Comments: Update on More cover-up allegations against bishops

'Complex issues surrounding Matthew at the time' was Steve Croft's defence on Radio 4 for not believing these allegations in 2013. What he didn't tell us, as a matter of recorded fact, is that the Diocese of Sheffield had initiated a CDM process against Matt Ineson at that time. For what? Giving food and overnight shelter in his vicarage to a recently released prisoner. Talk about an inconsistent response to clergy discipline. Talk about semantic circumlocution by a bishop.

Posted by Will Richards at Sunday, 9 July 2017 at 6:49pm BST

This is damning stuff. The Church seems to persist in thinking that we can avoid the standards of probity and transparency others are subjected to - and still lecture individuals and governments on issues of conduct and morals.

And in the 'Sunday' programme interviews, Ineson came across as measured and credible, while Bishop Croft just sounded evasive and suave.

Posted by Janet Fife at Sunday, 9 July 2017 at 7:20pm BST

I think it might be wise to wait and see. I did not hear +Stephen as evasive but as knowing a lot more than he could say in an interview. I was once party to not recommending a candidate at the end of their ordination training for ordination. There were many reasons why we as a staff decided thus. The student sold his story to a national newspaper who painted us as victimising the student. We could have defended ourselves only by making public the detailed reasons why we recommended as we did and that would indeed have been to treat the student badly.

Posted by Charles Read at Sunday, 9 July 2017 at 11:23pm BST

I heard the Croft interview this morning en route to a number of churches around the Wash and in the Breckland.

Two things astonished me (if I recall the details correctly, having just returned from Norfolk to Kent):

(i) Croft said that he did not wish to be drawn into discussing certain points of Ineson's case because he was concerned about causing Ineson additional distress. Surely what Ineson was wanting was for someone - anyone - to talk with him about his case?

(ii) Croft said, I think twice, that there were 'other issues' associated with Ineson, which either justified Croft not doing anything active in response to Ineson's allegations, or which seemed to insinuate, and somewhat darkly, that there were other things 'wrong' with Ineson.

Let us give credit where it is due: Croft is obviously a keen and effective student of the rhetorical tropes favoured by the current occupant of the White House.

The interview was, nonetheless, an effective demonstration in how best to extinguish one's credibility within about 5 minutes.

The programme also mentioned the Gibb Report. It seems bizarre that it does not form part of the synodical agenda, though it seems it is being discussed on the fringes.

Posted by Froghole at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 12:01am BST

For the avoidance of doubt, my previous post does not imply that there was no abuse in this case or that all the bishops behave in an exemplary manner - just that it is wise to wait as we don't know the whole story. We have seen too many instances of a rush to judgement.

Posted by Charles Read at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 12:21am BST

It is interesting how we all hear different things in the same interview. Although I have no brief at all for the way in which the church hierarchy responds to allegations of abuse, what I took away from the interviews on the Sunday programme yesterday was that Bp Steven is willing to meet with Matthew Ineson. I do hope that this will happen, if Matthew would find that helpful. There is no doubt that the Bishops Matthew mentions need to respond to the allegations; hiding behind the CDM one year rule is not an option. Please General Synod will you revisit the CDM, in particular looking at the one year rule. Another area we need to explore is the possible complicity between church insurers and church lawyers and the way 'the church' responds to allegations. I don't know who you are, but thank you for exploring this on your blog https://seaofcomplicity.blog.

Posted by Anne at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 7:43am BST

Why doesn't Matt Ineson do what Jeffrey John did, and request copies of all emails and other correspondence containing his name? It's irrelevant whether the C of E is subject to FOI. Matt Ineson is entitled to this under the Data Protection Act. One thing is for certain, it will go some way to disclosing who covered-up, and when.

Posted by Greg Dobson at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 9:05am BST

Bishop Croft uses the hackneyed phrase "there are lessons to be learned" after allegedly failing to act on Matt Ineson's distressing claims. What precisely is the 'lesson' garnered by the bishop when told a man has been raped by a priest?

