Investigation Unearths Unreported Child Abuse Case in the Church of England

Child Abuse Case - Robert Waddington
Robert Waddington

A joint investigation carried out by the Times and an Australian newspaper has unearthed a child abuse case that was not reported to the police by the former archbishop Lord Hope of Thornes. The alleged perpetrator of the abuse was a former dean of Manchester Cathedral Robert Waddington. Waddington died in 2007 following throat cancer.

The investigation unearthed files from the internal church archives which revealed that Lord Hope had been made aware of the allegations against the Dean in 1999 and in 2003 made by an alleged victim, a former choirboy named Eli Ward. However, according to Hope, he did not inform the police of the matter as he believed that the Dean was no longer a threat to children.

Following the allegations against Waddington, the former archbishop had carried out internal investigations and had stripped the former Dean of his rights to hold church services. However, due to a cancer surgery that the Dean had undergone and his subsequent illness, Hope had deemed him to be harmless to children. That is why he had not reported the matter to the police.

In a statement issued by Hope through his present Diocese, Hope said that he and his staff had acted in accordance with the standard church's child protection process at the time and he believed that it could not be said they had acted negligently.

This is not the first time that the Church of England has been in the news for the wrong reasons. The church has been riddled with several historic child abuse cases including the Chichester diocese scandals. In the more recent past, it has been in the news for controversies over women bishops and same-sex marriages.

The investigation by the newspapers was initiated by the published report of an order by Dr Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, who warned that the church would be setting off a time bomb if it did not take appropriate measures to prevent further such cases.

Hope is currently the assistant bishop at the Bradford Diocese. In his statement following the investigation by Times, he said that there was no legal compulsion set within the church's child protection guidelines to report allegations by adults. However, the guidelines do require an analysis of whether the children may still be at risk. If they are, then proper steps are to be taken and the matter may need to be reported to authorities.

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