Monday, 8 January 2018

Priest found guilty of spiritual abuse

Updated Friday

The Church Times reports: Oxfordshire vicar, Tim Davis, guilty of spiritually abusing a teenage boy.

The full text of the tribunal decision is here.

A VICAR in Oxfordshire has been convicted of spiritually abusing a teenage boy, in what is thought to be the first judgment of its kind. The victim was judged to have been put under “unacceptable pressure” during one-to-one Bible-study sessions in his bedroom over a period of 18 months.

The priest, the Revd Timothy Davis, of Christ Church, Abingdon, was found guilty under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) 2003 of “conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in holy orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority” by a five-strong Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal for the Oxford diocese, chaired by His Honour the Revd Mark Bishop. Their judgment is dated 28 December and was published by the diocese on Monday.

It is thought to be the first CDM tribunal that has found a case to answer over allegations of the abuse of spiritual power and authority. A penalty has not yet been set…

There are also reports in the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers and on the BBC website:

The Church Times also has this: Two-thirds of Christians in new survey say they have been spiritually abused.

The research report mentioned is available in summary form here.

VIa Media News has Are You Suffering From Spiritual Abuse?

Update
Law & Religion UK reports this here: Clerical abuse of spiritual power and authority. There are links to some relevant policy documents.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 January 2018 at 10:35pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

I have read the full report by the tribunal.

Anyone who believes that the Church of England has effective child protection policies should read it too. They won't after they have finished.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Tuesday, 9 January 2018 at 12:15am GMT

What are the available disciplinary measures in a case like this?

Posted by: Grumpy High Church Woman on Tuesday, 9 January 2018 at 9:17am GMT

Might we see in this tragic saga the lingering effects of the Shepherding Movement? Although the originators, the Fort Lauderdale Five in the States, later wanted to back pedal on the ideas that they had come up with in the early 70s, these notions took deep root. Teachings about obedience, discipleship and being in submission to a Shepherd caused havoc in charismatic circles in the 70s and 80s. The Anglican Church was not unaffected. Were the ideas fashionable at Trinity Bristol in 1989 when Timothy Davis trained? From my own observation the attractiveness of this way of thinking as to what is required of fully committed Christian has never gone away in some Christian circles. Only two months ago I was talking to a young man whose personal life was on hold because the woman he wanted to marry was not approved of by his pastor. Admittedly this was not an Anglican set-up.

Posted by: Stephen Parsons on Tuesday, 9 January 2018 at 10:11am GMT

Perhaps, Stephen Parsons, perhaps.

It has to be said that if a school teacher behaved this way towards a child, they would be unlikely to work as a teacher again ("List 99"). Schools hardly have an unblemished record on safeguarding, but moving in with a pupil and spending hours in his bedroom "looking at his collection of football posters" would be enough for even the most relaxed headmaster to call time on proceedings. It also has to be said that if someone were to behave in this way towards a married adult, it would be clear grounds for divorce. That no-one in authority over the vicar knew, or if they knew did anything about it, that he had moved in with a vulnerable parishioner is outrageous.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Tuesday, 9 January 2018 at 11:19am GMT

Stephen Parsons 'Were the ideas fashionable at Trinity Bristol in 1989 when Timothy Davis trained?' No they weren't. I also think 'havoc' overstates the influence of the shepherding movement in the wider charismatic movement - and certainly within Anglican circles. But I am not denying there were issues then as here.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Tuesday, 9 January 2018 at 11:31am GMT

FWIW safeguarding training in this diocese (Lincoln) does cover spiritual abuse. Our SG officer expressed concern that there was no statutory category specifically covering this dimension in the law of the land. Wonder why HMG is so reluctant to address it?

Posted by: David Rowett on Tuesday, 9 January 2018 at 11:56am GMT

To answer Grumpy High Church Woman's question, the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003, section 24, lists these available penalties.

