Updated see below the fold
Following on from a Facebook discussion initiated yesterday by Robin Ward and a blog article at Archbishop Cranmer there have been several mainstream media reports of the guidance issued by the Diocese of Canterbury relating to this topic.
The original guidance which was published in 2015, so not a new development, can be found here. The relevant section is on page 33.
The contentious wording is this:
Any priest hearing a confession, regularly or otherwise, must say prior to hearing that confession the following statement of confidentiality and safeguarding:
“If you touch on any matter in your confession that raises a concern about the wellbeing or safeguarding of another person or yourself, I am duty bound to pass that information on to the relevant agencies, which means that I am unable to keep such information confidential.”
The diocese issued a clarification yesterday in response to media queries: Confession & safeguarding.
“Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults must be our highest priority and is at the heart of all our responsibilities,” said Julian Hills, Diocesan Secretary. “While there have been only a tiny number of criminal cases in which the seal of the confession has been in issue, it is unclear whether a criminal court would favour the responsibility to protect someone from abuse or the requirement of a priest to maintain confidentiality. The decision to issue this guidance arose out of a genuine situation where, during confession, a penitent shared with a priest information about ongoing abuse. In this case, the legal and moral position of the priest was called into question. It was therefore felt by the Diocesan Safeguarding Management Group that clergy must have clear guidance on how to manage situations where the seal of confession may be brought into conflict with their safeguarding responsibilities.
“This guidance has not – as some have claimed – ‘abolished the Seal of the Confessional.’ Rather, it is intended to advise the penitent not to divulge in confession something which would legally compromise the position of the priest – and therefore require that priest to choose between their responsibility to protect someone from harm and the usual requirement of confidentiality.
“The guidance was drafted in early 2015, after seeking independent legal advice and in consultation with the then Acting Head of Delivery for the National Safeguarding Team. We understand that this issue is being considered nationally and that it is due to be discussed by the House of Bishops in December.”
The Times (£) Don’t report abuse during confession, Church warns
This topic has been discussed extensively on Thinking Anglicans in recent years. Here are links to our previous articles:
The Diocese of Truro has published this report:
…The key findings of the review are:
- The diocese failed to instigate an independent investigation upon people within the diocese becoming aware of allegations of child abuse made against Jeremy Dowling.
- There was an unacceptable reliance within the diocese on, and probably misunderstanding of, the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to proceed with a prosecution.
- There was ongoing knowledge of the situation among senior figures in the diocese well into the 1980s.
- In line with national policy and requirements the diocese has developed child protection and safeguarding policies. This has progressed and developed through the decades to the current situation overseen by the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel which has significant external membership.
- Current processes are robust and well thought-out but need continual monitoring and promotion. Senior post-holders in the diocese understand their roles and responsibilities and know how to respond to any allegation of abuse they receive.
The report makes six recommendations, all of which have been accepted by the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel. The panel also made a further recommendation of its own which has been accepted by the Bishop’s Diocesan Council (See Appendix 3 of the report).
The full text of the report is available here.
There has been some media coverage:
There has also been a critical analysis by a survivor of sexual abuse: A review of the Dowling Review by Gilo which includes this:
…But there is another much more glaring omission. There is no mention of any survivors. They are invisible. Presumably they experienced the cover-ups and failure of appropriate response. Some may have tried to raise awareness as they watched Dowling rise up the diocesan ladder. But their experience and any insights on how the diocese responded to them – is totally absent. This omission is disturbing. It suggests a remit very purposefully constructed to withhold information whilst giving out carefully selected information. I imagine Dr Thompson cannot be blamed. But perhaps he should have asked Nigel Druce of the Diocesan Safeguarding Panel why such a wafer-thin remit. Why are the primary voices, the voices of survivors, not being invited to offer any insights to this diocese? Dr Andy Thompson is a leading lay figure in the diocese and on the Bishop’s Council in the diocese. I can’t help thinking a more independent and experienced reviewer would have spotted this obvious hole immediately…
There are two items in today’s Church Times that relate to this subject.
Letter to the editor (scroll down)
The House of Bishops and abuse survivors
From Mr Andrew Graystone
Sir, — At the General Synod in February, the House of Bishops once again promised a “new culture” in the way that the Church relates to victims of its abuse (News, 16 February). Since then, there has been no indication of what that new culture might look like, or how or when it will be realised. Indeed, since February there has been minimal contact between the bishops and victims.