Posted by FrDavidH at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 9:42am BST

Charles Read - your response is very wise. And I agree with your assessment of +Stephen's responses in the interview.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 10:30am BST

I remain extremely concerned by that interview. It seems to me that Safeguarding is not well served by hiding behind the one year rule. If Bishop Croft believes the public statements of Matt Ineson are untrue, why is it not best for him to say so in plain English?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 10:40am BST

@Charles Read, we know what Steve Croft's "knowing a lot more than he could say in an interview" was all about. He didn't want to mention it because it would reveal how pathetically petty he had been in bringing a (failed) CDM case against Matthew Ineson. That could have only made him look even less credible than he came across in the interview. I am sorry that you feel unable to name the shocking truth: that Croft failed to act on an abuse allegation by hiding behind the one year rule. There can never be any 'complex issues' to justify this. Croft is in the same dock as Carey, and needs to be disciplined, time-out or not.

Posted by Will Richards at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 11:20am BST

Do dioceses and bishops have formal policies on the management of conflicts of interest? It would be interesting to know how they square that circle: personally I don't see how it can be done. "We" expect the bishop to act as a pastor, and we expect the bishop to act in a trustee-like way in respect of the largish charitable organisations s/he is (at least partly) responsible for -- it would be irresponsible for a trustee to ignore professional advice. We'd have a happier C of E if the assets were vested in independent trustees (perhaps some with real MBAs) and chose bishops for their pastoral skills.

Posted by american piskie at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 11:55am BST

"Mr Greenwood and Mr Ineson also both said that the C of E needed to hand over all safeguarding investigations to an independent body, to avoid accusations of a cover-up, if for no other reason."

The 30 York Minster ringers also requested an independent investigation.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 12:21pm BST

'I think it might be wise to wait and see. '

Charles, you and David Runcorn are right of course. But we all hear (or read) what is said in the context of what has gone before, and how it fits in with other events and experiences. The Church's all too frequent response to accusations of abuse, or whistle blowing of any sort, has been evasion, siding with the more powerful, and sometimes to cover up. To hear Croft's interview as evasive in consistent with the findings of the Gibb report; with several other reports before that; and with the above blog about Ecclesiastical, the Church, and conflicts of interest. Which of course may still mean that I and others are being unfair in interpreting Croft's interview as putting him and the Church in a bad light.

And I have not forgotten Croft's objection when I suggested that the pastoral care of sexual abuse survivors should be covered in the Pastoralia syllabus for ordinands - though admittedly that was a long time ago now.

Posted by Janet Fife at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 4:22pm BST

"Do dioceses and bishops have formal policies on the management of conflicts of interest?"

In my opinion this question could usefully be asked about archbishops, deans, and chapters too.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 10 July 2017 at 6:46pm BST

We all know that "mere" priests accused of what these bishops are accused of would be suspended while investigations were ongoing.

Posted by DBD at Tuesday, 11 July 2017 at 1:04pm BST

Jeremy, you have hit the nail on the head. Bishops, Priests and Deacons all need teaching about conflict of interest as it would seem that most of them simply don't get it. Thank you very much for raising this point.

Janet Fife, I agree with all you say. I, too, have tried to get this topic on the syllabus for ordinands and/or in IME x to y.

David Runcorn and Charles Read, thank you for reminding us to remember the wider issue.
There is getting to be more and more compelling evidence that Safeguarding should be outsourced to independent people. But who is independent? Should members all be nonChristians? Non church-goers? People who live outside the geographical constraints of a particular Diocese? What makes for independence? I would be grateful if others on here could make suggestions, please.

Posted by Anne at Tuesday, 11 July 2017 at 3:58pm BST

I spy, "We all know". A rhetorical flourish that usually translates into English as, "I have little or no evidence for what I am about to say, but it would suit my prejudices for it to be true".

The grounds on which a clerk in holy orders can be suspended are available in the CDM rules and guidance. They are pretty restrictive. In my experience a CDM case would need to have been ruled as within time (or an exception granted by the President of Tribunals) and then to have passed the Preliminary Scrutiny stage (where the clerk concerned is given time to respond to the allegation). Alternatively the clerk would need to have been charged with a serious criminal offence.

Before a bishop issues a notice of suspension, there are clear criteria that the guidance and rules require to have been considered, including consulting the clerk concerned. Following suspension the clerk may appeal to the President for it to be overruled. The President would not allow a suspension that did not have strong justification and without due process having been followed.

