Thinking Anglicans

Letters to a Broken Church

A group of abuse survivors and their supporters are seeking £3000 to publish a dynamic collaborative book speaking to the Church of England. Contributors include survivors, academics, theologians, commentators, lawyers, leading church figures.

Funding breakdown: £1000 publishing costs,  £1300 publicity, £700 Kindle & fees = £3000 Total

Any profits will go to MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors). No contributor is being paid. We are offering the work in the hope of seeing meaningful and critical change in the Church of England’s pastoral, structural, and psychological response to victims and survivors of abuse.

The book will include a wide variety of themes, with some stories and interviews. It will also feature some real letters sent to Lambeth Palace, House of Bishops, and Synod during the past few years…

Follow this link for more details.

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Guest tooRichard ScorerMatt InesonRichard W. SymondsJames Byron Recent comment authors
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Richard W. Symonds
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I just hope and pray this proposed book is not to the exclusion of clergy who have been wrongfully or falsely accused of child sexual abuse. They too are victims of an institution which has a dark history of cover-ups.

Jo B
Guest
Jo B

Seriously? That’s the first thought that comes to you?

I commend the courage of those who have been able to speak out about what they’ve survived and I hope this project will be personally helpful to them (and to those who can not or dare not share what they experienced) as well as being prophetic to the church.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Jo B, of course it’s not the first thought that comes to me…but I sense you have not given this aspect of the issue even a second thought.

Jo B
Guest
Jo B

I have. I work with children, I’m well aware of the risks and horror stories surrounding false accusations and their potential to ruin lives and I work daily having to think not only about what I’m doing but how what I’m doing could be perceived. False accusations are terrible, but the time to discuss them isn’t when survivors of abuse are trying to make their stories heard. The impulse to take the focus away from them should be resisted.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“False accusations are terrible, but the time to discuss them isn’t when survivors of abuse are trying to make their stories heard.” This sentence would seem to beg a rather important question! To put it another way, I don’t think the way to respond to Richard’s concern is to say “now’s not the time,” as though one category of stakeholder can dictate to everyone else what topics are to be discussed, and when. There is no time not to be concerned about false accusations, just as there is no time not to be concerned about abuse. The best advocates on… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

One of “the best advocates” is Martin Sewell – General Synod (Rochester). I have already quoted this piece (below), but I think it worth repeating: IICSA Transcript – Monday March 5 Page 129 -Paras. 2-19 – Fiona Scolding QC: “…this is not simply an issue of attitude but of competence too. This is a point which has been made powerfully by Martin Sewell, who is both a lay member of the General Synod and a retired child protection lawyer. He points out that diocesan staff are typically trained in theology and Canon law, not in safeguarding or child protection law.… Read more »

Guest too
Guest
Guest too

False accusations of clerical sexual abuse are exceedingly rare; according to the literature, well over 96% of allegations are truthful. In ten years of research, having asked a great many safeguarding professionals how many cases of false allegations they have encountered from people claiming to have been abused, I have come across but three credible examples. By way of contrast, a diocesan bishop made at least three false allegations of sexual misconduct by his clergy, all of whom happen to be gay. And I am aware of another seven cases of this bishop’s severely bullying his staff and clergy, which… Read more »

Peter
Guest
Peter

I lived in Peter Ball’ s community and know that he abused friends of mine, possibly downstairs from where I slept. I have also been the victim of a false accusation where the police and local Diocese were very keen to believe a convicted criminal rather than me. I needed a barrister to negotiate me through the CDM taken against me,despite my being a lay Catholic now. I suppose I have been punished in over reaction to something terrible that I could have easily suffered myself.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I find it very disturbing that you are appropriating the word “victim” for them when it isn’t generally even used to describe those who have survived abuse. By your own argument, they should only be described as a “victim” if they successfully win a libel or similar case against their accuser.

Matt Ineson
Guest
Matt Ineson

I use the word victim and many others do too. For me to say I have survived is both to say it’s over and it has stopped. Everybody is right to use the word they feel best describes their situation. For me the church is still abusing and compounding my original abuse. My priest abuser killed himself the day he was due in court and not a word from a bishop about this or caring about the fact he took his own life or how I live with it. If they had done risk assessments maybe neither he nor I… Read more »

Michael Mulhern
Guest
Michael Mulhern

This is a very welcome development. I will gladly contribute financially. If this is the only way the truth can be revealed, it says something very alarming about institutional obfuscation – and insecurity.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I agree absolutely

All too often in comments here one sees people making a disturbing equivalence proposed between those who have survived abuse and those against whom accusations have been made but not proven with required standard of proof. Vast efforts have been expended in support of the late Bishop Bell. If those attitudes are mirrored across the institutional church, it is no wonder that the survivors are having to self-fund a book to be heard.

Peter
Guest
Peter

Kate, You seem to assume that I am guilty. Fine. My accuser was a convicted rapist.Presumably he was wrongly convicted.

Peter
Guest
Peter

Kate, my use of the word also was infelicitous. I did not mean to call my friends victims. I apologise. As for myself, the police called me and my partner offenders so call me that if you prefer. The victim as the police called him called a professional counsellor a hired thug in a statement of truth, so that must be true. Happy?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

The Church of England is being investigated for its failure to solve a fundamental problem of injustice, created, as Martin Sewell says, “by a lack of competence and specialist knowledge, particularly legal knowledge and experience, gained in a practical safeguarding context”.

