Chair of ICSSA Report Calls On Church of England to Transition from Apologies to Real Work

By | October 16, 2020


It’s taken me much longer than expected to write this post. To those who have been waiting for it, I am sorry. My struggle has been to find words adequate to express my dismay and disappointment in the Church of England and its hierarchy.
 – Editor

In recent weeks, the Church of England (CoE) has been reeling from the long-expected Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) report. And while part of me is happy to see that, the larger point of me is disappointed. Why? Because as damning as the report is, there’s nothing new in it. And while the church has apologized for its conduct, it’s done that before. Talk is cheap, but change in cases such as this requires hard, hard work.

Unfortunately, much of what we have seen in response to the report is talk. Indeed, the archbishops of Canterbury and York, among others, have been quick to proclaim their horror at the report, and to offer apologies.

But scratch the surface, and there’s an awful lot of irrelevant babble about how change will take time, how it’s important to be patient, and more.

Indeed, in a post on her blog, Meg Munn, the independent chair of the ICSSA, hits the nail on the head.

Saying that only an accountable church is a safe church, Munn says that the church can never again be trusted to prevent and address abuse unless it gives up its unquestioning deference to power, accepts responsibility, and takes action to prevent future abuse. In examining the CoE response to date, Munn says:

“This report details a thorough investigation. It is shocking and should be required reading for all who hold office in the Church. The callous indifference to so many victims and survivors, coupled with actions to protect the reputation of the Church and individual perpetrators, tells of an organisation that dramatically failed to live out the values it professes.

“Public apologies are important, and senior figures within the Church have made such public statements over the last week. That is the easy part.”

Looking to the future, Munn says,

“The current structure which sustains unaccountable and powerful clergy must change. Without this, the Church will continue to have dangerous places for children and adults as I described in my interview nearly two years ago.

“There may never be a better opportunity for those with responsibility and influence to step up to this challenge. It will mean tackling long and dearly held principles, something some might not want to do. But not doing so will lead to more lives devastated, and more damage to the reputation of the Church. Is this generation of church leaders prepared to accept that?”

I agree.

View the ICSSA report in PDF here.

Visit Munn’s blog here.

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