Monday, 3 July 2017

More cover-up allegations against bishops

Updated Wednesday

Archbishop Cranmer today has an article titled Child abuse in the Church of England: hypocrisy, inconsistency and ongoing cover-up.

Although the abuse described in the article can be considered “historic” (it happened in 1984) the cover-up allegations are quite contemporary, the relevant actions, or rather inactions, only starting in 2012.

Readers may recall that we linked almost a year ago to this Guardian report: Senior Anglican clergy accused of failing to act on rape allegations.

There will no doubt be further developments in this story.


Archbishop Cranmer has published two guest posts by Martin Sewell, a retired Child Protection Lawyer and a member of General Synod.

Lord Carey’s forced resignation is an injustice: he, too, was a victim of Peter Ball

Safeguarding in the Church of England: when is a victim of child-abuse not a victim?

From the second of these:

Yesterday I advanced a more sympathetic perspective on why Lord Carey might have acted so imprudently in the case of Peter Ball. I did so because my experience in dealing with such tragic cases is that everybody involved is damaged in some way, even the ‘neutrals’ and the ‘winners’. By the time you finish reading this piece, you will, at the very least, be convinced of that proposition.

When Safeguarding goes wrong everybody gets hurt.

So today I grasp a much more uncomfortable nettle and explore whether things have changed sufficiently to enable us to be confident that similar errors are not being replicated in the Church of England today. If we have continued to make the same mistakes, then we truly have to rethink our whole Safeguarding regime and to introduce a significant outside professional element…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 3 July 2017 at 1:00pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

"Although the abuse described in the article can be considered “historic”"


One should quote Smiley's People at this point:

Yes, sir, "an extinct case of purely historic concern", sir,' Strickland went on, into the telephone. Extinct is right, thought Smiley. Extinct, extinguished, put out. 'That is precisely the terminology,' Strickland continued. 'And Oliver Lacon proposes to have it included word for word in the D-Notice. Am I on target there, Oliver?'

'Historical,' Lacon corrected him irritably. 'Not historic concern. That's the last thing we want! Historical.' He stalked across the room, ostensibly to peer through the window at the coming day.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 3 July 2017 at 2:26pm BST

Does anyone know if there are published considerations to be taken into account by the President of Tribunals when deciding whether to set aside the one-year rule in CDMs?

Posted by: Grumpy High Churchwoman on Monday, 3 July 2017 at 7:27pm BST

"There will no doubt be further developments in this story."
Well, Simon, that has to be the understatement of the year. In fact, I think "historic" may turn out to be the correct word after all.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Monday, 3 July 2017 at 9:05pm BST

Interested Observer should not abuse language in such a serious case. S/he should read for comprehension rather than for error. To any mature reader of English it is perfectly clear what is meant in this instance and trivializing the matter in such a way is to be deplored.
We should address the substance and avoid the superficial.

Posted by: RevPeterM on Monday, 3 July 2017 at 9:43pm BST

The report on Abp Cranmer's blog account is damning indeed. Lord have mercy.

Posted by: Davis d'Ambly on Monday, 3 July 2017 at 11:10pm BST

In this instance, RevPeterM, it is far from clear just what the 'substance' of the matter is. A series of very serious allegations have been made, but Archbishop Cranmer's commentary on Fr Matthew's statement offers rather more heat than light.

No doubt there is a lot more to be said, much of it by people who may be constrained in what they can say publicly. Under the circumstances withholding judgement would seem to be the wisest course. (As, perhaps, would closing comments - apart from picking up infelicities of grammar and usage, what really is there to say?).

Posted by: rjb on Tuesday, 4 July 2017 at 8:36am BST

Before we go off in lots of directions, could I suggest to commentators that a key question here is: why was the one-year CDM rule not set aside, which I believe is in the power of the President of Tribunals? Would that not allowed a chance for a proper hearing of this complaint? But other commentators on TA will know far more about this than me. It would be good to hear from them.

Posted by: Grumpy High Churchwoman on Tuesday, 4 July 2017 at 8:59am BST

Surely, the C of E is subject to the FOI provisions? If not, why not? It should be a matter of legitimate public interest that there should be transparency in the National Church over applications to the President of Tribunals to set aside CDM time constraints.

I agree with the Archbishop Cranmer analysis, that bishops are all-too-ready to use the blunt instrument of a CDM complaint against their clergy (the Matt Inneson example of giving shelter to a recently released prisoner being a glaring example). But how the 'squeaky clean' men in purple love to hide behind it for their own protection. This is an absolute sham, and no archbishop or bishop, let alone those who are currently 'on message' and key to Renewal and Reform, should be allowed to escape scrutiny. Drain the Swamp!

