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Yes, I’m afraid: it was a cover-up

17 May 2013

Victim's account: the Times abuse story last Friday

Victim's account: the Times abuse story last Friday

THE Times/Australian story about Robert Waddington on Saturday was a good, memorable piece of journalism. Waddington, as Dean of Manchester a decade ago, was an assiduous and successful abuser of young boys.

In the Times story, his conduct, in Manchester and earlier in Australia, was reported three times to the then Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope. He never passed these complaints on to the police, though he certainly believed them by the end, to the extent of withdrawing Waddington's permission to officiate.

In the light of this refusal, it is difficult to understand Lord Hope's denial that there was any cover-up. Failing to report matters to the police or other proper authorities is exactly what constitutes a cover-up. You don't need to go around murdering the witnesses or anything.

The comment on this from the child-protection officer involved, Ray Morris, was also illuminating: "My own take is that Archbishop David was very much of the old school. He took responsibility for things. He formed judgements and he proceeded on that basis. If he believed Waddington posed no threat at the time, then he really believed that."

But what really lifted this story out of the ordinary rut, so to say, of horrible child-abuse stories was the long interview with one of the victims, Eli Ward. He wasn't simply a loser from the deal, something that makes the price he paid all the more horrific.

"Eli Ward has a taste for good wine, a liking for handmade shoes, and a well-spoken manner that suggests an expensive education rather than the reality of his working-class roots in Salford.

"But he frequently despises his love of the finer things because they were instilled in him by the clergyman who groomed and abused him throughout his teenage years. . .

"'It feels to me now that the things I love today, they're all linked to him,' says Mr Ward, 40. 'Every day I have a glass of wine I think it's because of him. And I like £300 shoes and that's because of him.

"'I come from Salford but I speak like this because of him.'"

The story of his seduction is also really well told: "Waddington asked among the young choristers for volunteers to help to clean the railings at the high altar.

"Mr Ward recalled how two or three helpers drifted away until it was just him and the Dean. Then Waddington dropped his brush and exclaimed 'S***!'. The boy, then aged 11, was shocked but the Dean just laughed and told him not to worry. They spent the rest of the afternoon 'giggling and singing the word "s***".'"

"By the age of 13, Mr Ward was sleeping in the Dean's bed. Hugs became cuddles became kissing. The catalyst for sexual abuse, Mr Ward recalls, was his distress over a break-up with a girlfriend."

I suppose the question to which we will never know the answer is whether Waddington himself thought of this as love. If he did, would that make him more or less guilty, a worse or better Christian?

THE other excellent story was Lucy Kellaway's lunch with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Financial Times. This contained what is either the most stunning piece of image-making since the Pope washed the feet of a Muslim woman, or a confirmation of a real disdain for material comfort:

"Alas, today he isn't in the new shoes I'd read about; when he lifts his foot to show me I see his old black brogues have holes in the soles.

"Mostly, he says, he gets his clothes at Oxfam. I suggest eBay as an even cheaper alternative, though warn that sellers might be surprised to find themselves posting their old clothes to Lambeth Palace."

For a member of the Parliamentary Commission on banking standards to have lunch with the Financial Times while wearing shoes with holes in them shows, if nothing else, just how much self-confidence Eton and Trinity can give a man.

The other illuminating part of the story is when he is pressed (for the umpteenth time, I imagine) on exactly what celibacy means for gay clergy: "I'm not going to go into all the sort of intricacies of what it might or might not mean specifically, not least because we've just had lunch and it's a bad post-lunchtime conversation. I'm not going there."

This capacity not to talk about what he does not wish to talk about seems to me one of the most striking differences from his prececessor, a man much more likely, in the popular imagination, to walk around in shoes with holes in them.

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