Comments: Further analysis of the IICSA hearings

Martin Sewell writes: 'But let us not stop with the Episcopacy; let’s go all the way. Let us include all those clergy who looked the other way or would not go on the appropriate training. Will they be apologising to their congregations?' Yes to this. But 'all the way' must include congregations who refused to believe stories about their own church members, or who concealed vital information from their own clergy and obstructed attempts to put proper boundaries in place in their own communities. 'All the way' means no selective blaming.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 27 March 2018 at 11:22am BST

The whole thing boils down to this: "We didn't realise that raping children was bad, because the rapists were good people who said sorry and anyway the alleged victims were probably leading them on. But now we're required to pretend to believe that our mates shouldn't have done it. So we'll weep a bit in public, and then it's business as usual."

Nothing will change. Welby doesn't believe he's done anything wrong, but perhaps might be convinced to agree that a few unnamed people, mostly dead, perhaps didn't behave quite as well as him. Sentamu doesn't believe anyone's done anything wrong other than, perhaps, uppity women refusing to shut up. Neither will actually do anything. They've got much more important things to do.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 27 March 2018 at 11:23am BST

It is pretty obvious that the archbishops' letter was an attempt to control what people think by controlling what they read. It has been tried and tested approach - use official channels to publicise the desired message. In this case bigging up the effort of bishops while ignoring the survivors' complaints. Increasingly though, the approach is failing. Martyn Percy has long-demonstrated an ability to get headlines but now Janet Fife managed to get as much attention for her criticism of the archbishops' as the archbishops themselves got.

About the only thing the House of Bishops had left was an ability to control the message. If, as it seems, they have now lost that ability, things might start unraveling quite fast.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 27 March 2018 at 10:04pm BST

Disappointed to see Martyn Percy's cynical exploitation of sexual abuse to push his own theological agenda.

Posted by tbl at Wednesday, 28 March 2018 at 4:07pm BST

Glad to see Martyn Percy can join up the dots when others are scared to lift the pencil.

And holding feet to fire? Rather unfortunate metaphor to choose....

Posted by Charles Read at Wednesday, 28 March 2018 at 6:25pm BST

I agree with Charles Read on kudos to Martyn Percy, who can "join up the dots." I.e. link inequality with the machine that protects perpetrators over victims.

Also, no organization can reliably investigate itself. Investigations have to be independent. Are CoE bishops and clergy required to be "mandatory reporters" of abuse when they hear of it? That is the case in TEC at this point. If mandatory reporting leads to professional and independent investigation, that frees the church to be pastoral to the victims, and the alleged perpetrators. Giving up control allows the church to be the church, rather than a self-protecting bureaucracy.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 28 March 2018 at 8:08pm BST

Having read tbl's comment, I have gone back and re-read Martyn Percy's article. I am bemused. I cannot see that Professor Percy is either being cynical or pushing a particular theological agenda. I have read all the transcripts from the IICSA hearings and I am much in agreement with his analysis which I think is entirely legitimate. It would be helpful if tbl would be more detailed in his objections and if he would explain in what way he thinks Professor Percy is being cynical.

Daniel Lamont

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Wednesday, 28 March 2018 at 8:44pm BST

Well said Daniel Lamont. I found Martyn Percy's article very good. A very traditional Anglo Catholic priest, non-affriming of women's priesthood, saw the printed copy and automatically condemned it. I suggested he read it before condemning it - he admitted after reading it that it was very good. Any hint that Martyn Percy was forwarding his own agenda, which this man loathes, would have generated a very negative reaction. He limited his objection to saying he didn't agree with his conclusion about women priests (hardly a surprise) but it was very well written and made several good points.

Posted by not flourishing high church woman at Friday, 30 March 2018 at 9:48am BST

As tbl doesn't seem to be answering for him/herself, it's not too difficult to see why a traditionalist would take exception to anything that Dean Percy says. The Dean's forensic analysis of just how difficult, if not impossible, it would be for a SSWSH bishop to act with integrity as the diocesan bishop in a diocese with women priests, was probably primarily responsible for the withdrawal of +North from Sheffield, and he is unlikely to be forgiven for that. And it seems irrefutable that most reported cases of sexual abuse have emanated from the two extremes of churchmanship, traditionalist (e.g. +Peter Ball) or Biblicist (e.g. John Smyth), rather than from the more liberal centre ground, so pointing that out is likely to be seen as cynical by those who do not like the implications.

Prof. Percy is extremely clear in his analysis of IICSA, particularly about how very badly most of the CofE's representatives acquitted themselves. As the Inquiry was not much reported in the general press, and few will have listened to the hearings or read the transcripts, I fear than many faithful churchgoers will be shocked by the extremely scathing verdict the Inquiry is likely to deliver about our church, as was hinted at by some of the comments made by leading counsel and the chair of the Inquiry.

