Is it not sad that things have come to this?
Clergy will be reminded never to be alone with children under new rules proposed by an inquiry into sexual abuse in the Church of England.
They will also be expected to keep records of all meetings with parishioners, while priests accused of abuse will be immediately suspended, it was reported.
Investigators looking into child protection policies following child abuse scandals in the Diocese of Chichester found that safeguarding had fallen “woefully short” of what should be expected.
Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury who set up the inquiry, said its interim report “confirms that there have been many and longstanding failures in implementing a robust and credible safeguarding policy in the Diocese of Chichester”.
In May last year, a review found serious failings in the senior clergy after two priests were allowed to continue working despite being accused of serious child abuse offences.
Colin Pritchard was the vicar of St Barnabas in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, until 2007, despite having been first reported to police over sex offences 10 years earlier. He was later jailed for sexually abusing two young boys.
One of the boys was also abused by Roy Cotton, who worked as a parish priest in Brede near Rye, but prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to charge him before he died in September 2006.
Dr Williams said: “The abiding hurt and damage done to (the victims of abuse) is something that none of us in the Church can ignore, and I am deeply sorry that they should have been let down by those they ought to have been able to trust.
“I hope they will believe that we take their experience seriously: we owe them not only our words of apology but our best efforts to make sure that in the future our churches will be safe places for children and vulnerable people of all ages.”
The interim report confirmed there had been “many and longstanding failures” in implementing a robust and credible safeguarding policy in the Chichester diocese, putting children and others at risk.
Dr Williams added: “The problems relating to safeguarding in Chichester have been specific to that diocese rather than a reflection of failures in the legal processes or national policies of the Church of England.”
But areas were identified where lessons learned from Chichester could inform national Church policy.
Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC, who were appointed as commissaries to conduct the inquiry, wrote: “It has been particularly distressing to us to have met people whose lives have been deeply wounded by the abuse they have suffered at the hands of clergy and of lay people holding positions of responsibility in the Church. Sadly, these wounds often refuse to heal.”
The diocese had “an appalling history in these matters”, they said.
“It is clear to us that many lives have been blighted…We are clear that those who have sought justice through the courts are but the tip of the iceberg.”
The authorities in the diocese were “very slow” to recognise what was happening, they added, and called for “a radical change of culture in the diocese”
They made 32 recommendations which include that the “dysfunctionality” within the senior diocesan team must be urgently addressed, that all clergy must have up-to-date Criminal Records Bureau checks, and all clergy should undergo regular training in safeguarding.
Compare the above to the following Scripture, and join me in wondering what has become of the world…
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
- St Matthew 19:14