Monday, 4 December 2017

Archbishop and sexual abuse survivor exchange letters


A further exchange of letters between the Archbishop of Canterbury and Gilo, an abuse survivor, has been published today.

We reported earlier on the open letter to the archbishop that Gilo had sent.

The response from the archbishop to the open letter from Gilo is now available.

Gilo’s further response to the archbishop is also available here.

And there is a press release, copied below the fold.

This material is also published on the Ekklesia website.

Media coverage:

Church Times Survivor keeps pressure on Archbishop to bring in mandatory reporting of abuse

Christian Today Justin Welby under pressure to overhaul approach to church sex abuse survivors

PRESS RELEASE from Gilo Monday 4th December

Archbishop Welby’s response to abuse survivor condemned by numerous leading Church figures, a Parliamentarian and other experts

I am Gilo, an Anglican abuse survivor. Archbishop Welby’s response on 8 November (attached) to my open letter complaining about the callous way the Church mistreats abuse survivors and of the importance of Mandatory Reporting has been condemned by a bishop and other leading Church figures, lawyers, child protection experts, survivors’ groups and a peer. Most consider it to be evasive and completely inadequate. The Archbishop has already had to apologise publicly for ignoring 17 letters from me.

Those responding include, April Alexander (General Synod & Church Commissioner), Christina Rees CBE (founding member Archbishop’s Council), The Very Rev’d Prof Martyn Percy (Dean of Christ Church), Prof Linda Woodhead (Academic & Theologian) and Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson (Bishop of Buckingham), Peter Saunders (founder NAPAC) and Baroness Walmsley.

Simon Sarmiento (Thinking Anglicans website) wrote “The Archbishop’s response sadly ducks answering any of the “quite specific, but very reasonable, questions that Gilo posed. There was a golden opportunity available here to make clear that the stance of EIG does not define policy for the Church of England. Continuing equivocation by the latter, including on mandatory reporting, only increases the depth of the hole out of which the whole Church will eventually have to dig itself.”

A number of respondents were especially scathing about the Archbishop’s attempt to kick Mandatory Reporting of institutional abuse, something the Church used to call for, into the long grass. Baroness Walmsley was adamant that this issue is not complex at all. “If you know or suspect that a child is being abused, or has been abused, you must report the matter to the correct authorities. To fail to do so is to collude with the perpetrator. End of!”

Another major concern is that the Archbishop has delegated this work to Bishop Thornton who will be unlikely to enjoy the support of survivors, due to very considerable difficulties in his involvement in my case.

My own take on the letter is that “Sadly, Archbishop Welby’s response fails to meet the questions. Stating in vaguest of terms the complexity of an issue does not address complexities. There doesn’t seem any ownership of the crisis, nor recognition that questions such as these need facing at ‘archbishop level’ and the clear call of leadership required to shift the church into structural and cultural change and towards authentic justice. Until the church buckles under the weight of these things – the shilly-shallying will continue. I am struck by the irony that the questions now seem in the hands of a bishop who walked away – in 2003, in effect again during the Past Case Review, and again in 2015 with a “no recollection”. This won’t give survivors much confidence.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 4 December 2017 at 12:00pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

What an extraordinary man Gilo is, and what a gift to the Church he makes by being willing to engage in this very clever way.
His perspective needs to be brought into the very highest levels of church leadership. Perhaps he should be made Bishop of London (after ordination first, assuming he is a layman).
Clearly that is a somewhat light-hearted suggestion, but it may take some similarly dramatic step to show that the Church is indeed committed to change.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Monday, 4 December 2017 at 8:19pm GMT

The comments below Gilo's latest letter to Justin are very powerful and persuasive.

Real leadership is needed now, from the top. Failing that, ground rules should be insisted upon by General Synod.

I work in a school with 1200 students. If we have any slightest concern, each staff member knows this has to be reported.

It should be a non-negotiable, without any presupposition of guilt or innocence. It's just the right thing to do. Not to necessarily report can shield wrong-doers, and also prevents authorities identifying emerging patterns of behaviour from various sources.

The process should not be kept "in-house". That's where things have sometimes gone wrong in the past. If someone files a complaint of abuse, there should be no ifs or buts. They need to know their problem will be passed on and investigated by an independent third party, outwith the organisation. Where such a process is mandatory, it may give the person more confidence to come forward.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 4 December 2017 at 8:40pm GMT

This is heartbreaking in so many ways: for Gilo of course, for what it says about the institution that I am almost ashamed to work for, and for its apparatchiks, who seem sometimes to have forgotten Micah 6:8 - which should be branded on us all. Daily.

