Thinking Anglicans

Bishop Stephen Cottrell: safeguarding statements

A set of three related statements have been published today, and are copied in full below.

There is some additional detail in this Church Times report: Bishop Cottrell owns up to safeguarding lapse.

Statement from Bishop Stephen

“Ten years ago I was approached about a safeguarding allegation regarding a priest. I was able to see the survivor and begin to hear what was a difficult and harrowing story. However, I was moving between roles at the time and although I did speak with colleagues about the actions that needed to be taken, I failed to ensure that these were properly documented and followed through in the way I would expect. Now that I have discovered that this incident was not followed up as it should have been, I am deeply distressed and extremely sorry. Because this has recently come to light, I am both thankful that it is being addressed properly now, but also mindful that in my new position as Archbishop of York it is absolutely essential that I am open and transparent about the need for the whole of our church to be scrupulously honest with each other about any failings in safeguarding.

“In the past, the Church of England has been too quick to protect its own reputation and slow to admit its failings. This must change. Those in public office should be subject to scrutiny. Good safeguarding is an absolute priority for the Church of England and for me personally.

“In the diocese of Chelmsford where I have served for the past 10 years, I have been helped by survivors I have worked with as well as a first rate safeguarding team to have a much greater understanding of why safeguarding itself is so important and how we must be prepared to confront our failings and learn from them. Therefore, although I am embarrassed that I did not follow this up as scrupulously as I should have done 10 years ago, I want to go on the record about what has happened in order to demonstrate a new spirit of openness and transparency over how we ensure that the church is as safe as it can be, that survivors are listened to and dealt with honestly, and perpetrators brought to justice.

Statement from Archbishop Justin

“I have been fully briefed on this matter and have read the independent legal advice.  I have also spoken at length with Stephen. He clearly should have informed the authorities and made fuller notes of what he did in this case. He has shown humility in immediately admitting he failed to act as he should have done in this case, when the matter was raised with him by the NST this year.  He has also said so publicly. I am also reassured that he did refer it on and saw the significance of offering support and contacting the survivor who must always be the priority. While I cannot comment further on this case, our IICSA hearings have shown the journey the Church is still on to be a safer place for all and I pray that this experience will strengthen his commitment to safeguarding and ministry as the Archbishop of York.

“I am looking forward to working with Stephen and we commit ourselves to continue to learn lessons and to recognise and accept we all need to be open and forthright in striving to make the church a safe place for all.  This means listening to survivors and constantly examining our own actions and recognising our vulnerability as well as calling on all to demonstrate our commitment to care for all.”

Statement from National Safeguarding Team

“Concerns were referred to the National Safeguarding Team, NST, earlier this year about the handling of a case by Bishop Stephen 10 years ago after information came to light from a clergy file. The concerns raised were about the action taken following allegations of domestic abuse perpetrated by a parish priest. At the time Bishop Stephen responded to the survivor, offered support and subsequently referred the allegation within the diocese, but did not ensure the matter was referred to the statutory authorities or directly to the diocesan safeguarding adviser. The NST has now investigated the matter, taken independent advice and interviewed Bishop Stephen.

“He has shown insight and humility in accepting that he failed to act as he should have done in relation to a serious matter and acknowledged his own ability to fully recognise and respond to safeguarding concerns in 2010 was compromised by a lack of training and understanding, which he has subsequently sought to address.

“The NST investigation concluded that he posed no current risk of not responding appropriately to safeguarding disclosures and that informal action was a reasonable and proportionate response to the case.”

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Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago

“…in my new position as Archbishop of York it is absolutely essential that I am open and transparent…” – Bishop Stephen Cottrell.   This is simply not good enough. It was absolutely essential he, as Bishop, was open and transparent.   Lives and reputations have been irreparably damaged because of the ‘safeguarding’ failures of the now Archbishop of York – not just the victims of abuse but also the victims of false accusations [Bishop George Bell and former Archbishop George Carey immediately come to mind – but there are so many others].   As for Archbishop Justin Welby’s vacuous response,… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
John S
John S
2 months ago

I am sorry to have to do this, but if, once again, a parallelism is going to be drawn between victims of abuse and victims of false accusations, then, once again, I feel compelled to say that I do not accept that parallelism, which I think undermines the message that we understand the severity of the abuse perpetrated by members of the church.
 