The suggestion in a private letter that the National Safeguarding Team is “in the process of developing the terms of reference for a Working Group on Cultural Change” caused hearty laughter among weary victims.
When pressed, individual bishops have dropped hints that “something is being worked out” and will be revealed in due course. This is inadequate for at least two reasons.
The first is that it fails to recognise that the climate of nods and winks, secrecy, and fixing things up in private, is precisely the environment in which abuse thrives. Bishops working things out behind closed doors is the problem; it cannot also be the solution.
The second is that the bishops have yet to face the fact that they are neither qualified nor equipped to fix the Church’s problems in this area. By definition, many have risen to the top through abusive cultures. They are unable to recognise their own privilege and are unwilling to admit their own victimhood. They are horses trying to muck out their own stable.
Until the Bishops admit their inadequacy in this area and call on victims and independent experts to advise, all they will succeed in doing is spreading the muck around.
17 Rushford Avenue
Manchester M19 2HG
And there is a brief news item headed Welby ‘will take no further action’ against Croft over abuse case (scroll down)
THE Archbishop of Canterbury has declined to discipline the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, over alleged failings to handle properly a disclosure of abuse. The Revd Matthew Ineson, who says that he was raped while a child by another cleric, the late Trevor Devamanikkam (News, 16 March), made a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure against Dr Croft. Mr Ineson said that Dr Croft did not take any action after being told about the alleged abuse. Mr Ineson said that he had received a letter from Archbishop Welby which said that he “will take no further action”. The Archbishop said, however, that he would ensure that Dr Croft undertook further safeguarding training and understood his responsibilities as a diocesan bishop. Mr Ineson said that he was preparing to appeal against Archbishop Welby’s decision not to discipline Dr Croft.15 Comments
IICSA issued an interim report yesterday.
There is an excellent summary of the points relevant to churches at Law & Religion UK titled IICSA Interim Report: Main points.
The Church of England also issued a press release.
The Church Times has a report: ‘A dog collar is like a key to everyone’s front room in the parish’.
Christian Today has this: Abuse victims can feel ‘abandoned or punished by a god’, IICSA interim abuse report says.0 Comments
During the recent IICSA hearings, much was made of the way personal files of Church of England clergy were handled in the past. But what about the present?
The guidelines for bishops and their staff about the handling of clergy personal files are very clearly set out in a document dated April 2013, Personal Files relating to Clergy – Guidance for bishops and their staff which is available online here.
This document reflects the data protection legislation in force at the time it was written. New legislation on this subject comes into force on 25 May 2018, so the document will need to be updated soon, if it has not already happened. But the current guidelines are quite clearly stated and updating to the latest requirements will not be difficult.
However, it’s not at all clear that they are being consistently implemented across all dioceses. The evidence for this assertion is contained in a recently published article by Colin Coward: Clergy Blue Files and the illegal behaviour of bishops and their chaplains. This reports on recent email exchanges between a small number of chaplains to diocesan bishops.
Emails between four bishops’ chaplains asking questions about whether priests can be shown their Clergy Current Status Letter (CCSL) have been sent to me. Clergy Current Status Letters are sent by the bishop of the diocese from where a priest is moving to the bishop of the diocese to which they are moving. The emails show that some bishops and their chaplains have not read or do not understand the “Guidance for bishops and their staff Approved by the House of Bishops on 13th March 2013” concerning “Personal Files Relating to Clergy”…
Colin has posted a follow-up article: The Church of England’s systemically abusive culture which includes a letter he has written to the archbishops about all this, as well as discussing several other recent events.10 Comments
Andrew Chandler, the biographer of Bishop George Bell, gave the address at a service of fellowship and encouragement for all those who have been affected by false allegations of abuse which was held on Saturday 17th March 2018, at St James’s Church Piccadilly.
The full text can be read here.
First published on the FACTUK.org website and published here with kind permission of Andrew Chandler & FACT.
FACT is a UK based, voluntary, not for profit organisation, founded more than 16 years ago, whose work is focused on providing support to those who have been accused of abuse who maintain their innocence and who have never carried out similar offences or pleaded guilty to such offences. More detail here.5 Comments
There are numerous reports in the media about this.
