Revelations about child sexual abuse have made the Archbishop of Canterbury “ashamed of the church.”

Giving evidence on the penultimate day of a three-week hearing on child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Chichester, Archbishop Justin Welby said he could not read the transcripts from the hearing without being moved and ashamed.

“I want to put on record again — I don’t know how to express it adequately — how appalled I am and how ashamed I am of the Church for what it did to those who are survivors and are coping with this. The apologies are fine, but you have got to find ways of making it different and we have got to do it as soon as possible.”

Archbishop Welby said he has “seen afresh the insanity of clericalism and of a deferential culture” within the church. He said sexual abuse is, at its core, an abuse of power.

He said bishops and other members of the clergy now receive training that makes it “quite clear” that not reporting a safeguarding issue is a disciplinary matter.

Archbishop Welby said the culture of parish churches needs to change, so that safeguarding failures are as unacceptable as drunken driving: “We have to get to the culture that if anything is seen as untoward, every regular member of the church, everyone who knows, who is around, says this isn’t right and I’m going to do something about it.”

Clergy who abuse children can never be trusted again, he told the inquiry, even if they confess or repent. He explained that forgiveness and the consequences of sin are “very, very different things.”

John Martin

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