Ten days before he was confirmed as archbishop, Cottrell admitted he had failed to take proper action relating to allegations of domestic abuse by a priest 10 years ago, saying he was “deeply distressed and extremely sorry”
‘Ten days before he was confirmed as archbishop, Cottrell admitted he had failed to take proper action relating to allegations of domestic abuse by a priest 10 years ago, saying he was “deeply distressed and extremely sorry”’
The Questions paper for Saturday’s virtual meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod has been published today. This contains the 131 submitted questions and their answers. A total of two hours has been allocated on Saturday for supplementary questions and answers.
a) What is the amount of money spent by Christ Church on the action against the Dean , including legal fees, tribunal costs , expert advice ( legal and otherwise) , Public Relations expenditure, and any other related spend.
b) How was this expenditure authorised? Please provide minutes of meetings referring to this expenditure.
As House Members we are concerned that our (and others) donations to the college have been mis-spent, and that given the fact that Christ Church has charitable status , this expenditure is in breach of charity commission rules .
Academics at one of Oxford’s richest colleges have presented mobile phone records to support an allegation that the institution’s dean leaked confidential information, the latest twist of an extraordinary governance row.
Trustees of Christ Church, the alma mater of 13 prime ministers including William Gladstone, have been locked in a very public pay dispute with the dean, Martyn Percy, that has so far involved an attempt to oust him from his position, more than £2m in legal fees and a suspected blackmail campaign.
On Thursday the Charity Commission, which has regulated colleges at Oxford and Cambridge since a legal change a decade ago, ordered the two sides to return to mediation. “It is not our job, as charity regulator, to referee disputes,” it said. Both sides had wanted the Commission to intervene after Mr Percy broke off mediation efforts in March.
The college had offered the dean a settlement worth more than £1m to leave his post, which would cover his legal fees of at least £450,000. But senior university figures fear that significant intervention by the Commission could have implications for all Oxford colleges, which, unlike most charities, tend to have large numbers of trustees — academics — who are also paid and therefore have a financial interest in the charity’s spending.
The latest row between Mr Percy and the college centres on who leaked a confidential tribunal judgment that largely vindicated Mr Percy of allegations of impropriety relating to the dispute.
The dean, who is a senior Church of England priest, has consistently denied being the source of the document.
However, Christ Church’s governing body was told last week that Mr Percy’s work phone records show that in February he was in regular contact with the former Conservative minister Jonathan Aitken, who in March circulated the judgment.
Another PDF circulated by Mr Aitken showed its author to be “Martyn Percy”. Mr Percy declined to comment. He has told the college that an old document could have been edited to include new information. Mr Aitken told the FT that he had not received any documents from Mr Percy. He said he had received the document from an unknown email address by the name of “Henry Wolsey”.
The Charity Commission’s powers include firing trustees and ordering an independent review. The head of another Oxford college said, “If [Christ Church] were a school in Hackney, it would already have been taken into special measures.”
The dispute dates back to 2017, when Mr Percy, who had been appointed three years earlier, asked for a pay increase. It escalated after college figures accused him of trying to rig the make-up of the board that set his salary. In return, Mr Percy began multiple employment claims against the college.
The dean survived an initial attempt to oust him last year, when a retired High Court judge largely cleared him of allegations of impropriety. But relations have worsened since, after copies of the confidential judgment were circulated and leaked to the governing body and the media.
Mr Percy has denied speaking to journalists about internal matters. But he handed over a screenshot of his phone calls, which revealed contact with a journalist at the Times newspaper before it published extracts of the judgment.
The college subsequently found multiple text messages and calls between the journalist and Mr Percy. The dean told the college they were regarding his advisory role at the British Board of Film Classification.
Nearly two-thirds of the trustees, mainly academics, have accused Mr Percy of “a consistent lack of moral compass”, and called for the Charity Commission to help to remove him.
The dean, who has been portrayed as a reformer, was the subject of vicious emails by some trustees soon after his appointment in 2014. The issue has raised questions about Christ Church’s statutes, which offer few ways to resolve governance disputes, and its unique structure, with the college and the adjoining cathedral both headed by a dean.
Christ Church, whose endowment was worth £578m as of July 2019, has suffered a series of unrelated embarrassments. A professor was suspended last year, over claims he was involved in the theft of a papyrus, which he denies. Millions of pounds of art, including a painting by Anthony van Dyck, were stolen from the college library in March.
