The Archbishop of Canterbury is ashamed of the church’s cover-ups, he said at a public hearing on child sex abuse in the Anglican church.
Archbishop Justin Welby made the comments Wednesday at a public hearing that Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) conducted, the Church Times reported. The IICSA led the hearing in an effort to determine what extent the Anglican Church failed to report complaints concerning or instances of abuse and any other way in the church failed to protect children from sexual abuse when it was in its power to do so.
“I have learnt to be ashamed again of the Church. You can’t read the transcripts; you can’t read the evidence statements without being moved, at least you shouldn’t be able to,” Welby said in his closing statement, according to CT.
“You can apologize and apologize to survivors, and I would want to put on record again — I don’t know how to express it adequately — how appalled I am and ashamed I am of the Church for what it did,” Welby added at the end of his statement.
Welby particularly highlighted the “insanity of clericalism and a deferential culture” within the Anglican Church in which clerics passed responsibility for reporting complaints of abuse or otherwise acting to stop abuse up the line of clerical authority instead of taking personal responsibility. The inquiry questioned several now retired bishops and other senior clergy from the Chichester diocese, who consistently passed blame to other clergy members for failure to do something about known abuses. Welby denounced the deflections of blame.
“Nobody can say ‘it is not my fault.’ It is so absurd,” Welby said, according to CT. “To say, ‘I have heard about a problem, but it was someone else’s job to report it,’ that is not an acceptable human response, let alone a leadership response.”
“If you know a child is being abused, not to report it is simply wrong — for every human being,” Welby added.
Welby agreed with Fiona Scolding QC, lead counsel to the Anglican investigation, the church must cultivate a “no-blame culture” with regard to clerics who make mistakes and and failures in reporting, as opposed to clerics who engage in what Welby called overtly malicious behavior like abuse. For those clerics who failed to report complaints of abuse or failed to recognize instances of abuse that should have been reported, Welby suggested they receive further training.
The Church of England’s system also needs to be revamped in terms of safeguarding against and reporting abuse, according to Graham Tilby, the Church’s national head of safeguarding.
“The duty to report has been only been quite recent in terms of allegations against church officers,” Tilby said in the hearing, according to Religion News.
The current system within the church does not assure authorities hear of important cases, but the new clarification any cleric who hears of abuse is responsible for reporting it will help facilitate “a flow of information” to the proper authorities, Tilby said.
Welby would support a national system of reporting abuse to speed up the process for addressing those reports as opposed to the current system in which victims sometimes have to wait up to five years before anything happens, he also said during the hearing. Bishops must now undergo compulsory safeguard training, he also noted.
“The reputation of the Church, the reputation of a person, the reputation of an institution is as nothing compared to the call to obey God in Jesus Christ in the way we love and care for people. Everything that goes against that will in the end destroy the Church,” Welby said, according to CT.
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