Thursday, 15 March 2018

IICSA hearings - Wednesday/Thursday 14/15 March

Transcripts for these two days are available:

Wednesday 14 March
Note: this item has been removed from the IICSA website, presumably this is only temporary.

Thursday 15 March

The appearance on Wednesday of former Archbishop Rowan Williams generated a increase in media attention:

Guardian Williams: church’s old views on gay clergy led to desire not to judge sexual activities
Telegraph Church overlooked sexual abuse by bishop because he was gay, former Archbishop suggests
Press Association via Daily Mail Sexist Church culture may be linked to failure to tackle child abuse - Williams

Church Times Lord Williams backs abuse survivors’ demand for independent safeguarding body at IICSA
Christian Today Church ‘overcompensated’ for conservative stance on homosexuality by treating paedophile bishop lightly
The Tablet Rowan Williams admits failings over C of E child abuse

The Times Archbishop ‘shielded from sex abuse row’ (£) and this is further explained in a report at Christian Today Church’s approach to abuse was to ‘stonewall’ and ‘say nothing’, says Rowan Williams’ former aide

Further reports:
BBC Child abuse inquiry: Diocese had ‘major issue’
Christian Today Church has bias against abuse victims and ‘culture of deference and defensiveness’, bishop admits
Church Times I was shocked by what I found in Chichester diocese, Dr Warner tells IICSA hearing

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 15 March 2018 at 11:07pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

These hearings are showing up the very poor quality of leadership we have had - and still have - in the Church of England in the past few decades. So many of the bishops show an alarming lack of 'harm awareness', to use Stephen Parsons's useful term (see his blog on TA Wed. 14 March).

In some cases there is also a striking lack of moral courage and leadership, and a woeful willingness to put the institution's welfare and reputation before that of children and vulnerable people. I hope we truly are witnessing 'the slow death of patriarchy', as Jayne Ozanne puts it. In fact I hope it becomes a more rapid death of patriarchy. We deserve for Parliament to take a very firm line in restricting and revoking our privileges. However, that will have to wait for the report to come out, I suppose.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Friday, 16 March 2018 at 12:49pm GMT

Lots of church leaders have now said they are "shocked" by the situation in Chichester.

What shocked me was Rowan Williams suggesting that safeguarding reform was unlikely to become a priority for any Archbishop of Canterbury because of the competing strategic demands. I guess imposing the "implications" on TEC is more important than the safety of children then.

Just what sort of institution has the Church of England become and is it really focused as Christ would want it to be?

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 16 March 2018 at 5:13pm GMT

I am appalled that Williams blamed gay people, for the leniency toward sexual abuse of children, in terms. (c.f. Christian Today).

For much of the first decades of my life, it was axiomatic in society that 'homosexuals' (sic) sexually abuse children.

Please do not revive this calumny, for my final decades.

Williams also seems puzzled that gay people, even gay friends, blame him for his failure to act for us, to improve our lot in the Church.

Is he being disingenuous or foolish ?

I am sure that when Tony Blair put him in, he intended Williams to put his money where his mouth is--- a great many of us did.

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Friday, 16 March 2018 at 6:02pm GMT

How Roman Catholics, Orthodox traditions, conservative Jews, Muslims will react to parliament taking a very firm line in restricting and revoking ‘privileges’ [under the EqAct] is anybody’s guess.

Posted by: Jill Armstead on Friday, 16 March 2018 at 6:43pm GMT

The comments on the transcripts by Bishop Nicholas Reade are astonishing and horrifying. Of course, he needs to be given due process and reasonable right to respond and clarify. But on the face of his own admissions here, resignation must be the minimum appropriate response - which in his case (since he is now retired) must means the withdrawal of PTO. Genuinely shocking.

Posted by: Revd Dr Charles Clapham on Friday, 16 March 2018 at 10:45pm GMT

Re: Kate, "I guess imposing the 'implications' on TEC is more important than the safety of children then." Excellent point!

"Just what sort of institution has the Church of England become and is it really focused as Christ would want it to be?" Decent question. Change 'Church of England' to simply 'church' and it becomes an even more poignant question.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 16 March 2018 at 11:34pm GMT

"I am appalled that Williams blamed gay people, for the leniency toward sexual abuse of children"

I have read the transcript and I don't know that he did. He was, I admit, far from clear but I think the point he was making is that the Church's initial reaction to struggling with ministers coming out as gay was one of confusion and the response was to try to avoid prying into ministers' and bushops' sex lives.

What is worrisome about that reading of his remarks is that in so doing he seems to equate abusive pederastry and consensual adult homosexuality. If he did conflate the two, that would be egregious but I am interested to read the weekend blogs to see how others interpret what he said because his clarity was (unusually?) unclear.

