Thinking Anglicans

More fallout from the Panorama programme

An open letter has been published by Justin Humphreys, chief executive of the charity now known as thirtyone:eight (formerly Churches Child Protection Advisory Service):
An open letter to the leadership of the Church of England following BBC’s Panorama.

…It has been clear for some time that the past cases review conducted between 2007 and 2010 was flawed in a number of respects. For there to be any confusion or uncertainty about what happened to those cases that were identified, often referred to as the ‘Known Cases Lists’ is also inexcusable. The Panorama program did well to uncover what were clearly points of discomfort for the church hierarchy. For key representatives of the Church to either not be able to respond clearly to questions about the number of cases or be unprepared to do so, calls the management of these cases into serious question and makes one wonder who exactly is in control? The need for transparency and true accountability has never been as needed as it is today.

What is needed within the Church of England (and frankly elsewhere across the wider Church and beyond) is authentic leadership. Leadership that is prepared to lead by example in a proactive exercise of self-reflection that leads to open and honest dialogue (particularly with survivors). Leadership that is not governed, coerced or muzzled by either insurers, lawyers or any other stakeholder that may stand to lose from just exposure and open remorse and repentance. This would be the right thing to do!

We may ask, what (or who) is being served by this ongoing catalogue of failures, missed opportunities and resistance to effective change concerning past, present and future safeguarding matters? It certainly cannot be said that survivors are being well-served. It is also of great concern that the Church itself is being further damaged by a continual denial of the truth and avoidance of any tangible reparation.

If the public at large is ever again to say of the Church that it is a safe place, a haven or even a sanctuary for those who are suffering, the Church must be prepared to be laid bare and be held accountable for those things it has failed to do well. This humility would be the greatest strength of the Church in seeking to deal with this sad catalogue of shame. The time has come for those that stand in the way of what Jesus would so clearly have done to be challenged, held accountable and where needed placed elsewhere – where they have less opportunity to exert their negative influence and to stand in the way of the restoration that is desperately needed…

Do read the whole letter.

Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church has written a second blog, this one is titled: Panorama on C/E. Further reflections. Again it’s worth reading in full, but the concluding paragraph says:

…Panorama indicated to us that control of information is a tactic of power still actively employed by the central Church authorities.  The originators of this tactic do not appear to be the bishops themselves but the highly paid Church House officials at the centre of things.   Unfortunately for them, their control of the levers of power was all too easy to spot in both the recent television interviews.    The interview of Archbishop Welby on Channel 4 was, like that of Bishop Hancock, unconvincing and somewhat contrived.  The bishops themselves both had personal integrity and human warmth but nothing could not disguise the fact that they were speaking for someone other than themselves.  The Church cannot continue to go down a path of fielding individuals to act as spokesmen for the institution.  The public want, as far as possible, to encounter real human beings who can speak for the church.  The people of England relate to real people, people who, like them, are living lives of joy mixed with pain.  They will never want to identify with a group when they suspect that the information put out is being manipulated and managed before it is shared with them.  In short, let bishops be bishops, shepherds of the flock, not puppets being controlled by forces that are invisible and are not necessarily working for the good of all.

The Church Times has published a letter from Andrew Graystone which can be found here (scroll down)

Panorama programme won’t be the last scandal

Sir, — Church leaders, from the Archbishops up, acknowledge that the Church is failing in its care of victims of clergy abuse. But ask them who is responsible for sorting out the mess, and nobody knows. Is it the job of the Archbishops’ Council? or the General Synod? or the National Safeguarding Steering Group? or Lambeth Palace? or the House of Bishops? Or is it, perhaps, a matter for each individual diocese?

Everybody points to someone else. Nobody steps forward. After a decade or more of crisis, which continues to eat away at the Church’s standing in society, there has been a complete failure from those in authority to grasp the issue. One reason that some survivors of church abuse are so painfully vocal is that they are filling a vacuum of leadership on this most crucial of issues for the Church.

Monday’s Panorama, with its focus on the shameful mismanagement of abuse in Lincoln diocese, was entitled Scandal in the Church of England. It could have been made at any point in the past decade, and it could have focused on almost any diocese. Stories will continue to emerge, and the scandal of abuse past and present will continue to undermine the Church’s wider mission, until some individual or body takes responsibility and institutes decisive action.

In the mean time, it is victims of abuse, past and present, who bear the cruelty and pain of the Church’s failure.

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Richard W. Symonds
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Andrew Graystone says in the Church Times: “Church leaders, from the Archbishops up, acknowledge that the Church is failing in its care of victims of clergy abuse. But ask them who is responsible for sorting out the mess, and nobody knows…”

If that is the case, intervention is required by The Supreme Governor of the Church of England Her Majesty The Queen – just as the Pope was required to intervene in the Catholic Church.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Equally, her not doing anything, esp when called for, might be instructive…

Revd Dean Henley
Guest
Revd Dean Henley

There is no need to involve Her Majesty personally in such a grubby business. As an established church Parliament should take urgent legislative steps to put the Church of England’s house in order (or at least as far as safeguarding is concerned). The General Synod has proved themselves either incapable or unwilling of doing so, perhaps both factors are simultaneously at play. Archbishop Welby and Bishop Hancock’s mealy mouthed words simply do not cut it and will not bring the survivors the justice they deserve.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

How about a petition to have this debated in the House of Commons? I don’t suppose enough people would sign. Pity. The church is unfit to police itself.

