Church of England faces up to child abuse failures

The Church of England General Synod will be debating child protection and safeguarding arrangementsPA

The Church of England's parliamentary body will today be debating a report on safeguarding that includes an apology from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for the Church of England's failure to protect children from physical and sexual abuse.

In the foreward to the report, the Archbishops offer an "apology that we wish to offer unreservedly for the failure of the Church of England's systems to protect children, young people and adults from physical and sexual abuse inflicted by its clergy and others and for the failure to listen properly to those so abused".

The debate relates to cases of abuse in the Diocese of Chichester and a subsequent visitation by the Chichester Commissaries that resulted in a report criticising the "dysfunctionality" within the senior diocesan team and making several urgent recommendations, including regular safeguarding training for all clergy.

The report from the commissaries noted that some victims may still not have come forward.

"We believe that it is inevitable that there will be other survivors of the known abusing clergy who have not felt able to come forward," they stated.

"We also recognise that there may still be abusers who are as yet unrecognised.

"It is essential that the diocese does all in its power not only to ease the way for those persons to come forward who have not already done so but also to receive the help and support that is their due."

Following the visitation, further causes of abuse came to light, including one involving the former Dean of Manchester, the late Robert Waddington. An independent inquiry has been set up into the allegations, which go back to the 1980s.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York say in the report being debated today that the importance of an appropriate response to child abuse cannot be overestimated.

"Sadly for many this comes far too late. History cannot be rewritten, but those who still suffer now as a result of abuse in the past deserve this at least, that we hear their voices and take action to ensure that today's safeguarding policies and systems are as robust as they can be," they said.

"This work is an essential and prior Gospel imperative, for any attempts we make to grow the church, to seek the common good, and to reimagine the Church's ministry."

Synod will be asked to endorse the apology and to invite the House of Bishops and Archbishops' Council to pursue "as a matter of urgency" a programme of work to enhance the Church of England's safeguarding arrangements.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has previously offered an apology on behalf of the Church of England for the "pain and hurt" suffered by the victims.