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Abuse survivors call for independent CofE inquiry

Fri 12 Jun 2015
By Desmond Busteed

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been urged to "break his silence" over the alleged "wrongdoings" by the Church of England relating to abuse.

Survivors, whistle-blowers, legal experts, clergy and campaigners of abuse have written an open letter to Most Revd Justin Welby, urging him to launch an independent inquiry looking at the Church's response to historical complaints and allegations against the CofE and its clergy.

The letter has been prompted by the Methodist Church's decision to public apologise, after an investigation uncovered reports of nearly 2,000 alleged abusers, including 914 allegations involving sexual abuse last month.

In the letter, the Archbishop is charged with promising such an inquiry, but failing to deliver on "an entirely independent and wholly externally-audited inquiry" into the Church of England's abuse record.

The letter goes on to say: "in the midst of all this iniquity and collusive silence by the hierarchy on abuse, the actions of Anglican bishops and archdeacons who enthusiastically issue pastoral letters for the general election criticising the government and the banks and Wonga, call to mind Jesus' condemnation of the hypocrisy of religious leaders who externalise the Church's sin and will not heed the beam in their own eye."

Last year the Archbishop said publicly the Church was trawling through 60 years of clergy personnel files searching for evidence of abuse which had gone unnoticed, warning about "more that has not been revealed".

"This should not be a problem for the Archbishop of Canterbury, because he did promise some time ago that there would be a full and independent inquiry into all of this, but then renaged on that promise," said Revd Graham Sawyer to Premier, who is spokesman for Ministers and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS), who's one of the signatories of the open letter to Justin Welby.

An independent state-led inquiry into historical child sex abuse in England and Wales is already underway.

Responding to the open letter, Lambeth Palace said: “The Archbishop of Canterbury is totally committed to listening to the voices and experience of survivors of abuse and to improving the Church’s safeguarding responses. He regularly meets with survivors and is utterly determined that their interests, not the Church’s interests, should come first.

"The Archbishop has publicly acknowledged and apologised for past safeguarding failures and pledged that any allegation brought to the Church – historic or current – will be taken seriously and rigorously investigated.

"The Archbishop and the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, wrote to the Home Secretary last year asking for a Public Inquiry into institutional abuse, before any inquiry was announced.

"Since it was announced, they have written to each Chair as they were named committing themselves to full engagement and suggesting that, if the inquiry chose to go institution by institution, then the Church of England could be taken first."

Revd Graham Sawyer, MACSAS speaking to Premier's Des Busteed:

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