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Church of England told bishops 'not to apologise' to victims of sex abuse

Mon 22 Aug 2016
By Sam Hailes

A confidential document has revealed bishops in the Church of England were told to only give partial apologies - if at all - to victims of sex abuse.

The guidance, marked "strictly confidential" and circulated to senior bishops was written in 2007 and replaced last year. It warned bishops to be wary of meeting victims and warned of "unintended effect of accepting legal liability" for abuse within their diocese. It said bishops should be careful to avoid "inadvertently" conceding guilt.

According to the guidance, which has been seen by the Daily Telegraph, only apologies with wording approved by lawyers, PR advisers and insurers should be given.

Survivors of abuse accused the Church of "acting like Pontius Pilate" and said the document demonstrated a culture of dishonesty and "blanking" victims.

The news follows a damning independent review of the Church's handling of abuse by Garth Moore, a priest in the 1970s.

It highlighted how a teenager known as "Joe" revealed his ordeal to leading vicars who then claimed not to remember anything. The report criticised the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, the Church's then head of safeguarding for being "reckless" after he cut all contact with Joe, following advice from insurers, after he began legal action.

A Church of England spokesperson told the Daily Telegraph: "The Church of England published new guidance in 2015 emphasising that: 'The pastoral response to alleged victims and survivors is of top priority, and needs to be separated as far as possible from the management processes for the situation, and from legal and insurance responses.

"That superseded all previous advice and ensures that the pastoral needs of survivors must never be neglected and pastoral contact can continue whatever legal issues exist."

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