THE Church of England website states that, when a penalty is imposed under the Clergy Discipline Measure, either by a bishop or the bishop’s disciplinary tribunal, “it will be recorded in the Archbishops’ List, which is maintained at Lambeth Palace. The respondent will be informed of the particulars to be recorded, and may request the President of Tribunals to review the entry.”
I wrote last year about how, as a complainant in a CDM process, I had no right to know how the wrong done to me between 1989 and 1991 was described in the Archbishops’ List (Comment, 15 July).
Early in 2016, I raised this with senior clergy and the National Safeguarding Team. The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, put my concerns to the President of Tribunals, and both Archbishops.
On 11 October 2016, I received an email from the C of E’s National Safeguarding Adviser, Graham Tilby, saying that he had now been granted access to the List. “This in effect means that if a survivor of abuse needs to be reassured that a penalty and related conviction have been recorded properly on the list, the National Safeguarding Officer may, personally, inspect the copy of the List held in the Legal Office on behalf of the President of Tribunals, with a view to being able to provide the necessary reassurance to the survivor in question,” he wrote.
I requested that Mr Tilby access the List on my behalf, to reassure me that the wording used was proportionate to the allegations I made, and on which the penalty had been given. He did so, and wrote to me saying that “the wording of this [entry on the List] does not provide the reassurance that you are looking for, specifically that the wording does not include the term ‘sexually abusive’ or ‘adult sexual abuse’. I am sorry that this information is unlikely to be helpful to you.”
I WAS taken aback at the duplicity that this uncovered. I had received repeated assurances from the diocesan bishop dealing with the CDM that the substance of my complaint had not been watered down, and that it would be referred to in correspondence as “adult sexual abuse”. It was a shock to find out that it was not described in this way on the Archbishops’ List.
This leads me to question whether the List is anywhere near robust enough to be effective as a safeguarding tool. Furthermore, I fear that the failure of the bishop and his advisers to record the behaviour of the vicar who abused me as “sexually abusive” in the Archbishops’ List may demonstrate a desire to keep a lid on the full truth. I find this a matter for deep concern.
In other institutions, strict measures are put in place that demand rigorous self-assessment and accountability, and have thorough independent scrutiny. The hope is that this will leave no place to hide truth within the structure. Sadly, it seems that this is not, at present, true across the board in the C of E. If there are still places to hide uncomfortable truths, there will inevitably be those who will, for whatever reason, take advantage of that.
SINCE the Church and its hierarchy are human, and the instinct for self-preservation is innate in all of us, nothing in the Church’s processes should allow self-preservation, or even the preservation of the Church’s reputation, to overtake a person’s right to have their complaint or concern handled to completion with honesty, compassion, and total transparency.
Unless this is so, how can we be sure that lessons are learnt to safeguard others; how can we have confidence in the effectiveness of the Clergy Discipline Measure; and how can we be expected to trust the
C of E to provide guidance in any area of life?
Jo Pacey Kind is a member of MACSAS, the clerical-abuse survivors’ group. She represents it on the C of E’s National Safeguarding Advisory Panel, and is a member of the Welsh Christian Safeguarding Forum.