Statement from Archbishop of York on the Independent Inquiry by Her Honour Judge Sally Cahill into the Church of England’s response to child sexual abuse cases
“I wish to begin by expressing my gratitude to the Judge, Her Honour Judge Sally Cahill QC, Mr Joe Cocker and Mrs Nicola Harding for the work they have done in producing this report. I also want to thank all those who gave evidence to assist the Inquiry team in coming to its conclusions.
I have already been in contact with those who gave evidence to the Inquiry regarding their alleged abuse by Robert Waddington. As I have said to them I am deeply ashamed that the Church was not vigilant enough to ensure that these things did not happen, failing both to watch and to act, where children were at serious risk.
Any act of abuse committed by someone in a position of authority in the Church is a matter for shame and requires deep repentance. We are called as individuals and corporately to a higher standard and to show God’s love and care as revealed in Jesus Christ. Those who trusted us in this only to be grievously wounded deserve not only our wholehearted apology but also the assurance we will keep a watchful eagle’s eye and act swiftly.
Those I have spoken to (John, Ian and Eli) have expressed clearly that it is important for them to know whether new policies and procedures adopted after 2004 have created a new culture in the Church of England as a whole, which will ensure that all God’s children are protected. Those concerns are reflected in the report’s recommendations.
I commissioned an independent judge-led inquiry on 13th July 2013. The Judge was asked to investigate how the Church responded to the allegations made in 1999 and 2003/04 that Robert Waddington, a former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, had abused a child in the 1960s when he was headmaster of a school in the Diocese of North Queensland, Australia and also a Manchester choirboy in the 1980s when he was the Dean of Manchester.
In its conclusions the Inquiry has identified systemic failures in the Church’s failing to implement or follow its own procedures and guidelines on the reporting of incidents. Although the report notes no-one has come forward to say they were abused by Robert Waddington after the first complaint was made in 1999, what stands out is that between 1999 and 2004 those in senior positions responsible for taking decisions in these matters were “not qualified or sufficiently experienced in child protection”.
The Judge has made eight separate recommendations for the future. A number of those recommendations have already been anticipated and are being addressed in the most recent policy and guidelines. Further work is being planned to strengthen national safeguarding policies over the next twelve months.
Five of the recommendations of the Report have to do with the need for a more consistent approach to safeguarding policy and practice across the Church of England. This will be developed further by the full-time National Safeguarding Adviser for the Church of England who is currently being recruited to join the existing safeguarding staff team at national level.
The national safeguarding staff team will continue to work closely with Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers in the implementation of national policy and practice guidelines, in order to ensure that they are applied consistently at every level of the Church of England.
This consistency of approach will be further reinforced by the planned Quality Assurance process for safeguarding which is currently under development and which will be piloted in a number of dioceses in 2015 before being implemented across the Church of England from 2016 onwards.
In addition, legislation is currently going through the General Synod which will place a ‘duty to have due regard’ to the House of Bishops Safeguarding Guidance on all serving Bishops and other Clergy, Readers and Licensed Lay Workers, and on Churchwardens and Parochial Church Councils. This legislation is expected to complete its Synodical stages in July 2015.
Some of the important points made in the Inquiry Report’s recommendations are already addressed in the ‘Responding Well’ policy and in ‘Responding to Serious Safeguarding Situations Relating to Church Officers and Other Individuals’, published on the Church of England Website. For example, Recommendation 6, ensuring that decision makers should not have pastoral responsibility for the alleged perpetrator, is addressed in the latter document.
It would be a mistake for the Church of England to draw conclusions too rapidly from the important work that has been done by the Inquiry led by Judge Sally Cahill QC. The report is the result of painstakingly meticulous research, and as such deserves the utmost attention.
It is now time to take stock of what has been said, and to assess what further steps may be taken both to ensure that the concerns of those who have suffered abuse have been fully taken on board, and to ensure that our Safeguarding and Reporting Procedures are made as robust and effective as possible for the future, so that the Church of England can create a culture of informed vigilance at all levels, and therefore safeguard, care for and nurture all God’s children within the Church community, both locally and nationally.
I would add that one of those who reported abuse to the Inquiry has since asked me specifically to raise the question of The Confessional. His view is that disclosures made in the context of a formal Confession which give rise to safeguarding concerns should not enjoy absolute confidentiality.
I have every sympathy with this view, and therefore welcome the fact that the Archbishops’ Council has decided to commission theological and legal work with a view to exploring whether the current position in relation to admissions of abuse in the context of a formal Confession should be changed. That work and any recommendations arising from it will need to be discussed with the House of Bishops before any proposals for change are brought before the General Synod.
I have repeated and expanded upon some of the above comments in my preface to the Inquiry which serves as a fuller introduction to and reflection upon the report.
May I finish by repeating my thanks to those who have worked so hard to complete this report and most importantly my sorrow that this report ever had to be written. No inquiry can ever make up for the suffering, ongoing harm and abuse of trust to which this report relates.”
© John Sentamu 2014