An undergraduate also made an offensive joke about Black Lives Matter protests during recent student hustings.
In a sign of the vicious atmosphere surrounding the dispute with the dean, senior academics reported receiving emails saying that, unless they paid large sums to Mr Percy, confidential documents would be published.
Christ Church said the emails “were reported to the police, and are being treated as blackmail”. The emails were also from an account labelled “Henry Wolsey”, the same name used by the person Mr Aitken says sent him the judgment. Mr Percy declined to comment on the allegation.
Mr Aitken said that the dean had no intention of leaving Christ Church, and instead called for his accusers to be removed. “He’s not going to move for 20 years. Why should he?” the former minister said. “The Augean stables have to be cleaned out — which must mean some departures”.
The Church of England’s official responses to clerical abuse compound the harm done to victims/survivors, as well as damaging clergy accused of abuse, congregations and not least, the Church itself as a Christian institution. This article explores the reasons why the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) and other current responses to abuse are incompatible with Christian discipleship, and presents Christocentric alternatives which prioritise the cure of souls and reconciliation. This approach draws upon non-adversarial practices such as occupational psychology, pastoral and social work intervention and restorative justice to craft bespoke responses to ecclesiastical abuse by clergy and church leaders. Improved understanding of clerical abuse and applying theologically grounded responses would improve spiritual recovery for all those wounded by ecclesiastical abuse: survivors, perpetrators, congregations, church leaders and their families and communities. But it is the Church of England itself which would stand most to benefit from enacting its Christian vocation.
SIR – The way allegations have been made against the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Rev Professor Martyn Percy (Letters, June 19), breaches the Church of England’s guidelines and ignores recommendations of the Carlile Report into the Bishop Bell fiasco. I hope that Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury whose right to officiate has been revoked (report, June 18), fares better. Abuse victims know that an organisation which puts PR before justice is no friend of theirs.
Martin Sewell Member of the General Synod Gravesend, Kent
Has the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey been the victim of a Stasi-style injustice in the summary removal of his permission to officiate in Oxford Diocese?
According to a diocesan statement, Carey, 84, had his PTO removed because ‘new information has come to light’ in the course of the Church of England’s ongoing review into its handling of the John Smyth abuse scandal. The review is led by a well-respected former director of social services, Keith Makin. In the 1970s and 1980s, high-earning lawyer Smyth, then a Queen’s Counsel, savagely beat boys he groomed through the Iwerne evangelical camps for pupils from the ‘top 30’ fee-paying English boarding schools.
The Oxford statement does not specify what this ‘new information’ was that was passed onto the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team, which then told the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, that he had to act against Carey.
But the ‘new information’ is almost certainly to do with the fact that Carey was principal of Trinity theological college in Bristol when Smyth was an independent part-time student there in 1983 a year after the Iwerne leadership privately told Smyth to get out of the network.
Carey claims he has no memory of meeting Smyth and is ‘bewildered and dismayed’ by the sudden decision to take away his PTO and the lack of an explanation why. In 2017 Carey resigned his role as an honorary assistant bishop in Oxford Diocese after admitting he had been duped by the serial church abuser, Peter Ball, and to mishandling the allegations against Ball whilst he was Archbishop in the 1990s.
Carey’s PTO, which he applied for in 2018, enabled him to help out with services at his local parish church. Surely a lesser man than Carey would not have bothered with Christian service at his local church after resigning as an honorary bishop in the diocese?
The strong evidence is that even if Carey did meet Smyth at Trinity and forgot about him amidst the various student faces passing his eyes, he would have had no knowledge of the abuse scandal. After a victim disclosed Smyth’s abuse in 1982 to the then vicar of the Round Church in Cambridge, Mark Ruston, the scandal was kept secret. Ruston compiled a report on the abuse but circulated it to a small group of Iwerne leaders. The report was not made public or passed onto the police.
Carey, being from a working class background, was not a Iwerne insider. He would not have been shown the Ruston report. Moreover, it is extremely unlikely that so soon after the Ruston report any Iwerne insider would have told Carey that he had an abuser at his college.
So, why has Carey been fingered for an association with Smyth? And where does that leave clearly Iwerne-background clergy in the Church of England who knew about the Smyth scandal in the 1980s? If ‘new information’ comes to light about them in the course of the Makin review, which is due to report next year, will they be summarily suspended Stasi-style?
