Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Archbishop of Canterbury's 'Breathtaking Hypocrisy'

Justin Welby has compared the BBC's approach to abuse to that of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches:
I haven't seen the same integrity over the BBC's failures over Savile as I've seen in the Roman Catholic Church, in the Church of England, in other public institutions over abuse.
This is a remarkable statement. Certainly, the BBC as an organisation was negligent in its handling of Jimmy Savile from the 70s up until his death (frankly the whole of Britain were; many, many people and institutions turned a blind eye to his activities, including the NHS). Dame Janet Smith said of the BBC:
There was a culture of not complaining or of raising concerns. BBC staff felt – and were sometimes told – that it was not in their best interests to pursue a complaint. Loyalty to and pride in a programme could hinder the sharing of concerns; there was a reluctance to rock the boat. 
(Although ironically one of the men she singles out for not doing more to stop Savile was Anglican priest Canon Colin Semper:
He was a producer in the Religious Broadcasting department and worked closely with Savile. With commendable honesty, when giving evidence to the Review, he accepted that he had come to think that Savile had casual sex with a lot of girls, some of whom might have been underage. He did not discuss what he knew with his managers because he thought that they already knew about Savile and did not seem to be concerned about it. In my view, he should have discussed his concerns with his line manager. I think he now deeply regrets that he did not. )
So, it's clear that the BBC were culpable for Savile's continuing activities over decades. But, as Noel McGivern points out:
...there are key differences between the BBC and Catholic Church. The BBC does not behave as a moral guardian of Britain or the world; it doesn't claim spiritual authority over 1.3 billion people. It is not a primary human identity. Any organisation can have paedophiles in it, but what sets the Catholic Church apart is how actively it sought to protect both them and itself.
Even before the report was published, the BBC had made steps to safeguard the vulnerable. In 2015:
The GoodCorporation conclude that the BBC has strong child protection policies in place and that considerable effort has been made to improve them. Their report states that “there is a clear commitment and recognition of the importance of child protection and safeguarding in the BBC”.
Now, no doubt it's important to keep monitoring the BBC at all levels to ensure abuse does not recur, but the signs seem to be promising. It's not clear to me that this behaviour represents a lower level of integrity to that of the C of E and the Roman Catholic Church. A BBC spokesman said of Welby's comments:
This isn't a characterisation we recognise. When the Savile allegations became known we established an independent investigation by a High Court judge. In the interests of transparency, this was published in full. We apologised and accepted all the recommendations. And while today's BBC is a different place, we set out very clear actions to ensure the highest possible standards of child safeguarding.
Re the Catholic Church, this is what Geoffrey Robinson QC says in his book The Case of the Pope:
The Church's response, still echoed by those like Alan Dershowitz who defend the present Pope, is that hierarchical sex abuse occurs in all religious institutions and in secular schools, and it is wrong to 'stereotype' the Roman Catholic priesthood. But the evidence does reliably show a remarkably higher level of abuse in Catholic institutions (see chapter 2) and in any event, the defense misses the point, namely that this church, through its pretensions to be a state, with its own non-punitive Canon Law, has actually covered up the abuse and harboured the abusers. Moreover, this particular religion endows its priests with god-like powers in the eyes of children, who are put into their spiritual embrace from the time when they first develop the faculty of reasoning...A church that puts its children from this early age under the spiritual control of its priests, representatives of God to whom they are unflinchingly obedient, has the most stringent of duties to guard against the exploitation of that obedience to do them harm. That duty includes the duty of handing over those reasonably suspected of child sex abuse to the secular authorities for trial and, if convicted, for punishment. It is this duty that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, a.k.a. Benedict XVI, has for the past thirty years adamantly refused to accept. (pp3-4)
Certainly there is no way that the BBC could operate at the level of the Catholic Church, since that Church is also a state; a state that throws its weight around at the UN, for example. The Church's record on covering up abuse, and, in fact, facilitating it, are legion. These were the facts behind the award winning film Spotlight, focussing on the child abuse scandal in Boston. I previously reported on their behaviour surrounding Father Kit Cunningham:
...on the day that Pope Benedict XVI, during his visit to Britain last September, was in Westminster Cathedral expressing his "deep sorrow to innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes", the Rosminian order was writing to refuse to pay any compensation for what it has openly acknowledged are the crimes of four of its own priests.
(The Rosminian Order ran the school where the priest committed his abuse.)

As for the Church of England, its victims of abuse are none too happy:
In a statement, six survivors of abuse by powerful church figures rejected Welby’s comments and said the record of the church and Welby himself was one of “silence, denial and evasion”.
Their statement said: “Speaking from our own bitter experience, we do not recognise Archbishop Welby’s description of the integrity with which the Church of England handles cases of abuse in a church context.
“Far from the ‘rigorous response and self-examination’ he claims, our experience of the church, and specifically the archbishop, is of long years of silence, denial and evasion.
The Church of England needs to confront its own darkness in relation to abuse before confronting the darkness of others.”
Matthew Ineson, who was allegedly raped as a teenager by a C of E vicar, said Welby had shown “breathtaking hypocrisy”. The vicar, Trevor Devamanikkam, killed himself the day he was due in court to face charges.
“I know from my own experience, and the experience of others, that safeguarding within the C of E is appalling,” Ineson said. “The church has colluded with the cover-up of abuse and has obstructed justice for those whose lives have been ruined by the actions of its clergy. I have been fighting for five years for the church to recognise its responsibilities and I’m still being met with attempts to bully me into dropping my case.”
The independent report into the case of Anglican bishop Peter Ball (pictured) said:
This report considers the serious sexual wrongdoing of Peter Ball, a bishop of the Church of England (the Church), who abused many boys and men over a period of twenty years or more. That is shocking in itself but is compounded by the failure of the Church to respond appropriately to his misconduct, again over a period of many years. Ball’s priority was to protect and promote himself and he maligned the abused. The Church colluded with that rather than seeking to help those he had harmed, or assuring itself of the safety of others. 
The former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey was forced to resign because of his treatment of Ball.

So Welby himself is guilty of silence, denial and evasion, according to one of the Church's victims, and a report into one abuser states baldly that the Church colluded with the abuser rather than help those he harmed.

Remember, Welby's contention was that he hasn't seen "the same integrity over the BBC's failures over Savile as I've seen in the Roman Catholic Church, in the Church of England...over abuse." Perhaps he means the BBC have shown more integrity, but I doubt it!

I think one might make a case that the BBC have been equally as bad as the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church over abuse, but really the evidence shows that both these Holy institutions have been much worse than the BBC. The Archbishop should retract this claim, and ensure that his organisation stops bullying the victims of abuse, like Matthew Ineson, and recompenses them properly for their years of abuse.

UPDATE: See this Youtube recording of an LBC interview of Justin Welby with annotations by Andy Morse, an alleged victim of John Smyth, a some time friend, or acquaintance, or colleague, of Welby. The abuse is alleged to have occurred at Christian holiday camps in Africa. This is Part 1 of 4 parts.


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