CofE’s handling of abuse claims hampered by “culture of deference”

Posted: Thu, 6th Oct 2022

CofE’s handling of abuse claims hampered by “culture of deference”

A "culture of deference" contributed to the mishandling of Church of England abuse claims, a review has found.

A three-year review of abuse allegations in the CofE found 383 new cases, with priests the most common perpetrators and children the main victims, according to a report published yesterday.

Most cases date back only to the 2000s and 2010s.

The review, which aimed to identify institutional failings in safeguarding and handling of abuse allegations, was the second carried out by the CofE, after the first in 2007 was found inadequate.

It found the CofE suffered a "culture of deference" towards bishops and other senior members and a "longstanding ethos where individuals felt unable to challenge back over safeguarding concerns".

It gave examples of a culture of protectionism which "allows alleged and convicted perpetrators to work and worship unchecked, failure to listen and act, disbelief and in some cases diverting blame on to the victim of abuse".

The review found allegations "were often dealt with informally, without appropriate investigations or records", and there were incidences where "belief in forgiveness and the right to worship outweighed safeguarding considerations".

It said there were instances of bias, including "misogyny, sexism and attitudes relating to women in the church, especially as ordained priests", in addition to same-sex relationships.

The CofE was also criticised for its stance on gay people this week by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who said the Church is "actively pursuing a campaign of discrimination" against lesbian and gay people, and questioned whether the "unique privileges" enjoyed by the Church are sustainable.

His criticism follows the Church barring the late archbishop Desmond Tutu's daughter, an ordained Anglican priest, from officiating at her godfather's funeral last month because she is in a same-sex marriage.

The NSS launched a campaign in August encouraging the public to write to their MPs and call for disestablishment in the wake of archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby affirming same-sex relationships are sinful at an international Anglican conference this year.

NSS: "Disestablishment can't come soon enough"

NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "These appalling findings reveal the extent to which prioritising religious agendas and hierarchies has led to the mishandling of hundreds of cases of alleged child abuse in the Church of England.

"Disturbingly, most of these new cases were relatively recent. The Church evidently cannot be trusted to mark its own homework, making the case for mandatory reporting laws ever stronger.

"But there need to be broader questions regarding the Church's established status. Its atrocious record on abuse and its institutional homophobia, both of which are connected to its religiosity, make a mockery of any claims to special spiritual or moral insight. Disestablishment can't come soon enough."

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Tags: Abuse, Disestablishment