(And I’m not entirely sure that Carey has been a victim of false accusations, has he? Certainly not in the same way as Bell?)

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago
Reply to  John S

John S, this is not a competition as to which victims suffer the most – victims of sexual abuse or victims who are falsely [or wrongly] accused of sexual abuse. Both suffer severely and both suffer severe injustice. Nobody is undermining anybody.
 

Last edited 2 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Just sayin'
Just sayin'
2 months ago

Moving between roles? Hard to see why it was appropriate to talk to colleagues rather than simply act on the information received. It only takes a ‘phone call. How wise is it that the C of E machine appears determined to roll on regardless, and what might it say to the wider world about our claims to be trusted in the future ?

Kate
Kate
2 months ago

This is truly unfortunate. Had this come to light before Stephen’s appointment as Archbishop of York, the facts could properly have been weighed when assessing his suitability for the role. If he was then appointed, his appointment would have been without taint. Now the timing makes it look as though the matter was suppressed just long enough for him to be selected as Archbishop of York. That the NST statement avoids giving a date adds to this negative impression. “He has … acknowledged his own ability to fully recognise and respond to safeguarding concerns in 2010 was compromised by a… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Kate
Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
2 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Until Bishop Stephen’s Translation is legally facilitated by the Confirmation of his appointment, he is not yet Archbishop of York, but is still Bishop of Chelmsford. once the Act of Confirmation is read he Ipso facto becomes Archbishop at that point and ceases to be Bishop of Chelmsford. So it would be a case of withdrawing (not resigning) from Being Archbishop of York, and formally resigning the See of Chelmsford with immediate affect. One can only resign from a role, once one has been legally confirmed into that role, but on this side of Confirmation, we would be talking about… Read more »

Kate
Kate
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal

I originally wrote it as “withdrawing” and changed it to “resigning” because I thought that was more accessible to the obvious reader.

I don’t think he needs to resign as Bishop of Chelmsford so I take your point and, on further reflection, agree that I should have written “withdrawing”.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
2 months ago

We have to learn lessons from this. Before a bishop is promoted in the CofE, it’s advisable to air any dirty linen in public before the The Sun does it for them.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago
Reply to  FrDavid H

Perhaps now is a good time for Justin Welby to also be “open and transparent” about his own ‘safeguarding’ failures as Archbishop of Canterbury – before The Sun [and/or IICSA] does it for him.
 
To be honest, there’s more chance of a flypast of pigs over Lambeth Palace.
 

Last edited 2 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Froghole
Froghole
2 months ago

It will be interesting to know whether the oversight referred to in this briefing was more, or less, heinous than that alleged to have been committed by the bishop of Lincoln (who, with his legal advisers, must be reading this news with interest). Of course, we do not yet know what Bishop Lowson did or didn’t do – but then again, we don’t know from this ‘story’ what Archbishop Cottrell did or didn’t do (or whether the act or omission was made known to the CNC).   Query: can the archbishop of one province suspend that of another? My understanding… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
2 months ago
Reply to  Froghole

I am not commenting about this case other than to answer the hypothetical question about suspension of an archbishop. The procedure is complex but is provided for in CDM 37. The action is taken by the archbishop of one province against the archbishop of the other province with the agreement of the two most senior (by continuous episcopal service) bishops of the other province. Clearly it is not going to happen in this case in view of the statement from Archbishop Justin.
 

Last edited 2 months ago by Rowland Wateridge
Froghole
Froghole
2 months ago

Mr Wateridge: Many thanks for clarifying that point, and for looking at the Measure! That’s very (and characteristically) kind of you.

