Church of England

Safeguarding: why is the Church of England’s institutional compassion so constipated?

This is a guest post by Martin Sewell, a retired child protection lawyer.


A few weeks ago I wrote about the way in which the Church of England had failed to support one of its abuse survivors in his time of need. This was not through individual callousness or failure (which is why I deliberately never personalise criticism), but rather symptomatic of the unhelpful institutional character of the church. Our rules and unthinking culture fail to live up to the words that our leadership rightly expresses, as the following story illustrates.

Just over a year ago, a survivor – who I shall call Dave – finally came to terms with his abuse and felt the need to seek the help from a church in whose care he had been grievously let down. He was a victim of a known abuser, and Dave was approaching the church for the first time: it is not therefore a case complicated by multiple reports or disputes about who said what and when.

Neither is it a matter of monetary compensation: Dave is a continuously practising Anglican, and moreover comes from that sector of the church that takes seriously the biblical principle that if your brother offends you, you should first seek to make peace with him and not have early recourse to the courts.

One might think that – insofar as one can use the infelicitous phrase ‘ideal victim’ (from the church’s point of view) – Dave is it.

Dave’s abuse did have one individualised component that complicates the necessary healing he needs in order to give him the peace he seeks. The measure of this is that an everyday innocuous lectionary reading could catapult him unexpectedly back into those times.

His abuser had misused scripture to manipulate and silence his victim, and, unsurprisingly, Dave felt he needed a counsellor who was theologically aware in order to address such matters in a holistic way.

Being unaware of how these matters are handled, he approached his local diocese which promised to look into it. He waited, several weeks. When he received a response it was to say that the matter was the responsibility of another diocese, so it was passed on and Dave waited… several weeks. Eventually, he was told that this matter would have to be dealt with by the National Safeguarding Team… and so he waited.

He knew his special requirement was a complicating factor, but it still took a while before he was told that somebody was located and approved and that he could have an assessment to determine if this was the appropriate counselling for him. He was given a 10:30am appointment a very considerable distance away; it required him to take four different trains and to get up at around 4:30am to get there on time.

Unsurprisingly, given the possible need for weekly sessions, Dave took the view that this was not a workable solution, but being a resourceful and helpful fellow, he made his own enquiries and offered this alternative to the church. It was relatively local and cost about £55 a session.

The counsellor was not known to the church, however, and a further complication then arose. Dave was told that his counselling would only be paid for provided that weekly reports of his sessions would be provided to the church.

When Dave asked why this might be, he was told that if relevant material came out of the counselling, it would need to be passed on to the church’s insurers. This was unacceptable to the counsellor, and so the process stalled again.

Dave was able to locate another counsellor within reasonable travelling distance, and began receiving the help he needed. The church was still doing nothing for him: he is dependent on state benefits, so family members were paying the price for him. They did their best, but while they managed to carry the burden for a while, it proved too much, and so over a year after initially approaching the church, he is without counselling for the abuse he suffered within the Church of England.

In all generosity, I do not believe anyone from top to bottom of the church thinks this a happy situation. So why is our institutional compassion so constipated?

Recently, the Very Rev’d Prof Martyn Percy offered a critique on this blog in which he accused the church of having sold out to a commercial managerial culture: it raised important points for discussion, but hearing Dave’s story I can only think ‘If only that were true!’.

No commercial firm sensitive to the need for reputational recovery and a good deal would blunder as we appear to have done in Dave’s case.

Theologically, managerially and technically we have demonstrated an incompetence of considerable magnitude.

During a recent debate at General Synod, Canon Simon Butler reminded us of the spiritual tenacity of some people whom the church finds troublesome. He reminded us of Jacob wrestling with the Angel and crying out: “I will not let you go until you bless me.” Like other complainants, Dave has demonstrated a similar commitment to the church, coupled with the patience of Job. Many would have shaken the dust from their feet and walked away. Dave has resourcefully ‘put the solution on a plate’ and offered it to us, yet we seem to have been incapable of recognising how easy he has made this for us.

In the commercial world there was once an advertisement that trumpeted ‘The bank that likes to say ‘Yes”. Child abuse complainants find that we are ‘The church that likes to say ‘No”.

Dave’s case demonstrates similar cultural failings to the story I previously told of the complainant who was denied an advance of a settlement payment in urgent circumstances. Not only does this compound the betrayal of those who have experienced abuse within the church; it lacks the culture of compassionate risk-taking that many of us have commended when we have told and preached the story of the Good Shepherd who risks the welfare of the 99 as he goes in search of the lost sheep.

Managerially, this is poor practice. We have our Archbishop/CEO telling the world that ‘the victim must come first‘, while at the point of consumer contact he and the complainant are being let down by a culture of defensive negativity.

In the early days of the Japanese car industry, it adopted a philosophy that a complaining customer was potential a great commercial asset. The buyer who was content with his service experience told few people; in contrast, the unhappy customer told everyone and anyone who would listen. Finding and satisfying the complainant was more economic than wasting the advertising budget while leaking goodwill through poor customer service.

The Church of England is stuck in British Leyland mode, when we ought to be aspiring to be Honda.

After hearing Dave’s case, Professor Percy will forgive me if I respond to his complaints of a commercial culture within the church – ‘If only!’

