Church of England has 'failed' abuse survivors, say bishops

The Church of England has been strongly criticised over its handling of abuse casesReuters

The failure of the Church of England to be a safe place for victims of abuse is a source of shame, bishops in the Church of England have said.

In response to a scathing independent report into safeguarding failures, the House of Bishops said the Church had failed abuse survivors and that the culture change needed in the Church needed more time. 

"The Church has failed survivors and the report is very clear that the Church should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors," the bishops said.

"We are ashamed of our past failures, have been working for change but recognise the deep cultural change needed takes longer than we would like to achieve." 

A report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse found major shortcomings in how the Church of England handled the Peter Ball and Diocese of Chichester abuse cases. 

The inquiry said that the Church's approach to abuse was "shrouded in secrecy" and that leaders had avoided reporting allegations to the police as well as seeking professional advice. 

"The question remains why the Church's responses to sexual abuse in Chichester, including the Peter Ball case, were so inadequate," the report said.

"They had devastating consequences for the children and young people who were affected. There are some reasons already well known to this Inquiry from other investigations, principally concerning the prioritisation of reputation over the protection of children."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who last week suspended the Bishop of Lincoln over safeguarding questions, has urged bishops to study the full report. 

The House of Bishops said it welcomed the recommendations and that the report was now being passed to the National Safeguarding Steering Group in preparation of a more detailed response ahead of the next phase of the independent inquiry later in the summer. 

"It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report and act upon them," the bishops said.