IICSA REPORT EXPOSES “A VERY ENGLISH FORM OF CORRUPTION“ LYING DEEP WITHIN THE ANGLICAN CHURCH
By no means a comprehensive list. Just a brief visit across a number of things we may probably see further comment upon after the Inquiry makes its final Anglican report.
It’s possible that any expecting to see the much needed recommendation for Mandatory Reporting as part of the statutory framework – will be disappointed. It is long overdue.
The argument is won.
And this presents an ideal moment as the Church has come round to acceptance of MR after a rather circuitous route of yes we do, no we don’t. Many of us suspect the Inquiry want to hold on to this as a ‘big ticket’ recommendation for the final report at the end of 2021. Why wait until then? Current policies across many institutions in regulated activities have been called “bags of bits” by Mandate Now; labyrinthine policy jungles which would become largely redundant with MR. Culture change will happen in a single weekend with its eventual introduction. But I think we have to wait until the Inquiry gets the last train home.
The Archbishops Council statement was notably vague on this. That the Church is keen to put this theme out just before the final Anglican report suggests that the Inquiry will call serious question to the Church’s fitness for self-governance. There is an overwhelming need for the National Safeguarding Team to be given independent oversight, well away from the control of Archbishops’ Council secretariat. The current NST is almost an entirely new team, but part of the difficulty facing Melissa Caslake and her newbies is picking their way through the considerable wreckage of the previous era which has left many survivors deeply suspicious of the NST.
Many disaster sites might have been avoided, or reached quicker resolution, if the NST hadn’t been shaped by the culture of Church House, its comms and lawyers and managers, and at times, the Church’s own dodgy reputation launderers.
The Christ Church core group debacle would in all likelihood have been avoided. I am told the probable outcome of this independence will be the formation of a new NCI (National Church Institution) – called Safeguarding – with independent members alongside Church appointees in an oversight committee to beef up scrutiny. We will have to wait and see how and when this happens.
Archbishops and Bishops
Many of us expect to see Archbishop Justin Welby and former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, criticised. Both their hearings were embarrassing. When each had an opportunity to apologise to a survivor sat directly behind them, they failed to do so despite being invited by the Inquiry. Those watching sensed that the Inquiry took a dim view. The wider existential crisis of the bishops – how many senior figures and their dioceses have responded, or failed to respond – is likely to come under heavy fire.
The walls of silence to major questions that so many of us have experienced as a pattern across the bishops is something we hope the Inquiry will highlight.
I know that Bishop Jonathan Gibbs is keen to see more vigorous accountability injected into the structure. At present it is at best variable, at worst: absent.
Some bishops are thrown under the bus. Others get away with run-for-the-hills behaviour and hope the fallout from their denial and distancing will not follow them.
The National Safeguarding Steering Group, the church’s current overarching board of governance, to many of us seems to resemble a shielding for senior figures who should be facing critical questions. It includes bishops who have managed to hide within the structure behind dysfunctional processes and a culture of protection.
Many of us expect to see the church’s insurer take a substantial hit following the recall to IICSA when Ecclesiastical Insurance tried to pull the wool over a government inquiry.
It’s worth pointing out that Carl Beech is serving 18 years in prison for perverting the course of justice and lying under oath to the police. But Ecclesiastical, a big corporate, have managed so far to get away with apparent dissembling in front of a government inquiry – under oath!
It’s also notable that their lawyer, top QC Rory Phillips, had only one client at the Inquiry and a very small handful of statements to be across. What a mess he made. I don’t think anyone assumes he knew his client was being dishonest. But to be candid, he could have done an hour’s easy homework – and realised he was representing a client who was being considerably less than ‘sufficiently full and frank’ in their testimony. It took the Inquiry less than 45 mins to devastate their testimony on three significant counts. Now, much more is emerging about malevolent psychiatric reports used against survivors, ‘genetic predisposition’ defences, desk-topping, and other strategies deployed by EIG and their lawyer – much of this reflecting dubious ethics.
But I doubt these will be visited in the report as some of these have only recently started to emerge, despite being brought to the attention of senior church figures over the years. But I would expect to see the Church criticised for its duplicity in some aspects of its relationship to the insurer.
It has sought to protect a corrupted nexus, from whom it derives substantial income through the owner of the insurer, AllChurches Trust. It has been, as one cleric put it, “a very English form of corruption”.
Interim Support Scheme
This is not part of the Inquiry. But it’s definitely worth comment – as the Church announced this flagship scheme last week perhaps as an attempt to plea-bargain with the Inquiry, and certainly to address widespread concern at the lack of compassion towards survivors. My understanding is that this scheme will help up to ten people initially (to help create the structure) and then quickly scale up. Quickly being the operative word.
If it fails to do this, or rows back on its promises, and becomes another smoke and mirror delaying tactic – then it will raise much more ire.
The proof will be in the extent to which it is prepared to rescue economies of those left in wreckage as result of reporting and re-abuse. And not just the initial ten or so. But fifty, then a hundred, and so on. This is not the redress scheme and should not be confused with it. It is the interim support prior to redress. My understanding is that there is no figure attached to this scheme – instead the lead bishops have argued for an open credit line – which I think is the right approach. The final redress scheme will cost a great deal more. The figure that has been talked about in the longer term has been £200million. But many of us think this will not be sufficient.
What happens after?
Will the Church go back to sleep after the Inquiry? My sense is that the current lead bishops are keen to use this opportunity to bring about as much culture change as they can and I think they recognise that this is required across the top of their Church.
My own view is that a Truth & Reconciliation initiative may be needed, in which bishops end the long procession of crafted apology statements, and apologise for real. But that has to go hand in hand with real justice and genuine repair of lives.
About Stephen Parsons
Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Cumbria. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues. View all posts by Stephen Parsons →
2 thoughts on “Looking ahead to IICSA report day on Tuesday”
- Gilo BBC Radio Sunday. 25mins in. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000n4vyReply
- Jane Chevous Thank you Gilo, your predictions sound spot on and give us some hope that things will change. I know that you and others are working behind the scenes to do this and am very grateful for all you do.
I do hope the report calls for independent scrutiny & that this results in a total reform of the core group process, because this is where the real canker is. It’s unfit for purpose and often reabusive. And as you say, fails to hold abusers and especially bishops who do nothing, to account. Nothing is happening to either of the bishops who failed (refused) to respond to my report of clergy rape.
A redress scheme doesn’t bring justice. I hope the idea of a restorative justice process, including a Truth & Reconciliation commission, does gain traction. Counselling and compensation alone do not bring justice, or repair the rupture of abuse