I mentioned technical incompetence, and this is perhaps the most worrying aspect of all. If the church makes reporting of the details of counselling a precondition of paying for it, that is outrageous. Counselling is like the confessional: you have to be utterly confident that what gets taken into he room stays there.

In a court setting there are only about five questions you will ever be permitted to ask about what happens in counselling:

1. Does s/he attend the session regularly?
2. Are you satisfied with his/her degree of engagement with the process?
3. How far along the planned pathway do you estimate you have reached?
4. What is your best guess as to the costs?
5. How long do you estimate the counselling need will continue.

These are, of course, questions about process, not substance. The idea that discussions which arise from within a counselling context might properly find their way to the Church of England’s insurers is highly questionable.

First, such a policy needs to be considered within the ethical guidelines of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Second, counselling depends upon trust and confidentiality: some victims need to explore their own feelings of guilt and responsibility and will be inhibited if they feel that exposing vulnerability will assist the church’s insurers to reduce the settlement.

Third, any contractual requirement to accept such reporting will have been negotiated within a chronic power imbalance. How much ‘consent’ is there when all the need is on one side and the church holds all the negotiating advantages? Is pressing home that advantage not abusive in itself?

Fourth, the policy reaffirms the chronic conflicts of interests within our structures: you cannot serve two masters; you must either prioritise the victim or the insurer’s interests.

Superficially, Dave’s case is a very simple one, but yet again we seem to find the church making a complete pig’s ear out of it.

One appreciates that major changes might need to await the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, but three easy lessons can be learned and applied from Dave’s case:

First, any case that is presented to a diocesan safeguarding officer by a complainant living in their diocese should be handled by the receiving diocese as a ‘one-stop service’ to victims. The financial ramifications of such a change should be handled behind the scenes, while the victim receives the requisite help without delay. Internal wrangling should never impact on prompt service delivery.

This is commonplace in the secular world where a body of principles to resolve ‘turf wars’ over responsibilities between local authorities already exist. Care cases and housing disputes regularly throw up such issues, and the courts have laid down easily adaptable rules for deciding who picks up the bill.

Second, reports of counselling should never require breaches of confidence as a precondition for funding. It doesn’t happen in the courts; it should not happen in the church. It fundamentally misunderstands the nature of counselling. Sadly, this neither shocks nor surprises me.

Third, we need an interim Ombudsman scheme – someone charged with the power and responsibility to get things sorted practically and promptly and not take no for an answer.

We can have debates about the merits of competing philosophies and devising best models for the church, but I am sure that Professor Percy and I can agree that what happened and is happening to people like Dave does not accord with either of our visions. We need to change such obvious and easily reversible errors, and we need to see the start of change now. An ounce of good practice is worth a ton of theory. We can get on with ridding the church of this kind of nonsense easily, long before IICSA reports.

  • Matthew Ineson

    This shows the complete incompetence of the church and the genuine lack of desire to help. When anything genuine IS done for victims/survivors by the church (which is very rare) it is done out of pressure to do so, not love. I have been going to counselling for two years and despite promises and even public statements by the church that they are providing me with pastoral care and all the support I need this is in fact a lie. I would not go to a ‘church appointed’ counsellor for the very reasons stated in Martin’s piece-I don’t trust them because the church want to know what was said in the counselling. I know from other victims/survivors that this has happened. The church will not support mandatory reporting of abuse, but it wants mandatory snooping to see what is being said…especially about its bishops. Despite the church’s promises and public statements not a single penny has been paid for my own counselling so far. Nothing. I still haven’t had so much as an apology for the abuse and ignoring of my disclosures and it is now 5 1/2 years since I disclosed my abuse to Archbishop Sentamu and Bishops Croft, Snow and Burrows. Disclosures that were ignored and left a sex abuser priest five years to potentially carry on abusing and the church still refuses to investigate these bishops for their failures or do risk assessments on these men who left children and the vulnerable in potential danger (Canon C30 anyone?!). All that I, and many, many other victims/survivors have been given by the church has been persistent spin and lies. Is it any wonder people hesitate at disclosing their abuse to The Church of England?

    • Gilo

      Standing beside you in solidarity Matt. The structure is creaking and groaning. Only crisis seems to propel real change in the powers-that-be. It is a crying shame that survivors are the ones doing all the driving of movement forward. The cost to our lives is enormous.

    • Anton

      I am hesitant to respond to you because you are so staggeringly better able to speak with authority on this subject than almost anybody else is. I am grateful for your comments, and give thanks for the lack of bitterness in them. May God bless you. I shall pray for you.

      • Matthew Ineson

        Dear Anton. Thank you. Your kindness is very much appreciated. Matt

    • ” … it is now 5 1/2 years since I disclosed my abuse to Archbishop Sentamu and Bishops Croft, Snow and Burrows. Disclosures that were ignored and left a sex abuser priest five years to potentially carry on abusing … “

      If that’s true, then the Church of England is wide open to action by any child abused after you made the allegations they appear to have negligently failed to investigate.

      Can Jack ask who the cleric was, assuming his name is now in the public domain, and why you didn’t report this direct to the Police?

