Vicar’s appeal to victims of abuse as cases reviewed
A local vicar has appealed for anyone with experience of abuse in the Church to come forward.
The diocese of Chester is undertaking a past cases review, part of a new national past cases review into the handling of safeguarding files in the Church, and writing in his latest parish magazine, the Rev Ian Arch has appealed for anyone who experienced abuse to make it known.
Writing in the latest Eaton, Hulme Walfield and Swettenham parish magazine, he said that “like most institutions”, the church “does not have a great record” when it comes to safeguarding.
“There are too many accounts of the times when the church has failed to keep children and vulnerable adults safe from abuse,” he wrote.
But he said that over the last few years there had been “very significant changes” in parishes and in the wider Church of England to try and ensure that every person was safe.
“Our first concern is for victims and survivors of abuse, and I would bring the attention of anyone in this position to the contact numbers below. Currently we are part of a major national review and we need your help,” he wrote.
He explained that all parishes had been asked to review all information they had in search of any knowledge of potential abuse by church officers going back to 1940, and to record this for the scrutiny of an external reviewer.
The acting Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev Keith Sinclair has written: “It is important that all known cases of concern about the behaviour of clergy and church officers towards children and vulnerable adults have been considered and dealt with appropriately.”
Mr Arch said that while the diocese was in the process of checking all church records and archives, it was also asking anyone who had knowledge of an instance, “however vague”, that might indicate the abuse of a vulnerable person by a church officer (ordained or otherwise) to share that with the review, either by informing him directly, or by contacting the diocesan safeguarding officers listed below.
“There is no time limit on this, and no event is too distant,” he wrote.
He added: “Some may regard this as an over-reaction, to which I can only reply that if so it is better than under-reacting. As we are now too well aware, there was a tendency in the past for abusers to simply be moved on rather than confronted.
“Sometimes it is only reviews like this that allow the dots to be joined and patterns of abuse uncovered.
“Please, if there are any memories you have that are awoken by this, do get in touch.”
The Church’s latest past cases review has a focus of listening to survivors who want to come forward. It follows an earlier review in 27 and is part of the Church’s ongoing scrutiny of its handling of past and current safeguarding cases.
Bishop Keith announced details of the review in a letter to all parishes on 27th January, in which he outlined what parishes are required to do.
He said: “We want to ensure that all of our worshipping communities and church-related activities are as safe as possible for children and vulnerable adults. All dioceses have been asked to undertake and participate in this new review process.
“It is important that all known cases of concern about the behaviour of clergy and church officers towards children and vulnerable adults have been considered and dealt with appropriately.”
All information will be reviewed by an independent reviewer and “appropriate action will be taken”, the bishop said.
All parishes are required to respond.
Further information can be found on the diocesan website chester.anglican.org
People who want to make representations or come forward with information or make any disclosures regarding church abuse can contact the diocesan safeguarding adviser Pauline Butterfield, on 07703 800 031, or call a dedicated telephone helpline, 0800 80 20 20, which is operated by the NSPCC.
Anyone who would like to speak to Mr Arch should call 01260 224 447 or email firstname.lastname@example.org