The Telegraph reported on 13 March: Longest serving Church of England bishop faces calls to resign after court hears he knew about paedophile priest.
The longest-serving bishop in the Church of England is facing calls to resign after it emerged he knew about a paedophile priest in his diocese and did nothing.
The Bishop of Chester, Rt Rev Peter Forster, found out Rev Gordon Dickenson had become embroiled in a child abuse scandal decades earlier when the retired vicar wrote a letter about the affair in 2009.
Dickenson was convicted earlier this month of eight counts of sexual assault after pleading guilty to abusing a boy during the 1970s inside a church hall and even his vicarage.
But ten years ago, Dickenson had written to the Diocese of Chester which was conducting a review of past abuse cases admitting he been accused of the abuse during the 1970s and had promised the then Bishop of Chester he would “never do it again”.
Despite this admission, Bishop Forster failed to pass on the letter to the police or order an internal church inquiry…
Another report from the local Cheshire newspaper is here: Former Warrington vicar jailed for sexually abusing teenage boy.
…This case came to light in 2017 after Cheshire Constabulary published a report into the findings of an investigation into allegations of non-recent sexual abuse made against a former Bishop of Chester.
Operation Coverage focused on allegations made against the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey, dating back to the 1970s and 1980s…
The Church Times reported:Diocese apologises as abuser pleads guilty.
The Diocese of Chester issued this statement on 15 March:
A statement from the Diocese of Chester in response to the sentencing of retired priest, Gordon Dickenson, who was jailed for a total of 27 months during a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court on 15 March 2019.
We can confirm that retired priest, Gordon Dickenson, has been sentenced and jailed for a total of 27 months during a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court. He had previously pleaded guilty to eight counts of sexual activity with a child. This refers to his time as Vicar of Christ Church, Latchford, in 1973 and 1974.
We offer an unreserved apology to the survivor who has shown bravery and courage to share his experiences with the police and we acknowledge how difficult and distressing this must have been for him.
The Diocese has provided full co-operation with the police throughout the current investigation and anyone affected by today’s news should contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser.
It has been reported that Gordon Dickenson wrote a letter to the Diocese, dated 2009, in which he admitted he had been accused of abuse during the 1970s.
The Diocese wishes to apologise for not acting on this information in 2009 and acknowledges that, had it done so, the police may have brought a prosecution against Gordon Dickenson sooner.
An independent review will be conducted into the handling of the case to identify where any failures in procedures arose, and what lessons can be learned.
On the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme this morning, Meg Munn chair of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel, was interviewed about this matter. You can hear what she said here, from about 27.5 minutes in, or in this extract over here.
Martin Sewell has referred to this matter in an article published at Surviving Church: Too important to care about child sexual abuse? Problems for Church and State. Concerning Bishop Forster, he writes in part:
…In both cases, plainly those exercising misjudgement are not bad people. I constantly remind readers that the context of the time must be factored in. However, the time for this to be an excuse allowing us to continue, simply apologising, undertaking a “learned lesson review’ and moving on, has surely passed. That scenario has been played out too many times in too many places. Victims need to see more robust responses either from the individuals concerned or from the relevant institutions.
Until such public figures pay a price, either through voluntarily resignation, through the withdrawal of honours conferred upon them, or through being shunned by the court of public opinion, we shall continue to have a culture of minimisation and cover-up. Hitherto the only ones who have paid a price for these matters coming into the public domain are the victims who have to revisit their history of pain, humiliation, anger and all the tragedies within their personal lives that go with this.
If the Establishment, secular or faith, is to retain any credibility, it is time for its members to grasp the personal responsibility that such cases require. Great reputation and personal advantage goes with public status: with great privilege goes great responsibility. Respect for both victims betrayed and the institutions served requires no more feet shuffling but bold moral acceptance of consequence through principled resignation…