Thinking Anglicans

Alan Griffin case mentioned in House of Lords debate

The speeches concerning the Safeguarding (Code of Practice) Measure  from the Bishop of Blackburn, Lord Cormack, and Lord Lexden are all worth reading. However, I draw you attention to this exchange between Lord Lexden and the Bishop:

Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cormack referred at the start of his powerful remarks to the passion and anger that he felt because of some recent events. I feel very deep passion and anger, as I shall explain.

I have had the honour of serving on the Ecclesiastical Committee for a few years, but I am afraid I cannot continue my membership of it. I can no longer support the Clergy Discipline Measure, in view of the harm it is capable of inflicting on innocent clergy caught up in sex abuse allegations. Doubts about the Church’s capacity to devise a fair and just system for dealing with accusations of sex abuse laid against its clergy have long been simmering in my mind, not least because of the terrible way in which the reputation of the great George Bell, to whom my noble friend referred, was damaged–and damaged so unfairly. But worry and concern have now given place to total despair; my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been completely broken.

Long ago I was briefly close, perhaps for no longer than a single summer, to a witty and clever Cambridge contemporary. He was a classicist who became a lecturer at Exeter University and later took holy orders. His name was Alan Griffin. In November last year, the Reverend Dr Alan Griffin committed suicide. After the end of the inquest into his death in early July this year, the coroner wrote a detailed report on the way that the Church had investigated his suspected sexual misconduct. She revealed that when he died, the Church’s investigation had been going on for over a year. The coroner stated that

“he could not cope with an investigation into his conduct, the detail of and the source for which he had never been told”–

I repeat, the detail and source for which he had never been told.

Worse, when the coroner probed the evidence against him, she found it was non-existent. There was, she said,

“no complainant, no witness and no accuser”.

The Church had acted on the basis of mere gossip and innuendo. Could there be a clearer example of the denial of natural justice?

And how did the Church carry out its investigation during the year in which Alan Griffin was kept in ignorance of the so-called accusations against him? The coroner states:

“nobody took responsibility for steering the direction of the process from start to finish and for making coherent, reasoned, evidence based decisions”.

And so the scene was set for a terrible tragedy.

The last element of the Church’s behaviour in this case which I want the House to note is very serious indeed. The coroner records that submissions

“on behalf of the Church of England … urged me not to include any concerns that may be taken as a criticism of clerics or staff for not filtering or verifying allegations.”

This is not from some shady organisation or business with suspect moral standards, but from our country’s established Church. These are the circumstances that led to the death of a friend of mine from long ago, and that is why my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been broken.

Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Could the right reverend Prelate comment on the quotation from the coroner’s report that I read out at the end? The Church of England seeking to interfere with the content of a coroner’s report in order to diminish the extent of the criticism it would sustain: is that not utterly reprehensible?

The Bishop of Blackburn Bishop

It is reprehensible and unacceptable. One of the big issues has been the whole matter of cover-up and trying to silence voices. That is a very clear example and should never, ever be repeated. I will report that back to the national safeguarding team and others. We are in the business not of covering up but of being transparent and open, so that these things can be brought to light and people can learn from them. It is reprehensible and completely unacceptable.

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Susannah Clark
Susannah Clark
1 month ago

This is very sad and very powerful. Frankly it is both tragic and shocking. Also, I think Bishop Julian deserves respect for his direct reply. At the same time I don’t think Alan’s case should be conflated with the case of Bishop Bell. In Alan’s context, there was no case to answer, no accusation, and it seems clear that the Church’s action triggered a chain of events that ended in tragedy. In Bishop Bell’s case there is a case to answer (but we will never know for sure what happened), there is an accusation (from a good and decent person… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Susannah Clark
Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

The connection between the Griffin case and the Bell case is the lack of due process, exposed very clearly by Lord Carlile in his report on the Bell affair. It is shameful that despite the C of E committing to accepting the recommendations of the Carlile Report, there was still no clear process in place to ensure that tittle-tattle about Alan Griffin was examined and dismissed.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Susannah: No one wishes to re-open discussion of the merits of the claim in the case of Bishop Bell. I have always said that the claimant was as ill-served as the late Bishop by the sheer ineptitude of the C of E’s in-house handling of it by people unqualified and inexperienced in dealing with an historic abuse claim – basically Fr Dexter Bracey’s point. Even the person ostensibly coordinating the C of E process admitted at the IICSA hearings that he had never previously heard of Bishop Bell. There was no need for this. There is a body of people,… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

“The presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle of English law over many centuries, but in recent years it has been honoured in the breach by those we normally expect to set an example”

Dr Gerald Morgan OM FTCD

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
1 month ago

And to add to the scandal, no-one has been suspended or disciplined for their part in this case.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
1 month ago

The Tablet Magazine has been following the case, but the latest mention is a comment in the 4th September edition saying:

The Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA), the regulatory body for safeguarding in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, is expected to respond on 3 September to a critical coroner’s report on the death of the late Fr Alan Griffin, a former Anglican priest who became a Catholic in 2012 and who took his own life, aged 76.”.

There is nothing in more recent editions.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
1 month ago

Well done to Lord Lexden for bringing this disgraceful episode before Parliament. If Bishop Julian was genuine in what he said then the Bishop of London should offer her resignation to Her Majesty without any further delay.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

At the least the NST ought to bring CDM cases against those who NST thinks carry responsibility.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

It does reveal the nadir to which the CofE has sunk that it is criticised in such forthright terms by members of the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Lords, one so angry that he resigns from the committee at the same time. The bishops’ confetti apologies are now not enough for anyone it seems.

Lee
Lee
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Fr Dean, not just the Bishop of London. The Archdeacon of London is named in this report, yet astonishingly is still standing as a proctor for the Diocese of London in the forthcoming General Synod.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Lee
1 month ago

Shameless, utterly brazen! It’s a cliche but you really couldn’t make it up. I just hope the electors make sure the archdeacon takes a drubbing at the ballot box. The noble Lord Lexden chose the right word – reprehensible.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Lee
1 month ago

We trust the clergy of the Diocese of London will do their duty and vote for other candidates.

Angusian
Angusian
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Hear hear ! However the acceptance of responsibility is something the leaders of our church seem incapable of recognizing.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
1 month ago

Echoing Lord Lexden’s ‘broken’ comments, Reverend Andrew Foreshew-Cain writes:

“The whole thing just smacks of an attempt to silence people within a system which everyone admits is broken”

T Pott
T Pott
1 month ago

Lord Lexden says he cannot continue on the Ecclesiastical Committee in Parliament, essentially because he has no confidence in the bishops, I surmise?

Shouldn’t mistrusting the bishops be an essential characteristic of membership of the Ecclesiastical Committee, rather than a reason to resign from it?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  T Pott
29 days ago

Lord Lexden said “…my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been completely broken” – thus resigning.

That is beyond “mistrust”. He is saying, it seems to me, that his faith in the integrity of the Church [eg the Ecclesiastical Committee] has been totally destroyed.

Dave
Dave
23 days ago

“my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been broken.” In whatever ways people try to defend the C of E Lord Lexden – Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, for goodness sake, is airing the views of many not only outside but also within the church – laity and clergy. The current bishops have much to answer for and the time has now passed for them to be far more answerable for the shambolic mess that exists in many dioceses while laity and clergy work hard in the parishes – despite the brokeness of the ‘leaders’ of the… Read more »

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