24 Types of penalty

(1) One or more of the following penalties may be imposed on a respondent upon a finding that he has committed any misconduct, namely—
(a) prohibition for life, that is to say prohibition without limit of time from exercising any of the functions of his Orders;
(b) limited prohibition, that is to say prohibition for a specific time from exercising any of the functions of his Orders;
(c) removal from office, that is to say, removal from any preferment which he then holds;
(d) in the case of a minister licensed to serve in a diocese by the bishop thereof, revocation of the licence;
(e) injunction, that is to say, an order to do or to refrain from doing a specified act;
(f) rebuke.

Section 19 also allows the disciplinary tribunal not to impose any penalty.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Tuesday, 9 January 2018 at 4:02pm GMT

I joined the Church of England in 1980 after escaping from the Shepherding moment. I was a member of a free church when the pastor was ousted and the deacons brought in shepherding - it certainly caused havoc in that church and a lot of people were hurt.

Shepherding had a very negative impact on the Charismatic movement generally, though it may not have done in the C of E. I knew people who were ordered to marry (or not marry) a certain person. Not far from where I lived, businessmen and academics were told to wash their neighbours' cars at weekends as a sign of humility. My own 'shepherd' enjoyed 'testing people's hospitality'. This involved he and his wife turning up unannounced at what they knew to be an inconvenient time, to see whether you fulfilled your scriptural duties of hospitality. These two once told me I was demon-possessed and it would be a few weeks before they could do anything about it.

So, it was a relief to escape to the sane Church of England and the pastoral care of my vicar Gordon Rideout, and my bishop Peter Ball...

Posted by: Janet Fife on Tuesday, 9 January 2018 at 4:41pm GMT

So it is wrong if the minister, acting alone, tells a vulnerable male that it is wrong for him to date a specific girl, but it is not wrong if a minister and congregation together exert far greater pressure through the numbers acting together tell a vulnerable male he can't date *any* men. How does that work?

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 9 January 2018 at 7:46pm GMT

I am astonished that on a topic about spiritual abuse Janet Fife expresses gratitude to Peter Ball who was responsible for such appalling damage to so many young men. He brought nothing but shame upon the Church of England.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Tuesday, 9 January 2018 at 10:32pm GMT

"'havoc' overstates the influence of the shepherding movement in the wider charismatic movement"

Sorry, but it doesn't. I was involved with a number of churches during that time, which were affected to greater or lesser degrees by the Shepherding movement. I knew of countless examples of terrible abuses. I had hoped that these kinds of practices were long gone. Sadly I'm wrong. For the sake of all concerned, I trust that the priest will never minister in the C of E again. He clearly needs lots of help, as do the family. But how can this have gone on for so long without someone ringing an alarm bell?

Posted by: Recovering Charismatic on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 5:38am GMT

Apologies to Janet Fife following my late-night reading of her comment above. The tragic irony of her situation had become lost on me.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 9:16am GMT

FrDavudH, the earlier statement is surely ironic, bearing in mind Gordon Rideout’s record as well as that of Peter Ball!

Posted by: Cassandra on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 9:31am GMT

FrDavidH, clearly the irony was lost on you then...

Posted by: primroseleague on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 9:33am GMT

"Janet Fife expresses gratitude to Peter Ball"

I suspect she is being sarcastic, as indicated by the final ellipsis.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 10:37am GMT

I have now read much, but not all, of the tribunal's report.

I am not at all familiar with the shepherding movement or its practices.

Am I the only one who is skeptical about the tribunal's conclusion that there was nothing sexual about this case?

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 12:17pm GMT

Answering "Recovering Charismatic" - how can it have.gone on so long without ringing an alarm bell.

I'm a member of Christchurch Abingdon (though I have to say I rarely attend as I'm involved with Quakers now).

The reason it went on so long is that all the staff were scared of TD's "outbursts of anger", mentioned in the tribunal report. The curate only found the courage to blow the whistle when TD was away on sabbatical.

I have for a long time thought he is a troubled man. Nonetheless it was a shock for me to read the report and find out how troubled he really was.

As well as questioning the safety of the safeguarding procedures, surely questions have to be asked on how to provide better pastoral support for clergy.