Posted by: Jonathan Mitchell on Tuesday, 4 July 2017 at 9:19am BST

I read the Cranmer piece with a sense of mounting disgust and dismay. There may be a case for establishing a special independent inquiry to verify these allegations, which should be conducted by someone from outside the Church (since the Church, evidently, can never be trusted to police itself). If the behaviour of Croft, Snow, Sentamu, etc., is demonstrated as being other than completely beyond reproach their positions must become untenable and they should resign under censure. Perhaps the institution will only [finally] learn how to act correctly if a few high-level scalps are taken, ‘pour encourager les autres’. It is also highly disconcerting that individuals might still be preferred to high office without adequate checks being undertaken as to whether or not they are carrying any ‘baggage’ which could discredit them. It says little for the CNC process, and the CNC gave itself very ample time to select someone for Oxford (though I appreciate the CNC’s job is difficult, the ‘talent’ pool having evaporated).

More especially the Sheffield diocese had (in 2012) a mere 145 FT stipendiary clergy. That is smaller than a company in the army (under the command of a captain or major); it is smaller than a small sixth form in a small secondary school; it is smaller than many small/medium enterprises. Any diocesan and suffragan bishop or archdeacon who is not manifestly incompetent should know all of his/her clergy well, know about their problems, and pay keen attention to any issues they might raise, especially in a community as famously difficult as Rotherham. This is not necessarily a hard task for someone who is fit for office. If one of those clergy then makes an incendiary claim it must – especially in the current climate – require the full attention of the relevant bishop and meticulous records should be taken and maintained.

The contemporary bishop is, essentially, a bureaucrat in fancy dress. What is the point of having bishops if they cannot even be effective administrators, never mind pastors? Also, it is one thing to be incompetent (many of us are), but it is quite another to be mendaciously incompetent whilst in a position of power. Mr Ineson’s testimony may or may not be imperfect, but he is at least owed some respect; even if his recollection of the facts is imperfect, the casual/arrogant indifference ostensibly shown to him somehow rings depressingly true.

Posted by: Froghole on Tuesday, 4 July 2017 at 11:10am BST

The article by the Revd Matthew Ineson, incorporated in the Archbishop Cranmer blog post, has this afternoon been e-mailed to General Synod members by Mr Ineson, together with a copy of his letter dated 26 June 2017 to the President of Tribunals commenting on GS Misc 1165. Today, there is what is, in effect, a follow-up guest post on the Archbishop Cranmer blog by Martin Sewell arguing the defence for former archbishop George Carey and saying that "the case for the out-placing of the investigations [into historical abuse allegations] is becoming unanswerable.": see

Posted by: David Lamming on Tuesday, 4 July 2017 at 5:06pm BST

"Surely, the C of E is subject to the FOI provisions?"

It isn't. The ICO decision notice is here:

Posted by: Interested Observer on Tuesday, 4 July 2017 at 7:00pm BST

Jonathan-- The Church of England is not subject to FOI. Certain aspects of the governance of its schools are. See

Posted by: Bernard Silverman on Tuesday, 4 July 2017 at 8:38pm BST

The comments under Martin Sewell's article are, as is usual for Cranmer, a cesspit. However, if you can avoid the comments, the article is well worth reading. I think it is too ready to accept naiveté as a defence, and it's not necessarily to my overall taste, but it is a very accomplished summary of why investigations into historical child abuse cases are nuanced.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Tuesday, 4 July 2017 at 8:44pm BST

My observed experience of someone reporting probable abusive actions which had had to wait beyond 12 months due to the mental health of the person abused is that the full default is to apply the 12 month rule of the CDM. You can apply to the President of Tribunals to bring a case outside the 12 month period but arguing that exemption to the rules seems to require exceptional evidence beyond proving a CDM case in the first place.

Worse, bishops regarded the unwillingness of the President to allow an exemption as meaning they were not now interested in even talking to any of the people concerned even though the person accused remained active in the diocese. Shut up and go away is the summary of their only communication to the person reporting abuse. The bishops had precisely zero interest in whether or not one of their priests was abusive. In over a decade I know they have never spoken to the person abused or witnesses of the abuse.

So frankly no cover up in the CoE would surprise me any more. Default behavior is ignore, deflect and protect the institution.

Sorry for being anonymous but I need to protect the abused person.

Posted by: Observes cynically on Tuesday, 4 July 2017 at 9:59pm BST

I am grateful to Bernard Silverman and Interested Observer for their clarification on the Church of England's exemption from FOI provision. And there was me thinking that the Church would be leading the way as a public institution committed to transparency...

It is significant, nonetheless, that clergy who are caught with their trousers down (in a consenting adult way), or who have dipped their fingers into the till, are given the full range of public exposure for their failures and flaws; while bishops and archbishops - and highly paid senior lawyers - who cover-up sexual abuse on the spurious grounds of 'time out' are afforded all the protection the institution can muster. At the same time, they are throwing all the Church's money at hair-brained schemes to put more bums on seats, oblivious to the probability that no-one in their right mind would want to belong to such a sham of a Church anyway!

Posted by: Jonathan Mitchell on Wednesday, 5 July 2017 at 7:59am BST

"And there was me thinking that the Church would be leading the way as a public institution committed to transparency..."

