I WONDER how many sexual offenders the Archbishop of Canterbury has met?
He told IICSA: “If someone has been an abuser and they confess or own up, or have been found out, they can never be trusted again. That is the consequence. That doesn’t mean that they can’t have confessed or genuinely repented, but you will never take a chance with them again.”
In saying that this one specific group of sinners is beyond redemption, I’d argue that the Archbishop speaks more as a politician than as a man of God.
I have a criminal conviction for possession of indecent images of children. I have mild autism of which obsessiveness can be one of the traits. I came across the offending pictures by accident, and would have got rid of them had there not been an adult in them who looked like an adult actress I was obsessed about. Collecting that set of pictures then became an obsession.
Twenty years have passed, and I have not reoffended. I may never be a danger. I say “may” because the sex-offenders course teaches you always to be on your guard. But there is no way I can prove this. Nothing will redeem me.
But I have served my time on probation, my conviction is now spent, and I am no longer on the sex-offender register.
I cannot work with children, but I do not want to. To all intents and purposes however, I am a free man — except in the Church.
I started attending church after coming off the register many years ago. I was no longer being monitored by the police. I did not have to tell the church anything, and could go anywhere I liked.
After some time at church, though, I decided to tell them about my conviction. Despite many years of spotless behaviour, the safeguarding officer was brought in, and my freedom to come and go was severely curtailed.
I was told that for the rest of my life, I would need to be monitored for my own protection. Though this was not required in law, the church decided to tell leaders of other adult groups that I was part of, groups that did not belong to my church.
I was even told that I might need to stop many of the things that I did at church, such as reading the lesson or taking the collection — not because of any inherent risk, but because of how it might look.
WHEN there are so many ex-offenders who have turned their life around and become fruitful servants of the Church, and can be a great witness to Christ, why does the Church make special measures for sex offenders?
God calls all to holiness, even sex offenders. Yet we draw our own line. Why don’t we exclude those committed of fraud from doing the accounts; those guilty of drink driving from driving the minibus; those with alcohol and drug problems from serving at the bar during social events? Because that is not what the Church is about. Jesus came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
I look to examples such as Jesus calling St Paul, and how Jesus can make the vilest offender clean. This gives me hope, hope that is, sadly, continually removed by the Church.
My parish priest and diocesan safeguarding adviser have been of no help with spiritual direction or finding people who can help me find a suitable path. They point to safeguarding policy and procedures for everything I cannot do. I have emailed bishops who, largely, have just offered prayer and pointed me back towards people who have been of no help.
I want to serve, and I accept that there will be restrictions and things that I can’t do, for the safety of myself and others. The Church, however, does not want me.
The author asked to remain anonymous.