Bishop admits ‘hunch’ about paedophile priest but says he was powerless to stop him

Mar 12, 2018 by

by Harry Farley, Christian Today:

The Church of England’s ‘toothless’ monitoring of paedophile priests means abusers could go on leading services even after being officially barred from ministry, an inquiry heard today.

The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse is hearing evidence on how the diocese of Chichester responded to allegations of abuse as a case study for the wider Church of England.

A former bishop accused of failing to report a convicted paedophile priest admitted he had a ‘hunch’ Roy Cotton was ‘a villain’ but said he was powerless to stop him.

Wallace Benn, the former bishop of Lewes, said that he was worried about Cotton, who died in 2006 before he could be brought to justice, for several years but still allowed him to minister and have unsupervised access to children.

Even after Cotton was eventually told he could not take public services the extent of the restrictions on him was a ‘stern word’, the inquiry’s panel heard, as lead counsel Fiona Scolding QC described the Church’s monitoring system as ‘toothless’.

When asked how he enforced the belated ban on Cotton, Benn said: ‘You hope that a clergyman will take a command of a bishop seriously. But if he is not prepared to take the commands of the Lord seriously he is probably not going to listen to a bishop.’

Cotton was convicted of child sexual abuse in 1954 but was considered suitable for ordination in 1967 by then archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, as a ‘man of considerable ability…free of any trouble for 12 years’.

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