The Church’s idea of justice is an unholy mess

Aug 11, 2020 by

by Charles Moore, Telegraph:

John Smyth QC was a sadist. In the Seventies and Eighties, he perverted his power as a leading Christian evangelical to win the trust of unhappy teenage youths and then beat them mercilessly. He claimed to be purifying them for Jesus. I have written about their ordeal for the Telegraph before.

Far too late – and after Smyth’s death in 2018 – the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team launched an inquiry. At the time, Smyth’s evil deeds were covered up. In life, he always managed to escape prosecution. The Smyth story needs to be officially told.

But the process is weird. In June, Lord Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury, received a letter from the Bishop of Oxford, in whose diocese he lives, removing his “Permission to Officiate” (PTO). The bishop said he was acting on behalf of the Smyth inquiry.

Without PTO, no clergyman is allowed to perform his religious duties, such as preaching or administering the sacraments. Its removal is a sign of disgrace. For a former archbishop, who has a worldwide public reputation, it is devastating.

Obviously, not even an archbishop should be above inquiry. But what is so extraordinary is that Lord Carey has not been accused of anything (indeed, it is specifically stated that he has not been accused of any child abuse). When he was head of Trinity theological college in Bristol in the Eighties, John Smyth was a mature student for a single term. He may – he is not sure – have met Smyth then. It is alleged that he is mentioned in a couple of contemporary letters as having been informed about the Smyth case, but the evidence of that has not been made known to him.

Last week, despite legal representations, the Church authorities refused to restore Lord Carey’s PTO. The effect is like that of libel. The doctrines of “safeguarding” seem not to safeguard the principles of natural justice.

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