Response of Bishop of Crediton, Sarah Mullally, to Elliott Review
On 4 December 2015, the Church Times reported that the Church of England has paid £35,000 in compensation and apologised to a survivor of clerical sexual abuse, named as Garth Moore, a leading authority on ecclesiastical law and Chancellor of the dioceses of Southwark, Durham and Gloucester. Moore, who died in 1990, was Vicar of St Mary Abchurch, where the victim was a server. Offering an unreserved apology, a spokeswoman for the Church indicated that it have launched an independently-led review of lessons learnt from this case, (“the Elliott Review”); when completed this would be shared with the survivor, and the findings published.
Details of the findings of the Elliott Review have now been published and at the request of the survivor, the Bishop of Crediton, Sarah Mullally, has responded:
“”I was horrified to hear and read of the abuse suffered by the survivor in this case. It has clearly devastated his life. I apologise profusely for the failings of the Church towards him, and for the horrific abuse he suffered. It has taken him years of heartache and distress to get his story heard and believed by those in authority and it is clear he has been failed in many ways over a long period of time. We should have been swifter to listen, to believe and to act. This report is deeply uncomfortable for the Church of England.
“I know we have made some progress but we still have so much to learn and to do, and we need to do it quickly. I cannot imagine what it costs survivors to come forward, and we owe it to them to act swiftly and compassionately. I am humbled by the fact the survivor in this case has persisted and is still willing to give his time to try and ensure we learn these lessons.
“This report has published a series of important recommendations. The Archbishop of Canterbury has seen these recommendations and will ensure they are implemented as quickly as possible.
“How we respond to those who have survived abuse in any form, whether as a child or an adult, is a measure of our humanity, compassion and of the Church’s mission in the world.”
Only the background and recommendations of the 21-page report by safeguarding expert Ian Elliott have been published, although the full document has been seen by The Guardian and Church Times and reported in their articles Damning report reveals Church of England’s failure to act on abuse and Abuse case turns spotlight on to flawed C of E safeguarding practices. The report in The Guardian contains details of an interview with the survivor, (“survivor B”), and identifies the clergy said to have been made aware of the abuse, although not named in the Elliott Review. In addition to Garth Moore, (“Rev A”), the Church Times names a senior church figure, (“Brother C”), with whom the survivor was drawn into an exploitative and emotionally abusive relationship.
The Church’s summary lists the report’s eleven conclusions and its recommendations in relation to receiving disclosures, the role of advisors, and the safeguarding structure:
i]. All those who may receive a disclosure of abuse should be provided with training that is aimed at ensuring that they have the skills, and knowledge necessary to respond in accordance with the stated policies of the Church.
ii]. All those who have received a disclosure of abuse should record what information has been shared with them and ensure that they explain to the person making the disclosure, what actions they will take, when they will take them, and why.
iii]. Those in positions of seniority in the Church are more likely to be approached by a survivor of abuse to report what has happened to them. It is particularly important that these people have a comprehensive understanding of the policies of the Church, and also have an ability to implement those policies. Where help is needed to develop skills or knowledge in this area, this should be provided.
iv]. Where the abuse is communicated through correspondence, guidance should be produced that is available to those handling correspondence to support them in determining how to respond to this situation. It is important that this guidance is fully compliant with the stated policies of the Church.
The Role of Advisors
i]. All advice received by agents employed by the Church, should be referenced against the stated policies of the Church before it is followed. Emphasis should be placed on ensuring that financial considerations are not given a priority that conflicts with the pastoral aims of the Church when engaging with survivors of abuse.
ii]. The Church should seek to create written down guidance with regard to how it will respond to claims for compensation from survivors. This guidance should be shared with survivors from an early juncture in the process. Every effort should be made to avoid an adversarial approach, placing emphasis on the provision of financial compensation as an aid to healing and closure for the survivor.
iii]. A first response to a survivor of abuse within the Church should be the issuing of an apology.
The Safeguarding Structure
i]. The Church should create a means by which it can inform itself as to what the reality of safeguarding practice is across the entire Church, as experienced by those receiving a service. The National Safeguarding Team should be given the power and the responsibility to monitor practice and to intervene where it is thought necessary to do so. It cannot do this if it is limited to an advisory role alone. The reviewer would believe that this can be achieved without diminishing the authority of the bishop in their diocese if carefully constructed and approached as part of the structure of the Church as a whole body.
ii]. Safeguarding decisions as they occur across the Church, should be subject to review by an independent body within the Church, which has the skills, knowledge and expertise to do this. The role of the National Safeguarding Team should be looked at again to enable it to possibly fulfil this requirement.
iii]. The experience of other Churches who have sought to respond well to the issue of clerical abuse should be carefully examined and attempts made to ensure that mistakes made elsewhere will not be repeated within the Church of England.
iv]. Survivors of clerical abuse hold great wisdom as to how the Church can prevent what happened to them reoccurring. To that end and where the motivation exists on the part of the survivor, a mechanism should be created that is aimed at creating a means whereby that knowledge can be directly shared with those involved in safeguarding in the Church.