Roger Hill
Roger Hill
2 months ago

Please may we gave at least the gist of the two pieces referred to in the Telegraph? Thanks

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago
Reply to  Roger Hill

“Welby personifies the madness of our times” – Telegraph Front Page – 29/06/2020
 
“Welby is rewriting the principles that hold our societies together” – Telegraph – Page 16 – 29/06/2020

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago

“It’s at times like these that one needs a laugh. This discussion has provided it. One can often rely on bishops (and archbishops – Ed) for this purpose, but at present they generate the hollow laughter of incipient despair”

– Another ‘TA’ contributor

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
2 months ago

Obviously both the original abuse and Bishop Cottrell’s failure to to deal with it decisively must have been very difficult for the survivor – and probably still is difficult. It would appear from the NST statement that the recent investigation didn’t result from a complaint by the survivor, but from a review of clergy files – possibly PCR2. That investigation and current publicity may therefore have made the survivor’s situation even more unpleasant. I am disappointed that none of the the three statements above expresses any concern for that survivor.   Having said all that, I find the chorus of… Read more »

Kate
Kate
2 months ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

There are more details in the Church Times https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2020/3-july/news/uk/bishop-cottrell-owns-up-to-safeguarding-lapse My criticism of Stephen isn’t for the original lapse per se but a) his lack of transparency in informing the CNC b) his failure to withdraw from so that the CNC can formally re-litigate the selection since obviously material facts have become known before his formal confirmation, and c) now that I have read your comment, I believe he has compounded his original lapse by splashing the story across the national press without consulting the survivor (if she is still alive) and potentially any children of the marriage. I think the… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
2 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I don’t have a sub to the Church Times so I don’t know what’s in the article you posted a link to. It isn’t clear to me that Bp. Cottrell knew, when being interviewed by the CNC, that his handling of this case had gone awry. Nor is it clear that it was Bp. Cottrell’s initiative to publicise the story; and we don’t know whether the survivor’s permission was sought before the statements were made.   I repeat that if there are howls of outrage every time mistakes become public, we will never arrive at the truth re. safeguarding lapses,… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago

If the soon-to-be Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell is in the mood to apologise, perhaps he should apologise for what he said in the House of Lords in June 2016 regarding Bishop George Bell – before two independent investigations [commissioned by the Church] concluded that the allegations of sexual abuse against him were unfounded:   “It is therefore a very painful blow to me, as it is to many in the Church and in wider society, that a man of such extraordinary gifts could also have been so flawed”.   While we are about it, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
2 months ago

Can you imagine a statement like that being made by Stephen Cottrell’s predecessor as Archbishop of York? Even when he was rumbled over his failure to secure a DBS enhanced disclosure for his own wife (before he ordained her as a deacon) at the IICSA it was all bluster and seeking to justify himself.At least you sense Cottrell is a human being who is genuinely troubled by this. Also, I am guessing his track record since has been impressive because (see the thread relating to the announcement of his appointment) from what I overheard from that conversation in the pub… Read more »

Father David
2 months ago

Am I correct in thinking that Archbishop Welby had to gain the consent of three senior diocesan bishops before he could formally suspend the Bishop of Lincoln now over a year ago?
I wish Bishop Stephen every good wish as he begins his ministry as ABY. He is an inspired choice to lead the church in the Northern Province and a worthy successor to John Sentamu. He was indeed a first rate Bishop of Chelmsford and a very fine preacher.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
2 months ago

Birmingham and Worcester: senior by continuous length of service as bishops (not senior by virtue of office: London and Winchester, in that order).

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
2 months ago

I think the timing of this is fairly easily explained. All dioceses are doing PCR2 at present (Past cases review repeat for thoroughness). It looks as though this omission and failure of process only emerged during PCR2 – so it wouldn’t have been spotted or known about when the CNC was taking place. So, the chain of events would have been (1) case emerges from PCR2 Blue File Review (2) reported to National Safeguarding Team (3) Stephen is presented with the facts about the failure of process and issues statement. That would seem to me to be a better paradigm… Read more »

Kate
Kate
2 months ago
Reply to  Pete Broadbent

That’s very helpful thank you. It is the sort of information which should have been included in the NST statement.

