Lord John Sentamu, a life peer and retired archbishop of York in the Church of England, brushed aside findings that he failed to respond appropriately to allegations of abuse by retired vicar Matthew Ineson. Sentamu’s remarks come after he was asked to step down from further participation in the church pending additional investigation into the findings and his response.
Sentamu, long an opponent of same-sex marriage, has consistently referred to the Bible and the church’s historic teachings in support of his position.
Yet when confronted by allegations that Ineson reported that he was sexually abused at age 16 by the late Rev Trevor Devamanikkam, Sentamu responded that the abuse had occurred in the Diocese of Sheffield, adding:
“the action following a disclosure to the bishop of Sheffield was his and his alone in line with established safeguarding procedures and guidelines.
“I acted within the agreed procedures, rules and practice guidance on safeguarding, set by the House of Bishops and the Clergy Discipline Measure. Safeguarding is very important but it does not trump Church Law (which is part of the Common Law of England).
”And the law is not susceptible to be used as an excuse for exercising the role given to an archbishop. Church Law sets the boundaries for diocesan bishops and archbishops.”
Yet church officials note that Sentamu acknowledged the abuse, writing to Ineson:
“Please be assured of my prayers and best wishes during this testing time.”
Sentamu does not appear to have taken any further action.
Moreover, church officials report that Ineson specifically stated in his correspondence that the Bishop of Sheffield was ignoring his prior complaints.
That raises the question: Why did Sentamu not, as he has on other issues, not appealed directly to the teachings of the Bible? As in, “As you have done to the least of these, so also have you done unto me?”
Devamanikkam committed suicide shortly before he was set to face criminal charges.
The Church of England has confirmed that Devamanikkam sexually assaulted Ineson and has apologized for its failure to promptly address Ineson’s complaints, including not providing pastoral care and support.
Ineson consented to be named as an abuse survivor having previously given evidence to IICSA, but said he had not engaged with the review as it did not give a “full or independent picture of what happened in my case.”
He said he had wanted a “fully independent process to get to the truth” but that the reviewer had been “hand-picked by the Church,” the terms of reference were “inadequate” and a “huge amount of evidence” was not explored.
The current Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. Stephen Cottrell, has said he supports the decision to suspend Sentamu.