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.”
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