The Church of England is to make far-reaching changes to the way it deals with cases of sex abuse following a damning independent report that details how senior church figures failed to act upon repeated disclosures of a sadistic assault.
The first independent review commissioned by the church into its handling of a sex abuse case highlights the “deeply disturbing” failure of those in senior positions to record or take action on the survivor’s disclosures over a period of almost four decades. The church acknowledged the report was “embarrassing and uncomfortable”.
The Guardian understands that among those told of the abuse were three bishops and a senior clergyman later ordained as a bishop. None of them are named in the report.
The review also criticises the office of Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, for failing to respond meaningfully to repeated efforts by the survivor throughout 2015 to bring his case to the church leader’s attention.
The review’s conclusions were released on Tuesday as the government-appointed inquiry into child sex abuse prepares to examine hundreds of thousands of files relating to the abuse of children and vulnerable adults within the church. Welby has said that abuse by church figures and within other institutions has been “rampant”.
The full 21-page report by safeguarding expert Ian Elliott has been seen by the Guardian, although the C of E published only its conclusions and recommendations. Chief among them was the need for training for those who may receive abuse disclosures on keeping records and taking action. This was particularly important for those in senior positions, the report said.
It also recommended that the church prioritises its pastoral responsibilities above financial and reputational considerations, and that “every effort should be made to avoid an adversarial approach” in dealing with survivors of abuse.
Welby has made “a personal commitment to seeing all the recommendations implemented quickly”, said Sarah Mullally, bishop of Crediton, speaking on behalf of the C of E. “He thinks the situation is embarrassing and uncomfortable for the church.”
Elliott examined the case of “Joe” – described in the report as “B”, and whose identity is known to the Guardian – who as a 15-year-old was subjected to a “sadistic” assault in 1976 by Garth Moore, a leading figure in the church, the chancellor of three dioceses and vicar of St Mary’s Abchurch in the City of London. Moore, who died in 1990, is described in the report as “A”.
Last October, the C of E paid £35,000 in compensation and apologised to Joe, saying “the abuse reported is a matter of deep shame and regret”. It also commissioned the independent review into its handling of the case.
Over a period of almost 40 years, Joe made disclosures about the abuse to dozens of people in the C of E, including senior members of the hierarchy. While some of those Joe spoke to had clear recollections of his disclosures, none of the senior figures had any memory of such conversations. Elliott describes this as “a deeply disturbing feature of this case”.
The report says: “What is surprising about this is that [Joe] would be speaking about a serious and sadistic sexual assault allegedly perpetrated by a senior member of the hierarchy. The fact that these conversations could be forgotten about is hard to accept.”
Read more: The Guardian