Thinking Anglicans

Safeguarding debate at General Synod

On Saturday morning, 7 July, following Morning Worship and a Presidential Address by the Archbishop of York, the synod will consider the topic of Safeguarding. There will be a presentation, followed by questions, followed by a debate. However, the relevant document, GS 2092 will not be published until Friday 22 June but we do now know the wording of the motion that will be proposed. It is highly likely to attract numerous amendments.


7 Presentation under SO 107.

Note: The Business Committee has determined under SO 107(3) that this presentation should include an opportunity for questions.

8 The Bishop of Bath and Wells to move:

That this Synod, recognising that safeguarding is at the heart of Christian mission and the urgent need for the Church of England to continue to become a safer place for all and a refuge for those who suffer abuse in any context:

(a) endorse the priorities for action outlined in the report (GS 2092); and

(b) call on the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council to ensure that the plan of action is implemented as a matter of priority.

GS Misc 1192 Summary of decisions by the House of Bishops and Delegated Committees, contains brief reports of various meetings that have considered Safeguarding. The relevant extracts are copied below the fold. I have changed the order of the meetings to put them in chronological order.



Safeguarding and the Seal of the Confessional

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.”

Media reports:

Archbishop Cranmer CofE: ‘Come and confess your sins, but we might have to report you to the police’

Church Times Our confessional guidance is not uncanonical, Canterbury diocese says

Christian Today Church accused of breaking canon law by ordering priests to report abuse heard in confession box

Telegraph Christians told not to confess sex abuse secrets to Church of England clergy because they will tell the police

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:

  • Tuesday, 28 October 2014 Seal of the Confessional. Note that links to CofE documents in that post are broken, because of the way in which that website was rebuilt last year. The key document, GS Misc 1085 has now moved to here.



Truro diocese publishes Jeremy Dowling case review

The Diocese of Truro has published this report:

A case review concerning Jeremy Dowling, his selection and employment within the Diocese of Truro

…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:

BBC Bishops ‘ignored’ Jeremy Dowling child sex abuse

Guardian Four bishops failed to act over abuse by synod member, review finds

Cornwall Live Church knew about allegations before Cornish preacher went on to abuse boys, investigation reveals

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…

1 Comment

Bishops and Safeguarding

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.


Interim report from IICSA

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.


Clergy Blue Files and Data Protection

Updated Friday

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.


Andrew Chandler writes about Bishop George Bell

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 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.


Sussex Police close their investigation into Bishop George Bell

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…


Safeguarding needs a major overhaul

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…

Martin Warner Safeguarding: what we got wrong, and the steps we are taking to put it right

Linda Woodhead Forget culture. It’s a new theology we need

Anonymous: Sex-offender asks: are only the righteous called to repentance?

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…


Further analysis of the IICSA hearings

Since the hearings concluded last week, there have been several further reports in addition to the letter from the archbishops and the response from Janet Fife.

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.


A response to the Archbishops

Surviving Church has published this: Survivor’s Reply to Archbishops’ pastoral letter.

The author is Janet Fife.

Please read the whole letter.


IICSA: Archbishops' Joint Pastoral Letter

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 (IICS


IICSA hearings – Friday 23 March

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:

Church Times Church of England would be shut down if it were a school, survivors’ lawyer tells final IICSA hearing

Christian Today Church of England made ‘conscious effort to treat survivors badly’, inquiry hears

Guardian Child abuse inquiry: ‘collusion and cover-up’ rife among C of E clergy

The Tablet Church of England ‘inappropriate’ organisation to have charge of children, inquiry hears


IICSA hearings – Wednesday 21 March

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”.

Media reports:

Church Times
‘I am ashamed of the Church’, Archbishop Welby admits to IICSA

Christian Today
Archbishop of Canterbury goes before child sex abuse hearings
Justin Welby: Child sex abuse by priests will ‘destroy the Church’ if it continues

The Tablet
Archbishop Welby to give evidence at national inquiry into child sexual abuse
Archbishop Welby ‘appalled and ashamed’ of Church of England

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 (£)

Guardian Justin Welby: sexual abusers can never be trusted again

Belfast Telegraph Archbishop tells child abuse inquiry he is ‘ashamed’ of Church
Abusers may be forgiven but can never be trusted again, Archbishop tells inquiry

Anglican Communion News Service
Archbishop of Canterbury gives evidence to Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Telegraph Justin Welby: I have learned to be ashamed of the Church of England

Daily Mail
Archbishop of Canterbury fights back tears to tell child abuse inquiry he is ‘ashamed of the Church’ as he says abusers must be forgiven but can ‘never be trusted again’

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 conclusions


IICSA hearings – Monday/Tuesday 19/20 March

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).

Media reports:

Church Times
Church must create ‘culture of challenge’ Peter Ball survivor tells IICSA

Abuse allegations must be reported, Church of England safeguarding adviser tells IICSA

Christian Today
Abuse inquiry reveals Church’s ‘stupidity, incompetence and lying’, says bishop

Serious abuse by priests could still go unreported, Church’s safeguarding chief admits

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:

Christian Today
Clergy burnt church files after being accused of covering up abuse, inquiry hears

Church Times
IICSA latest: the dean’s bonfire and the destroyed report at Chichester Cathedral


Further reports on abuse survivor Matthew Ineson

in other news related to safeguarding, the Church Times last Friday carried a report on the case of Matthew Ineson.

See Sex abuse survivor Matthew Ineson criticises ‘inaction’ of senior clerics in BBC programme.

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.

Church of England issues statement about Matthew Ineson

Matthew Ineson responds to statement from NST


IICSA hearings – Friday 16 March


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:

Church Times
Church must accept past faults, says Chichester diocesan Visitor Robert Bursell QC

‘I don’t recall hearing about Chichester’s problems,’ Lord Carey tells IICSA

Archdeacon tells IICSA: ‘I couldn’t believe a priest would lie to me’

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?


IICSA hearings – Wednesday/Thursday 14/15 March

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.

Thursday 15 March

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

Further reports:
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


IICSA hearings – Tuesday 13 March

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.

Media reports:

Church Times Abuse survivor tells IICSA of her battle for justice


IICSA hearings – Monday 12 March

The transcript of today’s hearing, which was entirely devoted to the evidence of Bishop Wallace Benn, is now available.

Media reports:

Church Times
Don’t blame me for safeguarding blunders, former Bishop of Lewes, Wallace Benn, tells IICSA hearing

Christian Today
Bishop claims he was ‘scapegoated’ over child sex abuse allegations
Bishop admits ‘hunch’ about paedophile priest but says he was powerless to stop him

The following item was written before today’s hearing and reflects the evidence given last week by others:
Chichester Observer
Revealed: How former bishop failed to report paedophile priests