Posted by: Iain Strachan on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 1:04pm GMT

The tragic irony of Janet's situation is a tragic irony for all of us. The deeper question is whether organised religion inevitably falls into this kind of trap, or whether it's possible genuinely to avoid it. Sad to say, but Kate's post and what lies behind it, suggests the former.

Posted by: Bernard Silverman on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 2:21pm GMT

"Am I the only one who is skeptical about the tribunal's conclusion that there was nothing sexual about this case?"

I didn't submit my original analysis. But since you have pointed to the obvious issue, let us talk about the obvious issue.

I think I wrote something along the lines of "I am glad that there are people as untouched by evil and unaffected by cynicism that they believe that a fifty year old man who takes a fifteen year old to his bedroom to look at football posters and play 'trust games' has no sexual motive. On balance, however, I would prefer that such naive purity of heart was not regarded as a qualification for investigating abuse. The rest of us will have to live with the knowledge of our dark hearts when we believe that fifty year old men who move into the houses of unrelated fifteen year old boys and spend hours in their remote bedroom are engaged in sexual grooming. Sorry, but there it is."

Occam's razor says the motive was sexual. It is possible that it was not, but that would require active evidence of some other motive. I don't take seriously the idea that a fifty year old graduate is interested in football posters. The whole report reads like a bunch of mates making excuses for their slightly embarrassing mate: "well, maybe he did do some slightly bad stuff, but it was all a horrible misunderstanding, and it's not as if he was doing VERY bad stuff".

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 8:34pm GMT

Thank you Peter Owen for your characteristic clarity and precision about the range of penalties available under a CDM. This is clearly a very serious and grave case. I hope the penalty will reflect that.

And who amongst our Church Leaders (that is, those who Lead us), decide which penalty is imposed and are there criteria they are supposed to use to come to a ruling so that penalties are applied with some consistency and fairness?

Posted by: Grumpy High Church Woman on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 10:08pm GMT

I've been subject to Ministerial Development Review in two C of E dioceses in the last 10 years. I am not by any means one of the world's placid people, but there is no way that behaviour like this on my part would have been glossed over or ignored by even the most loyal (to me) of parishioners contributing to the required consumer evaluation forms. I hope the diocese of Oxford is asking itself questions about both pastoral care of clergy and MDR process.

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 10:44pm GMT

"how to provide better pastoral support for clergy."

He isn't the victim. Seriously, he isn't the victim. Fifty year old men do not get to spend hours in the bedroom of unrelated fifteen year olds "looking at their poster collection" and then it's because they didn't get enough pastoral support. Ever. The very thought is a complete inversion of where our concerns should lie.

"Oh, it's because of the poor minister who is under stress and didn't understand the implications of his entirely honest and good-faith actions which were so sadly misinterpreted" is completely unacceptable. It's the sort of nonsense that the Catholic Church used in the 1980s and 1990s to shut up complainants, and has resulted (rightly) in the complete torching of their reputations in the eyes of many.

The reasons as to why people did not feel empowered to deal with an abuser are distinct and important: one is placed in mind of The Caine Mutiny, and why Captain Queeg was not removed earlier. But. He. Is. Not. The. Victim.


Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 10:57pm GMT

It is very difficult to reconcile paragraph 17 with the first sentence of paragraph 60. But perhaps the latter is stated for the benefit of the 15-year-old.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 11 January 2018 at 12:53am GMT

I'm disheartened by some of the comments here trying to undermine or cast doubt on the Tribunal's process and findings. It appears to have done a careful and thorough job, having heard the evidence and have reached clear conclusions. For the rest of us, who didn't hear all the evidence, to bring our own prejudices to the story is really unhelpful. If anyone has evidence that the Tribunal erred, they should present it. Innuendo helps no one.

The man is clearly troubled, and did wrong, and brought harm on another. Mental health issues do not excuse his actions, but may help to explain them. Safeguarding needs to have regard to the fact that some of those with responsibility may not themselves be of sound mind. May we not all say,"there but for the grace of God go I".

