Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 20 September 2023

Jane Chevous Premier Christianity The silence from Christian leaders on Mike Pilavachi is hurting victims

Archdruid Eileen The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley The Church Decline Rag

Richard Scorer Surviving Church Mandatory Reporting versus the Seal of the Confessional

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Mired in Love and Faith

Steve Schlossberg The Living Church

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

33 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
6 months ago

Richard Scorer, writing from a lawyer’s perspective, omits a crucial point: any legislation designed to qualify the absolute nature of the seal of the confessional is likely to be ignored by most confessors, not only on principle but also for those pragmatic reasons that have recently been well aired on TA.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Allan Sheath
6 months ago

Presumably there will be a penalty for those who break the law.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Janet Fife
6 months ago

And yet, people still do

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Janet Fife
6 months ago

The CofE’s response today to the Government consultation on mandatory reporting of child abuse points out that, for those who hear confessions, the inviolability of the seal “is held very strongly.” A tradition once willing to go to prison over ritualism may well produce contemporary Fr Tooths: Anglican or RC.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Allan Sheath
6 months ago

We have discussed this (several times) on earlier TA threads. The celebrated (and, like Fr Tooth, persecuted) 19th century Brighton AC priest Father Arthur Wagner heard a confession of murder from a young woman. She voluntarily accepted the likely consequences and Fr Wagner accompanied her to the police station when she reported the crime. At her subsequent trial, Fr Wagner refused to say what had been disclosed to him during sacramental confession. Contemporary reporting was not entirely consistent, and there is mention of a charge of contempt before the magistrates’ court which did not proceed, whereas another version (more likely,… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Janet Fife
6 months ago

That would require the confessing abuser to come forward to assert that they revealed their abuse to their confessor but who didn’t then report it. That’s very unlikely. If it did happen the priest would remain silent (in respect to the seal) so proving an offence beyond reasonable doubt wouldn’t be easy.

So yes, there would be a penalty for those who broke the law but successful prosecutions would be as rare as hens’ teeth.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Kate Keates
6 months ago

I thought as much. So the proposed law would pose little real threat to confessors, while making it clear to all that abuse must be reported.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
6 months ago

I’ve noted on here a few times before how it would be good for the CofE to place young people’s concerns more front-and-centre if they want to have any purchase in that demographic, and it’s nice to see Coward draw attention to our concerns.

The state of neoliberal capitalism is such that my generation are actively giving up on their dreams. Jobs are increasingly seen as oppressive inconveniences that don’t even have the decency to pay properly. Rent continues to soar. The air is increasingly less breathable.

It’s no wonder we were all so into Corbyn.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  FearandTremolo
6 months ago

A bit of a forlorn hope. I fear. Evangelicals in the CofE are going to spend the foreseeable future having an esoteric debate amongst themselves about whose view of Scripture is the correct one. Meanwhile the planet burns.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  FrDavid H
6 months ago

And yet, it’s the enthusiastic recruitment of the evangelical CUs which seem – anecdotally – to be keeping any young blood in the Church. Having spent a lot of my (short) life in Anglo-Catholic churches, the only young blood there was the few young lads aspiring to go to Staggers. There will always be exceptions, of course, but no one seems to think that meaningful engagement with young people is a high priority, and so young people don’t turn up on Sunday morning. It’s easy to grumble at the CEEC, but frankly it’s not them I’m worried about. It’s the… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  FearandTremolo
6 months ago

Perhaps young people are puzzled why the entire Church has spent decades discussing their LGBQT friends, and whether God finds them acceptable. The enthusiastic CUs are likely to tell them how their gay friends must be smiling celibates to qualify for membership. If I were young, I’d run a mile.

Fear and Tremolo
Fear and Tremolo
Reply to  FrDavid H
6 months ago

And, indeed, this is ultimately the issue: rather than engage with the world as it is, the CofE has turned inwards in internecine squabbles. The next one will be on the seal of the confessional, and whilst that either is or isn’t a good use of our time, it also isn’t saying anything about the world. Frankly, none of these debates have very much to say about Jesus either. A whole bunch of New Age capitalist woo-woo is filling the void left by faith, and rather than offering the Incarnate God who loves them dearly, the CofE pops up in… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  FearandTremolo
6 months ago

Quite. In my experience a number of churches are engaging with the very young via ‘messy church’. Messy church is invariably devoid of any meaningful Christian content, and is little more than a play/crafts group (often not even held in church buildings) which would have scant appeal for anyone over the age of about 8 or 9. The parents seldom, if ever, attend regular services. However, it has filled the void left by the almost complete collapse of the Sunday School movement during the 1980s and, more especially, the 1990s (the so-called ‘Decade of Evangelism’, during which the Church made… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Andrew Godsall
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

“Church has profited scarcely a whit from its large investments in education. “

Thank you for this observation. I was once extremely unpopular in a senior diocesan staff meeting for suggesting that we might make serious money available for quite interesting mission and ministry plans if we decided to simply do away with our investment beyond the bare statutory minimum in the department for church schools and education. Everybody looked at me like I had simply gone completely mad. Every CofE diocese seems to be completely wedded to Church schools. Why?

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Andrew Godsall
6 months ago

I don’t know if you were there Andrew, but at a Prideaux Lecture in Exeter University the late RC theologian, Nicholas Lash, said his church and the CofE had blown fortunes on church schools; money that would have been better spent on youth work. At the time I was a parish priest discovering how church schools can make a wholly disproportionate claim on your time, so it was music to my ears.

