Tag Archives: Church Times Letters

AUGUST 29 2020 – SISTER FRANCES DOMINICA WRITES IN THE CHURCH TIMES…….”SUPPORT FOR THE ACCUSED”

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Sister Frances Dominica

SISTER FRANCES DOMINICA WRITES IN THE CHURCH TIMES…….”SUPPORT FOR THE ACCUSED”

Support for the accused – Church Times – Letters – August 28 2020

 

From Sister Frances Dominica ASSP

Sir, — Greater support from the Church for victims of abuse is to be welcomed (News, 21 August). How long will it take for the Church to recognise the need of support for those wrongly accused of abuse, with the consequent loss of career, home, income, and reputation?

FRANCES DOMINICA
President of FACT (Falsely Accused Carers, Teachers and other professionals)
All Saints Sisters of the Poor
Oxford

PELL, BELL AND JUSTICE – CHURCH TIMES [UNPUBLISHED LETTER]

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Dear Editor

The Church of England hierarchy would be advised to familiarise itself with the unanimous decision of seven High Court judges of the Australian Court of Appeal to quash the conviction of Cardinal George Pell (“Cardinal Pell’s conviction quashed by High Court”, CT, April 7). 
 
The jury, “acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted”. There was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”.
 
In the case of the character assassination of Bishop George Bell, the evidence used by the Church of England hierarchy – which includes Archbishop Welby and Bishop Warner – was even more flimsy.

Let truth and justice speak above the shameful, ecclesiastical silence.

 

Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

Feb 2 2018 – Church Times Letters – “How should a line be drawn under the Bell affair” [Revd Alan Fraser + Revd Dr Barry Orford]

Letters to the Editor

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2018/2-february/comment/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor

How should a line be drawn under the Bell affair?

From the Revd Alan Fraser

Sir, — It is clear that some people have been angered by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement last week concerning the allegations against the late George Bell (News, 26 January). I must confess myself simply confused.

Having looked through the Carlile review, I suppose I had expected the half-apology to the relatives of Bishop Bell for the distress the Church’s investigative failures caused to them. I then expected a grudging acknowledgement that, without casting doubt on “Carol’s” testimony, the presumption of innocence would have to be applied to Bishop Bell unless and until any corroborating evidence came to light.

But no. With admirable clarity, the Archbishop said that he could not “with integrity” clear Bishop Bell’s name, and further, that the substance of “Carol’s” complaint was probably true. Given that the rest of us are not able to review the evidence against Bishop Bell, I think we are obliged to take at face value the Archbishop’s statements, and have reluctantly to conclude that Bishop Bell sexually abused a young girl.

But the Archbishop then goes on to say that this “does not diminish the importance of his [Bell’s] great achievements, and he is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century”. With respect, I don’t see how these two statements can possibly both be true at the same time. If Bishop Bell sexually abused “Carol” repeatedly over a period of four years, it emphatically does diminish his achievements.

At the very least, the Church of England should suspend forthwith Bishop Bell’s commemoration on 3 October (as the Episcopal Church in the United States has already done) with a view to removing it from the liturgical calendar entirely. It would also seem advisable that Bishop Bell’s name be removed from any church institution or building in order to send the clearest of messages that paedophiles are not to be celebrated. And, if the Archbishop genuinely believes Bell to be an abuser, he should stop describing him as a “hero”, as it is clearly wholly inappropriate.

But it seems unlikely that any of these things will ever happen, because almost no one else who has reviewed the case against Bishop Bell appears to believe him guilty, even on the balance of probabilities. And, indeed, many of them loudly continue to declare him innocent. Meanwhile, the liturgical calendar ticks slowly on and clergy are left wondering “What should we do on 3 October? Whom are we to believe?”

It seems to me that the only possible way to break this unfortunate impasse is for the Church to commission the one thing that Archbishop Welby seems keen, inexplicably, to avoid at all costs: an independent review of the evidence against Bishop Bell which declares authoritatively on his guilt, or otherwise. I am at a loss to understand why this was not included within the remit of the Carlile review, as it would have avoided the current confusion. But we cannot continue to be asked to believe both that Bell was a paedophile and that he continues to be an Anglican hero, as though sexual abuse of a five-year old is no more than an unfortunate character flaw that can be discreetly overlooked in the face of ecclesial achievements. It most definitely is not.

