Almost 400 church employees were forgiven for sex crimes against children by the Protestant church and allowed to carry on their systematic abuse, a court enquiry has found.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found that between 1940 and 2018, some 390 people employed by the church, as clergymen or in trusted positions, were convicted of child sex abuse in astonishing revelations.
“The culture of the Church of England facilitated it becoming a place where abusers could hide,” said a report released on Tuesday.
“Deference to the authority of the Church and to individual priests, taboos surrounding discussion of sexuality and an environment where alleged perpetrators were treated more supportively than victims presented barriers to disclosure that many victims could not overcome.”
IICSA said that many members of the church regard forgiveness “as the appropriate response to any admission of wrongdoing”.
IICSA brought up the case of Timothy Storey, who was repented and allowed to work with children but then went on to commit crimes against them and is now serving 15 years imprisonment for rape.
“Some religious leaders use ‘forgiveness’ to justify a failure to respond appropriately to allegations,” the report said.
“Perpetrators who repent must be willing to face the legal consequences of their sin and should be prevented from accessing environments in which re-offending could occur.”
Evidence from the report suggests some of the victims were even pressured into forgiving their assaulted citing it is ‘unholy’ not to forgive.
“They may condemn themselves and believe they are condemned by others if they are not willing, or able to forgive,” the report said.
Survivor groups claim that the clergymen often admitted to the sexual assault of them, and never passed information on to the police.
However, the Church of England say it was ‘rare’ for someone to confess this.
The church issued an apology and expressed shame after the inquiry’s findings were released.
“The report makes shocking reading and while apologies will never take away the effects of abuse on victims and survivors, we today want to express our shame about the events that have made those apologies necessary,” noted the Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs.
“The whole Church must learn lessons from this Inquiry. Our main focus in response must be recognising the distress caused to victims and survivors by the Church’s failures in safeguarding,” Gibbs added.
The inquiry held public hearings in July 2019, which led in part to the findings of the report.
The panel made eight recommendations, including an improved complaints process for victims of abuse, the reintroduction of immediate expulsion from the church for anyone convicted of child sex offences and improved funding and support for victims and survivors.
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