      • Matthew Ineson

        Hi Jack. My rapist was The Revd Trevor Devamanikkam. Google his name and you will find my story. I did report it to the police and after a two year investigation he was charged with three counts of rape and three counts of indecent assault of a child. He killed himself the day he was due in court in june this year. I had disclosed my abuse twice in writing to Bishop Steven Croft and twice verbally, once verbally to Bishop Martyn Snow, once verbally to Bishop Peter Burrows and once in writing to Sentamu. The only one to acknowledge my letter was Sentamu who wrote back thanking me for my letter and wishing me well…but did nothing. All these bishops ignored my disclosure and allowed Devamanikkam 5 more years to potentially abuse. It was discovered that Devamanikkam was looking for rent boys shortly before his death on social media.
        I filed Clergy Discipline Complaints against all the bishops but the church blocked them using the immoral one year rule the church has. Yes, the church has a one year time limitation on complaints against clergy! The bishops then also blocked a request by me under the data protection act!
        Further Bishop Steven Croft admitted my disclosures to him in interview to the police in March 2016, to BBC Oxford TV in November 2016 (in which he also lied and said he had fully supported me and given me pastoral care), on BBC Radio 4 on 9th July 2017 when he also admitted receiving my last letter of disclosure and admitted that he had taken the unilateral decision not to pass my disclosures to a safeguarding officer or the police! Total failure…and yet even now the church will not bring any action against these bishops or make them answer. Total cover up. Furthermore I have now discovered that no checks or risk assessments on Devamanikkam were done despite their knowledge of the police investigation and disclosures. I also discovered that in a core group meeting at the church National Safeguarding Team in September 2016 they record my disclosures AND record that they had interviewed Crift when he acknowledged my verbal disclosures to him…but they did nothing. This is total cover up.

        • Thank you.
          The one year rule on complaints against clergy is certainly seems indefensible. It seems to Jack that the response of the Church authorities is serving to compound the effects of the abuse you suffered and Jack hopes you will be able to put all this behind you soon.
          Can Jack ask why you were unable to report this abuse sooner? Did Trevor Devamanikkam continue in ministry after your complaints to the Police?

          • Matthew Ineson

            You are right…the one year rule is immoral. When the abuse happened I didn’t feel I’d be believed plus I daren’t tell anybody because I didn’t know what people, especially my family, would think of me. Who would believe me, a young lad, above a priest in those days? I didn’t see my family for seven years after my abuse. I also felt deeply abuse shamed of what had happened.
            By the time I reported to the police Devamanikkam was retired and living in the Diocese of Oxford. I have recently learnt a lot more about the failure of the church to do checks on Devamnaikkam or risk assessments. The police told the safeguarding officer in the Leeds diocese (the abuse had took place in what was then the Diocese of Bradford, now leeds) in May 2015 that Devamanikkam was under investigation for sex crimes. The Leeds safeguarding officer recorded the info and passed it to the Safeguarding officer in the Oxford diocese. Having contacted Oxford safeguarding officer only very recently he confirmed to me that they had no records regarding safeguarding on Devamanikkam until contacted by the National Safeguarding Team in September 2016. So what happened to the referral from Leeds? Not recorded…and no checks done. The National Safeguarding Team didn’t do any checks either so nobody did any checks on him or whether he was worshipping anywhere. Being that the chances that a retired priest would be worshipping at a church are pretty high…that means that not only did they not do checks or risk assessments on a priest being investigated for sex abuse, they also left very vulnerable any parish church where he might be worshipping plus any children in that church . The NST held a core group meeting, of which I have obtained the minutes through a data protection act request, and there is not one mention of any checks or risk assessments. Nor of his mental health. The coroner, at his inquest, heard that he had suffered from mental health problems and was under the care of a mental health team. I have now discovered that the NST knew of his mental health sometime before his death….but did nothing.
            The church have made so many mistakes. A youngster was raped, later disclosed his abuse to four bishops who ignored him, the church will not investigate and penalise those bishops who ignored discloures on a priest who was investigated for sex crimes and ultimately charged with 3 counts of rape and 3 counts of indecent assault of a child. No safeguarding officer or the CofE National Safeguarding Team did anything when they knew of the investigations or his mental health…and he killed himself.
            Now the church are making me run in circles. No bishops have been investigated and the effect on my health is terrible. The CofE NST have suggested an ‘independent review’…but they have said that they they will appoint the inquirer, the core group (which failed so magnificently!) will set the remit of the inquiry (!) and they have decided already that the inquiry will apportion no blame to anyone! How is that ‘independent’? I will not engage with this inquiry as it is proposed…so have been told that the church will do it without me. It is a total cover up. As for me, it has changed my life forever and had an effect I cannot even begin to describe. But the church don’t care.

          • What outcome will give you some measure of peace?

          • Matthew Ineson

            Justice…and knowing that people are safe from predators. That means I may spend my life trying to achieve this. The church just won’t. The only thing they safeguard are bishops who ignore disclosures. The church is very manipulative and make victims/survivors suffer all over again.

          • Don’t let the quest burn you up. Jack has witnessed this happening too many times. Remember, it’s not just a personal crusade. It’s also part of promoting God’s justice and He’s by your side. The faith of many Catholics has been undermined by forgetting this. It’s not all bishops; and your church will have good souls, lukewarm souls and, frankly, bad souls running it. Your experiences could actually be an asset for your church.

            “Do not repay injury with injury; study your behaviour in the world’s sight as well as in God’s. Keep peace with all men, where it is possible, for your part. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved; allow retribution to run its course; so we read in scripture, Vengeance is for me, I will repay, says the Lord. Rather, feed thy enemy if he is hungry, give him drink if he is thirsty; by doing this, thou wilt heap coals of fire upon his head. Do not be disarmed by malice; disarm malice with kindness.”