ALAN FRASER
41 Hobhouse Close
Great Barr
Birmingham B42 1HB

From the Revd Dr Barry Orford

Sir, — Amid the widespread dismay and anger at Archbishop Justin Welby’s statements concerning Bishop George Bell, a disturbing fact must not be overlooked. But for the concerned individuals who banded together to demand justice for Bishop Bell, the official presumption of his guilt would have been generally accepted, and his reputation wrecked at the hands of a now discredited committee for which the Bishop of Chichester must accept final responsibility. This is shocking in itself, and in what it suggests about the Church of England’s approach to questions of truth.

The only acceptable resolution of this miserable affair is for the Archbishop and Bishop to express contrition and declare that no shadow remains over Bishop Bell’s name. Perhaps this might best be done during a service in Chichester Cathedral celebrating the life and achievements of George Bell.

That the claimant in the case was abused as a child is credible. There has been no convincing evidence presented for believing that she was abused by Bishop Bell. Why is it so difficult for Archbishop Welby and Dr Warner to admit this?

BARRY A. ORFORD
Flat B, 8 Hampstead Square
London NW3 1AB

July 19 2019 – “Why has no one resigned?”

July 19 2019 – “Why has no one resigned?” – Church Times Letter – 19/07/2019

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‘After a rape, reputation should not be the first priority’ – Church Times Letter – July 19 2019

Sir, — On 4 July 2019, in the course of taking evidence relating to the Church of England, IICSA considered issues raised by the case of Tim Storey, a youth worker in a central London Anglican church, and subsequently a ministerial student at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He was convicted, in 2016, of two offences of rape and sexual assault. Our daughters are two of his victims.

When, in 2009, our daughter first told the diocese of London what had happened to her, she did so with the overwhelming priority that Storey should be stopped from ever abusing anyone else. She relied on the diocese to do the right thing.

What in fact happened was that there was “a wholesale failure by those responsible to recognise whose interests they [the diocese of London] should be safeguarding…

The whole process by all involved, from the Bishop downwards, was a buck-passing, incompetent, self-protecting, and reputation-preserving one…The diocese and named individuals were severely criticised by the trial judge in 2016 (News, 22 April 2016), and the statement of the diocese at the end of the trial was described as a “shameful misrepresentation of the truth”…..Anyone reading the CDM will conclude that it is very outdated. Worryingly, the letter from Margery Roberts (Letters, 12 July)* shows what scant regard is given to the prescribed procedures, whatever the issue. Ignorance and a lack of professionalism reign.

 

We are immensely proud of our daughters for speaking up and having the courage to go through the ordeal of giving evidence in two criminal trials, which led to a 15-year sentence for Storey.

But they are angry about the continued procrastination of the Church of England, and that no one has really felt any consequences for the catastrophic mistakes made.

In the 21st century, no organisation whose repeated organisational failure facilitated further serious sexual offending should expect to go unsanctioned.

Why has no one resigned?

Why only now, ten years on from my daughter’s first report, is a working group being set up to consider the fitness for purpose of the CDM in relation to safeguarding, and without commitment to a speedy time-line.

Why is the default mindset that “nothing happens hurriedly in the Church of England” tolerated?

Why is no one senior enough getting angry enough to “turn over some tables” and urgently push through the wholesale change that is required?

Name and address supplied

 

