THE anonymous complainant in the latest case against the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, has defended herself against criticism that has denigrated her complaint and portrayed her as a tool of malign forces in the college.
The complainant has taken the unusual step of writing to the Church Times to counter critics who have publicised details of what should be confidential investigations by both the college and the Church of England (Letters).
The case relates to an alleged incident of sexual harassment in the cathedral on 4 October (News, 20 November 2020).
She writes: “Had I not judged the incident to be inappropriate and extremely distressing, I should not have decided to make a formal complaint.”
She continues: “I made this decision myself, under no pressure from any other person. To suggest otherwise is deeply insulting.”
The open speculation about the case is taking its toll on her and the Dean, she suggests, and urges those discussing the case to desist, warning them that they are “creating an environment where future survivors of harassment will not feel able to come forward”.
She reveals that she offered to resolve the matter through independent mediation via ACAS, but the Dean had declined through ill health (News, 15 January).
Neither the college’s action against Dean Percy, nor the Church of England’s investigation, can proceed while the Dean is on sick leave.
Last week, it was revealed that the Charity Commission had written to each member of the Governing Body, inquiring about the new tribunal.
The reported cost of the college’s action against Dean Percy since a first complaint in 2018 is said to have risen above £2 million. Christ Church functions as a charity, and former alumni asked the Charity Commission to investigate.
On Wednesday of last week, Helen Earner, director of regulatory services, wrote to each member of the Governing Body, 65 in all, warning them that the Commission “will be seeking further information and assurances from the members of the Governing Body about why establishing a tribunal is: in the best interests of the charity and its beneficiaries; [and] a responsible use of the charity’s resources”.
The Commission will also inquire about any conflicts of interest.
The college authorities said that they welcomed “the opportunity to share the process in a transparent way with the Charity Commission”. At the same time, the authorities wrote to individual members offering advice and assistance about how to respond to the Commission.
“Slow and brutal”. Last Friday, Lord Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, whose Permission to Officiate was reinstated last week (News, 29 January), wrote in The Daily Telegraph to reiterate his argument made to the National Safeguarding Team core group that he had no recollection of the abuser John Smyth, who studied briefly at Trinity College, Bristol, when Lord Carey was Principal, or of being shown a report of his abuses.
He writes: “If I had seen the ‘memo’ listing Smyth’s terrible deeds it would have been seared on my memory. But the investigator and the core group took no note of my protestations.”
He notes of his treatment: “Recent safeguarding complaints about both the [present] Archbishops of Canterbury and York have been closed quickly with judicious speed and finality. I have no reason to doubt that they were dealt with properly but those of us who have suffered the stutteringly slow, brutal and impersonal face of the Church of England’s core group process have reason to complain about the disparity.
“This is not the Church of England that I have known — generous, open and kind. Tragically, I know that victims of clerical abuse found the Church of England in the past to be defensive and uncaring, and I greatly regret my part in that culture and those terrible attitudes. But it does not do to replace one failure with another.
“The current culture of fear in which survivors and clerics alike receive no kind of justice must be confronted.”
Read more on the story in Andrew Brown’s press column