Did Church keep abuse secret?
THE Anglican Church will be probed for potentially harbouring a “culture of secrecy” surrounding sexual abuse which allowed predators to offend unchallenged, an inquiry has heard.
The public inquiry into child sexual abuse is preparing to scrutinise the response of religious institutions to allegations of exploitation by the clergy.
This will include the disgraced former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball.
Ball was jailed for 32 months in October 2015 after pleading guilty to a string of historical offences, including two counts of indecent assault.
Attitudes to sexuality will form part of the investigation into the Anglican Church, due to begin next March, a preliminary hearing of the inquiry was told.
It comes after the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, provoked debate by accusing the BBC of not handling reports of longstanding abuse with the same “integrity” as the Church.
Speaking at the new headquarters of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in central London, counsel to the inquiry Fiona Scolding QC said: “Culture is important because it shapes everything about the way that things are done within the organisation and it is both deeply embedded within an organisation and often difficult to change.”
Outlining the aims of the Anglican Church investigation, she said: “This will involve examining how far was there or is there a culture of secrecy within the Church.
“How far the Church’s approach to sex and sexuality contributed or contributes to difficulties with cultural change.
“How far does the hierarchical nature of the Church create a power imbalance which could inhibit the reporting of abuse.”
Ms Scolding said this would not only stretch to attitudes of the past, but also cover the current practices of the Church and any future reforms it has planned.
The preliminary hearing also heard 184,020 pages of evidence had been received for examination.
Around 100,000 have so far been reviewed by inquiry officials with 22,000 of these found to be duplicates and 35,000 deemed irrelevant.
Article of Faith, an independent review of how the Church handled Ball’s case, was published earlier this year.
Chaired by Dame Moira Gibb, the review found “Ball’s conduct has caused serious and enduring damage to the lives of many men”.