*** DEBUG END ***

A shambles is no safeguard

16 March 2018

THERE might be a few people remaining in the Church of England who lament the rise of managerialism. No one, however, is carrying a flag for unprofessionalism. We make no apology for covering the hearings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IISCA) in such detail, painful reading though it makes. What is clear, even through the guarded, self-protective accounts of many of those called to give evidence, is that safeguarding in the Chichester diocese was, for a long time, a shambles. The criticism summarised by Fiona Scolding QC at the hearings, that the diocese displayed “a culture of amateurism”, seems mild in the light of earlier verdicts of dysfunctionality. Poor record-keeping, senior clergy at loggerheads, safeguarding officers ignored, seemingly limitless indulgence for clerical abusers, suspicion of those who reported abuse, accusations of sexism — the list of management failings is long.

If the clergy are unwilling or unable to function as effective managers, it is reasonable to appoint suitably trained lay people to these posts. But it is worse than useless to create managerial posts if the right degree of authority is not attached. The short history of safeguarding officers in Chichester illustrates this point. Janet Hind was regarded as an adviser, whose recommendations, therefore, could be ignored. One of her successors, Shirley Hosgood, was given more authority, but was obstructed. Roger Meekings, who produced a report in 2009 about some of the diocese’s safeguarding failings, told the inquiry: “Faced with a female safeguarding officer who was working to a degree of authority . . . provided a challenge to male authority in some ways.” This was denied by the former Archdeacon of Lewes and Hastings.

By choosing Chichester as the Church’s IISCA guinea-pig, we presume that the authorities hoped to show the Church’s active concern over abuse allegations. The diocese has, after all, been investigated in the past decade by Mr Meekings, Baroness Butler-Sloss, Bishop John Gladwin, and, to a degree, Dame Moira Gibb and Lord Carlile. Yes, mistakes had been made, but they were being tackled. Unfortunately, the magnitude and frequency of the mistakes, and the unwillingness of those appearing before the inquiry to own up to responsibility for them, is creating the overriding impression, especially when taken with the survivors’ accounts, of continued defensiveness. Chichester diocese, a by-word for poor control of its clergy, is in danger of being portrayed as typical of the Church of England. It isn’t, but perhaps the Church is guilty by association for allowing such a situation to continue for so long.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)