I am personally struggling at the moment, however, to find a meaning to what Rowan said which isn't offensive to some degree.

Posted by: Kate on Saturday, 17 March 2018 at 2:11am GMT

I don't think this is about 'blaming' gay people. I think it is an important - albeit contentious - point that Archbishop Rowan is making.

Social standards of sexual morality are fluid, and subject to continual change. Over the last 30 or 40 years, in particular, the rate of change has been extraordinarily fast, and the Church has not always kept up very well.

In our society at present, sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex are culturally approved. Sexual acts between adults and children are not. This is a relatively recent situation, and the reverse of typical sexual morality throughout most of Western history. We may or may not now be more right or more ethical or more compassionate than we were in the past, but it might pay not to be too quick to judge those who haven't always seen which way the wind of moral fashion was blowing.

Posted by: rjb on Saturday, 17 March 2018 at 9:49am GMT

Why has the transcript for Wednesday 14th disappeared? The link here doesn’t work and it’s missing from the ICCSA pages.t

SS replies
I have no idea why it has disappeared but that is why the link is broken.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 17 March 2018 at 10:31am GMT

So rjb, are you saying that a reasonable response to "do you approve of priests having sex with 12 year olds?" is "it's too soon to tell, I don't want to be caught up in wind of moral fashion?"

What else should the church hold off condemning on the grounds that there's a long-established tradition and it's only recently people have decided to oppose it? Anti-Semitism, obviously. Racism more generally, and of course slavery. Sexism of the most violent sort. All these new-fangled taboos: we should be understanding of people who stick to the old ways, eh?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 17 March 2018 at 11:46am GMT

++Williams "seems to equate abusive pederastry and consensual adult homosexuality".

This was the law. Before 1994 the legal age of consent for male homosexuality was 21, but 16 for heterosexuality. Bishop Ball was cautioned for gross indecency with a boy in his late teens, when if it had been a girl of the same age no offence would have been committed. He has never been convicted or cautioned in regard to anyone under 16, but is often referred to as the paedophile bishop.

The discriminatory nature of the law regarding 16 to 21 year olds partly explains the reluctance to pry. It wouldn't have mattered whether it was consensual or not, it would have been criminal anyway, so a "don't ask" policy made a certain sense. Not the fault of gay people, but the effect of discrimination against gay people; and the well meant attempts of others to mitigate against it.

Posted by: T Pott on Saturday, 17 March 2018 at 12:37pm GMT

I too was stunned by Nicholas Reade's responses. He was embarrasingly arrogant in manner to the questioners and panel and his statements about how he was 'horrified' (how many times did he say that in such an over the top dramatic way!) actually simply revealed how out of touch, and indeed reluctant to take any blame personally he was.

It was clear he chose to believe without question every word priest abusers had said then was 'horrified' when he learned they had lied. He said 'we have to trust priests' - even those who have a record for sexual crimes against children? It seemed he was saying, yes. For myself I cannot respect such a bishop.

I agree that PTO to Reade should be withdrawn - and immediately. It was publically made clear how he failed to protect children at risk. He put care for the abuser before that of victims.

For example, it was, Reade said more important for an abusing priest to be allowed to say the Eucharist than to take all possible steps in Reade's power to protect children from that priest.

I am afraid that I have to agree with a previous commentator that we are being shown how poor the leadership in the church was / is. I hope the church has the courage to take immediate action to show it is taking all this seriously.

It is all so necessary this is happening. It is also so sad the church cannot help itself.

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 17 March 2018 at 1:31pm GMT

Jill Armistead, the C of E has privileges which other religions and denominations have not - such as bishops in the Lords; crowning the monarch, officiating at royal weddings & funerals; national commemorations etc.

Do we deserve to have those privileges? Have they contributed to a sense of entitlement among senior clergy?

Posted by: Janet Fife on Saturday, 17 March 2018 at 2:49pm GMT

Janet Fife: I guess you were thinking about disestablishment rather than removing exemptions under the EqAct.
I still can’t see why the government should single the Church of England out for special punishment on the ground of sexual abuse of children. I mean we are hardly alone - it is shockingly rife in organisations, institutions, towns, cities, other religious faiths etc etc.

Posted by: Jill Armstead on Saturday, 17 March 2018 at 4:26pm GMT

Conflating gayness with pedophilia is deeply, deeply, offensive. When I read the transcript, it appeared that the questioner accepted the premise that equates the two, and Rowan went with it. An academic of his reputation should have had the wherewithal to refute a flawed premise, he didn't.

