The Church of England’s spending on claims of sexual abuse has risen fivefold since 2014. General Synod heard last week that the church is dealt with an eye-watering 3,300-plus allegations last year.
These figures emerged as the church braces itself to face even more intense scrutiny as the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse begins to receive evidence in Marsh.
“This will not be an easy couple of years,” said the Rt. Rev. Peter Hancock, Bishop of Bath and Wells and the church’s lead bishop on safeguarding. “We will hear deeply painful accounts of abuse, of poor response, of cover-up. We will … feel a deep sense of shame.”
Many survivors of clerical sexual abuse “remain deeply mistrustful, suspicious, and angry towards the church,” he said. One in five registered complaints were against clergy and other church officials. The rest concern members of congregations doing voluntary church work.
Almost one in five of the reports were made against clergy and other church officials, with the rest relating to those who volunteer in the church. The IICSA has received more than 25,000 documents and will deal with 36 witness statements. Independent inquiries in the past two months have been very critical of the church’s handling of allegations.
Roger Singleton of the church’s national safeguarding panel said there was “a common theme running through recent reports of audits, reviews, and inquiries. That is a continuing need for culture change within the church.” A minority of parish clergy and lay members “appear unable or unwilling to accept the need for sensible, proportionate measures” or “minimize the adverse impacts which physical, sexual, emotional or spiritual abuse can have on people’s lives” or “believe that complainants are only in it for the money.”
“A prolonged period of denial, particularly by the church when we fail to face up to our responsibilities in this matter, can reinforce the damage done by the abuse itself,” said the Rt. Rev. Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester. “It becomes a double abuse.”
The Rt. Rev. Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester, told the synod she was “deeply ashamed that the abuse people have suffered across the church has so often been compounded by wholly inadequate response and a lack of compassion and understanding.”
The Diocese of Chichester and the Diocese of Gloucester have been at the center of abuse allegations against Bishop Peter Ball.