Archbishop of York ‘wholehearted’ apology to abuse victims
The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu has apologised to victims of sexual abuse by a former cathedral dean.
Dr Sentamu was responding to a report into how abuse allegations against the Very Rev Robert Waddington, formerly dean of Manchester, were handled.
His predecessor was criticised for not acting on allegations in the report, which found “systemic failures” within the Church of England.
At least two men made claims of abuse in 1999 and at sometime in 2003-04.
The then Archbishop of York Lord Hope of Thorne and others were criticised in the report by Judge Sally Cahill for not acting at the time the allegations were made – and therefore putting other children at risk.
Several other boys the inquiry spoke to said they too had been subject to sexual abuse by the late Dean Waddington, who died in 2007.
‘Planning and grooming’
One of the victims, Eli Ward – now in his 40s – was an 11-year-old choirboy at Manchester Cathedral when the abuse started.
Mr Ward, who has waived his right to anonymity, said he and Dean Waddington were cleaning the altar railings when the dean swore, and they both laughed.
“Then it would progress to washing his car, staying over at his house,” he said.
“He’d pick me up, we would go to his house, stay over in the spare room, and then stay in his room and so on.
“Over a period of time, little by little – it was very strategic planning. He was a very clever guy, peeling away his victim. It’s very much insidious, planning and grooming.”
For Mr Ward, the abuse coloured his life, shattered his family relationships, and has left him unable to trust anyone.
Responding to Judge Cahill’s report, the archbishop said: “Any act of abuse committed by someone in authority in the church is a matter for shame and requires deep repentance.
“Those who trusted us in this only to be grievously wounded deserve not only our wholehearted apology but also the assurance we will keep a watchful eagle’s eye and act swiftly.”
The report identified “systemic failures” in the Church of England in relation to the protection of the victims from abuse.
“Appropriate referrals would not have taken place in any of the years 1999, 2003 and 2004 because the decision making was in the hands of those not qualified or sufficiently experienced in child protection to make those decisions,” it concluded.
Five of judge’s recommendations are about the need for “a more consistent approach to safeguarding policy and practice” across the Church of England.
The Church said the issue would be “developed further” when a national safeguarding adviser, who is currently being recruited, takes up a full-time position.
Archbishop Sentamu met Mr Ward and two other abuse survivors for tea before the report was published.
In a statement he said: “Those I have spoken to have expressed clearly that it is important for them to know whether new policies and procedures adopted after 2004 have created a new culture in the Church of England as a whole, which will ensure that all God’s children are protected.”
The archbishop is also pushing for priests to be allowed to report to the police any allegations of abuse which are made during formal confession, as currently they are bound to secrecy in such circumstances.
In response to the report Lord Hope said: “It is matter of great regret to me that 12 years ago when the non-specific anonymous allegations were first made in Manchester, the church and I myself were not more proactive in seeking out and/or assisting a reluctant complainant.
“Nor is it any comfort that other organisations were no more diligent at that time when dealing with similar situations.
“If either of the two persons concerned feel in the light of this report they have been denied the justice they deserve then on behalf of the church I offer my personal and profound apology.”
Mr Ward said: “I want no other child, person, to go through what I have gone through. I have been through the full range of emotions – that’s terrible, disgraceful.
“I should have been enjoying life, getting on with it – my abuse has stopped me doing that.”