            Jack will pray for you and he wishes you the Peace of Christ in this battle.

  • Maalaistollo

    In an organisation that makes much of not operating in a commercial environment, surely the only imperative is to do what you enjoy most. Thus, rolling out bishops’ initiatives and turning up for photo opportunities will always take precedence over this kind of thing, which will keep getting moved to the back of the filing cabinet until (a) it goes away or (b) somebody else deals with it. The Ombudsman suggestion seems a good one.

  • CliveM

    Another truly depressing tale. I’m actually not sure what can be done. This is a problem fundamental to big, bureaucratic institutions whether run along commercial lines or not. However well meaning, the demands of the the bureaucracy take over and the reason for ‘being’ gets lost.

    If there is a single argument against a large centrally controlled Church this is it. Not that it’s uniquely vulnerable to problems of child abuse, it isn’t, but that it finds it difficult (impossible) to respond in an appropriately sensitive and loving way, because the institutional structure mitigates against it.

    The CofE needs to find an answer and urgently. I’m not sure it can.

    • Ray Sunshine

      If there is a single argument against a large centrally controlled Church this is it.

      In practice, do small, decentralised churches make a better job of handling these cases as the victims deserve? Let me add, I have no case to make either for or against. It’s just that on the face of it, I would have thought that the smaller the institution, the fewer the resources available – resources either in the form of qualified personnel, or in the form of cash to settle an indemnity claim and to offset the costs of counselling or therapy. Would a small, nonconformist chapel – to take an example – normally have an insurance policy to cover third party risks of this kind?

      • Dominic Stockford

        Such a small chapel would certainly have to have insurance – and though the insurers might struggle against paying out, a chapel that recognises it is at fault in some way (as the CofE does in this situation above) would do whatever it could itself to alleviate the situation. Because there was no line to pass it down, it would just be done – even if the result was not necessarily so ‘perfect’, there would be a result.

      • CliveM

        Thanks for your question. Whilst accepting Dominic’s point, there is truth in your point about resource and its a vailability within large versus small Churches and the potential level of response this allows. However my point (and I am not referring to hierarchy here, that is a separate point and I think to blame the hierarchy is misplaced) is that in large organisations, the requirement for and dependency on an extensive and increasingly powerful bureaucracy means that this potential is increasingly dissipated by the various levels and demands in running the bureaucracy. You see it in Government, you see it in industry. I work for a large multinational. We are always being exhorted to be ‘nimble, agile and innovative’ in our responses to requirements. But the truth is that the ‘bureaucracy’ of the company ensures this cannot happen. Indeed if you were to do so you’d be sacked! So what the institution would like to be, it is effectively hindered from being, by its own processes.

        I think this is what is happening here. Unfortunately there is precious little evidence in industry or elsewhere, that this can be changed. What large businesses do to overcome this is to buy up the small innovative, nimble companies. Usually in the process destroying the reason why they were successful in the first place!

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      Well, going back to the time of Elizabeth I, diocesan bishops had the power and authority to track down and remove heretics and recusants…Church Courts dealt with miscreants within each diocese. Time they all pulled their fingers out…

      • CliveM

        Ah the good old days.

      • Dominic Stockford

        Who is to pull whose fingers out?

  • Malcolm Smith

    Much as I sympathize with the victim, as a former public servant (ie bureaucrat), I am not in the least surprised. This is pretty typical of the way bureaucracy works when it has been cobbled together on an ad hoc basis, and it needs someone in a high position to completely reorganize it. Unfortunately, the people in high positions in the church are not bureaucrats.

  • Anton

    In a church that was worthy of the name child abusers would not get into high positions. THAT is why the problem is insoluble. On top of which, an Established church is by definition an Institution and will accordingly make institutional – i.e., worldly – responses. Church is meant to be a network, not a hierarchy.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Indeed. A hierarchy proves not to be the backbone but the undoing of a church.

      • ardenjm

        Come, come.
        There’s precious little hierarchy in Islam, the Jehovah Witnesses, Plymouth Brethren and some form of Orthodox Judaism – all of which have had multiple cases of abuse within them.
        Your theological agenda is making you appropriate the suffering of children as a means to a congregationalist end.
        Shame on you.

        • Anton

          It is holiness that would keep child abusers from high positions in a church. It is hierarchy that prevents decent response.

          • magnolia

            To return to holiness, which is much more important: in a holy church, child abusers will smell holiness and be repelled.

            If only..

            That has rarely been true of infamous imprisoned child abusing priests for example. Some have more than one personality for a start, and the “good guy” personality can be, and has been, convincing to many.

          • CliveM

            Holiness makes neither an individual or the institution they work for infallible. Perverts would still gain access sadly.

          • Cressida de Nova

            Yes that is true. They prey on the vulnerable. Any position which involves power over the vulnerable i.e.the aged ,the physically or mentally sick,the disabled or children,you will find perverts . We know that Satan will always be present amongst us and this is one of the ways it is manifested.

          • Anton

            The church has been unholy for a very long time.

          • magnolia

            It is more various than that. Some people and leaders within the C of E are definitely holy, while others are ambitious, timeservers, or much too focused on keeping the institution with or without holiness, but definitely with (short-term) money-pinching or grubbing.

