- (Photo: Reuters/Yui Mok)
The Church of England has issued an apology for its part in past cases of child abuse, saying that its failure to properly deal with such reports was as sinful as the perpetrators of the crimes, but promised that it will look into new ways to stop such abuse in the future.
"We cannot do anything other than own up to our failures. We were wrong," said the Rt. Revd. Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Committee in a statement.
"Our failures were sin just as much as the perpetrators sinned. By failing to listen or act appropriately we condemned survivors to live with the harm when we should have been assisting them into whatever measure of healing might be possible."
The Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, added that there needs to be "a complete change of culture and behavior" in the Church.
BBC News noted that the Anglican office has been looking into the cases of two priests, Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard, who were found to have abused a number of children throughout the 1970s and 1980s. A report into the priests discovered that there had been a very negative culture within the Church that had produced an "appalling" and "dysfunctional" record in handling allegations of abuse.
"We are not doing all this, we are not seeking to say how devastatingly, appallingly, atrociously sorry we are for the great failure there has been, for our own sakes, for our own flourishings, for the protection of the Church," Welby added.
"We are doing it because we are called to live in the justice of God and we will each answer to him for our failings in these areas."
The General Synod has vowed that it will work on both legislative and non-legislative changes to its process in dealing with reports of abuse. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote in a follow up report that the Synod is right to make an apology for the Church of England's failure to protect children and adults "from physical and sexual abuse inflicted by its clergy and others and for the failure to listen properly to those so abused."
As for the Church's next steps, Butler sad that it will listen to survivors of abuse and "gain their wisdom."
"I conclude by saying again, 'We failed big time.' We can do nothing other than confess our sin, repent, and commit ourselves to being different in the years ahead. This difficult journey is one we must make for the sake of the survivors, our wider society and the kingdom of God," Butler added in the statement.
Among some of the changes that have already been agreed on is the removal of the current one-year limit on filing child abuse complains, and allowing bishops the right to suspend clergy that have been credibly accused of abuse.
AFP shared that a 30-second silence had been observed at the Synod following a statement from support groups for survivors of abuse.