I would get out more but I have about 500 clergy (licensed, pto or resident here) who fall within my jurisdiction.

Posted by David Walker at Tuesday, 11 July 2017 at 6:40pm BST

To post what I have said and posted elsewhere, because it bears reflection. I have been involved with a Serious Case Review involving both the parish church where I am team rector and the secondary school at which I have been chair of governors and safeguarding governor (now I am neither, but am vice chair of governors and chair of the finance committee of the related Multi-Academy Trust). The events relating to this occurred before I took up my current post, and I was the person who made the first report of something to investigate to our Local Authority Designated Officer - LADO.

I was challenged, I believe, as chair of governors at the time, to take action contrary to the relevant statutory guidance. I have been told that I have a conflict of interest via a process which has not told me what that conflict is (I know I have a dual role, and I asked many times and in different ways - the conflict apparently forbade me from engaging in the school side, but did not affect the church side - conflict?? whose conflict? Am I allowed to manage my own?) I have seen things assumed which have been palpably false, and processes which are supposed tp discover "truth" or even "learning" subverted.

Following the SCR, the school has had a two day, two HMI, unannounced visit from Ofsted. The key question on their minds was "under the pressure you are under, have you lost sight of safeguarding pupils and moved to a culture of compliance to safeguard the school as institution?" I thought it was a great question. Another which arose was "under pressure of time, e.g. en route to a lesson, do your staff fill in the form to initiate the safeguarding process, or talk to someone so they can take more immediate action?". The difference seemed to me to be the difference between a compliance culture and a safeguarding culture. We have worked so hard in school to be on the safeguarding side. So much of what I see in the church is compliance (or sub-compliance), but the cultural pressures are great, and changing that culture will take leadership, hard work and determination.

I think of Richard Foster's book "Money, Sex and Power" and how power is the issue under the radar at the moment in the CofE - so little focus or critique, which means it is the dangerous one of the three. He had these as the counterpart to "Poverty, Chastity and Obedience"

The Ofsted report should come soon and I've not seen it yet. I am not commenting on that. But the inspectors were on the case which matters - not how we safeguard institutions, but how we do the best by the people in their care. We need lots more people on that agenda, who aren't looking over their shoulders to institutional advantage. I have some criticisms of Ofsted, but these inspectors were doing the job we need them to do. And I hope you see the relevance to this thread.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Tuesday, 11 July 2017 at 8:42pm BST

@David Walker's point about suspension under CDM is helpful. However, he is assuming Matt Ineson was suspended under the CDM. Was he? I have not heard or read that anywhere.

Things may be different in Manchester Diocese, but 'we all know' (i.e. I have personal acquaintance with) several clergy who have been the subject of CDM complaints for matters that did not involve suspension. To my mind, they were pretty trivial (one was because a poisonous parishioner sent the archdeacon a photo from her phone of the cleric parking in a disabled bay - after 10pm - for a matter of minutes to use a cash-point on the way home from a distressing hospital visit). It went nowhere, just like the Matt Ineson matter; but the fact that the process was initiated at all made the priest feel utterly powerless. This is when it is a blunt instrument and some over-zealous (and, frankly, bullying) archdeacons seem to resort to it as a matter of course under their statutory powers. And, before anyone jumps in with it, the grievance procedure under Common Tenure seems to offer little protection against this kind of thing. No wonder there has been a vigorous debate about clergy well-being at this Synod.

Posted by Will Richards at Wednesday, 12 July 2017 at 10:24am BST

Anne, thank you! But I was reacting to american piskie, who first raised the subject.

Now Mark Bennet has set forth several aspects of the problem eloquently and precisely.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 12 July 2017 at 10:57am BST

"Bishops, Priests and Deacons all need teaching about conflict of interest as it would seem that most of them simply don't get it."

Or, given the string of coverups, they get it just fine, and put the church first. Check out "Mad Priest's" blog to see just how deep, and far, the rot of corruption goes, and just how ruthless the hierarchy can be.

As I've said previously here, so long as regulatory power stays in the hierarchy, coverups are inevitable: given the choice, most people in positions of power choose to protect the institution. Bishops are no better than the average person: why would we expect them to act in an extraordinary way?

