence'. It seems to me that it was only by an oversight that this wasn't done in the schedules to the Criminal Law Act 1967 - but what a dangerous oversight.

Posted by: Feria on Monday, 13 May 2013 at 12:42am BST
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