            Other parts can be too bothered about what clique you belong to, and to a certain extent these cliques protect their own, and not infrequently disrespect and exclude others. To freewheel outside these cliques can be perilous no matter how innocent and well-intentioned you may be. Of course Jesus may love people doing that, but, nevertheless….

            There is also frequent misunderstanding of language and intent between the cliques, and one person of one churchmanship can often fail to differentiate between the bad and good apples in another set, (poor George Carey fell foul on this), or be blinded by false loyalty to those within his or her own clique.

            All of which may be conducted with secrecy that nurtures and protects false accounts, where either guilty people are accounted innocent or innocent people are pronounced guilty, and where victims of both scenarios may be kept in the dark.

            The church needs to be more transparent, and yet keep confidences better, and yet be less prone to believe any and every account. This is a hard balancing act, but above all it needs to exclude those habits and personalities from ministry which present a clear and present danger and be less PC and much more honest in this.

          • Such exaggerated pessimism. Evil is not as the dominant fact of experience in the Church. It is an imperfection however extensive in a Church that is essentially good. The Church is the bride and spouse of Christ and she has many holy and saintly men and women. There will always sinners in the fold and there will be a minority of evil people. The Church and its order are essentially good, and the goodness of its Author and Protector is not called in question by imperfections whose cause is poorly understood and unknown.

            Jack believes there is a train of thought in Protestantism that insists evil outweighs good in man. An unprejudiced mind would see that good exceeds evil. Let’s not exaggerate the world’s evil. Man’s fundamental nature is good, albeit wounded, and the fundamental nature of the universe is good.

            The Church is both spiritual and temporal, supernatural and natural, a heavenly kingdom yet living on the same platform as earthly kingdoms, divine and human. It is because she is both at once that she is continually in trouble.

          • Anton

            You think I have the Reformation in mind. I don’t. I’m talking about the institutionalisation of the church in the 4th century.

            Just consider how different the church was from the ancient Greek culture into which it went out from Jerusalem…

          • Jack had no such thought in mind although pessimism did enter Christian theology after the Reformation.
            Becoming a worldwide, universal Church, sharing and developing the Gospel, presents different challenges in 2017 to those faced by a small, tightknit group who had walked and talked with Christ.
            We’ve already had the discussion about Constantine. Jack sees the Providence of God in the Church being spread throughout the known world alongside the Roman Empire and in the development, codification and dissemination of clear dogma and doctrine.

          • Anton

            …although pessimism did enter Christian theology after the Reformation.

            If by pessimism you mean the view that the church would never dominate the world politically, too right it entered. The true church will be distinct from the world until the end of the age, when Jesus Christ returns. THAT is the real cause for optimism. And in case you think that the feudal system under the Catholic church should have been extended worldwide and we would all live happily ever after, the most powerful Pope of that era, Innocent III, wrote a book called The Misery of the Human Condition (meaning Christians not pagans) but was unable ever to write the more cheerful sequel he had hoped. To say that there was no pessimism before the Reformation is therefore untrue. I have read this book (in English, and found it surprisingly good, in fact).

            Becoming a worldwide, universal Church, sharing and developing the Gospel, presents different challenges in 2017 to those faced by a small, tightknit group who had walked and talked with Christ.

            You are aware that this is the exact argument used by those who wish to import gay marriage and I shudder what else into the church of Christ?

          • “If by pessimism you mean the view that the church would never dominate the world politically, too right it entered.”

            What a silly, childish comment. As you know, Jack was referring to the pessimism of Calvinism and the rejection by protestants more widely about how grace transforms man.

            Jack has never heard organisational issues advanced as a justification for departing from established Christian morality. It is Congregationalism versus Episcopalianism we’re discussing and your view the latter results in a corruption of men. Could you provide an example where this is claimed?

          • Anton

            You have misunderstood me and I don’t actually know what the issue has become. Anyway I’m up too late tonight and off to bed.

          • Mike Stallard

            Goodbye trust.
            Hello women priests and bishops.

          • CliveM

            At least Women priests and bishops seem to keep their hands to themselves

          • “It is hierarchy that prevents decent response.”

            Actually, it’s fear and ignorance combined with inefficient and insensitive procedures that causes these problems and neither are an automatic feature of hierarchies. It’s the culture of an organisation that is the important factor. An appropriate culture for responding to allegations and the aftermath of abuse means having the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes in place and streamlined processes with authority to make decisions placed at the frontline and resources available to them to react promptly. These are not impossible.

            You also seem to be assuming that men go into the Church intent on seeking access to children to abuse them. The research doesn’t appear to backup this claim. And how do you assess “holiness”? Jesus warned us there would be tares sowed amongst the wheat. You appear to want to pull up the tares regardless of uprooting the wheat too.

          • Anton

            You also seem to be assuming that men go into the Church intent on seeking access to children to abuse them.

            How do you make that out from my words?

            And how do you assess “holiness”?

            Brother, if you can’t do that then you are truly screwed.

          • This comment can only be understood in that way: “child abusers will smell holiness and be repelled.” In Jack’s experience it’s the likelihood of detection and consequences that deter and put a brake on impulsive behaviour.

            And you can assess a person’s soul? How? Such discernment is a rare gift given to few people. There are of course indicators, windows of the soul, and scripture suggests some indicators, most notably Ecclesiastes. However, men are not always what they seem. Especially when putting on a performance for admission to a position they desire.