They chose as a hill to fight on a question about the postcodes of CofE churches. Their argument, which strikes me as pure legal sophistry, is that if they voluntarily answer queries which are framed as FoI requests, then there is a risk that they will by custom and practice become subject to the FoI, even though (on the face of the legislation) they aren't bound by it. This is a crazy position to be in, as they are essentially arguing that even if they wanted to be transparent they "have" to be more reticent for fear they may be forced to be transparent. This is the sort of peculiar logic that FoI and DPA cause amongst second-rate managers advised by third-rate lawyers, I'm afraid.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 5 July 2017 at 10:37am BST

I am from Chichester Diocese (I left in 1984) and knew several of the people involved in the Peter Ball case. His charisma was indeed extraordinary, and he was the subject almost of adulation even among the free churches. I think Sewell is right in considering Carey also to have been a victim of Ball's - Ball's powers of deception and manipulation were exceptional. As are those of many abusers.

I also have experienced trying to alert various members of the hierarchy, at different times and places, to the possibility of abuse occurring. On none of these occasions was the warning or query well received, nor was anything done. One bishop's response was , 'We don't want to open a can of worms!' All of the bishops and archdeacons involved are still in office. So I find Matthew Ineson's allegations of not being heard or helped sadly believable.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Wednesday, 5 July 2017 at 2:54pm BST

The C of E is exempt from many things that the rest of us have to put up with. This may explain the air of surprise by senior church figures when the laity are outraged by the sort of inactivity, subterfuge and 'cover up'. The latter is very often called perverting the course of justice or misconduct in a public office when the rest of us do it.
It may well be time for the Church to climb down from it's pillar, and start adopting the rule of law that the rest of us have to put up with.

Posted by: Lavinia Nelder on Wednesday, 5 July 2017 at 5:20pm BST

"second-rate managers advised by third-rate lawyers"

It becomes all the more bizarre when we consider which Church of England leaders have legal training or business degrees.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 5 July 2017 at 6:24pm BST

@Jeremy - Bishops may have legal training or BMAs; but these things are meaningless without the hermeneutic (interpretative) skills to apply them appropriately, nor sustained experience of people, institutions and communities. The fact that the next Bishop at Lambeth is (in his words) 'delivering mini MBA training to Deans' without one jot of commercial experience, let alone any involvement of running a cathedral and, significantly, minimal short-term experience of leadership in a parish, tells me all I need to know.

Posted by: Michael Mulhern on Thursday, 6 July 2017 at 7:54am BST

"It becomes all the more bizarre when we consider which Church of England leaders have legal training or business degrees."

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Someone who did a law degree twenty years ago, never practiced, and now does something else, is the client real lawyers fear almost as much as someone who has "done research" with Google.

Outside the narrow area of precise specialism, I consult experts (who to the outsider may be thought to be doing the same sort of stuff that I do) when I need them; it is precisely because I know a bit about those topics that I understand that I don't know enough to actually get my hands dirty. But then I don't have the hubris of a mitre.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 6 July 2017 at 9:49am BST

My experience, for what it's worth, suggests that a major part of the problem for the hierarchy is that they are afraid of being caught out by the law - they cannot discuss cases because of data protection rules, and as senior office holders, they fear that anything they do say can end up being used in a compensation lawsuit. They are hobbled by the advice of lawyers - at least in some cases against their moral sense. It's not good, it's not right, they perhaps ought to have the courage of their pastoral convictions, but I do have some sympathy.

Posted by: Bernard Randall on Thursday, 6 July 2017 at 10:43am BST

In 2003 I saw a retired priest who was taking a midweeek service, stroking breasts and bottoms during the service. I reported this inappropriate sexual behaviour to the then Archdeacon. His response: "I don't think we need to do anything about this, they are just silly women." I refused to accept this and insisted the complaint/concern was taken seriously. I hope a similar complaint would not receive the same comment today, but I am not sure, I have very little confidence in the hierarchical structures of the church when alerting the church to abuse. Thank God for Dame Moira Gibb and the Bishop of Crediton.

Posted by: Anon on Thursday, 6 July 2017 at 8:31pm BST

Lavinia---I'd have thought that whether FOI was something to be put up with depends on whether you are seeking the information or whether you are providing / seeking to withhold it.

Posted by: Bernard on Thursday, 6 July 2017 at 10:41pm BST

I am wondering whether the FOI position as posted here is, in fact, correct. I was told that the Church in Wales is not subject to FOI. But has anyone seen the item in today's Church Times where Jeffrey John has obtained emails from bishops plotting to scupper his election? If this kind of thing can happen in Wales, why not England?

Posted by: Michael Mulhern on Friday, 7 July 2017 at 12:16pm BST

Michael Mulhern has raised something quite significant. All Matt Ineson needs to do is make a standard FOI request to the C of E via the Information Commissioner and request every email containing his name sent in the past 6 years. The C of E cannot refuse this as a it is a data protection issue and he is entitled to see the data that the organisation holds on him. That will tell us a great deal about whether or not there has been a systematic cover-up.

Posted by: Edmund Walters on Friday, 7 July 2017 at 9:10pm BST

It does sound like people are mixing up data protection (which allows the subject of data held electronically to see it) which applies to any organisation collecting data, and FOI which has broader scope but only applies to (broadly) the public sector.

Posted by: Jo on Saturday, 8 July 2017 at 8:19am BST
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