Comments: Bishops and Safeguarding

When Justin Welby became Archbishop of Canterbury, there was widespread approval of the appointment. It was generally thought that, as a new broom, he would introduce sweeping reforms, and that Lambeth Palace would be run in a more businesslike and efficient manner.

What we have seen is letters not answered, prevarication and a lack of any direction in the Church. What a disappointment!

Posted by Paul Waddington at Friday, 18 May 2018 at 4:17pm BST

Is it only dead or retired bishops and archbishops who face the consequences for accusations of child abuse which are knowingly mired in bureaucratic treacle? Or is it that action is only taken if it becomes impossible to hide what happened? How, from the outside, can we tell whether a failure to act was incompetence or collusion?

Someone needs to be held to account for how Matthew Ineson’s complaint was handled because otherwise the lack of accountability will feed a culture of prevarication - which is exactly what we are seeing. Right now nothing would give bishops greater incentive to act vigorously than several being asked to resign.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 18 May 2018 at 6:41pm BST

This is Wallace Benn refusing to take action against Gordon Rideout in another guise. Brothers in the tribal club sticking together. We can confidently expect Sentamu to be off the hook, too, I guess.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Friday, 18 May 2018 at 6:48pm BST

Does 'accountability' here mean 'retribution,' Kate? I'm a bit uneasy when Christians - in the guise of defending victims - adopt the logic of hounding people into a forced resignation. I'd prefer bishops were given the tools to do their job properly, rather than being made into salutary examples to inspire fear in the rest.

Posted by rjb at Saturday, 19 May 2018 at 6:07am BST

RJB, so you think there should be no consequences for a bishop's refusing to act on a complaint of serious child sexual abuse by a priest? How does that encourage victims to come forward; or bishops to act on such complaints; or discourage paedophiles from thinking churches are a safe place for them to prey on the innocent?

But perhaps I've misunderstood you, and you have some other form of accountability and disciplinary procedure in mind.

Posted by Janet Fife at Saturday, 19 May 2018 at 8:11am BST

"Does 'accountability' here mean 'retribution,' Kate?"

Fair question. But we wouldn't allow an abuser to retain a position of authority in the Church because of the danger they pose. Don't those who potentially facilitate abuse by turning a blind eye - or by moving so slowly that it amounts to the same thing - present a danger too?

And just because someone has been promoted to a bishopric, why should they keep the status until they retire? Politicians have set terms, so why shouldn't bishops? And in the absence of specific terms shouldn't we be very proactive in considering whether it is appropriate for a bishop to keep their status?

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 19 May 2018 at 9:02am BST

I need to complete multiple safeguarding courses this year to continue the lowly post I've held in the church for a couple of decades. I've had previous training, have always followed safeguarding guidance (including reporting anything that's been reported to me) & kept myself up-to-date, but still must give up many more hours to be retrained in order to keep my job. Meanwhile, bishops can fail to follow the most basic safeguarding procedures with apparently no consequences - oh, sorry, they have the consequence of having the training again, with no guarantee they'll pay any more attention again, and they get reminded that they really should do their job.

Ultimately, these actions further up the hierarchy discourage those further down from doing things properly - what's the point in reporting things if they just get ignored further up the tree? And is it even a safe environment for me and those close to me to be in, given the continuing inaction and apparent lack of understanding (warm words not withstanding) of the church 'leadership'?

Posted by brcw at Saturday, 19 May 2018 at 11:09am BST

"Does 'accountability' here mean 'retribution,' Kate?"

Retribution assumes guilt has been established. Accountability is the process of establishing guilt or innocence.

I'm not at all convinced that there has been a transparent process yet that has come to a meaningful conclusion.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 19 May 2018 at 2:24pm BST

If any bishop knowingly or negligently failed to act on an accusation of abuse -- and I'm not prejudging any particular case -- they should, at an absolute minimum, be stripped of office. Since England, disgracefully, has yet to legislate for mandatory reporting, they couldn't be prosecuted for that, but there's plenty alternatives that could be explored.

Yes, it'd be an act of proportionate retribution, just like every other penalty. Either the argument's that we should abolish professional sanction and criminal law, or that bishops should be uniquely exempt: either way, I don't agree.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 19 May 2018 at 11:18pm BST

Is there anybody there? In a perceptive article in the Guardian magazine (19.05.18) entitled "Are you there God? It's me, Justin", the journalist Harriet Sherwood followed Archbishop Welby around and reported on his recent centenary tour of the diocese of Coventry.
Inevitably, the issue of safeguarding was raised in this extensive and far reaching article. The Archbishop claimed that there would be "No cover-up. Justice for complainants and justice for those who are complained against." Alas, to date, I've not noticed any justice for Bishop George Bell as in the initial inquiry no one was delegated to defend his reputation and speak in his favour. Surely common justice demands defence in addition to prosecution? I only hope that the Core Group in this second inquiry will right this wrong as they examine the mysterious "new information" which apparently has come to light. When this group eventually reports let us hope that Lord Carlile does not have to repeat his accusations that Bishop Bell had been "hung out to dry" and that the church had "rushed to judgement" and that the "significant cloud", following a thorough examination, may hopefully be removed once and for all.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 21 May 2018 at 6:54am BST

There has been no justice for Matt Ineson either. 4 bishops and an archbishop received his disclosure of serious sexual abuse by a priest, none of them acted on it, and none of them has been disciplined. And Welby has just let off the bishop of Oxford.

There is no justice for either complainants or accused - only the Church's convenience and reputation are regarded.

Posted by Janet Fife at Monday, 21 May 2018 at 8:40am BST

"There is no justice for either complainants or accused - only the Church's convenience and reputation are regarded."

Couldn't agree more. This is inevitable when bishops are charged with policing their own institution: the conflict of interest is overwhelming. The only way this'll ever change is if all responsibility for discipline is removed from bishops and handed over to an independent body not answerable to the church hierarchy.

Do that, and bishops can get on with being pastors to the pastors, their most important function. Relationships between bishops and clergy, and between all priests and laity, would improve significantly. Along, ironically enough, with the church's reputation.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 21 May 2018 at 2:12pm BST

"4 bishops and an archbishop received his disclosure of serious sexual abuse by a priest, none of them acted on it, and none of them has been disciplined."

Meanwhile, in Australia, the Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide is looking at potentially two years in prison, having been convicted of covering up child abuse.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 22 May 2018 at 3:11pm BST

Janet Fife, is this the end of the road for Matthew, or are there still things he can do?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 6:44pm BST

This is definitely not the end of line. Things are afoot. Watch this space.....😉

Posted by Matt Ineson at Sunday, 27 May 2018 at 7:39am BST
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