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Sexual misconduct among the clergy

by
15 February 2012

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Sir, — I write with regard to the Revd Dr Thaddeus Birchard’s article “Ways of preventing sexual sin” (Comment, 10 February).

I don’t suppose you would expect too many victims of clergy sexual abuse to be readers of the Church Times, but I am one. While finding much of interest in the article and corroboration of material read elsewhere on the subject, I feel sufficiently provoked by the final paragraph to comment.

Of course, prevention of such problems is the ideal. Clergy are in a very vulnerable position, I agree; but once the problem has made it­self known, it really has to be dealt with effectively. Where I was con­cerned, the man was reprimand­ed and then sent straight back into his parish. This (assistant) priest had no loss of status, no broken marriage, no public humiliation.

My great concern, after taking the agonising step of leaving my dear church community, was that the man was, and is, at liberty to offend again.

I agree with Dr Birchard: the church authorities failed in their lack of supervision and lack of remedial treatment. In this particular case, they compounded the problem by recklessly returning the priest to the parish, still unsupervised. I have felt near to despair over the matter, even questioning my own judgement in not making a formal complaint, the likely outcome of which would have been his removal. If the man offends again, am I partly culpable?

I found the conclusion to what had been an engaging article very distressing indeed, as the dispas­sion­ate and balanced tone turned unpleasantly partisan. The priest who abused me was not a good man. I was an unwilling witness to and recipient of some appalling behaviour, not least the man’s deadly spiritual com­placency. I would also point to his persistence in his pursuit of me as utterly cruel and entirely self-centred; I was very nearly destroyed by him. I don’t doubt that some clergy are good men, but not all are. Please do not encourage their delusions.

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