*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Safeguarding: the next steps

by
06 April 2018

THE three weeks of hearings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which focused on the Church of England in general and the diocese of Chichester in particular, felt like an excoriating Lenten penance. The effect, though, must pass through Passiontide and become part of the good news of Easter. Although the report of the IICSA examiners is awaited, the value of public hearings is that the Church can begin to act on the failings that were evident to all. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York said as much in their pastoral letter for Palm Sunday. They point out, quite rightly, that a beginning has been made, and this, too, was apparent during the later evidence presented to IICSA. But, as we said earlier (Leader Comment, 16 March), past blunders, defensive policies, and deliberate obstruction have cast such a pall that they overshadow the better practices now being introduced, and have left a trail of damage in their wake that, survivors say, still needs to be addressed.

These pages contain a range of different perspectives on how to tackle sexual abuse; and yet there is a common desire to make safeguarding comprehensive and effective. This sounds like stating the obvious. There is a danger, however, pointed out most clearly by Josephine Anne Stein, that the type of safeguarding being promoted throughout the Church is modelled on a pattern designed to protect institutions from prosecution. A Christian organisation must do better than this. It would be shaming if, at some IICSA hearing in future, statements such as “I didn’t think I had a responsibility to talk to the police” were replaced by “We’re sorry that X offended, but X went through the full safeguarding process and so we fulfilled our responsibility.” Nothing will undermine the drive to improve safeguarding more than the impression that it is all so much more paperwork to little purpose. Safeguarding courses are, belatedly, being examined to see what they might offer victims of abuse, for example, of whom there are many within the ranks of clergy and church office-holders.

Then there is the vital matter of prevention: time and again, survivors have said that, if there is one thing above all else that they desire, it is an assurance that steps have been taken to stop someone else from suffering as they have. To do this, the Church must listen not only to survivors, but also to perpetrators and, in doing so, begin to see them as fellow pilgrims, not pariahs. The logic of Archbishop Welby’s remarks about Bishop Bell, setting aside whether they were applied to the right person, is that saintly acts can be carried out by those responsible for evil acts. Finally, the Church must be bold enough to examine the faith that it has received from past generations, to discern whether theological views owe more to their cultural assumptions than to an enlightened reading of the scriptures. An altogether more sophisticated and intelligent approach to safeguarding is called for.

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

 

Church Times Month

March 2024

For the whole of March, Church Times is offering completely FREE online access, so you can share stories without a paywall.

We are also asking our readers to spread the news of the Church Times among their friends, acquaintances, and fellow churchgoers (and non-churchgoers).

Find out more

 

Keeping faith in Journalism: a Church Times Webinar

11 March 2024 | 6pm GMT

An expert panel discusses trust between the media and the public

Online Tickets available

 

Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available

 

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

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

 

You are able to read this for FREE as part of Church Times Promotional Month, where for the whole of March, we are offering unlimited web access to the newspaper.

From next month to explore the Church Times website fully, you will need to sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers will return to only being able to read four articles for free each month.