          • SimonToo

            Yes, it is the attitude that asks for a policy/process/protocol to deal with X rather than asking “What are we going to do about X?”

          • Mike Stallard

            In our (Catholic) church, we have been warned no less than 15 times in the past couple of months that children must not leave the church to go to the toilet in the nearby parish hall because of “safeguarding”. Apparently it is no longer the responsibility of the Mum and Dad to safeguard their own children.
            Just saying…

          • Anton

            Consider perhaps that the purpose of the warnings is not to prevent parents from letting children do that but to cover the church if anything goes wrong.

        • Mike Stallard

          I know two excellent Baptist Ministers personally who were seen (after prayer natch) to be the incarnate devil. The holy and pious stirrers of their congregation in both cases got them the sack. Without a proper hierarchy to protect them, they both ended up, like Dave above, on the rock’n’roll.

      • Anton

        The secular historian Niall Ferguson recently published an interesting book, “The Square and the Tower”, on history as a tension between human hierarchies and human networks. He steers clear of church polity, but uses the Reformation as an example.

    • dannybhoy

      Nail on head.
      Men build institutions to protect or/and promote knowledge and ideals.
      Unfortunately and depending on the size of the institution, the mission may become, “Protect the Institution at all costs!”

      • Anton

        But the church is not meant to be an Institution. That is effectively what Martin Sewell is rightly complaining about. We little realise how different the church was once form the world, and needs to be again today.

        • dannybhoy

          It didn’t start out as an institution, but perhaps like Topsy it just growed..
          Or perhaps as HJ might say it took over from from the ancient Roman empire.
          I was talking with some friends about the setup with Israeli believers.
          They tend to resemble the ‘synagogue’ model. Usually independent congregations, coming together with other congregations from time to time. eldership/pastor type leadership structures, informal and an absence of ‘hierarchical veneration.’ I liked it, but it is a reflection of the general historical culture.

  • SonoView

    Outrageous! I am a trustee of a counselling organisation (dealing with PTSD and trauma). One of the first things a counselor does is make a contract of confidentiality with the client. That the CofE is either ignorant of this or chooses to ignore it is disgraceful.

    • Martin Sewell

      I really appreciate this comment; you know when you encounter an idea so eccentric that for a moment you start to wonder if it’s you who has lost the plot??!

      • Chefofsinners

        In the case of children, a counsellor would be obliged to report a disclosure of abuse. Beyond that, any professional agreeing to report details might expect to be expelled from their professional body.

    • Matthew Ineson

      Thank you very much, I totally agree. The bizarre behaviour of the CofE is so ingrained they can’t see what they are doing.

  • Dominic Stockford

    There is an issue in my mind – we have on the one hand to accusations made against Bp Bell by one individual, so historical in nature that it is difficult to know for certain one way or another. There we have an accuser who seems (note, I said ‘seems’, my opinion, not given as fact because ‘I’ cannot know) to be making a false accusation. Then here we have clear accusations that seem (same corollary) to be true.

    In one my sympathy is for Bp Bell, in the other my sympathy is for those who are spoken of in these articles. The accused in one instance, the accusers in the other. I think I can see the quandary the CofE is in over all this, though I cannot see why it fails to get someone counselling. That latter is quite unconscionable.

  • carl jacobs

    Dave felt he needed a counsellor who was theologically aware in order to address such matters in a holistic way.

    Mr Sewell

    I didn’t understand this. What does “theologically aware” refer to? Did he want a Christian counselor?

    • Martin Sewell

      Ideally yes, not necessarily a priest or licenced reader but someone who understood and empathised with the issues. A very good secular Counsellor could perhaps handle it but most could not.

      • carl jacobs

        So then let me read back to you how I understood this story. Please correct my misunderstanding.

        Dave was previously unknown as a victim. He attended a church that was at the time of his victimization staffed with a now-confessed abuser, but there was no previous record of his abuse. He had not previously addressed the matter through the legal system. However one may reasonably infer that he would be able to prove his case should he choose to do so.

        Dave went to the church and said “I’m a victim. I don’t want to sue. Please help me. By the way, I want a Christian counselor.” The institutional portions of the church then began playing “Not my responsibility”. But eventually someone sent the request to the insurers. The Insurers decided there was something askance (or just saw an opportunity to avoid paying) and said “Not unless we know what was said to the counselor” (which sounds like a great strategy for avoiding responsibility btw). The church said “If the insurers don’t pay, then we can’t help, so these are the terms” and communicated those terms back to Dave. His counselor said “No”.

        So I take this away:

        1. Dave should have had his own weasel lawyer before he contacted the church.
        2. The parts of an institutions won’t pay out of the goodness of their hearts. They will fight over who is responsible for payment.
        3. Unless the responsibility is legally fixed, lawyers will find a way out from under it.
        4. The institutional parts of the church will also find a way out because individually they don’t wanted to be saddled with an unfunded obligation.

        The Christian nature of the counselor seems complicating only in that it might be hard to find one in the UK (and frankly I am surprised they have not been made illegal).

        Did I get it right?

        • Sounds like it. to Jack.
          Bit of an open goal this one. One wonders if the Church and/or the insurers are anxious about the possibility of a future compensation claim once the claimant is strengthened through therapy. Why else would they want access to a counsellor’s records?

