Thinking Anglicans

BBC Panorama documentary about Safeguarding in the CofE

Updated again Tuesday afternoon

The BBC is due to broadcast a documentary this evening, titled Scandal in the Church of England.
The 30 minute programme is now available to view at the above link.

Somewhat unusually, the Church of England issued a statement about this programme last Friday:

BBC Panorama this Monday (April 29) will feature interviews with survivors of church-related abuse in a programme entitled ‘Scandal in the Church of England’. We have worked with the producers to provide information and a response to the range of issues raised, particularly around the Past Cases Review. There will be a personal response from Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop, once the programme has been aired. Bishop Peter has also been interviewed for the programme.

There have been several media reports ahead of broadcast:

BBC Jane Corbin Two former Bishops of Lincoln failed to act on abuse allegations

Rutland and Stamford Mercury Bishop of Grantham ‘very sorry’ over reports Diocese of Lincoln failed to properly handle historic abuse allegations and Prepare for “difficult and shocking things” warns Bishop of Grantham over Panorama historic abuse programme.

The latter helpfully included a link to the lengthy Ad Clerum notice from the Bishop of Grantham issued before the programme was shown, which is also available as a PDF over here. This is quite detailed and worth a careful read.

Following transmission the Church of England has issued this press release:

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop said: “It has been harrowing to hear survivors’ accounts of their abuse – shared on BBC Panorama – and we issue an unreserved apology for how we have failed them.  We acknowledge that the Past Cases Review, PCR, from 2008-10, however well-intentioned was in hindsight clearly flawed, as shown in the independent scrutiny report by Sir Roger Singleton published last summer.  The ‘stringent criticisms’ of the PCR, shared with IICSA, are being acted upon and all dioceses are now carrying out a second past cases review, PCR2. We fully acknowledge that it was a serious mistake not to work with and hear from survivors during the original PCR. The new review will ensure survivors voices are heard. We are aware of the courage it takes for survivors to come forward knowing that the effects of their abuse are with them for life.

I would urge anyone affected by the Panorama programme to call the NSPCC helpline number 0808 800 5000.”

Operation Redstone survivor information

Other updates

Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church has this commentary on the programme: Panorama on Scandal in the C/E. Some thoughts. His final conclusions are:

…The programme concluded with a number of story-lines unfinished.  There was Matt’s story which still has many unanswered questions to be faced, particularly in respect of his official complaints against named individuals.  These remain unresolved.   There was also mention of a newly uncovered file in the York diocese mentioning a number of abuse cases that have not been examined.  We still were left with the feeling that for whatever reason, the Church remains defensive and highly secretive.  Any control of information, which still appears to be happening, is a power tactic.  If there is still secrecy and an attempt to bury the past, all such attempts to do this will likely fail.  Truth, as I have said before, has a habit of spilling out to the embarrassment of those who want to suppress it.  The secrets that are held in order to protect reputations have the capacity to wreak enormous damage on institutions.  The Church of England has much to lose if it does not get its house in order over safeguarding.

Christian Today has a detailed report on the programme which usefully includes the text of the media response made by the Bishop of Grantham, The Rt Revd Nicholas Chamberlain:

Whilst some matters remain under investigation it is not possible to comment specifically on the questions that have been posed to the diocese by the BBC.

The Diocese of Lincoln wishes to acknowledge that past matters have not been handled well. The diocese is committed to learn from its mistakes. I am very sorry that it took so long for justice to be served.

The past abuse that our safeguarding team brought to light, through our revisiting and review of past cases, is all the more appalling given what the public deserve and are fully entitled to expect, which is the highest level of conduct from clergy and all those involved in leadership in the church. All people are made in the image of God and abuse of any kind is contrary to that belief.

It is as a result of our commitment to ensuring justice is served, that our safeguarding team have developed an effective partnership with Lincolnshire Police, working together on Operation Redstone. Together they have worked tirelessly to ensure that convictions were secured where possible and where this was not an option, that risk was managed appropriately. Throughout all recent processes our hope is that victims and survivors have felt heard, and been well supported and cared for, although we acknowledge we may not have always got this right.

Every effort is being made to ensure that safeguarding is part of the DNA of the Diocese of Lincoln. There are high levels of confidence in our safeguarding practitioners from Lincolnshire Police and statutory authorities. There is mandatory safeguarding training that is externally audited and independently validated with support from Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children and Adult partnership boards. Our safeguarding team have delivered face to face training to 3296 people in the past five years.

As a diocese we promise to offer support to anyone who contacts us about issues of harm or abuse and are committed to ensure that churches are a safe place for all.

Church Times Hattie Williams Bishop apologises for mistakes after Lincoln abuse featured on Panorama

Press Association via Premier Church of England officials ‘turned blind eye’ to child abuse claims

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Richard W. SymondsEnglishAthenaInterested ObserverJanet FifePaul Waddington Recent comment authors
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Richard W. Symonds
Guest

And why is Archbishop Welby ‘untouched’ by this? Surely the Archbishop has to take responsibility for some blame in, for example, the John Smyth abuse ‘cover-up’? As J Gibbs says: “It goes much deeper than the Archbishop wants people to know. Mark Ruston, the Cambridge priest who undertook the first enquiry into Smyth and the Iwerne Trust camps was Welby’s landlord while he was at Cambridge. In an interview with The New York Times, Welby described Mr Ruston as one of his old friends and a great influence on him. Since Welby was involved with Iwerne at the time, it… Read more »

Adrian
Guest
Adrian

Regardless of any guilt or innocence, canonical, judicial, or moral, in the Faith Workers Branch of Unite we represent anyone, regardless of creed or colour etc, and this would extend to archbishops too.

