Clergy sexual abuse: why can’t the Church cleanse its own temple?

Aug 18, 2019 by

by Archbishop Cranmer:

“The gross evil of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy would have gone unexposed had it not been for three principal agencies, all secular.” That’s the damning opening sentence of an article in The Tablet which raises so many complex issues of episcopal authority, ethical transparency and ecclesial accountability and that it’s worth reproducing in full: […]

As with the Roman Catholic Church, so it is with the Church of England.

There are a number of serving bishops who stand accused of turning a blind eye to chronic sexual abuse by other members of the clergy. There are allegations of collusion, manipulation and complicity in cover-up for reputational preservation, and even of cover-up of the cover-up. And the evidence is persuasive and damning. Why is a long-dead bishop like George Bell so readily thrown under a bus over one single, uncorroborated allegation, while living and serving bishops are shielded by a ‘one-year rule’ for a complaint to be made against them? What possible incentive do they have for consenting to dispense with that arbitrary rule when it would mean a discomfiting investigation into their failures and shortcomings? How may one hold diocesan bishops to account during their term of office when the relevant metropolitan bishop refuses to act?

The answer, of course, is that one cannot: they are kings in their dioceses, masters of their parishes, overseers of all boards and councils responsible for ministry and mission. They are immune from external investigation, shielded from the arrows of oversight, and guarded by the episcopal sword of sanctity. And this is apparently immutable, as a recent to the General Synod by the National Safeguarding Steering Group makes clear:

Read here


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