          • carl jacobs

            The access request sounded like a poison pill to me – a condition that would guarantee refusal. No counselor is going to agree to those terms. The more interesting question to me is “Why was the insurer’s request for access simply passed on?” The church could have paid for it without the insurers.

          • Although unusual a counsellor would agree if their client gave express permission. Admittedly it might create a barrier but a lot would depend on what the regular reports were expected to contain. We’re only informed weekly reports of his sessions would be required. As Jack said, perhaps there was an apprehension about the possibility of a later law suit. If the Church had disregarded the insurer terms and had paid for this, then the insurer might pull out altogether. The delays suggest fear and confusion to Jack and a lack of clear protocols and leadership.
            Just to play devil’s advocate, remember your own cautionary words about solicitors and their capacity to spin a tale to the advantage of their clientele. We’re are only hearing one side of this saga.

          • carl jacobs

            Although unusual a counsellor would agree if their client gave express permission.

            I find that so hard to believe. It’s such a violation of professional ethics. And there is absolutely no way the Insurance company wants that information other than to protect itself from Dave. The counselor would have to knowingly agree to act against her client’s best interest.

            remember your own cautionary words

            Fair enough. I realize that. I was going with the assumptions I stated in my first paragraph. It also seems relevant that the church chose to offer help. That tends to indicate truthfulness on the part of Dave.

          • “The counselor would have to knowingly agree to act against her client’s best interest.”
            You’re clearly not familiar with the art of saying very little in a long report. Psychologists are adept at it.

          • carl jacobs

            Heh. Well … you got me there.

  • Chefofsinners

    Swift’s satirical poem “The Lady’s Dressing Room” comes to mind. Like Celia, the CoE tries to appear beautiful but the truth is: all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Their unofficial motto has, for many years, been: “Don’t start no shit there won’t be no shit.” Time indeed for a dose of laxative.

  • Mike Stallard

    “The financial ramifications of such a change should be handled behind the scenes, while the victim receives the requisite help without delay. ”
    Yup – had a case at our church, it was handled tactfully, quickly and very effectively.
    One question: what is the function of the clergy? If the priest cannot pronounce absolution in a way that works, if a priest cannot sit and listen with helpful comments, if a priest cannot absorb the person into the body of Christ, kindly tell me what the priesthood is actually for? If priesthood just doesn’t work and professional counsellors have to be called in – at a price – then what is the point of the Church?

    • There are two central issues. Firstly, a person sexually abused by a cleric might not trust a priest. Secondly and perhaps more critically, there are psychological disorders that require skilled intervention beyond the ability of your average parish priest. The mind and the soul do not operate separately and treating both together is frequently necessary.

      Jack has thought for a long time that dioceses should have a network of trained psychologists/therapists who are also theologically trained. Ideally these would be priests but such is the shortage nowadays this is unrealistic.

      • Mike Stallard

        Then again let me ask you – what is the point of the priesthood and what is the point of all the goings on in the Church? Are you honestly saying that it doesn’t work? And ought to be replaced by “professionals”?

        • That’s not what Jack wrote.

          • Mike Stallard

            Dodge the question at the peril of the priesthood.
            The Parish Priest should be the first person you turn to, friendly, listening, helpful.
            If it is remote, bureaucratic and uncaring, then what is the point of the priesthood?
            Be as clever as you like, but that is why nobody is coming forward to waste their life.

          • RobertRetyred

            I worked for a very large FTSE company and it was said, quite rightly, probably, that it had the best HR for disagreement management. Yes, it was true, as long as the disagreement wasn’t with your manager! 🙂
            I think the same is probably true in many organisations, including the Church, where deference to stodge is endemic. And when the manager has a problem they can be seen as ‘the weakest link’ by colleagues and a ‘disposal’ can be seen as very convenient method of removing a rival. It’s hardly team spirit in action, or even a ‘where two or three are gathered together’ opportunity.
            I waited for a suicide, and it came to pass. It was someone who ‘was the weakest link’, just a passer by, oblivious to the spiritual warfare being waged.
            As in any war, as a survivor, I am better for it and I am certain that getting help would have created a much worse result.
            Most people today live with illusion that there are no threats, that the world is benign, that money will solve most problems and many think that if you have more than the bear minimum of money and contribute to the community that you don’t have any problems stacking up or revealing themselves after new experiences.
            There several people, including Jordan Peterson, Camille Paglia and Jonathan Haidt, who have publicly voiced their concerns with the Post Modernist Marxist agenda that splits people into sub-groups in order to play the victim role, like feminists, blacks, gays and transgender. It has resulted in safe-spaces in universities so the universities are unable to do what they were intended to do: create well informed, creative, fun-loving, resilient, individuals who had some common sense, who could laugh at themselves from time to time.
            The Churches, which I don’t need to describe as this site does it so well 🙂 , has different problems to solve, but they could do with looking as the insights the three I mentioned have come up with.

          • Mike Stallard

            Thank you for that. Most interesting read!

        • carl jacobs

          what is the point of the priesthood

          Ooh! Ooh! Can I answer? Can I? Huh? Can I? Can I?*

          *Grammar police may object to the use of “can”. This is a perfectly acceptable formulation in modern English.

          • As a stubborn heretic … No, you may not.

          • carl jacobs

            So your admission is welcome, but I’m not quite clear why you being a stubborn heretic should prevent me from answering the question.

