THE use of the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) to handle cases of clerical abuse has been questioned by a leading diocesan chancellor, Canon Rupert Bursell QC.
Writing in the July issue of Crucible, the journal of Christian social ethics, Canon Bursell, Chancellor of Durham diocese since 1989, welcomes this year’s changes to the original CDM, framed in 2003 before safeguarding was treated as seriously as today. He questions, none the less, the process of making a formal complaint, which, “unless very sensitively handled, can engender misunderstanding and further hurt to the complainant”.
Canon Bursell writes of “a very real psychological obstacle” to the necessity under the 2003 Measure of making a complaint about a priest to the diocesan bishop. “This is particularly so in the light of the manner in which clerical abuse has in the past frequently been swept under the carpet.”
Among his critique of the Measure, as now amended, Canon Bursell welcomes the relaxation of the one-year limitation period in which complaints of sexual abuse must be reported. He laments the lack of reporting on the number of cases. He advises that clergy and their spouses are precluded from holding the post of diocesan safeguarding adviser.
He concludes that “it remains unclear to what extent victims of such abuse feel able or willing to use the 2003 Measure to obtain some measure of redress for the damage done to them.”
One survivor of clerical abuse, Jo Kind, writing in this week’s Church Times, concurs with Canon Bursell’s view. She criticises the lack of transparency, and the amount of leeway each diocesan bishop has.
“It is sad to report that I found the CDM process utterly retraumatising and at most times disempowering,” she writes.
In a foreword to Crucible, the Archbishop of Canterbury writes: “I continue to offer my profound sorrow, and deep apology to survivors for the failure of the Church.”
He admits addressing the “culture of silence” in the Church is vital. “It is vital because failure to do so is a form of abuse for the second time, as bad if not worse than the first betrayal.”
George Bell review. The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, has responded to the concerns of a group set up to rescue the reputation of the former Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, after the diocese settled a claim for sexual abuse said by the victim, “Carol”, to have taken place when she was a young child in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Bishop Butler rebuffs the group’s demand for a re-examination of the evidence, writing: “It is singularly unattractive to suggest that because there might be no legal consequences to breaching Carol’s confidence, the Church should simply provide sensitive material to a group of individuals with a keen interest in but no connection with the case. The Church has a wider duty to Carol than that.”