Bishops told to repent on abuse issue

27 May 2016

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THE House of Bishops has backed reforms to the Church of England's safeguarding, prompted by a damning report into the case of a man who was abused by a senior priest and then ignored for years.

During the House's meeting in York last week the Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, presented the list of changes to safeguarding procedures suggested by the Elliott Report.

The Report looked into the case of a male survivor, known only as "Joe", who was the victim of an attempted rape by the Revd Garth Moore, a former Chancellor of the dioceses of Southwark, Durham, and Gloucester, who died in 1990 (News, 4 December). He was later emotionally exploited by Michael Fisher, who was then a brother in the Society of St Francis, and later became Bishop of St Germans.

The Elliott review called for sweeping changes to the Church’s safeguarding procedures, condemning them as “fundamentally flawed” (News, 18 March). The reforms include re-training of senior clergy on how to handle disclosure of abuse and changes to ensure that the Church's insurers cannot prevent pastoral care being offered to survivors.

Bishop Mullally was asked to spearhead these efforts and has said that with the backing of House of Bishops she could now begin to roll out reforms "as soon as possible".

"I am encouraged the House has given me the full support to lead on implementing the recommendations but equally I am aware that for survivors this will not seem like soon enough as they have struggled for years to have their voices heard," she said in a statement on Wednesday.

Before the Bishops met, Joe condemned their inactivity in an open letter, saying that there had been total silence from bishops since the report came out in March.

“I call on the House of Bishops to repent at your meeting,” he wrote. “Others in the survivor community are saying the same. Repentance implies action and not just words — it is about turning around 180 degrees and starting again.

“The House of Bishops needs to show clearly that you are finally able beyond the eleventh hour to work rapidly for profound change in your culture and structure.”

If bishops decided to make changes at their next meeting, Joe wrote, they could go on to the Goddard Inquiry into institutional child abuse with “greater grace and much less pain”.

In her statement, Bishop Mullally said that the bishops had pledged their support to her reforms and repeated her apology to Joe for the "appalling abuse" he had suffered.

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