Bishops need to be stripped of all regulatory duties. Personally, I'd have 'em turned over to an Anglican juge d'instruction, with the power to tear apart all before them in search of the truth, but there are many other options. Crucial is that those implicated aren't responsible for investigations.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 12 July 2017 at 3:21pm BST

"given the choice, most people in positions of power choose to protect the institution"

I think the real conflict of interest is when people in positions of power choose to protect themselves.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 12 July 2017 at 7:28pm BST

I've come to this rather late, because I didn't think there was anything I could usefully add. However, I'm struck by the 'conflict of interest' dimension that @Jeremy has advanced - and the responses to it. I wonder if, in the end, it all comes back to episcope and a need to ask some fundamental questions about concentrating too much power (for that is what it is) in the hands of the bishops who, by default, have the well-being of the Church as an institution hard-wired into their DNA. We now find ourselves in a new situation that requires a new approach. Where the ekklesia has been fractured by a misuse of power, power itself needs to be similarly fractured for the common good.

I know that it is unfashionable (in certain theological circles) to have any recourse to the Enlightenment, but Montesquieu (L'Esprit des Lois) recognised the need for a tripartite approach, and for the exercise of power to be distributed across different 'authorities' (legislature, executive and judiciary). This, he argued, was to avoid the abuses inherent in power being focused in one person or body. A tripartite approach has a built in accountability (and constraint) that guards against the misuse of power.

How this might cash-out in terms of the C of E's ecclesiology, I am not sure (are there any ecclesiologists left, especially among the bishops?). But it does suggest a model that requires those receiving allegations, those making decisions about clergy discipline, and those implementing safeguarding policy need to have significant autonomy; and the freedom to undertake their respective tasks without the conflicts of interest already expressed in this thread.

Some will throw their hands up in horror at the suggestion of a weakened episcopate. But hasn't that already happened as a consequence of all we now know?

Posted by Simon R at Thursday, 13 July 2017 at 7:58am BST

Simon R, that is a good point. The New Testament model is that of groups of elders or overseers and of people in leadership working together, rather than of one person in overall charge. But this still runs the risk of the team colluding in the misuse of power, so I think you are right to suggest 3 independent branches. Perhaps diocesan legal advisors ought to be responsible to the Archbishops' Council, rather than their respective dioceses? And form a college of their own?

Certainly the idea of the solidarity of the College of Bishops exerts an unhealthy pressure on individual bishops not to upset the applecart. And they seem to have a collective desire to run away from unpleasant or difficult issues, like abuse.

Posted by Janet Fife at Thursday, 13 July 2017 at 3:41pm BST

Very well said, Simon: separation of powers is exactly what's needed.

As you rightly say, bishops are hardwired to protect the institution. Even if they weren't, as Jeremy rightly says, they'll protect themselves: either they've ordained an abuser, or appointed them, and plenty blame will be heading their way. Asking them to investigate their own shortcomings is an invitation to launch a coverup.

Investigaton and arbitration must be separated from the hierarchy, conducted by people with no stake in it, dedicated solely to discovering the truth, protecting the wronged, and holding wrongdoers to account, whether the wrongdoer's a volunteer, or a prince of the church.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 13 July 2017 at 4:00pm BST

The Alex Carlile report (on the Bishop George Bell case) is likely to be published within the next 2-3 months. Taken with the Moira Gibb report on Bishop Peter Bell, and the allegations made by Matthew Ineson, it seems likely that there will be a major debate on safeguarding at the General Synod in London in February 2018. It is likely, too, that there will be a call for a completely independent process/body (independent of the C of E) to investigate complaints of historic sexual abuse against the clergy (whether still alive or long dead).

Posted by David Lamming at Thursday, 13 July 2017 at 7:53pm BST

'It is likely, too, that there will be a call for a completely independent process/body (independent of the C of E) to investigate complaints of historic sexual abuse against the clergy (whether still alive or long dead).'

That's good - but we need an independent body to investigate current complaints & concerns as well as historical ones. Or DSAs need to be made independent of the dioceses they're working in. If they want to pursue something and their boss wants it left alone, they're in a very difficult position.

Posted by Janet Fife at Friday, 14 July 2017 at 9:46am BST
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