Posted by: Andrew Martin on Thursday, 11 January 2018 at 3:15pm GMT

In answer to Andrew, there is presumably a process whereby someone can "plead guilty" to a CDM and thereby save a great deal of time and expense. That does not seem to have happened in this case, because as I understand it, it took the Tribunal to reach the conclusion that spiritual abuse had occurred.

I think there are a lot more questions to be answered but most of them would have been out of the Tribunal's scope. However, it is to be hoped that eventually it will be worked out why any of this behaviour was countenanced; what in the theology and training of this clergyperson made them feel able to do this sort of thing; whether the Church of England is at risk of a repeat, and so on and so on. I'm afraid that the idea of spiritual abuse calls to mind the Iwerne case which hasn't ever been properly investigated.

Posted by: TP on Thursday, 11 January 2018 at 6:04pm GMT

"The man is clearly troubled, and did wrong, and brought harm on another."

Hang on. You're quick to say that we should consider only the evidence of the tribunal and avoid innuendo, and refer to the report written by people who heard all the witnesses.

OK, let's do that: what evidence do you have that he is "clearly troubled"?

Paragraph 27, "We note that TD states at para 6 of his statement ( p 248) that he was diagnosed with PTSD in September 2016 but that diagnosis, and who made it, and in what terms has not been shared with us. We cannot accept these GP notes as replacement for a psychiatric opinion and diagnosis." Paragraph 38, "We regret to find that we found his evidence unreliable and where there was a conflict of fact between him and W1, W2 and Revd Patel, we preferred their evidence to his." And so on, and so on.

There is no evidence in the report that he is troubled, just that he is an untruthful witness unable to provide evidence to support his contention that he is unwell. You complain that pointing out that he chose to spend a lot of time visiting a fifteen year old's bedroom to look at his football posters is "innuendo". OK, let's accept that, arguendo. In what way is your contention that he is "clearly troubled" any more supported? The report, on its face, says that what he says can't be believed.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 11 January 2018 at 6:12pm GMT

It is easy to generalise, trivialise etc. I think that we need to pay more attention to the person who did call out this behaviour - very often whistleblowers have poor outcome in institutions. Those of us who have not been in that position probably haven't a clue what it takes for a junior member of a team to call out the most senior person in their immediate circle - the person who has most influence on their future, whose friends will back them. I am in the Oxford Diocese (no secret). Will the person (named in the documents) who brought this to light be treated as courageous (to use a word that Oxford people will know) or sidelined as potentially problematic?

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Thursday, 11 January 2018 at 7:51pm GMT

Grumpy High Church Woman asks (10 January),"who amongst our Church Leaders (that is, those who Lead us), decide which penalty is imposed and are there criteria they are supposed to use to come to a ruling so that penalties are applied with some consistency and fairness?"

The answer to the first question is, the members of the Bishop's Disciplinary Tribunal who conducted the hearing, namely the Revd Mark Bishop (the chairman, who is also a diocesan chancellor and a serving circuit judge), the Revd Edward Bowes-Smith, the Revd Canon Ann Philp, Prebendary Sue Lloyd, and Dr Stephen Longden. The last paragraph (para 63) of their judgment dated 28 December 2017 states that "Directions will be given as to the date of the hearing to fix penalty."

Guidance on penalties produced by the Clergy Discipline Commission and updated in April 2016 can be downloaded at https://cms.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-10/penalty_guidance_revd_apr_16_0.pdf

A useful survey of the Clergy Discipline Measure was given in a lecture to the Ecclesiastical Law Society in October last year by the deputy president of tribunals, Sir Mark Hedley: https://ecclawsoc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Sir-Mark-Hedley-CDM-11-Oct-2017.pdf

Posted by: David Lamming on Friday, 12 January 2018 at 10:56am GMT

It's nice to see the CDM process being followed properly. I've heard of some dioceses where they don't bother with those pesky CDM hearings or a right of appeal and just make up penalties on the hoof with no limit of time.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Friday, 12 January 2018 at 1:34pm GMT

Three (almost) unrelated points:
1. I think I have to disagree with Jeremy and Interested in their assumption that there was a sexual component to what happened here. I certainly acknowledge that the primary reason for so many guidelines about not meeting in private, avoiding bedrooms, etc, is to avoid the opportunity OR THE APPEARANCE of sexual misbehaviour, and I concede that the appearance of such is in play here.
I expect that this is why the tribunal felt the need to state that no evidence of sexual improprieties was given by anyone they spoke to. I presume they raised this possibility in their various interviews - they would have been dilatory not to - and received negative responses.
By ruling out the sexual component of things, the tribunal have highlighted that spiritual abuse itself is to be condemned.

