Liberated from the purgatorial shackles of Christ Church, Oxford, Martyn Percy is now free to speak, and he has done so.
Andrew Billen in The Times Magazine recounts the tortuous history of the saga, and perhaps the most illuminating, if not disturbing comments surround the conduct of the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev’d Steven Croft, and the part he played in how Martyn Percy came to look “like a man who has been through the wringer.. very thin… In the depths of the dispute he struggled to eat enough to reach 8½st.”
The transformation from physical firmness to ghosted frailty was noted way back in 2018, but then Pelion was piled on Ossa, with Church of England collusion in bullying; the weaponising of safeguarding; Church lawyers conspiring with Christ Church lawyers and PR; exoneration without restoration; Clergy Discipline Measures leading to suicide; more slander and defamation; the Church of England causing nervous breakdown; the Diocese of Oxford misrepresenting facts; and on, and on, and on, and on.
Martyn Percy explains to Andrew Billen:
“I really had a pretty serious breakdown with this. And that was largely triggered by the Bishop of Oxford writing a very public letter, when people were trying to defend me, saying that it was inappropriate for people to be defending me in public when I was being attacked in public.
“I was despairing, because I felt that actually you would want your bishop to be a person of courage and integrity, somebody who might actually stand up against, pardon the expression, the forces of darkness and oppression, and he just colluded with them.”
Did Percy become suicidal?
“I think I came close. I don’t think I ever really got there. I mean, other people have done. We have had clergy and victims of abuse who’ve gone through this Orwellian nightmare with church investigations and they’ve taken their own lives and I can completely understand that,” he says. “You might get a bit of pastoral care, but you don’t get any advocacy. You don’t get the new legal support.”
This isn’t, of course, the first time the Bishop of Oxford has been accused of being a safeguarding risk: during the IICSA hearing in 2019 he was accused by Matthew Ineson, a victim of rape at the hands of Rev’d Trevor Devamanikkam of “seriously misleading” people in events surrounding the abuse and subsequent suicide of the priest. It isn’t at all clear what happened to the CDM brought against him in 2017, and why it mysteriously went “out of time”. Matt Ineson wrote subsequently:
The National Safeguarding Team are clearly stating here that Steven Croft should have acted. He didn’t, and my abuser, the Revd Trevor Devamanikkam, was left 4½ years after my first disclosure to Steven Croft and 4 years after my correspondence with John Sentamu to potentially abuse again. He was charged in May 2017 with 6 serious charges of sexual abuse against me. Steven Croft has admitted on several occasions that I disclosed my abuse to him in the media over the past 16 months. I have pursued the complaint against Steven Croft’s failures several times with the church who have blocked any attempt at investigation into his failures. The National Safeguarding team now acknowledge those failures and I call on Steven Croft to resign with immediate effect.
Of course, nothing happened. Nothing was done. Lessons learned? No idea. And so here we are again, with the Bishop of Oxford “colluding with the forces of darkness”, in the words of Martyn Percy, which echo the exasperation of Matt Ineson.
But when a diocesan bishop becomes a safeguarding risk, surrounding himself with friendly counsel, nimble PR and combative lawyers, it is impossible to hold them to account: the Metropolitans in Canterbury and York can try, but, ultimately, when it comes to safeguarding, a diocesan bishop is accountable to no-one but himself (or herself).
Did Percy become suicidal?
“I think I came close..”
Some come even closer, of course. And some, like Fr Alan Griffin, see it through to the end.
Martyn Percy concludes, as ever, with grace and light:
“This is going to sound slightly strange and possibly shocking, but I’m not sure I’d change the past four years because of the good things that we’ve discovered that I don’t think we’d have found otherwise. You discover some really brave people. You discover depths of care and support that you would not have known otherwise. You find fortitude and resilience and courage and humanity. But you also discover that the places you thought you could get care from, places like the church – well, actually, you can’t.”
What option remains for you when you believe the Church of England colludes with the forces of darkness, and just doesn’t give a damn?