Andrew Godsall
Andrew Godsall
Reply to  Allan Sheath
6 months ago

Indeed so Allan. Breath of fresh air. I was considered a heretic on that (and many other matters probably!). I suspect the issue was that Church schools were/are a success story and there weren’t many success stories. And I’m not saying they shouldn’t have existed at all. Simply the level of central funding applied was never allowed to be questioned.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Andrew Godsall
6 months ago

Indeed, but I suspect that the answer to your question lies in the fact that diocesan boards of education are a self-serving political ‘interest’, and the primary function of any bureaucratic interest is to protect itself, its members and its budget. Naturally, the other officials will draw the waggons around the board of education, because it is also in their own interests to do so. After all, if the officials in the board of education were to be laid off, then which group of officials would be next on the chopping block? The DAC? The DBF? The whole lot could… Read more »

John S
John S
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

If we judge the value of the church’s investment in a given area of life in terms of its production of bums on seats and notes in collection plates, then our investment in church schools has indeed produced a very poor (though not zero) return. But that seems a rather thin understanding of why the church engages in various activities. Where is the role of love and service to our fellow human beings?

Fear and Tremolo
Fear and Tremolo
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

What’s very frustrating about Messy Church is that play is exactly the way to reach children. Play is the quotidian way in which children (and indeed adults, as every pub garden will confirm) learn and communicate. You can use play to articulate the faith. It can be done, and it’ll be a hell of a lot more effective than getting kids to learn to recite a catechism. A very dear friend of mine has run a collection of extremely successful Messy Churches precisely because the crafts build to an act of worship in a more traditional sense. It’s really a… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Fear and Tremolo
6 months ago

Oh, I do agree, and I have seen messy church being done very effectively. However, it is something for very young children, and my complaint is that there is – in the vast majority of places – absolutely no provision for older children or young adults who are much the most important group if the Church is to stand any chance of survival on even a miniature basis. It is the period between the ages of about 8 to about 18 which is the formative period during which most people’s views about the world are established. It is therefore especially… Read more »

Fear and Tremolo
Fear and Tremolo
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

To the credit of the Baptist church that raised me, they found a guy to run the older-kids Sunday school who was very happy with us asking awkward questions. He didn’t always have an answer, but he cultivated an atmosphere of people having ownership of their own faith. My gut is that giving teenagers space to be awkward is probably more useful than giving them tidy answers, although, that’s not really based in anything. Still, a youth group for the older kids can be done well, especially if it can lead into things like the choir and altar serving and… Read more »

Valerie Aston
Valerie Aston
Reply to  Fear and Tremolo
6 months ago

Several hundred years ago the Mystery Plays perhaps performed the same function. They were often comic, even ribald. Of course they were swept away by the Protestant revolution and it’s insistence on preaching and bible study.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

I like to think I’m well informed, but i have no idea what DBFs are.

Last edited 6 months ago by Tim Chesterton
Simon Sarmiento
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
6 months ago

Diocesan Board of Finance.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

‘Messy church is invariably devoid of any meaningful Christian content’

I have attended several messy churches in my diocese, and our parish ran a variant of it, Spaghetti Church, for a few years, I can assure you that this statement is categorically untrue. There may be some Messy Churches of which this is true, but ‘invariably’ is wrong. And Lucy Moore, the creator of Messy Church, wrote excellent books of Messy Church resources that were explicitly Christian.

Last edited 6 months ago by Tim Chesterton
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
6 months ago

I was going to make the same comment. Two of my parishes ran Messy Churches which were definitely Christian in content. And while I’m hopeless at crafts, I found that struggling with materials over a table with parents and kids was a good way to get to know them, and sometimes have meaningful conversations.

We also had holiday clubs for older children, and a Tots & Carers for younger ones, so Messy Church was part of an ongoing programme. The difficulty was with kids over 12, but we worked with Scouts and Guides to give some Christian input.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  FearandTremolo
6 months ago

One only needs to watch General Synod for a few minutes to realise that the Church of England venerates age over youth. Small wonder young people look elsewhere for an organisation which might value them.

It’s also interesting how most of the wish for more youth is as pew fillers, not as leadership.

Last edited 6 months ago by Kate Keates
Fear and Tremolo
Fear and Tremolo
Reply to  Kate Keates
6 months ago

Well of course. Appoint someone from Gen Z to a position of authority and they’ll likely have awkward things to say about, for example, reparations. Whilst that anti-imperialism can only be good for Christ’s message to the poor, it’ll hardly be a polite chat at Church House

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Fear and Tremolo
6 months ago

Yeah.

I get the feeling that the Church of England would like more young people – but only if they decently behave like people two generations older than they are.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Fear and Tremolo
6 months ago

Sounds great to me!

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Janet Fife
6 months ago

You and me both

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FearandTremolo
6 months ago

“It’s easy to grumble at the CEEC, but frankly it’s not them I’m worried about. It’s the entire Church, regardless of party.”

Correct.

It is some sort of inward obsession to drone on about ‘evangelicals’ with puerile dismissals.

There are serious issues of mission and simple survival to pay attention to.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Anglican Priest
6 months ago

And even more serious issues of abuse, cover-up, and rebuse.

33
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x