‘Stuff your apologies, what we want is a public inquiry’, abuse victims tell Church of England

OOZING contrition, members of the General Synod of the Church of England gathered at York University  on Sunday evening to tell victims of Anglican clerical abuse how frightfully sorry they were over the whole affair.

But this  – and a 30-second moment of silence – failed to impress victims who rejected the apology and called instead for an independent public inquiry to ensure abusers are held to account and better safeguards put in place.

The General Synod, according to this report, voted unanimously to endorse the apology already made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to victims of abuse, and to back moves intended to tighten its safeguarding procedures.

The synod was told the church had failed victims of abuse “big time” by refusing to listen to their stories and by moving offenders to different areas in the hope that the problem would go away.

Bishop Paul Butler

Bishop Paul Butler

Paul Butler, the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, said the church had sinned through its failure to act just as much as the abusers had sinned through their actions.

Survivors] have struggled for years to have their voices heard. They have put up with institutional resistance time and again. In doing so, we have repeatedly re-abused them.

Victims were not permitted to speak during the debate, but Butler read out a statement issued by the Stop Church Child Abuse group that said that until a full and independent public inquiry was held, many would suspect the church was merely going through the motions.

The statement concluded:

Once such an inquiry has reported, once individual cases have been acknowledged, and once the church has begun how to learn to respond appropriately, maybe then the apologies, general as well as to individuals and their families, will carry some meaning.

As an aside, Butler is a great believer in applying “Christian values” to school lessons – including math.

The archbishops’ expression of contrition came after the release of a report into safeguarding practices in Chichester diocese, which was commissioned in 2011 by Welby’s predecessor, Rowan Williams, following a series of scandals involving clergymen within the diocese that saw several arrested, charged and convicted of historic sex crimes against children.

The report, said the archbishops, had laid bare:

A painful story of individual wickedness on the part of the abusers.

According to this report, Welby told the Synod:

For us, what we are looking at today is far from enough, we are opening a process, continuing a process in many ways, that will go far further than we can imagine.

He added:

We cannot in 20 years be finding ourselves having this same debate and saying ‘well we didn’t quite understand then’. There has to be complete change of culture and behaviour.

In addition, there is a profound theological point. We are not doing all this – we are not seeking to say how devastatingly, appallingly, atrociously sorry we are for the great failures there have been, for our own sakes, for our own flourishing, for the protection of the Church. We are doing this because we are called to live in the justice of God and we will each answer to him for our failures in this area.

The formal apology to survivors of abuse comes seven years after the synod said sorry for helping to sustain and profit from the slave trade.


21 responses to “‘Stuff your apologies, what we want is a public inquiry’, abuse victims tell Church of England”

  1. tony e says:

    ‘Victims were not permitted to speak during the debate’ – straight out of 1984.

    What level of arrogance do these bishops have to actually demand this?

    However it is gladdening to see that people are seeing through the waffle and demanding independent inquiry, that will help stop them covering up. Like vampires they don’t do so well in direct sunlight.

  2. AgentCormac says:

    While the church can never, ever make up for the harm caused, it does seem to me that this announcement is from the heart, especially when compared with the rcc which always seems to say sorry through gritted teeth and with all the sincerity of a second-hand car salesman. In fact I can’t imagine the rcc ever bringing itself to show or express anything like the same kind of contrition – even though it has an infinitely worse record on abuse. And that’s because unlike the cofe, which is a collection of deluded yet generally well-meaning old farts, the vatican is a ruthless and sinister power player.

  3. Alex says:

    What’s the collective noun for paedophiles? A fiddle, perhaps?

    So, until this “fiddle” of child rapists are legally held to account for their actions, and inactions, they can stuff their apologies up their cassocks.

  4. The Woggler says:

    I’m not sure that an apology agreed by committee carries much weight. What if the vote had not been unanimous? “Some of us would like to apologize, but there are others on the committee who don’t want to.”


  5. Daz says:

    Survivors] have struggled for years to have their voices heard. They have put up with institutional resistance time and again. In doing so, we have repeatedly re-abused them.

    Calling it “institutional” is just a way of weaseling out of naming the people responsible.