Revd Dean Henley
Guest
Revd Dean Henley

I’m scratching my head thinking why the Archbishop would need the trade union Unite as he has access to the best lawyers the Church Commissioners can hire. My own experience of Unite was sadly that they were all fur and no drawers!

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Lead Bishop for Safeguarding Peter Hancock said in the Panorama programme: “I think there was too much concern about the reputation of the Church, and there was not enough care for those who are themselves victims of abuse” I wish he had also added: “Nor was there – or is there – enough care for those who are themselves victims of false and wrongful accusations of abuse” This is in much the same vein as the concluding sentence of the former Archbishop George Carey, in his letter to the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner: “I do so hope that you… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

My partner was today falsely accused by someone. What she said was, “I know I didn’t do it; you know I didn’t do it; and God knows I didn’t do it. What else matters?” I expected that’s the sort of faith clergy would have.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Perhaps. But it’s undeniably tough when your job and home are at stake. And clergy are public figures, with address, phone number and email address widely publicised, and clergy sins and misdemeanours liable to make headlines. It can make us vulnerable to public abuse.

Incidentally, as your partner is innocent I hope she is also vindicated.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Kate, would it matter if an Archbishop publicly declared there was still a “significant cloud” hanging over your partner’s head?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“I have just watched last night’s Panorama programme on Catch-up. In the light of the numbers of deceased clergy against whom allegations have subsequently been made, it is obvious – if it wasn’t before – that George Bell was a convenient scapegoat whose downfall was orchestrated not only to show the Church authorities to be politically correct, but could be used to try to portray present senior clergy with their outsize inferiority complexes in a superior light”

~ Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“I personally would not fault the Archbishop in that matter. I knew Mark Ruston well – a man of unswerving honesty and an attractive holiness. I simply can’t see him confiding in ++Justin”

~ Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Why did the Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson not appear in the Panorama programme?

David POCKLINGTON
Guest

The Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt. Revd. Christopher Lowson, asked the bishop of Grantham to lead on all safeguarding arrangements in the diocese of Lincoln and formally delegated this responsibility to him from 18th April 2019. https://www.lincoln.anglican.org/news/news-from-edward-king-house-april-2019-7

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

So the poor chap had practically no time to get on top of his brief before being interviewed. The delegation of the safeguarding brief seems to have been very conveniently timed for the diocesan.

Neil
Guest
Neil

The press release makes clear the Bishop has delegated this because his own previous involvement will be part of the investigation, so conflict of interest. I agree, though, it does feel like a hospital pass. The Bishop of Grimsby must be delighted he didn’t get it.

Former Pupil
Guest
Former Pupil

I was a chorister at this cathedral & school when the abuse was going on. It went far further than the one case and multiple clergy were involved, but have got away with it by dying.

Kate
Guest
Kate

May the Lord bless you and comfort you if you were a victim, either directly, or vicariously because of what your peers went through.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

My overwhelming response is sadness. Sadness for the victims, for the perpetrators, for the falsely accused, for the old men who didn’t believe that ordained colleagues could be so “callously wicked” and “wantonly cruel”. There is a particular breed of sadness for the institution which still can’t give a straight answer to a straight question, namely how many cases have there been in the recent review. If it is the case, as Hancock said, that the numbers will be published soon, why prevaricate? As it is, obfuscation just looks like more of the same-old-same-old. The church is unfit to police… Read more »

Revd Dean Henley
Guest
Revd Dean Henley

The Bishop of Bath & Wells says early on in the programme that the Church of England wants to be open and transparent but then declined to be open and transparent when Jane Corbin gave him an opportunity to do so. Surely a bishop would understand that such equivocation compounds the pain and trauma of victims. It is evident that this scandal is being tightly managed by Lambeth Palace but surely they ought to be able to see that the momentum is overwhelmingly against them. Their obfuscation is first and foremost dreadful for the survivors of clerical abuse; but even… Read more »

Paul Waddington
Guest
Paul Waddington

There is a reference to “a newly uncovered file in the York Diocese mentioning a number of abuse cases that have not been examined”. I presume that this file was not damaged in a flood!

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

One can be forgiven for thinking there might be a ‘Billingsgate aroma’ in the air – and has been for a number of years.

The BBC reported in August 17 2013:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-23731066

When was the flooding in the Diocese of York which caused so many relevant files to be ‘lost’?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

The issues raised regarding the ‘lost’ files – after the flood damage at Bishopthorpe Palace – are, in fact, very serious – with very serious implications.

The Cranmer site highlighted the problem last year:

https://archbishopcranmer.com/sentamu-clergy-discipline-commission/

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

The problem with the claim of there only being 13 cases in the whole CofE is that it fails a basic sniff test. You might get away with the “tiny number of bad apples, nothing to see here” defence in 1970, but in 2010 you simply can’t: we now recognise that institutions that provide access to children will tend to attract paedophiles, and that most organisations were bad at dealing with it. Had the figure been ten or more times that, with an accompanying “this was really bad, shows how bad safeguarding was historically, we’re doing a lot better now”… Read more »

EnglishAthena
Guest
EnglishAthena

If you were designing an institution that would maximise the incidence of abuse, of all kinds, something like the Church of England would be it. Even incumbents are lords in their own parishes. There is little or no oversight, often exaggerated respect, snobbery. (As in clergy are believed, laity often not). And very little training, which is often viewed with irritation and downright anger. Bullying is rife, and even the sorts of abuse such as keeping fees, or getting the Reader to take services at very short notice go unnoticed. Radical reform would deal with all of these, at least… Read more »