As a general rule, however, if something major comes to light before confirmation the CNC should reconvene to reconsider the matter. If announcements are seen as binding then they are treated as more important than the religious service and that cannot be right.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago

An interesting letter has appeared in the Church Times today – 03/07/2020:   The National Safeguarding Team and suspensions   From Mr Philip Johanson   Sir, — Looking on from the outside, one could be forgiven for concluding that the National Safeguarding Team does not operate on a level playing field.   We are told by the National Safeguarding Team that a safeguarding matter in the Reading Episcopal Area, which occurred ten years ago, came to light earlier this year. It was not handled fully in the way that it should have been by the then Area Bishop, Stephen Cottrell. While the… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago

And another interesting letter on the same subject in the Church Times this week [03/07/2020]:   From Mr David Lamming – Member of General Synod   Sir, — The former Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Richard Llewellin, is surely right to aver (Letters, 26 June) that it is “safeguarding gone mad” to suspend a bishop or priest from active ministry “whose only possible fault is that he or she has failed in some way to act decisively regarding an alleged abuser”.   In some cases, such suspension may be justified, but when, as in the case of the Bishop… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
2 months ago

When we are talking about John Smyth and who knew what, something that has been very much at the back of my mind for some time , and which seems very logical to me. First if we go on the old principle of innocent until proved Guilty, we have to give Archbishop Justin the benefit of the doubt, assume he is telling the truth, that he did not know about the abusive activities of John Smyth, with those caught up in his Cult circle. However looking at the other side of the coin, if it emerges in evidence he gives… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal

John Smyth’s abusive activities in England largely took place at a time when Justin Welby was an oil company executive (and of eleven years in that job, five were based in Paris) and when he had yet to be ordained priest. Indeed Smyth had left the country nine years before Justin Welby was first ordained.   I have absolutely no axe to grind, but a chronology might help in giving some perspective on possible contact and knowledge of John Smyth. Justin Welby was ordained deacon 1992, priest 1993, both in Coventry Cathedral, followed by parish ministry in the Coventry Diocese,… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago

The question is simple and needs to be answered:
 
Did the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby know about John Smyth’s abusive behaviour before 2013, or not?
 
The Archbishop has categorically denied any knowledge of Smyth’s abuse.
 
Do we believe him, or not?
 
http://thewartburgwatch.com/2017/10/18/did-justin-welby-archbishop-of-canterbury-know-about-john-smyths-alleged-abuse-of-boys-prior-to-2013/

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
2 months ago

Richard: We don’t know, and nor does the New York Times whose journalism dealing with overseas matters is usually impeccable. The link which you posted only reinforces what I said above; some of the comments there are sheer speculation and many seem to be written by Americans commenting on what happens in English public schools (with some of which I agree), but it doesn’t answer the question. We must wait for some authoritative, reliable evidence.   I suspect that our views are more aligned in relation to the treatment of Bishop Bell, Archbishop Carey and the Bishop of Lincoln, but… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago

RW, you say: “We don’t know…We must wait…”
 
We have waited patiently so many times before and got nowhere. We have now run out of patience with a Church of England hierarchy which has clearly no intention of telling us what we need to know. Waiting is no longer an option
 
As Martin Sewell concludes in his letter to General Synod members:
 
“Sometimes a disruptive challenge is the only right thing to do”

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago

General Synod’s David Lamming ends his Church Times letter thus:   “Frankly, the Church’s action is both cruel and irrational, and the PTO should be restored forthwith”   It is worth being reminded – again – of what Revd Graham Sawyer said at the IICSA in July 2018:   “The sex abuse that was perpetrated upon me by Peter Ball pales into insignificance when compared to the entirely cruel and sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by officials, both lay and ordained. I know from the testimony of other people who have got in touch with me… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago

General Synod’s Martin Sewell ends his letter to a fellow Synod member thus:   https://archbishopcranmer.com/christ-church-martyn-percy-conspiracy-lawyers-pr-safeguarding/   “I am sure that in Montgomery in 1955 you would not have urged Rosa Parks to have obeyed the rules and gone quietly to the back of the bus. In the same way, Dean Martyn Percy is taking a stand against deep injustices because he knows he is just the latest in a long line of victims of our peculiar institution, which does not appreciate how cruel its behaviour is, or how it misuses the serious power we give it. Sometimes a disruptive challenge… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
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