Church abuse activist: ‘These ribbons are a cry for change’

News & Star

October 10, 2020

By Phil Coleman

Only victims can fully understand the lifelong impact of child sexual abuse.

But imagine that you were abused as a child and, after years of torment, your dreams haunted by unspeakable memories, you summon the courage to tell somebody.

In a sane world, that would be a first step on the road to justice and healing.

For Richard – a deep thinking Christian from north Cumbria, now in his fifties – it took 36 years to take that step. Abused as a child by Carlisle Cathedral Canon Ronald Johns, Richard wanted an apology.

It was 1993.

He reported Johns to the then Bishop of Carlisle, Ian Harland. Yet the Bishop did not report Johns to the police. Instead, he simply moved Johns to a church in Caldbeck.

Thirteen years later, in the summer of 2006, Richard tried again. This time he reported Johns to the police. After hearing about the abuse, the officer told him: “I’m really sorry to hear that – but there’s not a lot we can do.”

Johns was later prosecuted and jailed. But he was only one in a litany of Cumbrian clergymen convicted of child sex crimes. In February, a court heard about Catholic priest Peter Turner who, like Johns, admitted to his superior in the church that he was an abuser.

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