The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has told the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse that he has learnt to be “ashamed of the church again”.
On the penultimate day of a three-week hearing on the Anglican church – focusing on the diocese of Chichester – as part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said that he could not read the transcripts from the hearing without being moved and ashamed.
He added: “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 that he had “seen afresh the insanity of clericalism and of a deferential culture” within the church.
Asked by lead counsel to the inquiry, Fiona Scolding what he was doing to tackle this, Archbishop Welby said that Bishops and Archbishops were now subject to performance reviews. Archbishop Welby disclosed that he was in the midst of such a review, in which 43 colleagues had been invited to comment on his performance.
He said that, subject to proof that they worked, psychosocial or psychometric assessments should be used when selecting people for ordination: “If it can be demonstrated that [such tests] will be helpful in identifying pathologies that are likely to lead to behaviours, then it is worth doing.”
At the heart of sexual abuse was the abuse of power: “You want to [use these tests to] pick up people who are not going to use power well or who are going to abuse it,” he said.
Archbishop Welby said bishops and other members of the clergy were now given training, which made it "quite clear" that if a safeguarding issue was not reported it was a disciplinary matter.
“Nobody can say it is not my fault. It is absurd,” Archbishop Welby said. “To say, ‘I have heard about a problem but it was someone else’s job to report it’, that is not an acceptable human response, let alone a leadership response. If you know a child is being abused, not to report it is simply wrong, for every human being.”
Archbishop Welby said the culture of parish churches needed to change, so that safeguarding failures were as unacceptable as drink-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'," he said.
Clergy who abuse children can never be trusted again he told the inquiry, even if they confess or repent.
Responding to a question on whether the church had an inappropriate concept of forgiveness that could allow perpetrators to unpunished he explained that forgiveness and the consequences of sin are “very, very different things”.
If an abuser genuinely repents, they can be forgiven by God, but they must still go to prison, he said. “It’s a sort of Theology 101,” he added.
He also told the inquiry that the church’s system of dealing with formal complaints made against clergy - the Clergy Disciplinary Measure (CDM) is unfit for dealing with safeguarding companies and is “damaging survivors” because it is too slow.
“It [the process] can take three or four years and you end up damaging the survivors and victims more,” he said. “You abuse them in the way you keep them waiting, and for that matter you don’t do justice to the perpetrator,” he continued.
“But you have to have a system that delivers justice,” he said. If the present system is not good enough, “then you have to find another that will be more reliable” he continued.
He said the CofE was starting to review the CDM and admitted that he had a “sense of failure” that he had not yet managed to “approach it significantly efficiently.”
The hearing is due to conclude on Friday, 23 March
The inquiry, set up in 2015, aims to address institutional failures to protect children in England and Wales. The Church of England is one of 13 public organisations being scrutinised.
Pic: (left to right) Director of Communications for the Archbishop of Canterbury Ailsa Anderson, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Bishop Anthony Poggo, the Archbishop's Adviser on Anglican Communion Affairs, arrive at Pocock Street Tribunal Hearing Centre in London, for an Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Picture by: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire/PA Images