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CDM stories: ‘This feels like domestic abuse’ says cleared cleric who has been refused PTO

24 July 2020

Prompted by the Sheldon survey, a priest writes about his Clergy Discipline Measure


MORAL injury occurs “when there is a betrayal of what is right by someone who holds legitimate authority in a high-stakes situation”. The attitude of my diocesan bishop in handling a completely spurious complaint against me in 2016 by a known serial offender gave me complex PTSD, and led to three breakdowns.

Despite my being cleared of all complaints some nine months later, and being cleared by the psychotherapist as fit to return to work, the Bishop refuses me permission to officiate (PTO), thus ending my ministry.

The one meeting with the diocesan bishop during this four-year period began by his asking me whether I was “wired for sound”.

My perception of the absence of love throughout this time has been acute, and could have been so easily rectified by dialogue and prayer, two things surely at the very core of the Christian faith. We are called, above all, to love one another.

It was my counsellor who pointed out to me the correlation between domestic abuse and my own experiences. When I was ordained, I gave my body, soul, and mind to God’s service. It is thus more akin to a marriage than an employment contract.

A classic symptom of abuse is not being heard. I have not been. I have repeatedly asked for a reason that my PTO is being withheld, and no evidenced reason has been given. My self-esteem was already at rock bottom when the suffragan bishop stated that she “would not grant anyone PTO who she did not consider would be an asset to the Church”, and she wasn’t going to give it to me. I have 13 years of exemplary ministry behind me, with no complaints other than the one mentioned above.

I have been judged and found guilty by people who have never bothered to get to know me. I have received nothing but unevidenced condemnation and contempt. Even a criminal has a right to know what he or she is accused of. Apparently clergy don’t. I now feel completely isolated. I have lost my vocation, housing, income, church community, and self-respect.

Read our full report on the Sheldon survey here

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