Truth is the scapegoat for Pilate Welby
March 24, 2018
It is a week before Good Friday. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are re-enacting the Passion Play. The prelates take the part of Pontius Pilate – the archetypal political opportunist around whom pivots the denouement of the Passion. Pilate’s melodramatic and stunningly symbolic ritual of washing his hands has become a colourful and compelling metaphor for the artful evasion of responsibility at the highest level of authority.
Archbishop John Sentamu is standing in a queue before Pilate’s washbasin. He is waiting his turn. A bevy of bishops are dipping their hands into the shallow pool of sophistry and prevarication. They are chanting the absolution from the Church of England’s liturgy for Safeguarding and Child Protection. ‘It’s not my problem. It’s someone else’s problem.’ Amen.
They are shepherds and guardians of the flock. Fr Matthew Ineson is a member of that flock. Ineson complains that another vicar repeatedly raped him when he was 16 years old. He wants the Pilates in purple to give him justice. He appeals to Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster. ‘That bishop did nothing,’ says Ineson. ‘Nothing.’
Ineson hopes that the other magnificent men in mitres will shield him with their staff and apply the balm of Gilead to his wounded soul. Like Bunyan’s Pilgrim he sets off to meet Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield; Martyn Snow, Bishop of Leicester; Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverly; Roy Williamson, Bishop of Bradford (retired); and finally the Archbishops of York and Canterbury. But each time he says he is shoved into the Slough of Despond and the bishops ceremoniously wash Fr Matt’s muck off their hands.
‘It’s not my problem. It’s someone else’s problem.’ Amen – Absolution from the New Liturgy of Safeguarding
Ineson is calling on the bishops to resign over their handling of his complaints. This month he has been parading Sentamu before the judiciary of the mainstream media, social media andblogosphere. A Data Protection Act request has unearthed amemo that would make Pilate look like an amateur.
The memo deals with Ineson and the suicide of his alleged abuser. It is headed: ‘For the attention of the Archbishop.’ It ends with THERE IS NO NEED FOR YOU TO TAKE ANY ACTION. THE NATIONAL TEAM ARE MANAGING THE CASE. The last box on the memo is for ‘Archbishop’s Response’. The second highest-ranking cleric in the global Anglican Communion sums up his response to the suicide of one priest and the alleged rape of another in a single word: NOTED.
Earlier in the week, Justin Welby has been dragged before theIndependent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Welby is not so foolish as to stand on the balcony of Lambeth Palace with a washbasin and towel. He has watched Sentamu and other bishops wash their hands using distilled water and carbolic soap. He has observed the media backlash.
At the hearing, Fiona Scolding QC socks it to Welby. ‘The other thing that we have seen a lot of in respect of leadership, or some people would say we have seen a lot of, is shifting the blame,’ she says. ‘Yes,’ replies Welby, carefully picking his monosyllable. Scolding lands an uppercut on the archbishop’s jaw. ‘Everybody admitting that it was partly their responsibility and they’re sorry for that, but actually, “It wasn’t really my responsibility and these are the 15 reasons why somebody else was responsible for it”.’ Welby knows when he’s out for the count. ‘Sure,’ he mumbles his second monosyllable.
A Data Protection Act request has unearthed a memo that would make Pilate look like an amateur.
But soon, with Machiavellian cunning, Welby spins Pilate’s washbasin strategy at dizzying speeds like a schoolboy spinning his top. He spits righteous outrage at Pilate’s washbasin. ‘Nobody can say it is not my fault. It is so absurd,’ says Welby. ‘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.’ Bravo, bravissimo, Archbishop Justin!
Ineson tweets back to the Arch of Cant: ‘Tell that to @JohnSentamu who ignored my disclosure & 5 years on (5 years my abuser was left to abuse again) now says it wasn’t his job, it was @Steven_croft’s. Problem is neither of them have the decency to apologise & @c_of_e hasn’t got the decency to hold them to account.’
He’s right. Aren’t these just ‘words, words, words’ that sicken Eliza Doolittle? Why isn’t Welby calling for the resignation of his opposite number in York?