Olivia Rudgard in the Telegraph has Bishop George Bell investigation dropped by Sussex Police
Chichester Observer Police drop sex abuse investigation into Bishop Bell
Church Times Police drop latest investigation into George Bell
…The statement makes it clear that the police have no current safeguarding concerns, and that, therefore, no further investigation is necessary.
A spokeswoman for the Church of England’s national safeguarding team said that they had been conducting their own separate investigation since the new information was received in January. “We cannot make any further comment until the investigation is completed,” she said…
Today the Church Times has a two page spread of articles following up on the IICSA hearings.
Leader comment: Safeguarding: the next steps
…These pages contain a range of different perspectives on how to tackle sexual abuse; and yet there is a common desire to make safeguarding comprehensive and effective. This sounds like stating the obvious. There is a danger, however, pointed out most clearly by Josephine Anne Stein, that the type of safeguarding being promoted throughout the Church is modelled on a pattern designed to protect institutions from prosecution. A Christian organisation must do better than this…
Linda Woodhead Forget culture. It’s a new theology we need
Josephine Anne Stein: The safeguarding overhaul that’s needed
…Safeguarding in the Church of England has burgeoned into a procedural, bureaucratic, and bloated industry that does not appear to be effective either in responding to abuse or in preventing further abuse. When checked earlier this year, the C of E’s safeguarding policy posted on the National Safeguarding Team’s website consisted of 364 separate pages…
…THERE are alternative approaches to safeguarding within the healthcare sector, grounded in the development of professional ethics, the regular assessment of fitness to practise, and professional discipline.
There are also alternatives to formal safeguarding complaints procedures that combine knowledge and experience from occupational psychology, specialist social work, and restorative justice, much of which is unfamiliar within the Church.
Furthermore, there are inexpensive and empowering ways to improve knowledge and understanding of both the causes of and responses to abuse in different constituencies within the Church — a bottom-up approach in contrast to current centralised, top-down training. If everyone in the Church is responsible for safeguarding, everyone is also responsible for ownership of safeguarding…
The Church Times reported on both of those here: Sorry not enough, Archbishops’ letter says after IICSA, and a survivor agrees.
The BBC radio programme Sunday carried a lengthy report available to listen to here (starts at 28 minutes).
The Independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in the Anglican Church concluded three weeks of hearing this week. Phil Johnson, abuse survivor, talks to Emily Buchanan about what the hearings have meant to him. Bishop Alan Wilson, long term critic of the Church on its handling of clerical sex abuse cases, discusses the positives and negatives to have emerged. And Bishop Mark Sowerby, the deputy lead bishop for Safeguarding responds. Martin Bashir BBC Religion Correspondent provides analysis.
Martin Sewell has written at Archbishop Cranmer In Holy Week we should hold our Archbishops’ feet to the fire.
And Martyn Percy has written for Modern Church Church of England ‘no longer competent’ to manage safeguarding, says senior cleric.
The full article is available here.14 Comments
Surviving Church has published this: Survivor’s Reply to Archbishops’ pastoral letter.
The author is Janet Fife.
Please read the whole letter.19 Comments
From the York diocesan website: Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse: Archbishops’ Joint Pastoral Letter
The Archbishops of York and Canterbury have written a joint Pastoral Letter for wide circulation following the end of the hearing which took place over the last three weeks as part of the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
“We are writing to you to ask for your prayers as Holy Week begins and as the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse has finished its hearing into matters in the Diocese of Chichester. Please will you pray this Holy Week especially for all those involved, and for all affected by safeguarding issues.”
Archbishops Sentamu and Justin hope that their letter can either be read out or distributed this weekend and at the start of Holy Week.
“We take very seriously all that has been heard by the Inquiry. Archbishop Justin said when he gave evidence last week that he had learned again through listening and reading the evidence given to the Inquiry, that we must not simply say sorry, but that we must also take action that demonstrates clearly that we have learnt the lessons. It is a fact that Bishops and Archbishops are now rightly required to listen, learn and act in accordance with safeguarding legislation and good practice.”
Please download the Archbishops’ letter below:
Joint Pastoral Letter from the Archbishops of York and Canterbury: IICSA
For circulation following the end of the hearing which took place during March 2018 as part of the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
The final day in this three week period of hearings has concluded and the transcript is available here.
Many documents have at last been uploaded to the IICSA website, and I will publish links to some of the more important ones in a separate article soon.