2. I would not see the evidence of psychological illness as in any way providing an excuse for the spiritual abuse. With or without a formal diagnosis, if a priest is suffering with PTSD-like symptoms sufficient to require sygnificant periods off work, then it is all the more reprehensible for him to take on this sort of "discipling" behaviour.

3. At the risk of being accused of putting too much emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle, I was sorry to read in a carefully worded official document, penned by a priest who is also a judge, the repeated references to "the Rev Patel". After the first reference to "the Rev'd Jitesh Patel", the curate could have been referred to as Jitesh Patel, or, to be consistent with the rest of the document, as "JP". And continuing with things pedantic, "Rev", or "Rev'd" or even "Revd" are OK in my opinion, the report should have chosen just one of those abbreviations, and stuck with it.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Friday, 12 January 2018 at 9:56pm GMT

"I presume they raised this possibility in their various interviews"

I would hope they didn't, as it would constitute the CofE investigating, and contaminating the evidence and witnesses in, a crime. I hardly cry for their downfall, but it was this that essentially finished the SWP as a political force. If there was a suggestion of a crime, it was for the police to investigate.

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/05/comrades-war-decline-and-fall-socialist-workers-party

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 7:31am GMT

Edward Prebble, well said.

Your point 1) The physical contact certainly gave the appearance sexual abuse might have taken place, but I too was concerned by the assumption that it must have, despite the tribunal's finding that it didn't. Not all craving for touch is sexual, the need for touch is inbuilt. I used to have a queue of widows waiting to be hugged after church services.

3) as a fellow pedant, I'd point out that the title 'Rev' (or Revd etc) shouldn't be used without the definite article. 'Mr. Patel' would be correct, as would 'the Rev.' But usages change and maybe I'm just old-fashioned. 'JP' would have been more consistent with the rest of the document, but then there was no need to anonymise him as there was with the victim and his mother.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 9:39am GMT

"despite the tribunal's finding that it didn't"

Tribunals can't prove negatives. They didn't find that it had happened. That's not the same as finding that it didn't. This isn't a criminal court operating to "beyond a reasonable doubt", it's explicitly a balance of probabilities civil procedure. No evidence was adduced as to sexual motive, that's all.

I think their repeated assertion that something they didn't take evidence on didn't happen has to be read in context, and that content is subtle enough that it is easy to over-interpret the statement.

TD was found to be an unreliable witness whose accounts of his history, motives and problems were unconvincing. It would have been entirely wrong for the CofE to have questioned a vulnerable presumed victim about sexual assault, and even more entirely wrong for a balance of probabilities internal disciplinary panel operating outside rules of evidence to discuss it or publish the results of discussion.

It is still open to the victim to complain to the police, and still open to the CPS to prosecute if that evidence was compelling. The CofE has disciplined an employee for actions taken within employment which are not criminal, but which are seen to be worthy of discipline. It has not investigated the criminal act of sexual assault. The only reason it is excluded from the tribunal is that it was not considered by the tribunal.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 11:36am GMT

"Not all craving for touch is sexual, the need for touch is inbuilt. I used to have a queue of widows waiting to be hugged after church services."

Hint: if you're fifty years old and craving the touch of a fifteen year old boy to whom you are not related, and regard his bedroom as the place to do that, then you're not fit to be employed around children.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 12:10pm GMT

According to the tribunal's report,
' 60. In reaching this conclusion we emphasise again that there is no suggestion of any sexual touching by TD, nor do we find that any sexual touching took place. We acknowledge the powerful and successful ministry that TD has had in leading Christ Church Abingdon and earlier ministerial posts in which he has served . However, we are satisfied that he is guilty of the misconduct alleged.'