Ah! But what if this is precisely what Welby is doing? The mob on the portico of Pilate’s palace is baying for Jesus’s blood. The best way to feed the hungry sharks is to throw them a steak. Pilate gives the mob a choice. He lines up a terrorist named Jesus Barabbas alongside Jesus of Nazareth. Pilate is not too fussed about whom the crowd will choose. After all, they have the same first name, ‘Jesus’!
Why isn’t Welby calling for the resignation of his opposite number in York?
Barabbas is Pilate’s joker in the pack. With Faustian foresight Welby has struck a bargain with Mephistopheles and crucified other bishops at the altar of public relations – the dead Bishop George Bell and former Archbishop George Carey. Now it’s time to throw Sentamu to the sharks. If he has not shredded every fibre of self-respect, though, Sentamu should resign immediately.
Pilate is a postmodernist. He has three principles. Power is absolute. Truth is relative. Survival is non-negotiable. Pilate makes Jesus of Nazareth the scapegoat that allows him to survive in power at the expense of truth.
After scapegoating Bell and Carey, Welby magically produces a number of sacrificial lambs he can lead straight to the slaughter. He pretends the problem is factionalism. ‘A lot of it goes down to tribalism within the Church. Different groups who felt the liberty of defending their own position, right or wrong.’ To claim that tribalism leads to sexual abuse is a high jump of faith only an Olympic athlete would attempt. Welby’s solution is to ‘introduce diversity in training’.
He blames clergy and laity in the parish. The Twitterati erupts with indignation. ‘This is appalling deflection. It’s not PCCs, CWs and Parish Clergy who have routinely undermined safeguarding protocols, passed the buck and allowed space for child abuse to continue is it. No, it’s Bishops and Archdeacons. Blame the small guys. Nothing changes,’ tweets Gareth Jones, Crown Court Chaplain.
Ultimately, the real scapegoat is truth. ‘What is truth?’ asks Welby, in his poshest Roman accent. Pilate survives to this day. Every time we recite the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed we remember that Jesus was ‘crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate’. And at every rock concert when the heavy metal group Megadeth belt out their song Elysian Fields from the Youthanasia album, they are singing the line ‘Pontius Pilate is still washing his hands . . .’
The former bishop of Chester, Victor Whitsey, is being investigated 30 years after his death over allegations of sexual abuse in the latest scandal involving high-profile figures in the Church of England.
A lawyer representing four of the alleged victims has claimed the abuse was covered up by the C of E and has called for a independent review.
The allegations date from the late 1970s when Whitsey was bishop of Chester, and in the 1980s after he had retired and was living in the diocese of Blackburn.
The C of E said it had supported a police investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults. The police told the church that, had Whitsey still been alive, he would have been interviewed in relation to 10 allegations. Whitsey died in 1987.
In a statement, the archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, and the bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, said: “We are deeply sorry and apologise to those individuals who have come forward to share their account of abuse by a bishop in the Church of England who was in a position of power and authority. We appreciate that it is very difficult for individuals to come forward and to give their account.
“Sexual abuse is a heinous crime – and is an absolute and shameful breach of trust. We acknowledge that for survivors the effects of sexual abuse are lifelong. We are offering pastoral support to all those who have come forward and continue to hold them all in our prayers.”
It added: “The church will consider what lessons can be learned from this case and whether any action needs to be taken as a result of what these inquiries have shown.”
Cheshire police said the allegations related to 13 people, five males and eight females. “The abuse is alleged to have taken place whilst the bishop was living and working in Chester and one incident is reported to have taken place outside the county,” a statement said. The police investigation had spanned 13 months, it added.
Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which represents four of Whitsey’s victims, said: “The abhorrent and disgusting abuse perpetrated by Bishop Whitsey destroyed many lives, driving some to attempt suicide. What is equally abhorrent is that the Church of England knew of his abuse, did nothing to stop it and covered it up. It is crucial that there is now an independent review into Whitsey abuse and who failed to act when they learnt of his heinous behaviour.”