Does anyone know how long we are likely to have to wait for the findings of the Inquiry to emerge? The longer it is, the longer will it be before the necessary action can be taken to put our house in order. I know that the recent 3-week hearing was but a small part of the overall inquiry, and that there will be further occasions when the CofE will be 'in the dock'.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Tuesday, 3 April 2018 at 6:11pm BST

Malcolm, IICSA will hold hearings into the Peter Ball case for a week in July, and hearings into the C of E generally early in 2019. I have read that a report will be published this autumn, but I'm not sure whether that will be just the Chichester Diocese, or Chichester Diocese + Ball.

In some ways I think the 2019 hearings will be a greater shock than the ones we've just had - and goodness knows they were bad enough. But we knew Chichester was bad, and have been inclined to to think it's on its own there. It may not be.

Posted by Janet Fife at Wednesday, 4 April 2018 at 9:25am BST

Malcolm and Janet:
This is what Professor Alexis Jay said at the end of the three-weeks 'case study' hearing into the Diocese of Chichester on Friday 23 March 2018: "We will now review all of the material and evidence and will begin to prepare a single report which will set out our findings on both this case study and that concerning responses to offending by Peter Ball. We will not be in a position to draft those sections of the report that relate to Peter Ball and complete this report until after the further case study hearing which will take place, as you know, in July of this year. Our hope is we will then be in a position to publish a single report concerning the Chichester and Peter Ball case studies this autumn." (Transcript, 23.3.2018, page 115, lines 3-13)

The Peter Ball case study hearing is scheduled for the week 23-27 July 2018.

What this means is that we shan't have the benefit of the IICSA panel's recommendations to inform any safeguarding debate at General Synod at York in July (6-10 July 2018). Also, in view of what the Archbishop of Canterbury said in his Guardian interview at the weekend in relation to the investigation of the 'further information' received about Bishop George Bell ("... that will take a long time"), it seems unlikely that we will have 'closure' on the Bell allegations by the July GS meeting.

'Autumn' is a rather flexible concept. However, since it was the Church that asked IICSA to look at the Anglican church as one of its investigations, perhaps we should (i) ask IICSA to ensure that it publishes its report on Chichester and Ball no later than 31 October 2018; (ii) ask the National Safeguarding Team to ensure that a final report on the new Bell allegations is completed and published by the same date [and, preferably, much earlier in view of the age (94) of George Bell's surviving relative], and (iii) use the contingency dates of 21-23 November 2018 for a group of sessions of General Synod that can then give proper time to debating both (a) the IICSA report and recommendations and (b) the Carlile report and the subsequent report into the fresh information.

Posted by David Lamming at Wednesday, 4 April 2018 at 1:41pm BST

Yes, I can understand why Professor Percy is persona non grata in certain circles. The fact is that he applies a sharp scholarly analysis to key issues and this careful analysis doesn't go down well with those who hold entrenched positions. Unfortunately, such people don't seem to respond with a comparable scholarly analysis to set beside Professor Percy's, but maybe I just haven't seen it. There is a tendency to descend into ad hominem remarks. One would have thought that the Bishops could do this analysis for themselves. After all, Stephen Croft, for example, has a Durham doctorate and is surely capable of doing this. What it hadn't occurred to me to do was to describe it as cynical.

Reading through the IICSA transcipts was both profoundly shocking and enraging in the lack of professionalism shown. It has completely destroyed my respect for senior clergy, though I could see that John Hind was trying to clean the Augean stable. Why is the Bishop of Buckingham the only serving bishop to take an independent line? I don't expect any but cosmetic changes if the CofE is left to its own devices.

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Wednesday, 4 April 2018 at 3:06pm BST

David Lamming, thank you for the clarification. Your suggestions are good ones, which means they won't be adopted!

Daniel Lamont, the lack of professionalism and straightforward integrity in too many of our leaders was even more evident when watching the hearings. The stark contrast between them and safeguarding professionals made very uncomfortable viewing.

Posted by Janet Fife at Thursday, 5 April 2018 at 8:52am BST

Thank you, Janet and David, for answering my question. It is good to know that the Inquiry intends to publish in stages and not wait until the end. But if changes in our practice are made in response to the earlier findings, they are then liable to further change when the later findings are known. This will continue the process that has been evident for some years, where we have always seemed to be 'behind the curve' and always struggling to catch up with current best practice.

I think it is this which has so demoralised many faithful volunteers, who have bravely taken on leadership roles in safeguarding. Before they have managed to complete the rollout of one set of recommendations, they are overtaken by fresh guidance, making the work done earlier seem futile and thankless.

It is hard to see how our church can recover from this. This year's Articles of Enquiry, referred to by +Peter Hancock in his evidence to the Inquiry, ask a number of questions about safeguarding training in parishes. If people who e.g. serve tea and coffee after services are going to be expected to have undergone safeguarding training, I think that many of them will simply walk away.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 5:43pm BST
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