Victims of abuse want Church of England to support targeted independent inquiry

Darlington and Stockton Times: Bishop of Durham elect Paul Butler Bishop of Durham elect Paul Butler

THE Church of England has been accused of falling short of what is needed by campaigners wanting a public inquiry into the extent of child abuse.

The Stop Church Child Abuse alliance, which represents church abuse survivor groups, said it had been informed by Bishop of Durham elect Paul Butler in a meeting last week that the Church of England would not support an independent inquiry into child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and Church of England.

The Church confirmed last night it would instead support a “wide ranging” public inquiry into institutional child abuse in the church and other key national institutions – but not one specific to the churches.

Campaigners say this is a u-turn on the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s statement at the General Synod in July that the church would support an inquiry – and the Synod voted unanimously to apologise to victims of clergy abused and do everything necessary to help victims of abuse.

David Greenwood, chairman of the Alliance, said there needed to be an investigation specific to the two churches to expose child abuse that had been covered up and said there were “deep problems” with the church organisations.

“If there is an inquiry it will have the power to compel church authorities to give evidence and bring in documents into the inquiry,” he said. “What we know is that churches are good at keeping documents – and there will be evidence there of any cover-ups.

“If we are to move forward and learn about how the systems in the church have developed to the way it is now, than we need an exploration of what has happened in the past.”

A spokesman for the Bishop of Durham elect said: “The Church of England does not tolerate any act of sexual abuse, and rigorously investigates any claims made.

“At Synod this July it issued a public apology for past safeguarding wrongs and pledged to tighten its procedures, working closely with survivor groups. New legislative proposals will be considered by the Synod in February. Other non-legislative work around training, safeguarding provision and governance is also in hand.

“The Church of England has said it would support a call for an independent, wide-ranging public inquiry into institutional child abuse, both in the church, and other key national institutions.

"This position has not changed. The Church of England recognises that serious past abuse, and inadequate ways of responding to survivors, have left many deeply damaged and that this has to be confronted alongside ensuring current and future practices are as robust as they can be.”

 

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