I didn't read in the report any statement that they had not made enquiries as to a sexual motive; it would be odd if they had not looked into the possibility. I don't think we can assume either way, and I remain concerned by assumptions that it must have been sexual - not least for the sake of the victim. He will be easily identifiable to those who know the church, and possibly to those in the area. It isn't helpful to put this extra burden on him in a public forum.

I entirely agree that Davis' actions were appalling and inappropriate, and I believe he should not be allowed to minister again. Nothing I have said suggests otherwise. It was utterly wrong of him to use this poor lad to meet his own needs; it does not necessarily mean those needs were sexual.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 3:50pm GMT

Touch not necessariiy sexual? A biological argument could be adduced and defended that every interaction is sexual to some degree.

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 4:37pm GMT

"I didn't read in the report any statement that they had not made enquiries as to a sexual motive"

If they had taken unto themselves the task of investigating a criminal offence, that would be entirely inappropriate. Had they interviewed someone as a potential suspect in a criminal case, outside the scope of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and without legal representation, then that would be completely outrageous.

They aren't the police, they aren't the CPS, and they aren't operating a criminal court.

If a witness had raised the possibility of criminal acts, the only legitimate thing to do with that accusation would be to stop matters there and then and pass the case to the police. If that investigation had found something, it's a criminal case. If it hadn't, the whole topic would be redolent with libel.

All they are saying is that the matter wasn't raised. That's all.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 7:14pm GMT

'Touch not necessariiy sexual? A biological argument could be adduced and defended that every interaction is sexual to some degree.'

New born babies who are not touched will die, even if well cared for in other ways. Children who are not loved do not thrive. Adults who are not touched at all by other human beings don't thrive either.

I can see why some of you are insisting there must have been a sexual element to this, and if the tribunal had not been so clear about avoiding this attribution of motive I probably would have done too. As it is, I think there are 3 reasons why publicly assuming a sexual motive to these (obviously wrong and harmful) interactions is wrong:

1) It could be damaging to the victim, who has been damaged already.
2) It minimises the harm done by spiritual abuse, just when we are finally getting somewhere in recognising it
3) It undermines an investigation and disciplinary procedure which (so far at least) seem to have been carried out thoroughly, fairly, and with the interests of the victims in mind.

All these points have already been made above, by others and myself. I think it would be best if we left it here.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 12:07pm GMT

I think it would be best if we left it here. I would, Janet, except that I feel bound to record my agreement with what you are saying.

I certainly take Interested's point that for the Tribunal to have raised the question of sexual misbehaviour would have been inappropriate, so I no longer "... presume they raised this possibility in their various interviews". I happily stand corrected there.

What is the correct inference to draw from their statement "we emphasise again that there is no suggestion of any sexual touching by TD, nor do we find that any sexual touching took place"? I do not hear in those words any positive finding that it did not take place, simply a declaration that none of the interviewees raised that issue, and therefore it may be ruled out as relevant to their finding of spiritual abuse.

Yes, of course Stanley is correct in saying from a biological point of view that all touch is in some sense sexual. That is a bit like the classic response to requests from politicians that the church should keep out of politics - all public actions are political. Even if we accept that all touch is sexual, that observation is irrelevant to the issue of spiritual abuse in this case.

I (and I expect Janet also) can agree with every word of Interested's "hint" in his posting of 13 January 2018 at 12:10pm GMT, without having to impute a sexual element to TD's abuse. The point Janet and I are insisting on is that this finding is important precisely because it states spiritual abuse IN AND OF ITSELF to be reprehensible, and worthy of appropriate sanctions.
Edward Prebble

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 7:27pm GMT

1. It was I who first suggested this possibility. But after reflection I do not think that is what is going on.
2. Assumes what is attempted to be proved.
3. I think a mix of this and IO's analysis will explain things best. The charge here was explicit in that there was nothing sexual. So the issue goes back that far in the process. Which makes me wonder whether the Church is accepting this asexual understanding of this case in order to make the spiritual-abuse point. If that were so, then other questions arise.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 15 January 2018 at 6:21am GMT

"this finding is important precisely because it states spiritual abuse IN AND OF ITSELF to be reprehensible"

Absolutely. Take out the sexual motive and TD's behaviour is still absolutely outrageous. In general terms that a disciplinary process has come to a strong conclusion without needing to address sexual motives is A Good Thing. I completely agree that it should not be necessary to show a sexual motive in order to discipline stuff of this unpleasantness.