        • Dominic Stockford

          This is precisely the point raised by someone in an article I was reading elsewhere. The Church should have a different place where it finds the healing than does the world. The church is not a place to soothe ‘felt need’, but a place to present Christ – and if we don’t have faith in Him to provide whatever is needed emotionally/spiritually (for those who truly believe in Him), then what do we have faith in God to do? Do we really think the world has a better answer?

          • Mike Stallard

            If I have a medical problem, the first place I go to is my (excellent) GP Dr Kevan. If I have a problem with my faith, the first place I go to is my Parish Priest. They can then point me in the right direction. In this case, the Parish clergy simply do not figure. Why not?

  • Inspector General

    All reminiscent of the way that devil Peter Ball went about his evil…

    Is the CoE still ordaining unsuitables as priests? And why haven’t they stopped? When will the church rid itself of existing unsuitables who place devotion to their lifestyle beyond their devotion to Christ?

    No more needs to be said.

    • Inspector General

      …Except maybe for this…

      Something truly horrible happened in Gloucester some years ago. Workman were breaking up the surface using a pneumatic hammer so they could dig below. One fellow broke into the casing of an electric cable. It carried 30,000 volts. All at the same time, there was an almighty bang, the centre of Gloucester was without electricity and the man concerned burst into flames. Or rather his clothes did. Miraculously he survived, though whether he worked again is not known.

      The case came to court. Criminal negligence naturally. The fine was over a million pounds.

      How many cases of ‘criminal negligence’ must be heard and substantial fines suffered before the CoE is convinced homosexuals cannot be priests. Let it be a million pounds a go. Maybe then true ‘faith’ will win through…

      • It certainly made the Catholic Church in America sit up and take notice. But is an adversarial and combative approach really the best way forward?

        • Inspector General

          St Peter carried a sword with him, and Christ would have known. How’s that for adversarial and combative…

  • Chefofsinners

    If you don’t look too closely at the picture at the top of this article it says “Give .. syrup of fibs”. A neat summary of the way the CoE has treated its victims.

    • dannybhoy

      I noticed that when I first saw it, being somewhat appreciative of its miraculous properties..

      • IanCad

        Of no import whatsoever, but “Syrup of Figs” is also Cockney rhyming slang for Ronald Biggs; The most famous of the Great Train Robbers.
        As quoted at his trial by an astonished American reporter: “How much Bird for Syrup? What did the Chocolate give him?”
        Bird Lime – Time.
        Chocolate Fudge – Judge.
        It’s rainy, windy, and I’ve no ambition at all today.

        • Dreadnaught

          What a load of Blanco … blanco white …. shhhhhhhh.

        • dannybhoy

          “It’s rainy, windy, and I’ve no ambition at all today.“
          Don’t worry,
          Syrup of Figs will get you moving again..
          Danny is laid up with a chest infection after a hectic week of social and communal activities..
          Sometimes involving listening to grubby little urchins reading, whilst watching the occasional (and largely unsuccessful) attempts to wipe a drippy nose..
          Support wife at all day craft fair, Sat’dy
          Sund’y attend service at our village Methodist Chapel,
          where delightful oldish local preacher showed incredible musical talent; combining playing hymns on his guitar, whilst being accompanied by pre-recorded and cleverly arranged synched pop music on a wizzo keyboard..
          ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’ and Procol Harum’s ‘Whiter shade of pale’??
          Maybe all this excitement proved too much for me..
          God bless you!

          • IanCad

            Thanks Danny – get well soon. Of some efficacy should be a large mug of hot Tom Thumb with a liberal amount of Harry Tate mixed in. P.R.N.
            (Hot, sweet, Rum)

  • not a machine

    Mr Sewells post seems to be a long explanation of a legal situation subsequent to a matter of abuse. Whether this is something as he points out of chronic something or other the church must be to please only legal process, is something Mr Sewell does not venture onto. Let’s call him Dave was subject to abuse by a known (doesn’t say convicted) abuser and the killer line, the victim was in the care of. There are no doubts, plenty of Daves and Davinas as victims not just in churches. It is always very tragic where these relationships occur the Daves and Davinas may have many questions about themselves and what they believed. The church does not have a catechism to abuse God or people, if anything the purpose of God is something about divination, which legal description seems to have some role, but not a primary one as it may create an abuse itself. The matter of counselling is or can be just as problematic even though some forms can claim to be useful, but we know counselling has different foundations in approach to abuse. This does not help victims of abuse, which should of course be done. The most helpful future thing is for churches to consider the what and how some forms of abuse occur, but unless I don’t understand Mr Sewells recent posts, where he thinks the British Leyland output and group think is one that can only ever make a vehicle of abuse, I don’t know. Safeguarding teams are what, exactly? an insurance requirement? A ready military of inquestion? A body also capable of failure? The church in this case agreed to pay for counselling, Dave was offered and accepted counciling, but then it goes awry, the insurer (who was perhaps paying the claim if other damages were involved) then wants to have copies of counselling reports, highly sensative reports or did it just want receipts? The church safety team did not question (it appears) the insurers request… Who in turn no doubt have a legal approach and in rather obscure ring we have legal process meeting legal thought. I hope Dave finds God, finds a life beyond what his abuse left him with, that the church gives Christ’s word and teachings and gives us ministers, Bishops, Dean’s, wardens, deacons etc that understand abuse and its sources.