In general, the vast majority of pedophilia is "straight" men against girls. No one blames heterosexuality. Somehow, the "shock" and "horror" is greater when it's men abusing boys, even though that is less common, in general. The true shock and horror is the abuse itself (be it girls or boys) and the churches utter failure to understand the issue and offer a remedy. These cases need to be handled and investigated independently for a variety of reasons, only one of which is the dimness of the CoE leadership to understand power, abuse, and justice.

This does lead to the larger question of how the CoE leadership can possibly proclaim the Gospel of Good News to the poor and oppressed when they don't have a handle on Gospel issues of standing with the oppressed and seeking justice against the powerful?

No wonder the issues surrounding WO, WB, SSM, etc. are handled so terribly.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 17 March 2018 at 5:24pm GMT

What is even more remarkable is that despite his clear failures, Bishop Nicholas Reade now retired has been given PTO back in Chichester diocese! So when the current Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner protests he is doing all he can to tackle abuse and change the culture, why on earth has he granted Nicholas Reade PTO? It seems Wallace Benn similarly has PTO in Peterborough. So whatever mistakes are made, there's really no accountability.

Posted by: Charles Clapham on Saturday, 17 March 2018 at 5:42pm GMT

I am wondering if Laurie Roberts and others who have been very quick to criticise +Rowan Williams have either read the transcripts in full or (as I did) watched the livestream from the IICSA?

If they had, they will have seen (and read) his comments in context, and seen how they were replies to specific questions. Just reading culled quotes in a journalist's loaded narrative does not give a fair and accurate picture of what he said, how he said it - and why.

Why should the Archbishop of Canterbury (from 2003 until about 2010) have made safeguarding a priority, given what +Rowan knew at the time? How much actual time time does safeguarding occupy the current Archbishop's diary when the IICSA is not focussed on the C of E? I am astounded by the ease with which people are judging the situation in the light of what we know now - and didn't know then. Hindsight, to quote +Rowan, is a wonderful gift; as is the propensity to adopt a position of moral superiority.

Having said that, I quite agree with the reactions to +Nicholas Reade's evidence, which was toe-curlingly embarrassing. It wasn't just the neglectful naivete, but the patrician arrogance with which he treated Counsel. How could anyone take him seriously?

Posted by: Bill Broadhead on Saturday, 17 March 2018 at 5:53pm GMT

Jill: This isn't about "punishment" but about having a clear look at establishment and what it means. Over the course of the last hundred years, the state has withdrawn from its governance role in the Established Church, but sadly the Church has not shown itself at its best in governance terms.

Most non-government organisations are subject to regulation (e.g. through the Charity Commission) while local authorities are subject to democratic accountability and freedom of information legislation. The Church of England is a major educational provider in a way that no other religious denomination or religion is; it argues itself that this is because it is the Church of (or at least for) everyone in England, not just its "members" or adherents. No other religious denomination outside Iran has reserved seats in the legislature. A question that perhaps ought to be considered is whether the kind of establishment we have now was/is or was/is not a contributory factor to the child abuse crisis. For example, has establishment contributed to the abuse crisis by giving clergy a status which empowered the rogue and incompetent elements at all levels?

It might be the case that the present arrangements are the worst of all worlds, and that we either need to move to Parliament taking a closer governance role, the appointment of Bishops being taken back by the Prime Minister's office, etc; or to full disestablishment where it would be explicit that the Church of England was one among many religious denominations. The latter might well presage a "velvet" (or not so velvet) divorce between the factions that currently make the Church of England such a dysfunctional family. All that needs to be considered in the light of the inevitable strengthening of management and hierarchy that will emerge following the current revelations.

Posted by: Bernard Silverman on Sunday, 18 March 2018 at 9:27am GMT

@Charles Clapham, you may find that Nicholas Reade's (post-retirement) re-appearance in Chichester Diocese pre-dates +Martin Warner's arrival there as Diocesan. Reade's PTO was granted via the Hind/Benn system in 2011.

However, if I were in +Martin's shoes (which I'm not), I would be asking serious questions after his abysmal performance at the IICSA hearing last week. Like +Wallace Benn, he may not be a danger to children himself; but he is displaying a woeful lack of leadership in sitting so lightly to what we now know should be basic for all clergy.

Posted by: Will Richards on Sunday, 18 March 2018 at 9:33am GMT

"I am wondering if Laurie Roberts and others who have been very quick to criticise +Rowan Williams have either read the transcripts in full...?"

I can't speak for others, but before I commented on what Rowan said, I read the full transcript and stand by what I said.

* * *

"Why should the Archbishop of Canterbury (from 2003 until about 2010) have made safeguarding a priority, given what +Rowan knew at the time?"

The Spotlight investigation by the Boston Globe was first published in 2002. It is perverse to suggest that Rowan Williams, as the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, shouldn't have made safeguarding his absolute priority. It would have been naive beyond belief not to at least suspect that there would be similar problems in the Church of England.