“This letter is currently being circulated to members of General Synod of the Church of England, in advance of their virtual meeting in July. There will be two Q&A sessions, and it is hoped that this summary of the situation will encourage Synod members to look carefully into the way the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, is being appallingly treated – not only by the Governing Body of the College, but also now by the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England.
“The authors, lawyers Martin Sewell and David Lamming, have worked tirelessly on the chronic mishandling of the Bishop George Bell case, and it is profoundly disappointing to see many of the problems identified by the Carlile Report seemingly replicated in the case now being considered against Prof Martyn Percy”
Private Eye recently carried a piece on the reporting of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Martyn Percy to our National Safeguarding Team for alleged safeguarding deficiencies. No child, young person or vulnerable adult has made any allegation of misconduct and the report comes from Christ Church malcontents whose complaints (not about safeguarding) have already been dismissed by the retired High Court Judge, Sir Andrew Smith, employed by the College pursuant to the College’s governing statutes to comprehensively investigate.
The Church is being dragged into a vendetta not of our making and, surprisingly, our officials and advisors seem to have allowed this to happen. This abuse of our processes by well-connected persons raises an important matter of principle. We doubt many internal parish bun fights would be so well received at national level. The issue flags up our institutional deference towards those of privilege.
It is not a currently a transparent process: the only transparency is the motivation. If Dean Percy is criticised by the Church or the Charity Commission it will be pleaded in the defence to the Dean’s Employment Tribunal claim against the Governing Body to defeat or mitigate the damages for the dons’ failed coup. We are being used. This is a route to an objective that can now only be secured by pretending the Dean is unsafe.
It has all the hallmarks of bullying, plain and simple. The Dean, uniquely at Christ Church, has no grievance procedure under the Statutes. This means that he can be attacked with impunity by malcontents and has no defence other than an Employment Tribunal. The Charity Commissioners are now involved. Yet the NST have decided to side with the malcontents at Christ Church, without so much as interviewing the Dean, or even doing a simple fact-check. The strain, and the financial and emotional burden, must be dreadful; but the Dean is resisting injustice, and the abuse survivors who are aware of the circumstances unanimously support him.
Christ Church has no procedure for removing the Dean, either by the dons or the Church, other than by a complex statutory process (and which applies to all dons). Seven dons tried to remove the Dean in 2018-19, and this failed completely with all 27 charges against him dismissed following a costly 11-day hearing. We ought not to allow the dons now to try to use safeguarding as their short cut, and with the complicity of the NST and its processes abused for ancillary purposes. We defer to nobody in our concern for proper safeguarding practice. But this case has nothing to do with safeguarding. The allegations of “safeguarding concerns” now being made to the NST never featured in the complaint of 2018-19. No person, survivor of abuse, or vulnerable adult has made any complaint, ever, against Dean Percy.
Dean Percy is trusted by survivors and was invited to be a contributor to the seminal book Letters to a Broken Church, published in July 2019. When two lone survivors protested the enthronement of the Bishop of Oxford on 30 September 2016 for safeguarding concerns, the entire Church hierarchy ignored them save for Dean Percy, who ensured they had access to a College toilet and brought them coffee and sandwiches.
The NST declined to investigate Jonathan Fletcher as he was not employed by the Church of England but was, rather, vicar of a proprietary chapel. William Nye, in his evidence to IICSA (witness statement 22 December 2017, paras 87-90) states that clergy in institutions such as Christ Church must have “due regard” to C of E standards in safeguarding, but that discipline remains with the independent institution (in the case of Christ Church, as a formal process in accordance with its Statutes). The C of E does not have jurisdiction. However, the NST has decided, with specious reasoning, that jurisdiction nevertheless applies in order to investigate Dean Percy, despite this being an entirely parochial Christ Church matter.
As this is going to be a growing controversy with more information emerging, we are undertaking a detailed analysis which we will share with you in the near future, should it become necessary. We draw on our experience of the George Bell controversy. This case is arguably even worse: lessons have been ignored despite the expensive Carlile Review.
Below are links comprehensively addressing the issues. We hope you will take the trouble to acquaint yourself with the story and find the links helpful in understanding the controversy. There are to be two Q&A sessions at the informal ‘virtual’ General Synod on Saturday 11 July. As you learn of the problems, you may have questions relating to the issues.
Members of clergy might usefully apply the following test: would I have confidence in the NST to handle a case against me in the light of this?