* I can tell you a little bit more about the Timothy Storey abuse case.  After Judge Katz’s scathing criticism of the Diocese of London, the diocese felt obliged to commission an independent case review from Mr David Marshall QPM. However, the completed review report (which appears to have also been adversely critical of the diocese) was circulated only to the Bishop of London and a small circle of senior clergy and staff.  I was at that time a member of both the diocesan synod and the Bishop’s Council.  At the diocesan synod meeting held on 28 November 2016, I put a formal question to the Bishop of London, asking why the full report, appropriately redacted, had not been circulated to the members of the Bishop’s Council, who were the trustees and directors of the diocese.  In his reply, the Bishop said, inter alia, that ‘a prime consideration was the privacy of the survivors’.  In a supplementary question, I asked why the terms of reference had not stipulated that the report should be written in such a way that it could be redacted to hide the identity of the victims, thus enabling the trustees who were responsible for the running of the diocese to consider it. The Bishop gave an evasive answer but another member challenged him further and asked for future cases to be dealt with differently.
I have always believed that this was a cover-up and the correspondent’s letter in the Church Times this week only confirms that view. Those of us who were becoming deeply concerned about the culture prevailing in the diocese did not wish to know the identity of the victims but we did want to know the sequence of events, and the failures, which had led to those young people being abused.
In 2018, I resigned from the diocesan synod and Bishop’s Council, on principle, over a completely different matter.
There is now a strong case for the whole clergy discipline structure to be replaced with something far more transparent, far more independent and far more honest.
~ Margery Roberts – 19/07/2019
Additional Note – 19/07/2019
In commissioning a review but not making it available even to the diocese’s own trustee body (a shortened sanitised version appeared on the diocesan website), the diocesan hierarchy was trying to have its cake and eat it. One really irritating aspect of their response was their insistence that the secrecy was for the benefit of the victims.  This is a convenient ploy but it doesn’t convince a) because we did not wish to know the identity of the victims, and b) because the lack of transparency was itself harmful to the cause of justice, and therefore the wellbeing of the victims.
It’s interesting what you say about Eric Banks. It would be difficult to find reliable evidence, I should think.
~ Margery Roberts

 

April 18 2019 – “Church of England response to safeguarding recommendation” – Church Times – Letters – Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills

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https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2019/18-april/comment/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor

 

C of E response to safeguarding recommendation

Church Times – Letters

From the Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills

Sir, — When responding to atrocity cases, for which it was set up, the International Criminal Court — like other courts, for that matter — focuses primarily on the perpetrator, seeking to call out, name, and punish criminal acts, that they never happen again. Of course, they still do. The survivor’s testimony is a means to that end, treated as tools of witness — and no more.

But when it comes to building resilience in a community, in the aftermath of atrocity, the criminal court is only the first step in any work of reconciliation. For a community to thrive, it needs to listen to the stories and the needs of survivors of any abuse, crime, or atrocity. It is not just about retribution, but about flourishing: flourishing for the survivors and for the whole community as witness.

What the Church’s National Safeguarding Steering Group has done in rejecting the recommendations of the independent reviewers (News, 12 April) is to choose a path of self-protection rather than recognise the needs of survivors and give priority to them, and to the health of the Church and society.

There is a well-documented pattern of continued structural secrecy. This is a failing common to large organisations in a position of power and influence, and is defined in the book Crime and Human Rights: Criminology of atrocity and genocide by Joachim J. Savelsberg (Sage Publishing, 2010):

“Here we benefit from the work of a scholar, who has greatly contributed to our understanding of the ‘dark side of organisations,’ the many instances of regular rule breaking behaviour that is characteristic of life even in legitimate organizations.

“Sociologist Diane Vaughan stresses that members of organizations are always exposed to structural pressures resulting from competition and gaps between goals and legitimate means. They are likely to resort to the violation of laws, rules and regulations in order to meet organizational goals.

“Such rule violations become more likely as necessary structural features of organizations such as hierarchy or specialized subunits, create ‘structural secrecy,’ meaning they provide settings intra-organizationally where risk of detection and sanctioning are minimized. In addition, organizational processes such as the ‘normalization of deviance’ (ie, acceptance of deviant behaviour as normal) provide normative support for illegality, a pattern that has been documented” (page 78).

The best means of checking ourselves and our Church is through a system of accountability, as recommended by the reviewer, with the collaboration of survivors. All of us would be better served and safeguarded, including senior leadership, by listening to these survivors’ recommendations. It is a specialist area, which takes in much more than those assumed to be one-to-one cases at a parish level.

If our rhetoric is one of “All are welcome and all are loved,” we need to live up to the love we offer — a love that demands vulnerability and a willingness to listen to the voices of those in pain. When someone is hungry for bread, we should not then hand them a stone.

BONNIE EVANS-HILLS
Address supplied