Archbishop of Canterbury reveals how he broke down in tears after hearing ‘horror’ of child abuse in Church of England
- Most Rev Justin Welby said sex abuse was ‘beyond description – terrible’
- He revealed all Church clergy will be audited for signs they are abusers
- Archbishop conceded ‘there is more that has not been revealed’
The Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed how he broke down in tears after hearing one victims experience of child abuse
The Archbishop of Canterbury has told how he broke down in tears after hearing first hand the ‘horror’ of child abuse in the Church of England.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said the sexual abuse in the Church was ‘beyond description – terrible’ and that he had been profoundly moved by his meetings with survivors.
He revealed that all Church of England clergy will be audited for signs they are abusers.
The Archbishop conceded that investigations into clergy going back more than 60 years would show that ‘there is more that has not been revealed’.
He said the harrowing accounts he heard at one face-to-face meeting with a victim still haunted him later in the day when he was asked about the issue at a talk at a theological college.
Speaking at a Westminster lunch this afternoon he said: ‘To my intense surprise, because I don’t normally do this kind of thing, I broke down completely.
‘It was the shredding effect of hearing what we did, what we did, to those people and the sense of total failure and betrayal.
‘So we are taking it, and I am passionate about this, as seriously as we are able to do.’
He added: ‘It is beyond description terrible. When you abuse a child or a vulnerable adult, you mark them for the rest of their lives,’ he said.
Churches fall within the scope of the major review into child sex abuse within state and non-state institutions ordered by Home Secretary Theresa May.
He said: ‘Many institutions failed catastrophically, including in the media, children’s homes, foster parents, all kinds of areas. But the church is meant to hold itself to a far, far, far higher standard and we failed terribly.’
Every ‘blue file’ personnel record since 1950 – including those of dead clergy – was being closely examined for ‘anything in the file that would suggest at all that there is anything that needs following up’.
In nine out of 10 cases such concerns proved unfounded or involved cases where all involved were now dead, he said, but the inquiry team, headed by the Bishop of Durham, would bring the rest forward ‘transparently and openly’.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (right) and the Lord Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu (left) have hit out at historic abuse in the Church
The process was being overseen by an external body to avoid any claims of a cover-up, he stressed.
‘The rule is survivors come first, not our own interests,’ he added.
‘However important the person was, however distinguished, however well known, survivors come first.’
The Archbishop also spoke about highly-controversial moves to examine whether the confidentiality rules should be relaxed to allow clergy who heard confessions about sex abuse could alert the authorities.
A General Synod measure to initiate a study on the issue was an ‘incredibly radical move which challenges more than 1,800 years of church tradition’, he said.
‘We haven’t decided what we are going to do with it yet but we are starting to look at how we could deal with that.’
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