Clergy still believe some complainants are 'simply out for the money', abuse expert tells church leaders

By Olivia Rudgard
February 10, 2018

Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby (right) talks with the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, during the General Synod

Bishop of Chichester, in his study at Chichester Palac

Clergy believe some abuse complainants are "simply out for the money", an expert has told General Synod.

Roger Singleton, a former chair of the Independent Safeguarding Authority, said that while attitudes among church members had improved, some priests still treated abuse allegations with "ambivalence, even hostility," and were "unable or unwilling to accept the need for sensible, proportionate measures" to prevent abuse.

As part of an update by church leaders on the Church of England's preparation for a series of abuse inquiries later this year, the former chief adviser to the government on the safety of children said some clergy "minimise the impacts which physical, sexual, emotional or spiritual abuse can have on people's lives". In some cases, he said, they "believe that complainants are simply out for the money".

He added that the Church needed to "grasp the nettle of dealing with clergy, readers, priests with PTO [permission to officiate] and lay leaders who persistently fail to attend training opportunities or speak disparagingly about reasonable safeguarding measures".

The bishop of Leeds also said that relations with the police needed to be improved, and said bishops were "frustrated by having to take the rap for things which are not our responsibility".

Nicholas Baines added: "Months can go by when we're told to do things and not to do things, we can't go public, and we see the suffering that that engenders as well, either for those who have had allegations against them, or who are in the end proved innocent."

Peter Hancock, the lead bishop for safeguarding, acknowledged that the situation was "deeply unsatisfactory and deeply frustrating", but warned that the Church should not "turn its frustration" onto other agencies.

He said that funding for measures to prevent and deal with abuse allegations had risen five-fold since 2014, and that up to 30,000 people had been given training on how best to deal with them.

Figures released earlier this week by the Church revealed that it dealt with 3,300 safeguarding concerns or abuse allegations in 2016. Around one in five involved clergy or other church officials.

Synod also heard that the Church had provided 25,000 documents to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and submitted 36 witness statements.

Senior bishops expressed regret and apologised for the church's failings when dealing with abuse survivors.

Dr Martin Warner, the bishop of Chichester, said survivors were "people, not a tricky problem to be solved", adding: "No-one should underestimate what it takes to make an allegation, to relive the abuse, to undergo the inevitable processes of forensic enquiry, and to face again the devastating possibility of not being believed."

The diocese of Chichester is due to be subject to a hearing of IICSA at the beginning of March. It has been criticised for past failings dealing both with convicted paeodophile bishop Peter Ball, who was released from prison last year, and with the case of George Bell, former bishop of Chichester, who was accused several decades after his death of abusing children, and whose case the church failed to manage properly, according to an independent report released at the end of last year.

The Church has denied Bell's family the chance to be represented by a lawyer in the new investigation, the BBC reported. They will instead be represented by a safeguarding expert.

The church is behaving like a "small dictatorial government", Lord Carlile told the broadcaster. "This flies in the face of the recommendations I made which the church said it accepted. I'm afraid the Church has got to get a grip on this."

Tim Thornton, the bishop at Lambeth, told the Today Programme that Lord Carlile does not specify whether the representative should be a lawyer or a safeguarding expert.

On Saturday morning a group of victims and survivors met senior members of the Church ahead of the day's meeting of Synod.

Senior bishops including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and Sarah Mullally, the bishop-elect of London, met the group for a short period of silence on the steps of Church House.



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