Thinking Anglicans

Church of England publishes open letter ahead of IICSA report

press release  02/10/2020

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse; an open letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the lead safeguarding bishop and the national director of safeguarding.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, IICSA, will publish its overarching investigation report into the Church of England (and Church in Wales) on Tuesday (6th October).

For survivors, this will remind them of the abuse they suffered and of our failure to respond well; it will be a very harrowing  time for them.  Some have shared courageously their story at the IICSA hearings or in other forums.  For others this report will be a reminder of the abuse they have never talked openly about. We are truly sorry for the shameful way the Church has acted and we state our commitment to listen, to learn and to act in response to the report’s findings. We cannot and will not make excuses and can again offer our sincere and heartfelt apologies to those who have been abused, and to their families, friends and colleagues.

We, as the Church of England, are ready to support anyone who comes forward.  We must honour our commitment to change. Survivors have told us that words without actions are meaningless; we are taking action but we are also aware that what we have done has neither been soon enough nor sufficient.

Please pray for all those who will be affected by the publication of the report on Tuesday and that as a Church we are able to respond with humility and a shared determination to change.  We must listen carefully and reflect honestly on all that the report says and continue to drive change towards a safe Church for all.

At this point, we know that the report is based on the main public hearing in July 2019, which examined the response of the Church of England and Church in Wales to allegations of child sexual abuse, as well as the adequacy of current safeguarding policies and practices. The report will also focus on common themes and issues identified by the overall investigation which included the case studies into Bishop Peter Ball and the Diocese of Chichester, both held in 2018. The report will identify failings that we are already working to change, and failings that we will need to work harder to change. There will no doubt be strong recommendations  and we welcome that. We make an absolute commitment to taking action to make the Church a safe place for everyone, as well as to respond to the needs of survivors for support and redress.

Safeguarding is valuing every person as one who is made in God’s image.  It is the prevention of harm, and the promotion of well-being.  It is about responding compassionately to victims and survivors, addressing issues of justice with regard to survivors, other complainants, respondents and all others affected and helping them to rebuild their lives.  Safeguarding is fundamental to our faith.  Whatever part we play in the life of the Church, safeguarding is the responsibility of each one of us, guided and advised by our safeguarding professionals.  Church leaders have a particular responsibility to work together to bring about the change in culture and practice that we need to see and has simply been too slow.

If you or anyone you are in contact with are affected by the publication of this report and want to talk to someone independently please call the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056  or email: safespaces@victimsupport.org.uk.  There are also other support services available.

Alternatively feel free to contact the diocesan safeguarding team in your area.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell
Lead safeguarding bishop, Jonathan Gibbs
National Director of Safeguarding, Melissa Caslake

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Canon Dr Graham Blyth
Canon Dr Graham Blyth
19 days ago

Without a commitment to outsourcing safeguarding to an Independent Body (long overdue) the C of E’s pious claims are still going to be painfully slow and victims’ trust in the whole procedure sceptical and insecure. We have been here before. The Archbishops and Bishops just don’t ‘get it’. Keeping safeguarding ‘in house’ is about their power and the institution’s, not about securing proper justice for those whose lives and faith have been shattered.

Alison Menage
Alison Menage
19 days ago

In a nutshell! Well said!

Stanley Monkhouse
19 days ago

Sure, isn’t this very nice? They write sententiously to tell us what we’ve been telling them for ages. That’s modern management for you.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
19 days ago

“Frankly, if the Church had made these announcements at least several months ago it would look less like the Church is engaging in a form of plea bargaining with IICSA or getting its PR management in before the recommendations are published. The Church could easily have issued and implemented substantial proposals some time ago: after all, the IICSA hearings on Chichester started as long ago as March 2018, and the Church can be surprisingly fleet of foot when it wants to be”  “Froghole” – ‘Surviving Church’ “It is worth quoting from an earlier leader comment, from April 2018: “Past blunders,… Read more »

Last edited 19 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Anon
Anon
19 days ago

I would like to echo fully the comments of Canon Dr Blyth. I have had recent experience of reporting an incident which happened to me to a diocese, and it has left me with no confidence that the Church of England can oversee its own safeguarding. In my case, my sense was that the clergyperson’s actions stemmed from a lack of training rather than malice, and I was clear on that throughout. I told another clergyperson in my acquaintance, and they informed their bishop (this is all in the same diocese). The bishop tasked one of their senior team to… Read more »

Paul
Paul
19 days ago

A skillful bit of pre-emptive damage limitation. It leads me to think that we can expect something particularly damning from IICSA.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
19 days ago
Reply to  Paul

You’re probably right about the intention to try and preempt IICSA’s report, but I think the reputation of the churches is already trashed and no one will be taken in by these latest announcements. A senior member of a national children’s charity told me that the CofE is already a toxic brand in their sector. These recent announcements will prove to be a scanty fig leaf.

Helen King
Helen King
19 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Paul, I’m wondering how much more damning IICSA can be than the 2019 “the Church’s response to claims of child sexual abuse was marked by secrecy, prevarication and avoidance of reporting alleged crimes”.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
18 days ago

The Church’s ‘language of independence’ is one of spin, manipulation and deceit “to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind” [Orwell]. It has proved itself the opposite of independent in safeguarding and abuse. It has proved itself dangerously incompetent in such matters. It has no intention to relinquish power and control. It has shown no real commitment to address or confront the core problems. Thus, “the Church cannot really be a safe place either for the vulnerable or for those who report concerns in good faith” [Anon]. Safeguarding cannot be kept ‘in the family house’ any longer. It must… Read more »

Last edited 18 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Kate
Kate
18 days ago

We still have the problem of bishops – and now lay staff – exercising authority without any true accountability. While that continues I personally don’t believe there will – or even can – be the seachange many want.

Anon
Anon
18 days ago
Reply to  Kate

I very much agree. I was exposed to the significant risk of a convicted predatory paedophile knowingly employed by the church in the 90s who did abuse other young people in the church at that time. Nothing I have seen from the church since has shown to me that they have truly got to grips with safeguarding. The only time I have heard safeguarding being mentioned by senior clergy outside of the general synod is when they are using it to cast aspersions on people or groups that are being awkward or stand in the way of them realising their… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
18 days ago

“Are they [eg certain Archbishops and Bishops] sincerely sorry? Or is this just a turd-polishing damage-limitation PR exercise because they’re afraid of next week’s IICSA report. Seems to me those who rise to the top lack any kind of accountability. I think in the TV documentary about Peter Ball the safeguarding officer complained of a lack of independence from the turd-polishing hierarchs – who will blacken anyone to make themselves appear blameless. They are quick to apologize for others, to show how caring they are, but won’t apologize for things which are their fault [eg slandering dead true heroes]” Email to… Read more »

Last edited 18 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
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