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

“Andrew Graystone says in the Church Times: ‘Church leaders, from the Archbishops up, ‘” Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the only person higher than the Archbishops in the Church of England’s hierarchy the monarch? Has Her Majesty said anything in public about the clergy abuse situation in the CofE? My impression, from across The Pond, is that the British monarch enjoys certain powers in theory, so long as s/he does not exercise them. It seems in the past three or so centuries, every time the monarch exercises a power, parliament becomes alarmed and removes that authority. The… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Here is a clue, perhaps:

“10 Downing Street announces:
Bishop of…
The Queen has approved the nomination of…”

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

It was an odd thing of Andrew Graystone to say. If he had said “from the Archbishops down” that might have made more sense. As far as I am aware HM the Queen has not publicly acknowledged her concern about clergy abuse (I would be surprised if she did), and we can’t make assumptions about her private thoughts. I’m sure she has them. She is very much a hands-on Monarch both in State and Church matters but in our democracy that largely means making her views known in private to the relevant people. For example she has a weekly meeting… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Het Majesty The Queen “has a weekly meeting with the Prime Minister and regular meetings with Church leaders as well as senior members of the judiciary”

My guess is that one of the “Church leaders” is the boss of William Nye [see Wiki entry].

Peter Holttum
Guest
Peter Holttum

I just watched the programme on iplayer. Obviously there is much to be concerned about, but I don’t think the program was sufficiently sensitive to the need and difficulty of obtaining evidence. Like so many sexual behaviour lapses, its this that surely makes it hard for church authorities to act. In few of the cases did I understand that the complainant immediately went to the police – either themselves or with their parents, or indeed later when they realised that historic behaviour was criminal. I have a legal background, so I can see how difficult it is for the church… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

All known and suspected cases should have been passed to the police for investigation. It’s for them, not the Church, to decide whether prosecution is warranted. The Church has not got the personnel, the skills, or the necessary detachment to do the investigating itself. Besides, what Panorama highlighted was that the Church had been dishonest about the number of past cases or suspected past cases. Lincoln, for instance, said it had none, but a list was found in the file with 53 names on it. The police have been investigating and some at least have already been convicted. Other prosecutions… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Thank you Janet. I agree with every word you wrote.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

I wonder what happens in other walks of life. Children have been abused in parks, even by park keepers, but I doubt parents would ever have considered it a matter for the Head of the Parks Department to investigate. Would abuse by bus drivers and conductors be seen as a matter for the inspector? If not, what is different about the Church? Is there something to be said for an ecclesiastical police force, similar in concept to Railway Police? Every congregation could perhaps have a special constable whose duty was to report to the Force, not the Diocese, any suspicions… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

My understanding is that the Church now requires all allegations of abuse to be notified to the police and the appropriate local government social services department. As Janet Fife states, it is for the police to investigate facts.

But we must not overlook that there have been cases of clergy (and, indeed, people in other walks of life) being falsely accused. A police investigation gives them a measure of protection in being entitled to independent legal support during questioning.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Zero “protection” was accorded Bishop Bell by the Church- that’s a fact.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

And when the Bell allegations were investigated by the Poluce last year, they threw it out:

April 23 2018 – “Police close Bishop Bell inquiry” – The Times

Andrew Chandler, the bishop’s biographer, told The Times at the time:

‘If they (The Church) are determined to persevere in their own private investigations and processes, many people will wonder what they can possibly be worth. The church caused deliberate, calamitous damage to Bishop Bell’s reputation in October 2015, by inciting a public judgement that he was a paedophile’”

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“But we must not overlook that there have been cases of clergy (and, indeed, people in other walks of life) being falsely accused.”

As Peter Ball so successfully convinced George Carey.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

And as Peter Ball so successfully convinced very highly-placed members of the Establishment – most notably the future King [and future Supreme Governor of the Church of England] Prince Charles.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“I have a legal background, so I can see how difficult it is for the church to discipline clergy without the police being involved at the victim’s instigation.” This is what went so catastrophically wrong in the Catholic church Australia: they had a priest who had threatened children with a hand gun, but because (for whatever reason) the police took no action the church convinced itself it couldn’t do anything either. Or, more accurately, it didn’t want to take action, and used the lack of a conviction as a handy excuse. Employers can dismiss staff; the protection employees have is… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

So many monkeys – who is the organ-grinder?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

The wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell – who, it is claimed, was blocked by Churchill to becoming the new Archbishop of Canterbury after the untimely death of William Temple – said this in September 1939 [Source: “The Church’s Function in War-time” – Fortnightly Review]: “The matter of function is vital. The State has a function, and the Church has a function. The State is a guarantor of order, justice and civil liberty. It acts by the power of restraint, legal and physical. The Church, on the other hand, is charged with a gospel of God’s redeeming love. It witnesses… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“The Church therefore ought to declare what is just” ~ Bishop Bell in 1939. In 2019 – 80 years on – the Church seems to be more in denial, declaring what is more expedient than what is more just. An example of this denial and expediency is the declaration of the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell at the Anglican Consultative Council last week [“Approval for Safer Church guidelines”, Church Times, Paul Handley in Hong Kong, 3 May 2019 – page 7]: “We now have marvellous guidelines and policies” Who is he kidding? Bishop Cottrell seems to be… Read more »