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Monday, 4 December 2017 at 9:57pm GMT

I agree that mandatory reporting should be required if there's reasonable cause to suspect abuse, but the mandate can only come from a legislature, backed by the force of law; otherwise, it's toothless. This is a perfect example of why institutions can't be relied on to police themselves.

In other words, this is a matter for the British parliament, not an archbishop.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 4 December 2017 at 11:07pm GMT

Any further news on when the Carlile Report will be published as it is now two months since it was delivered?
Food to hear Bishop Philip North giving Thought for the Day on the wireless this week - give that man a diocese!

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 8:07am GMT

Another Martin Sewell piece:

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 11:29am GMT

Father David,

they tried, some folk said no!

Graeme Buttery

Posted by: Graeme Buttery on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 11:41am GMT

What a heartening set of responses - and what a contrast to official responses from the C of E!

About 3 weeks ago I wrote to the Archbishops supporting Gilo's and Jayne Ozanne's letters, and telling a little of my own experiences. The Safeguarding Team at Lambeth are now in touch and looking into matters, and I appreciate that. I await the results. But so far I have had nothing in writing, and no acknowledgement at all from the Archbishops. I know they are busy, but they seem to be making higher priority of the Reform and Renewal programme than of responses to safeguarding disclosures. Which is ironic, because safeguarding and response to survivors is perhaps the area most in urgent need of reform and renewal. What point is there in rearranging the living room furniture when the skeletons are bursting out of the cellar?

I support MR, debate and action by Synod, and a Truth and Reconciliation process. But one simple suggestion to begin with: Why can't the Archbishops draft a short letter of initial response, expressing thanks for the information and concern for the discloser, promising an investigation without prejudice as to the results? Such a letter could be tweaked as to details and signed by the Archbishop/s, or by a senior member of staff in the Archbishop's absence and on his/their behalf. Their reluctance to personally respond is giving the impression they really aren't interested and don't want to know. Which may be the case, of course, but it's neither Christlike nor politic.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 11:48am GMT

As an institution, we just don't get it, do we? After reading this thread, last night, I listened to a report on Radio 4, this morning, of the National Abuse Inquiry, where the Abbot of Ampleforth was being grilled about actions he did - and did not take - over a priest about whom allegation had been made.

Gilo's pain (and impressive tenacity) is striking, and how chastened we must be. The Archbishop's letter really does not convey anything like what it should (he needs to find a more articulate and empathetic person to do his drafting).

Nonetheless (as I put my tin hat on... but also await the publication of the Carlile Report) behind the Archbishops 'complex' plea, we should not forget those people (small in number, I know, but each human life is precious) who have been the subject of allegations, who have committed suicide under the strain of being named, and then it has been subsequently proved that the allegations were baseless. Justice has to work both ways.

Posted by: Michael Mulhern on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 12:29pm GMT

RE the Carlile Report, see here

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 12:53pm GMT

This reminds me of words from a Guardian Leader of more than a decade ago, after another revelation about events surrounding the 'weapons dossier' that dogged Tony Blair's government:

"[This] can often mark the point at which the public's understanding of reality definitively parts company with that of government...The really significant thing is when a government loses control of the narrative and can no longer tell the story of what is happening in words of its own choice, because events have ... undercut its version." For 'government' read 'Church of England leadership' - and not only relation to safeguarding.

Posted by: Simon R on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 3:03pm GMT

Janet Fife's point in relation to Renewal and Reform hits the nail on the head. Wasn't it C.G. Jung who said something along the lines that 'renewal happens on the yonder side of conformity'? I think that's a good motto for whenever we are presented with another piece of spin from Lambeth.

Posted by: Graham Steel on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 5:23pm GMT

Michael, I've long noticed that one injustice begets another. Failed states with corrupt "justice" systems fail victims as dismally as they fail the falsely accused. The rights of victims and accused aren't in conflict: they're inseparable.

As Cranmer's blog has noted, the CoE's willingness to condemn Bell hasn't been accompanied by corporate good practice for survivors of abuse. Just the opposite. Why? Because the overriding concern's not truth and justice, but PR.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 5:33pm GMT
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