Church of England Withdrew Pastoral Care From Sex Abuse Victims After Settlements: Report

Canterbury Cathedral
The Canterbury Cathedral is the seat of the Cathedral of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate of All England and religious leader of the Church of England. |

The report of an independent review, fully accepted by Archbishop of Canterbury, suggests that the Church of England was advised by its insurers to withdraw emotional support and pastoral care for sex abuse victims.

The review by child safeguarding specialist Ian Elliot found that the insurer – Ecclesiastical – has a senior clergy member on its board and its advice had "directly conflicted" with the pastoral responsibilities of the church, Premier reported Saturday, and also said the "financial interests were allowed to impact practice" at least in one victim's case.

BBC spoke to the victim, identified only as Gilo, who is now a middle-aged man who lives in the south-west of England. He was raped in the early 1970s by a City of London clergyman, the Rev. Garth Moore.

The victim says he tried more than 20 times to speak to senior members of the church after he decided to report the assaults, but rarely received a reply. After the church finally verified his claim and reached a financial settlement with him of £35,000 on the advice of Ecclesiastical, the Church cut contact, including emotional support, or pastoral care, with him.

"I think because of the relationship that the Church has with the insurers, the pastoral response is so fused with the legal response it's really effectively led by the insurers," he was quoted as saying. "When that insurer has got such significant presence of senior clerics on its board across the years, then you're into an area of moral responsibility."

The insurer denies it was due to its advice.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the report "makes harrowing reading: the Church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward.

"This is inexcusable and shocking behaviour and although [the report] notes that most of the events took place many years ago, and does not think that the Church now would conduct itself in the ways described, we can never be complacent, we must learn lessons."

BBC notes that Ecclesiastical has also been criticised over the settlement of claims by former residents of Kendall House, the Church of England children's home in Kent where girls were drugged and abused in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

A Church of England spokeswoman was quoted as responding: "The Church of England is absolutely committed to its pastoral response to alleged victims and survivors and published new guidance in 2015 emphasising that this 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."

Earlier this month, the church's leaders voted to urge the government to ban the practice of conversion therapy, which seeks to help those who want to change their same-sex attraction. They called the therapy unethical and potentially harmful.

"Conversion therapy is harmful, dangerous and just doesn't work," said Jayne Ozanne, who represents laity in the Diocese of Oxford, while moving the motion at the Church of England's General Synod during its ongoing annual July sessions in York. "People may be able to alter their behaviour but they can never alter their innate desire."

The denomination's national assembly voted to endorse a Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy signed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and others condemning the practice.

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