UNLESS the “grave sin” of child sexual abuse is named, confessed, and dealt with by the Church, its mission to the nation is undermined, the bishops and archdeacons in Blackburn diocese have said.
In an ad clerum published on Monday, the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, the Bishop of Lancaster, Dr Jill Duff, along with the diocese’s Archdeacons, and the Dean of Blackburn, encourage all clergy and parish safeguarding officers to read the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s report on the Church of England, which was published last month (News, 9 May)
The letter reads: “The Church should be the conscience of the nation and yet as the report shows, again and again we have placed the reputation of the institution above the needs of the vulnerable.
“In addition, when the contemporary church fails to respond properly to allegations from the past, this becomes a form of re-abuse, adding a fresh layer of hurt and harm to those whose lives are already damaged. Trite, formulaic apologies will not do. There has been grave sin within the Church, and unless corporately we name, confess and deal with that sin, our mission to the nation is fatally undermined.”
It continues: “We need to understand also that safeguarding is not just about ticking boxes and following rules. It is about a much deeper awareness, especially for clergy and church leaders, of where power lies in relationships and how easy it is to abuse that power.
“The report has a great deal to say about ‘clericalism’ and about an inappropriate culture of deference to clergy, especially senior clergy, which has resulted in cover-up and in the voices of the vulnerable being silenced. . .
“To spend proper time with the report is a powerful emotional experience and the overwhelming impressions we were left with were those of sorrow, guilt and deep sadness.”