    I want to know who, in particular, was instrumental in furthering this resistance. Who signed letters rebuffing the victims and suchlike actions. I especially want to know if anyone who knew of this and either didn’t act on it or actually took part in such “institutional” resistance—or the aiding and abetting of child-abuse, as it should be called—is now sitting in the upper house of my government, pretending to be my moral guardian.

  6. DentonHomie says:

    @ Agent Cormac – without a doubt the simplest, most eloquent and most accurate differentiation between CofE & the Catholic Church that I have read. Bravo.

  7. Jesus Smith says:

    “What’s the collective noun for paedophiles?”

    A conclave or a synod.

  8. Matt+Westwood says:

    “Victims were not permitted to speak during the debate …”

    How can you stop them?

    How can you stop them, Welby? Eh? Eh? How can you stop them? Come on, tell me, how can you stop them speaking? Come on then, I dare you, stop me speaking, you and your thugs. Stop me then. Stop me speaking. If you put your hand over my mouth I’ll BITE YOUR FUCKING FINGERS OFF like I should have BIT YOUR FUCKING DICK OFF.

  9. Peterat says:

    What is really galling, paritcularly in the Quebec case, is that the church millions for the lawyers that defended and helped arbitrate the “settlement” while the victims were left on their own to testify to the crimes perpetrated against them with no legal assistance.
    I wonder what the regular church goers would say about their Sunday plate “donations” going to fund such self-serving, hand-washing activity?
    My opinion of the church(s) and lawyers just dropped another notch, and I didn’t think it could!

  10. Trevor Blake says:

    Jesus Smith beat me to it, but I can add that in some countries the plural noun for pedophile is ‘a Mohammed of child rapists.’

  11. Trevor Blake says:

    Regarding “moving offenders to different areas in the hope that the problem would go away,” this is exactly the policy of the Roman Catholic Church…

    … with the difference being the RCC has not disavowed the policy.

  12. charlie says:

    Oh, sure, the CofE and the RCC are very sorry for the child abuse.
    They are all very, very sorry that their crimes have been made public is ALL they are sorry about. I do not accept any apology from any religion for past/continuing abuses. They have lied for centuries, why trust them now?
    They are sorry they have been caught, period.

  13. AgentCormac says:

    Slightly OT, but the following is a very amusing and wonderfully well written account of what it’s actually like to attend the Synod, from someone who has had that dubious pleasure.

  14. Broga says:

    @AgentCormac: Great account of the C. of E. Synod. Regarding words, I once had the misfortune to work with a devoutly religious colleage. He was always asking me to go to his home and “Share our Fellowship.” No way.

    The Synod, apart from being pointless, seems so oleaginous and smug in the relationships there.

  15. AgentCormac says:


    The author’s treacherously cynical attitude towards his own church, together with his wry writing style, reminded me for all the world of Richard Holloway, whose book ‘Leaving Alexandria’ we discussed some time ago.

  16. Websteward says:

    Rowan Williams went downhill after Blackadder.

  17. Robster says:

    Aren’t all these overdressed, over respected silly little men saying this to make themselves feel better about their and their organisations crimes? It’s a bit like praying, it won’t fix anything, but jeez It’ll make those responsible feel a whole lot better. It’s a selfish act dressed up to look useful and positive.

  18. Broga says:

    @Websteward: Funny! And I agree, Rowan never again hit those heights.

    @AgentCormac: I’ve read “Leaving Alexandria” and Richard Holloway, often seems on the point of coming clean and admitting he has believed a mess of some facts, much legend and a lot of fiction before the equivocation sets in.

    During my time as an atheist i.e. since my teens, I have sometimes thought I ought to at least examine with an open mind the case for religion. I have ploughed through Teilhard de Chardin, John Robinson, Paul Tillich, Martin Buber and so many others where “thinking” Christians told me I would “see the light.” What I always found was smoke and mirrors, obfuscation and the God of the gaps.

    I’m afraid the current cure of souls of this site, Ken of the Selective View, seems to see his own beliefs as too fragile to subject them to the same open minded scrutiny of the atheist case.

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