Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham tells colleagues church has ‘reabused victims’ and ‘sinned through its failure to act’
Victims of sexual abuse by Church of England clergy have rejected an apology from the general synod and called for an independent public inquiry to ensure abusers are held to account and better safeguards put in place.
In York on Sunday evening, the general synod voted unanimously to endorse the apology already made by the archbishop of Canterbury,Justin Welby, to victims of abuse, and to back moves intended to tighten its safeguarding procedures.
The synod was told the church had failed victims of abuse “big time” by refusing to listen to their stories and by moving offenders to different areas in the hope that the problem would go away.
Paul Butler, the bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, said the church had sinned through its failure to act just as much as the abusers had sinned through their actions.
“[Survivors] have struggled for years to have their voices heard,” he said. “They have put up with institutional resistance time and again. In doing so, we have repeatedly reabused them.”
However, the synod’s apology did not go nearly far enough for abuse victims, who were not permitted to speak during the debate.
In a statement read out by Butler, the Stop Church Child Abuse group said until a full and independent public inquiry was held, many would suspect the church was merely going through the motions.
It concluded: “Once such an inquiry has reported, once individual cases have been acknowledged, and once the church has begun how to learn to respond appropriately, maybe then the apologies, general as well as to individuals and their families, will carry some meaning.”
The archbishops’ expression of contrition came after the release of a report into safeguarding practices in Chichester diocese, which was commissioned in 2011 by Welby’s predecessor, Rowan Williams, following a series of scandals involving clergymen within the diocese that saw several arrested, charged and convicted of historic sex crimes against children.
The report, said the archbishops, had laid bare “a painful story of individual wickedness on the part of the abusers”.
The formal apology to survivors of abuse comes seven years after the synod said sorry for helping to sustain and profit from the slave trade.