To right the wrong of this injustice within the Church, both those who have survived abuse AND those who have been wrongfully accused of abuse must be listened to.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

The different groups should indeed be given a voice and listened to. But it is not the principal role of those who have suffered abuse to tell the stories of those who have been falsely accused – rather we need them each to tell their own stories. It is for the institution to hear what has gone wrong, and to make sure that all the voices are given a hearing, and if there is a balance to be struck, that is for the institution to identify, rather than the storyteller. One of the things we have heard again and again… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“The different groups should indeed be given a voice and listened to. But it is not the principal role of those who have suffered abuse to tell the stories of those who have been falsely accused – rather we need them each to tell their own stories. It is for the institution to hear what has gone wrong, and to make sure that all the voices are given a hearing…” I couldn’t agree more. But may I also add it is not the principal role of those who have been wrongfully accused of abuse to tell the stories of those… Read more »

Peter Milligan
Guest
Peter Milligan

It’s a real pity that an item about those abused by the church has been highjacked into a discussion about false accusations. This is standard practice for the well-connected to protect them from investigation. And now the claim is made that there are a ‘considerable number’ of false accusations. No evidence is presented for this false statement. It is the weak who suffer at the hands of the strong in this fallen world, and it seems that the reputation of a dead bishop trumps the cries of the children. As I’ve said before ‘same old, same old’ the powerful always… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

If you were acquainted with the recent history of this subject, then you would not say there is not a “considerable number” of false accusations.
Your accusation that “the reputation of a dead bishop trumps the cries of the children” is a pure canard.
I agree that it is the weak who suffer at the hands of the strong–but that statement can apply to living adults, as strength and weakness can depend on power dynamics other than age.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

I very much understand, and am in sympathy with, Peter Milligan’s personal analysis, but I do not think his view is correct when applied to the Bishop Bell case – and others like it. Fiona Scolding QC has a more balanced view – which I think is worth repeating again: IICSA Transcript – Monday March 5 Page 129 -Paras. 2-19 – Fiona Scolding QC: “…this is not simply an issue of attitude but of competence too. This is a point which has been made powerfully by Martin Sewell, who is both a lay member of the General Synod and a… Read more »

Richard Scorer
Guest
Richard Scorer

I am a lawyer for victims and survivors in IICSA. I’m coming late to this (and as Vice President of the National Secular Society I tread somewhat warily into Anglican discussions!) . However 2 points: firstly, the passage you have just quoted about Martin Sewell and child protection/legal expertise was in fact from my opening submission to IICSA at the start of the March hearing (not Fiona Scolding’s ), and secondly, the book Letters to a Broken Church (to which I am contributing) will include chapters from Peter Hitchens and one or two other people who have been concerned with… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“And now the claim is made that there are a ‘considerable number’ of false accusations. No evidence is presented for this false statement”

Mr Milligan, the evidence is there – be of no doubt. One, of many, are kindly and courageously contributing here. Others are no longer with us – one, a vicar who I knew, having committed suicide.

May I suggest, only as a starting point, “Catholic Priests Falsely Accused” by David F. Pierre.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I have no problem with those campaigning to clear Bishop Bell’s reputation, and have considerable sympathy for any who have been falsely accused. That is a terrible ordeal to go through. I know of at least two people that has happened to. The independent investigations which many of us survivors are campaigning for would also assist those who are subject to mistaken or malicious allegations – this is not the expertise of Church personnel and it shows. We need investigations to be carried out by those who are skilled in this area and can operate without fear or favour. Perhaps… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Something has already been put together relating to Bishop Bell, by way of a date-order Chronology – so it is ongoing:

https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/justice-for-bishop-george-bell-of-chichester-october-2015-to-october-2017/

But I must warn the ‘general reader’, this Chronology is not a quick-read; it requires careful thought, prayer and analysis. I would suggest a quiet corner somewhere, with a mug of coffee in hand!

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

I’m glad the book’s going ahead: it’s crucial that voices of survivors are heard, and the church (let’s dispense with euphemisms here) making herself an accessory after the fact is exposed. Regarding false accusations, as I’ve said before, and Janet rightly says here, it’s a false choice to present due process as being in conflict with justice for survivors: the two go hand-in-hand, with due process for all being the only path to justice for all. Given that authoritarians frequently hijack the cause of victims’ rights to bend the law to their will, it’s crucial that this point is repeatedly… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Well said, James Byron.
I would further distinguish between pastoral or therapeutic support for survivors—a private context in which the survivor is entitled to be believed, no question—and the more public quest for justice for all, in which the public will (and should) carefully examine what is being said publicly, no matter who is saying it.
When someone addresses the public, that person is not engaging in therapy and should not expect to be treated as would be appropriate in a therapeutic context.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Distinguishing law from therapy is crucial. The disastrous policy of believing every accusation (which, when it’s inevitably abused by those bearing false witness, unjustly harms all survivors) is rooted in a therapeutic mindset. What’s therapeutically commendable is legally ruinous: police and prosecutors aren’t healers; they’re law enforcers. As legalized coercion, the criminal justice system’s inherently and unavoidably brutal. Unless that brutality’s chained by rigorous procedural safeguards, injustice flows.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

And the injustices have been flowing freely in the case of Sir Cliff Richard (living) and Bishop George Bell (dead), and ‘Archbishop Cranmer’ joins up the dots by linking the two falsely and wrongfully accused of abuse:

http://archbishopcranmer.com/bbc-sir-cliff-richard-cofe-george-bell/