Before today’s hearing there were some comments about the hearings made yesterday, including these:
Guardian editorial: The Guardian view of abuse in the church: a truly dreadful story
Michael Sadgrove Child Sexual Abuse – what does the church do about shame?
Archbishop Cranmer Welby condemns the church’s deferential culture of clericalism and tribalism
Law & Religion UK IICSA: Archbishop Welby’s evidence session
And earlier, another article which I failed to link to previously: IICSA: Some legal views
Reports on today’s session:6 Comments
Updated Thursday morning
The transcript of the final day of taking evidence from live witnesses can be found here.
There will be no hearing tomorrow, Thursday. On Friday the final portions of some written statements will be read into the record, and that will be followed by statements from the lawyers representing various “core participants”.
Press Association via Daily Mail Abusers may be forgiven but can never be trusted again, Archbishop tells inquiry
The Times Abuse makes me ashamed of church, says Welby (£)
Anglican Communion News Service
Archbishop of Canterbury gives evidence to Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
Religion News Service via Colorado Springs Gazette Archbishop of Canterbury: Church has failed to protect children from abuse
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church IICSA -reflections on Welby’s conclusions7 Comments
Updated again Wednesday afternoon
The transcript of the Anglican hearings for Monday 19 March is available here.
Witnesses heard were: two survivors, the Bishop of Manchester (concerning religious coummunities) and Graham Tilby (head of the National Safeguarding Team).
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church
Safeguarding – reconciling two perspectives.
The comments below this article, including those from Ian Elliott, author of one of the earlier reports, are worth reading.
The transcript for Tuesday is now published.
Media Reports:6 Comments
in other news related to safeguarding, the Church Times last Friday carried a report on the case of Matthew Ineson.
Also, the Church of England Newspaper reports: Abuse survivor calls for senior bishops to resign over failures
Thinking Anglicans has reported on this case previously:
The TV programme mentioned in the above report was linked in this article.0 Comments
Friday’s transcript is now available here.
Next week’s schedule is published here.
Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, IICSA (The archbishop is scheduled to appear on Wednesday)
Media reports and comment:
Leader Comment: A shambles is no safeguard
Letter to the Editor from Andrew Graystone Bishops ought to clarify the change in culture on abuse (scroll down for this letter)
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church IICSA – A promise to ‘change the culture’ of the Church?19 Comments
Transcripts for these two days are available:
Wednesday 14 March
Note: this item has been removed from the IICSA website, presumably this is only temporary.
The appearance on Wednesday of former Archbishop Rowan Williams generated a increase in media attention:
Guardian Williams: church’s old views on gay clergy led to desire not to judge sexual activities
Telegraph Church overlooked sexual abuse by bishop because he was gay, former Archbishop suggests
Press Association via Daily Mail Sexist Church culture may be linked to failure to tackle child abuse – Williams
Church Times Lord Williams backs abuse survivors’ demand for independent safeguarding body at IICSA
Christian Today Church ‘overcompensated’ for conservative stance on homosexuality by treating paedophile bishop lightly
The Tablet Rowan Williams admits failings over C of E child abuse
The Times Archbishop ‘shielded from sex abuse row’ (£) and this is further explained in a report at Christian Today Church’s approach to abuse was to ‘stonewall’ and ‘say nothing’, says Rowan Williams’ former aide
BBC Child abuse inquiry: Diocese had ‘major issue’
Christian Today Church has bias against abuse victims and ‘culture of deference and defensiveness’, bishop admits
Church Times I was shocked by what I found in Chichester diocese, Dr Warner tells IICSA hearing
The transcript for Tuesday 13 March is available here. Witnesses were The Revd Canon and Worshipful Dr Rupert Bursell QC, Professor Julie Macfarlane, and Bishop Mark Sowerby.
Church Times Abuse survivor tells IICSA of her battle for justice2 Comments
The transcript of today’s hearing, which was entirely devoted to the evidence of Bishop Wallace Benn, is now available.
The following item was written before today’s hearing and reflects the evidence given last week by others:
Revealed: How former bishop failed to report paedophile priests
The transcript from Friday’s hearing is now published.
The timetable for next week’s hearings is available here.
Monday includes Bishop Wallace Benn
Tuesday includes Bishop Mark Sowerby
Wednesday includes Bishop Martin Warner and former archbishop Rowan Williams
Thursday includes Bishop Nicholas Reade
Friday includes Graham Tilby
Media reports:0 Comments