REPRESENTATIVES of survivors of abuse perpetrated by clerics
have welcomed the new safeguarding proposals presented at the
General Synod last week. But they warn that "this alone cannot
possibly make our churches safe places."
Speaking directly after the debate on the proposals took place,
on Wednesday last week, Anne Lawrence of the Stop Church Child
Abuse alliance (SCCA) said: "There is a bigger, broader need to
have processes that engage with what has happened in the past, and
to learn the lessons of the past and set in place procedures and
processes that walk alongside all those affected by abuse. . .
"I have multiple concerns about the cultures in which abuse is
enabled to happen, and the Clergy Discipline Measure does not deal
with that. The Church needs to look at how it develops culture. . .
That is a work in progress."
She described the distress caused to people who had been present
at sacraments officiated at by perpetrators: "I have heard stories
of people being completely traumatised by seeing their sex offender
giving communion to people. They say, 'He baptised my daughter,
married my daughter.' What does it mean about the sacredness of the
things engaged in?"
Phil Johnson, who also works with survivors of abuse, welcomed
the Archbishop of Canterbury's reference to providing support for
survivors and his recognition that the Church itself might be
"disqualified" from providing it directly.
"The key to responding well is responding well to what that
survivor needs at that time," Mr Johnson said. "It may be directly
through the Church, and clergy reconciliation and forgiveness. It
may be that they require therapeutic intervention from outside, or
need something else specific to them."
He suggested that there had been "significant improvements" in
responses, particularly in the diocese of Chichester, although "at
times it has been like pulling teeth."
Before last week's Synod meeting, Ms Lawrence criticised the
failure to consult survivors groups on the new legislative
proposals (News, 24
In his speech to the Synod, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd
Paul Butler, who chairs the Churches National Safeguarding
Committee, said: "The most important change required in our
safeguarding remains the transformation of our very DNA in relation
to our theology, thinking and practice in the safeguarding of
children and vulnerable adults. . .
"The lead-up to this debate, in which our own continued
corporate failings to adequately listen to, and engage with,
survivors of church-based abuse [has been discussed], has only
freshly emphasised this."