The Archbishop admits it: sexual abuse rampant in Britain

Today my colleague Tim Wood reveals the full details of a recent private letter from Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to Marilyn Hawes,the Hertfordshire mother of three boys sexually abused at a Church of England school more than a decade ago.

The contents will confirm what everybody connected with following the child sexual abuse scandal as it has been developing, knows – that child sexual abuse has been rampant, as he puts it, across institutions in Britain.

As Tim discloses in his article on the Exaro website and in the Sunday Times the Archbishop – who is known to see this as a major problem in society – does not mince his words.

“It is now clear that in a huge number of institutions and localities, the abuse of children and vulnerable adults has been rampant. That is not in any way mitigation or excuse for the church, but is why I have been, with Paul Butler,( The Bishop of Durham) pushing for the public inquiry that the government has promised.”

“It is also clear that there is a very significant legacy of unacknowledged cases in the Church of England. We are taking all necessary steps to face these.”

The mother’s tale is very familiar to many – first denial, then being shunned, and  then receiving a brush off at the top of the Church of England until now. At least the perpetrator in  this case, a music teacher, was caught and jailed.

The tragedy of this case comes as Theresa May, the home secretary, has reluctantly finally agreed to set up an overarching child sex abuse inquiry into historic and current abuse.

Unfortunately just as something good was about to happen – after heroic efforts by MPs of almost all parties – the inquiry has now become mired in a row over the appointment of its chair, Fiona Woolf, the Mayor of the City of London. Her links with Leon Brittan, who is likely to be one of the witnesses because of documents detailing VIP abuse disappearing in the past and under his watch as home secretary in the 1980s, appear not to have been properly investigated.

Normally people could celebrate the government tasking some action to find out what has been a hidden scandal in this country for decades. But they can’t until this mess over the inquiry is sorted out.

 

 

 

Is the Church of England getting the message on child sex abuse survivors?

Justin Welby: Is the church getting the message?

Justin Welby: Is the church getting the message?

Whisper it not too loudly but is the Church of England finally getting the message that it needs to fundamentally change its attitude to child sex abuse survivors?

Nearly two years ago the then new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby,issued warm words and an apology for all the harm the church had done to people by its priests. He was also pressing before the government finally agreed for an overarching inquiry into child sexual abuse.

Now there are going to be new laws to ensure that training of everyone from a vicar to a bishop in safeguarding, the scrapping of time limits in bringing child sex abuse cases and looking at the funding of help for survivors.

As I report on the Exaro website

The CoE is also to change canon law to make bishops accountable for the safeguarding of children in their diocese for the first time since it broke away from the Roman Catholic church during the reign of King Henry VIII. The changes mark what one expert called a wholesale “re-writing” of the CoE’s policy towards safeguarding children in the wake of scandals over paedophile priests.

One spokesman from the Church said :“These measures are part of wider approach by the church based on what the survivors of sexual abuse want us to do. The whole impetus is on tackling the problem from the survivor’s point of view.”

All this is good progress in the right direction. But much will depend how it is enacted. Often directives from the top are not implemented by people on the ground. People must make sure that they are or otherwise it will not work and we could do without more public relations exercises.

The Church of England’s approach is not being replicated by the Roman Catholics as the recent stories about the Salesian Order revealed- with the appalling Salesian response to further examples of historic child sex abuse exposed by the police after Graham Wilmer, a survivor and now a member of the independent panel into child sexual abuse revealed them in his new book The Devil’s Advocate.

The next few months will be  telling for the Church and the independent inquiry.

 

Justin Welby: An apology on sexual abuse is not enough

Justin Welby: Apology not enough Pic credit: The Guardian

Justin Welby: Apology not enough Pic credit: The Guardian

The decision by the Church of England Synod spurred on by  Justin Welby and John Sentamu,  archbishops of Canterbury and York, to apologise for past sins of child sexual abuse is welcome. But it is not nearly enough.

The words are fine. They offer to apologise unreservedly” for the failure of the Church of England’s systems to protect children, young people and adults from physical and sexual abuse inflicted by its clergy and others and for the failure to listen properly to those so abused.

They add: “The sexual and physical abuse that has been inflicted by these people on children, young people and adults is and will remain a deep source of grief and shame for years to come.”

But as I reported on Exaro News  for an independent inquiry. Graham Wilmer, of the Lantern Project, calls for a Commission for  Truth and Reconciliation ( see http://www.ctruk.org.uk/)

They are big fears as the Stop Church Child Abuse put it : “is this a game, another in the decades of games played out in the public,to present a church responsive to its past failings and moving forward in harmony with survivors; until the next time, the next case that reveals further abuse, cover up and denial, and the inadequacy of effective procedures?” 

Unless there is a real rethink by all the churches and public institutions we are going to get nowhere. In my view from  limited investigations into historic child sexual abuse  the temptation to cover up abuse is enormous. Perpetrators  are often subtle, cunning and very plausible. They know how to get around systems – and are often helped by institutions that don’t want to face up to the shame of public disclosure.

We need to go much further and involve all churches including the  deeply reluctant Roman Catholic church to tackle what amounts to a tidal wave of historic abuse in this country with no fewer than four police investigations involving hundreds if not thousands of cases that have been uncovered.

That is why I am delighted  that Tom Watson, Labour MP who made the original allegations about a historic sexual abuse ring in Parliament is now  going to concentrate on pursuing this investigation – and will no longer be drawn into the time-consuming  battles that  are at present engulfing Labour’s campaign machine.