Personally I would strip him of his peerage, that's how badly I think he failed.

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 18 March 2018 at 10:10am GMT

Nicholas Reade's PTO should have come up for renewal in +Martin Warner's time, he's been there six years.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Sunday, 18 March 2018 at 6:30pm GMT

Yes, I read the transcripts. Kate nails it. After the revelations amongst the RC's, every church had a responsibility to respond. TEC implemented "Safeguarding God's Children" to educate parish leaders. We were focused on that while Rowan was finding new ways to "punish" us for our prophetic stance on LGBTQI inclusion.

You can imagine how gay Episcopalians might feel about Rowan blaming new acceptance of gay people as a reason for looking the other way in the face of pedophilia - conflating adult consensual sex with pedophilia. At the same time that he was attacking TEC for accepting gay bishops and working towards SSB and SSM, he was ignoring the abuse of children because he was afraid to ask in light of "new acceptance?" ??? How does an academic of his standing live with this cognitive dissonance?

If I were to speculate, I would guess that covering up man-on-boy abuse was, in his mind, essential to stay in relationship with conservative Anglicans and to pretend to have the moral authority to punish TEC. Or, he was protected so he wouldn't have to live with such dishonesty. Just a guess, because abuse was part of the landscape during his tenure. To pretend otherwise is amnesia.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 18 March 2018 at 9:48pm GMT

Re Mr Silverman's comment: regulation by the Charity Commission has not prevented abuse in charities. Democratic accountability didn't stop the abuse of children in council care. These days not only the C of E and RC run schools, but also private consortiums. Anyway the schools are staffed by qualified and vetted teachers and regularly inspected by Ofsted.

If governance is relevant at all it may be that powerful hierarchies are most vulnerable to abuse of all kinds. Increasing managerial or hierarchical control would make abuse more likely, not less.

I certainly agree proper and more robust parliamentary control and decision making would be beneficial. What the public want from a national church seems too much ignored. Perhaps the house of laity could be directly elected by popular vote. If doctrinal certainties prevent or require something then the bishops can say so but otherwise the voice of the people should be heard, eg on same sex vows or short notice baptism at a time to suit the family or whatever else people expect.

Posted by: T Pott on Tuesday, 20 March 2018 at 10:50am GMT

@Janet Fife is correct, of course. And if +Martin Warner did renew +Nicholas Reade's PTO in the last year-to-eighteen-months, he would have been perfectly justified in doing so. There was no reason not to. It wasn't until his astonishing performance at the IICSA last week that it became apparent that Nicholas Reade took a similarly reckless approach as Wallace Benn.

There is an awful lot of looking back with hindsight on this thread, much of it with the visceral judgemental force of a Daily Express editorial. It takes little account of what was known or unknown at the time, let alone the pressing and competing demands facing the Archbishop of Canterbury. Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone... and, preferably one who has occupied that Office and knows it is like.

Posted by: Will Richards on Tuesday, 20 March 2018 at 12:32pm GMT

T Pott: You are absolutely right that none of those mechanisms work perfectly.

I do not advocate more management control in the Church of England, but I do believe that it is inevitable. Following the current revelations, the natural reaction of the hierarchy will be to take closer control of everything; it will be implicitly or explicitly argued that the current "devolved" model has not worked and that the dioceses and parishes can't be trusted.

I totally support your final paragraph. Very well put. But one point: if there is popular vote for the House of Laity, who should be the constituency? We already have a representative assembly elected by popular vote: it's called the House of Commons. If the constituency are just the small band of enthusiasts who are on church electoral rolls then the important people you mention in your last sentence will not get a look in.

Posted by: Bernard Silverman on Tuesday, 20 March 2018 at 1:52pm GMT

A minor correction, T Pott: there is no requirement for academies in England that they employ qualified staff, and those deemed outstanding by Ofsted can go for many years without being inspected so long as there is no trigger event such as a fall in exam results.

Posted by: Jo on Wednesday, 21 March 2018 at 6:46am GMT

Thanks Jo, I hadn't realised there could be unqualified teachers.

Bernard, yes, I totally agree that Church Electoral rolls are much too narrow. Very few non-regulars are on them, although even that would be more representative than the current system. By popular vote I meant the whole population. I think Parliament is better though if they can accept their responsibilities, and not defer to Synod all the time, as if Synod was the voice of the Church. There are anomalies regarding Scotland , Northern Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man but I don't see this as a practical problem.

I think in Sweden the electorate for Synod is most of the population, regardless of church attendance, and has the advantage of electing people focused on the church, whereas MPs have a wider remit, though even non-Christian MPs will know how to represent the interests of their constituents.

Posted by: T Pott on Wednesday, 21 March 2018 at 5:16pm GMT
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