Monday, 12 March 2018

IICSA hearings - Monday 12 March

The transcript of today’s hearing, which was entirely devoted to the evidence of Bishop Wallace Benn, is now available.

Media reports:

Church Times
Don’t blame me for safeguarding blunders, former Bishop of Lewes, Wallace Benn, tells IICSA hearing

Christian Today
Bishop claims he was ‘scapegoated’ over child sex abuse allegations
Bishop admits ‘hunch’ about paedophile priest but says he was powerless to stop him

The following item was written before today’s hearing and reflects the evidence given last week by others:
Chichester Observer
Revealed: How former bishop failed to report paedophile priests

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 12 March 2018 at 6:16pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

I watched much of the proceedings. To me Bishop Wallace Benn came across as a rather naïve and yes, dangerous, (for children's sake), man who clearly did not regard safeguarding as a serious issue. How on earth did he become a bishop?

He admitted he had insufficent training in safeguarding, yet he could easily have asked for more.

As the Inquiry probed it was very clear that his actions spoke much more than his words. There is a limit to how much one can 'with hindsight I'd have behaved differently' and he greatly exceeded that limit.

* He kept saying it was someone else's job and gave no evidence of being concerned enough to check up of follow up on cases of abuse - not even for pastoral reasons.

*Throughout he gave himself excuses, and it seemed this was a priority for him. It was clear that as past events were scrutinised he had put his own reputation, and some of his friends, above the safety of children.

* How can any bishop think its OK to say a known abusing priest can have Permission to Officiate so long as he doesn't take services where children are. How is that policed? What about grooming of parents etc etc. Would the education system say to a teacher who has abused - you can't teach in a school but you can be a supply teacher? Surely there is less monitoring of what PTO clergy get up to.

*It wasn’t for me to challenge protocol but to live by it,” said Bishop Benn. Why not challenge if conscience says you should?

*"I didn’t think I had a responsibility to talk to the police" My goodness!

The Inquiry also heard (in the Inquiry's own words) "Bishop Wallace asked Bishop John not to disclose blemished CRB information on Canon Gordon Rideout to the safeguarding advisor of the diocese as he is a friend and much respected person"

All so so sad given the trust people have had in bishops...

I couldn't help but feel that behind it all is a male paternalism feeding into the 'headship' of men approach which Benn supports. Richard Scorer, representing many victims, said: “The arrogance which equates the Church with God and which places reputational protection before the interests of victims in our view is encapsulated in the attitude of Bishop Wallace Benn.”

Sadly I feel the clergy and laity of the C of E, in a time when mutually flourishing are seen as watchwords, are not standing up to challenge this. Hopefully the tribunal will force the change the church seems impotent to effect.

Posted by: Dave on Monday, 12 March 2018 at 7:32pm GMT

'Sadly I feel the clergy and laity of the C of E, in a time when mutually flourishing are seen as watchwords, are not standing up to challenge this. '

Dave, a number of us have been challenging this for some years past. Until recently we were isolated, didn't know each other, and none of us has got very far. Most of us have suffered by it - the Church is very good at punishing those who rock the boat.

My hope and prayer is that these hearings will make a real difference as that toxic culture is exposed. My fear is that it's much too deeply entrenched and endemic, and nothing will really change.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Tuesday, 13 March 2018 at 9:23am GMT
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