Thinking Anglicans

Church of England safeguarding: some updates

Martin Sewell has written another article at Archbishop Cranmer entitled It is pointless pouring the new wine of safeguarding into the old wineskins of arcane ecclesiology.

The Church of England media report on Monday told us that “a senior church figure” had been invited by the police to discuss an alleged failure to report a serious sexual offence. Following the case of Sir Cliff Richard, official police hesitance and revised guidelines apparently prevented further identification of who was involved and that ought to be respected, even though this particular genie was well out of the bottle. The controversy is a longstanding one, pre-dating the Cliff Richard case, and many know what this is all about, but let us do what Lord Carlile suggested when he reviewed the mistakes made in the case of Bishop George Bell.

Interestingly, the Church of England originally immediately repudiated that Carlile recommendation, yet in Monday’s media announcement they coyly adopted the police reticence and applied the principle in this case, though whether this is an official embracing of the wisdom of Carlile’s proposition or a ‘one off’ exception is unclear. This matters.

We need a debate on the principles of these cases in the abstract, because tainted by excessive sympathy or disapprobation of any individual or set of circumstances may well lead us astray.

While following this aspect of the debate amongst colleagues with a special interest in Safeguarding policy, a simple question arose: ‘Do the same rules apply to the most junior of deacons as to an archbishop?’ Essentially: ‘Is there equality under the law within the ecclesiastical community?’

It seems to me that the answer to that question may not be quite as simple as one may think, and we need to grapple with the complexity of the debate without being bogged down by unique contexts and individual circumstances…

The whole article is well worth reading.

Stephen Parsons has published an article, containing a huge amount of detail on the case which underlies the arguments made above, titled The Matt Ineson story continued. There is even more information in the comments to that article.

The Telegraph news report mentioned is here (registration required): Bishop of Oxford to face police questioning over allegations of sex abuse cover-up. The Oxford Mail report of the diocesan response is here: Abuse claims were not ignored insists Oxford Diocese.

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Richard W. Symonds
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It seems the problem with Archbishop Welby lies in his unwarranted and illegitimate moral certainty he is right about Bishop Bell. This astonishing inability to admit he might be wrong – very wrong – shows a deep lack of humility. It is deeply disturbing. Here is Peter Hitchens on Archbishop Welby and Bishop Bell – in the Mail on Sunday this morning: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-6147213/PETER-HITCHENS-taxes-Archbishop-Ask-right-pals-pay-first.html “I pray every day for Archbishop Justin Welby, though with no very great hope of success. Christians are supposed to pray for their enemies, and he seems to be one of those. “I will never forget the… Read more »

Susi
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Susi

The above article by Stephen Parsons is a very good and insightful one. As someone whose family has been impacted by abuse in the church I would like to say that the failure of Welby to to remove Croft from his post is not in any way at all reassuring for the victims of abuse and their families. It is my understanding that Croft has conceded that he was informed about the abuse of Matt Ineson on three occasions which include in writing. Croft as I understand did not report the information to the police or even to church safeguarding… Read more »

Susi
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Susi

Charles, it would have been some time ago that you worked with Croft and what you say about Croft’s approach to safeguarding then sounds good. Today the role of the bishop with regard to a safeguarding disclosure is clearly to report it to the appropriate authorities such as the police, social services and the church safeguarding team, which is hardly rocket science. It appears that Croft did not report the abuse to anyone except Sentamu, and this is a clear breach of expected standards with regard to safeguarding. At the time that Ineson disclosed the abuse the man he said… Read more »

Charles Read
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Charles Read

Susi: You appear to know more about what Steve Croft did or did not do than is in the public domain. I understand that this whole story is rather more complicated than it appears. (But my information is not in the public domain either.) What I do know is that in the five years I worked with Steve when he was Warden of Cranmer Hall and I was a tutor / lecturer there is that he was careful to investigate issues of impropriety whether that involved students or staff. On two occasions that I recall, one of which I was… Read more »

JayKay8
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JayKay8

Charles, I’m genuinely pleased that you think Steven Croft’s safeguarding conduct at Cranmer was exemplary and it is good that this is acknowledged. Everyone’s conduct, in varying degrees, is a mixture of good and bad (depending on the perspective from which the actions are observed) and the comments on the Parsons’ article reflect some of Steven Croft’s less than good conduct from the perspective of victims. (Do I need to remind you of the high esteem in which Bishop Peter Ball was held by many and how one of his victims, Neil Todd, was described by Eric Kemp as a… Read more »

Charles Read
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Charles Read

Yes that point about how we are all a mixture of behaviours was implicit in how I tried to phrase my post. I have to say that I don’t think a parallel between Steve Croft and Peter Ball is appropriate, though. The parallel, if it is to be made, should surely be with those who did not act on what they knew about Peter Ball. There is, I understand, even here some dispute as regards +Steven as I understand (but do not know for sure) that there are at least two versions of what action (if any) was taken about… Read more »