However, just because someone is guilty of A without discussing B does not make them innocent of B. It just means that A was shown without needing to rely on B. The tribunal overreached itself, or expressed itself poorly, in saying that there was no sexual motive. It should have said that the tribunal (quite properly) regarded criminal offences as being outside its scope, and (quite properly) concerned itself solely with its proper purview, which is spiritual abuse.

As it stands, the readiness the report has to dismiss sexual motives, when it probably does not, and certainly should not, have detailed knowledge of the topic, has the overall effect of minimising TD's behaviour; essentially, "well, he might have overdone the shepherding a bit, but his heart was in the right place and at least he didn't do any of that bad stuff". The stuff he was shown to have done absolutely was bad stuff. There was other bad stuff he could have been doing, might have wanted to have done, perhaps even did attempt to do, but the tribunal didn't address that topic.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 15 January 2018 at 12:17pm GMT

Janet Fife (Sunday 14 January at 12.07 pm) quite rightly asks, in effect, that a line be drawn under the discussion and dissection of the Bishop's Disciplinary Tribunal judgment in this case. Suffice to say that over a 3-day hearing in mid-December the Tribunal members heard evidence from the complainant (referred to as 'W1'), his mother ('W2') and the respondent ('TD'). Having heard that evidence, the Tribunal were entitled to record (para 43) that "we want to make it clear that there has been no suggestion at any time that there was any sexual touching and we are satisfied that none took place at any time", and to emphasise this in para 60 in these terms: "... we emphasise again that there is no suggestion of any sexual touching by TD, nor do we find that any sexual touching took place." These are findings the Tribunal was fully entitled to make. That should be an end of it, and for writers on this blog to question the Tribunal's findings is inappropriate and should cease. To respond to Interested Observer (15 January, 12.17 pm), the Tribunal neither "overreached itself", nor "expressed itself poorly."

In due course TD will be sentenced for the serious abuse of spiritual power that the Tribunal found proved. Comments on the sentence may then be made but, in Janet Fife's words, a number of the above comments only serve to "undermine an investigation and disciplinary procedure which (so far at least) seem to have been carried out thoroughly, fairly, and with the interests of the victims in mind." They should now cease.

Posted by: David Lamming on Monday, 15 January 2018 at 6:06pm GMT

OK, Interested.
Now I agree with you.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Monday, 15 January 2018 at 6:09pm GMT

David Lamming, on the substance, I would again refer readers to para 17 of the tribunal's decision. Readers can determine for themselves whether the facts there support the tribunal's conclusion--or not.

In urging us all to a respectful and trusting quiet, however, I am not sure what you are trying to accomplish other than indulge a misplaced authoritarianism.

Given the long record of mistakes by religious authorities in abuse cases, commenters here and elsewhere will not be chivvied into any "they must have got it right" silence by you or anyone else.

Nor should we be. Contrary to your suggestion, the more sensitive the case, the more public scrutiny can be expected. And the more painstaking.

Like other human institutions, courts, whether criminal, civil, or ecclesiastical, can get things wrong--sometimes spectacularly wrong. That is why any court that makes a decision public can and should expect it to be scrutinised by the press, the public, and experts in the field at issue. Like it or not, in a free country, such scrutiny goes with the public exercise of power.

I think you are confusing the ability to lodge an appeal with the ability to comment on a public document. But finality and privacy are not the only values at stake. If the Church publishes a CDM decision, and if the Church benefits from that transparency (for example, by pointing out what abuse is, and by demonstrating that it will be disciplined), then the Church will have to accept the accountability that goes with publication.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 15 January 2018 at 11:57pm GMT
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