The law firm understands that a complaint was made to the C of E while Whitsey was still serving as bishop of Chester, but it was not passed to police. The church was believed to have been made aware of further allegations following Whitsey’s retirement, but no action was taken.
Slater and Gordon released a statement from one of Whitsey’s alleged victims. It said: “When I met Victor Whitsey I was young, innocent, and naive. I longed for his blessing to achieve my wish of a future as a vicar, serving God and the community. He told me he agreed I had a calling from God. He also told me he had the power to give me everything I wanted in life and the power to take it all away. He then proceeded to abuse me sexually and psychologically. I was powerless to stop him.
“I blamed myself, though I was the only victim and rationalised that it was my fault … I told no one; who would believe a teenage boy’s word against a bishop of the Church of England? I became reclusive and came to the ultimate conclusion. The prospect of ever seeing Victor Whitsey again was so abhorrent to me that I turned my back on my beloved church and my calling to serve God. I self-harmed and have spent a lifetime focusing on resentment and bitterness.
“Twenty years after my abuse, I suffered a complete mental nervous breakdown which included attempted suicide. Because of the sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of Victor Whitsey I lost my faith, my chosen life as a vicar, my self-belief, my freedom from worry and my dignity. Child sex abuse is a crime which stays with you for a lifetime. As a child you don’t understand why or what is happening, but as you grow older you realise the enormity of the abuse and it hurts you all over again – you blame yourself for allowing it – you hate yourself for being weak.
“Since my abuse, not a day has gone by that I have not thought about what happened to me.”
The author of the statement said he hoped there would be a public inquiry “to understand not only what Whitsey did to his victims but to also learn who knew what he was doing, to what extent his actions were intentionally covered up, and who else was complicit in the crimes that he committed, and for which, I continue to suffer every day of my life”.
The church has faced a number of high-profile cases of sexual abuse.
Peter Ball, a former bishop of both Gloucester and Lewes, was jailed in October 2015 for the grooming, sexual exploitation and abuse of 18 vulnerable young men aged 17-25 who had sought spiritual guidance from him between 1977 and 1992. He was released from prison in February after serving 16 months.
A damning independent report, published in June, found that senior figures in the C of E had colluded over a 20-year period with the disgraced former bishop.
The report made harrowing reading, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said. “The church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward. This is inexcusable and shocking behaviour,” he said.
George Carey, a former archbishop of Canterbury who was criticised in the report, resigned as honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of Oxford.
Two years ago, the church issued a formal apology for alleged sexual abuse committed by one of its most senior figures, George Bell, the late bishop of Chichester, who died 57 years ago. It also settled a civil claim brought against Ball by a survivor.
However, critics accused the church of acting improperly and without sufficient evidence, saying Bell’s “condemnation as a paedophile” had irreparably damaged his reputation.
An independent report into the church’s handling of the case is expected to be published next month.
Archbishop of York defends Bishop Robert
Dr John Sentamu backs Gomes tribunal rap
The Archbishop of York has made a public statement in support of Bishop Robert Paterson, after a church tribunal reprimanded a former Island vicar.
Dr John Sentamu, Bishop Robert’s immediate superior in the Church of England, has backed the tribunal’s findings against Dr Jules Gomes.
Defending the Bishop, Dr Sentamu describes his “vilification” by Dr Gomes as “completely unjustified”.
The hearing supported a complaint brought against Dr Gomes after a prolonged and public dispute with Bishop Robert.
It concluded the behaviour of Dr Gomes, the former vicar of Arbory and Castletown, was inappropriate for a man in Holy Orders – he dealt with people with little compassion, causing serious harm to some, lost his temper and displayed anger, and failed to express remorse.
Dr Sentamu says comments made by Dr Gomes after the hearing confirm and underscore its findings, and offer further proof that Dr Gomes casts aspersions without reason.
In an outspoken verbal attack, Dr Gomes likened Bishop Robert’s approach to dealing with disciplinary issues with hard line Sharia law.
The Archbishop’s comment comes as Bishop Robert retires and leaves the Island.