A TRUTH and reconciliation process should take place in the
diocese of Chichester where, despite "enormous steps forward" in
safeguarding, the Church must avoid the temptation to give the
impression that "everything is all right".
This is the conclusion of the final report of the
Archbishop of Canterbury's Visitation of the diocese, the first
such appointment of Commissaries for more than 100 years.
Appointed in December 2011 by Dr Rowan Williams, the Visitation,
led by the former Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd John Gladwin,
was intended to help the diocese "move away from an appalling
history" of failures in safeguarding (
News, 30 December, 2011). An interim report, published last
year, concluded that "dysfunctionality continues to impinge upon
the adequacy of safeguarding within the diocese", and called for a
"radical change of culture" (
News, 30 August)
The final report, published today, concludes: "We are entirely
satisfied that the Chichester Diocese is committed, in so far as it
lies, to preventing any further abuse ever occurring and to
responding positively and effectively to the ongoing trauma that
will necessarily last very many years. We commend the enormous
steps forward that have already been made but we also stress the
necessity for the Diocese, both in its actions and in its
statements, to acknowledge the traumas still being suffered, and to
be suffered, by the survivors."
The report also suggests that progress has been made in
addressing the "dysfunctionality within the diocesan senior team"
identified in the interim report, which described "deep problems"
concerning the relationship between the previous diocesan Bishop,
Dr John Hind, and his team and the safeguarding advisory group. It
painted a picture of a divided diocese in which the Bishop's
authority was not uniformly recognised.
Since the publication of the interim report, a new diocesan
bishop, Dr Martin Warner, has been appointed and enthroned (
News, 11 May), and the former Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd
Wallace Benn, has retired (
News, 26 October). The final report concludes: "We are
satisfied that the senior team is a strong and coherent body
working well with each other." It also reports that "excellent
safeguarding practices" are now in place.
On Friday, Bishop Gladwin praised Dr Warner's engagement with
safeguarding and a "new style of leadership. . . I don't think
there is any area of the diocese does not know it has a diocesan
bishop." He suggested that the diocese of Chichester "might become
beacon of hope which sets the standard for the whole of the Church
Last month, a survivor of abuse in the diocese welcomed a letter
of apology from Dr Warner, as "a clear signal that he's trying to
sweep in a change" (
News, 26 April).
On Friday, Dr Warner said that the Visitation had "enabled us to
comprehend the damage done to so many people's lives. I hope that
all victims and those affected recognise in the words of the
Interim and Final Reports that their concerns have begun to be
heard, their determination recognised, and their extraordinary
courage honoured." He sought to reassure survivors yet to come
forward "that we will listen to and respond in any ways that are
appropriate to a report of abuse by priests or church workers".
On receipt of the report, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most
Revd Justin Welby, spoke of the "hurt and damage" suffered by the
survivors: "they should never have been let down by the people who
ought to have been a source of trust and comfort and I want to
apologise on behalf of the Church for pain and hurt they have
While the report is more positive than its predecessor, the
Commissaries issue several warnings against complacency in the
diocese: "We do not intend . . . to give the impression that there
remains nothing further to do. Indeed, this is far from the case,
as the senior team recognises. We believe that it is inevitable
that there will be other survivors of the known abusing clergy who
have not felt able to come forward; we also recognise that there
may still be abusers who are as yet unrecognised. It is essential
that the Diocese does all in its power not only to ease the way for
those persons to come forward who have not already done so but also
to receive the help and supoprt that is their due."
It warns: "It is essential that great care is taken when making
any statement (whether diocesan or national) not to give the
impression that everything is now, as it were, 'all right' and that
what has occurred in the past is now mere 'history' . . .
unfortunate wording can give the impression that the Diocese is
still in denial as to what has occurred. We are therefore not
surprised that survivors are slow to accept that the Diocese is
indeed prepared fully to acnknowledge, and face up to, what has
occurred." A "process of truth and reconciliation" is
The report repeats the interim report's warning that the law of
the Church of England is "presently not in line with the rest of
the civil law of employment" and its recommendation that "urgent
consideration should be made to amending the Clergy Discipline
Measure 2003 to permit the compulsory suspension of any cleric
immediately a complaint of abuse which is not obviously malicious
is received." The final report warns of "a danger that the
difficulty of making the changes in law and practice . . . might
lead to a temptation to compromise and settle for less than
excellence. If such a compromise were to occur, the time bomb
buried within that compromise will necessarily be detonated by the
first case of abuse that reveals the weaknesses in what has not
been done." On Friday, Dr Warner also drew attention to this
Anne Lawrence, a spokeswoman for MACSAS (Ministers and Clergy
Survivors of Sexual Abuse), who was involved in the Visitation,
welcomed the report on Friday. She said that it marked "a change in
the position of the Church in respect of those who have been
Of particular value was its acknowledgement that "there are
people for whom there will be no criminal justice outcome", but for
whom "the pastoral duty remains. This is very new as until now, the
Church has said: 'Until you can prove it, we are not going to
respond at all.'"
The truth and reconciliation process recommended was, she said,
a shift from the previous narrative of: "It's all in the past.
Let's get over it and move on . . . It calls the Church back into
being church. . . Rather than running away from itself, it should
go into itself, to respond to what is a terrible betrayal of
ministry and trust."
Read the full report here.