In order to increase independent scrutiny of sexual abuse cases, the Church of England is going to establish an independent ombudsman to deal with complaints over those cases. Due to some cases of cover-ups of sexual abuse in the circles of the church, survivors of sexual abuse have repeatedly called for an independent body to oversee abuse cases.
The C of E’s general synod, meeting in York, voted for backing priorities for action set out by the National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG), which could include an independent body being given powers to intervene at national or diocese level.
The Guardian reports:
Peter Hancock, the bishop of Bath and Wells and the lead bishop on safeguarding issues, told the synod: “Over the years, the church and its leaders have singularly failed to see what was before our eyes. We did not give safeguarding the prominence it deserved.
“We failed to put preventive measures in place. We failed to listen to those who came forward with powerful accounts. We failed to fund safeguarding sufficiently at national or diocesan level. We failed to put in place proper accountability for safeguarding at a senior level in the church.”
To achieve success in resolving and preventing cases of sexual harassment, there should certainly be an independent body which will judge on the basis of facts and regardless of the reputation of individuals. In the past, many of the victims have been denied justice because of the high position of a priest and his reputation. On the other hand, even when priests were punished for sexual abuse cases, these sentences were often mild compared to the crime itself.
Some expressed concern that independent oversight could allow the church to distance itself from responsibility for its actions. Archbishop Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said: “I see the power of the argument [for independence] provided we always remain committed to our responsibility.”
One survivor, Jo Kind, addressed the synod at the start of Saturday’s debate, the first time the assembly has heard directly from a victim of sexual abuse. She called for a “radical reorientation” by the church to focus on “people broken by abuse” rather than reputational concerns. “Instead of walking away from victims, turn towards us,” she said to a standing ovation, the Guardian reports.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia