Bishops who Bully – Reflections on a Safeguarding Scandal

May 28, 2021 by

by Gavin Ashenden:

Sex scandals in the Church cause proper revulsion. Financial scandals make people angry. But alongside the abuse of sex and money, misusing power causes deep distress. The abuse of power in the church, while a more subtle corruption of Christian life, is equally scandalous. It is all the worse when it is caused by a bishop and used either as a political weapon in an institution, or against vulnerable people within it.

Bullying sounds like it belongs in the schoolyard. But in the life of the Church it represents a scandalous inversion of everything the incarnation of Jesus stood for. His self-emptying and vulnerable humility is the far flung opposite of the psychological brutalising and manipulation.

This abuse of power and the perversion of Christian humility becomes correspondingly more dangerous and destructive the more senior a clergyman is. The DNA of episcopacy is the care of the wounded, the vulnerable and the lost, in the name of both Christ and his apostles. So far from being practitioners of power, they were all martyred before they passed on the charism of their office.

It is worse again when the Church as an institution connives at the bullying by pretending it isn’t happened and lacking the courage to tell the truth about it and confront it. Recently the churches have tried desperately to catch up after a long history of lamentable failure to protect the vulnerable from predators. They have fallen prey to the temptation to think that the louder the proclaim their safeguarding virtues, the more this acts as a kind of insurance against past or present failure.

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See also: Was Tim Dakin made Bishop of Winchester without being validly ordained priest? by Archbishop Cranmer

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