Anglican and Methodist leaders agree on move to tackle problem of paedophile priests
By David Hencke | 11 August 2014
“We are advising the church to extend this to other abuse victims” – Graham Wilmer, director, Lantern Project
Church leaders have earmarked £2 million for counselling and other support for victims of child sex abuse by priests, Exaro can reveal.
The move is part of a determined effort by Justin Welby, who became archbishop of Canterbury last year, to tackle what he recognises as a paedophile problem at the Church of England (CoE).
The Anglicans’ and Methodists’ joint safeguarding liaison group has decided that the money should be spent over two years to provide support services for victims of paedophile priests.
Graham Wilmer, director of the Lantern Project, a charity that supports victims of child sex abuse, and a member of the joint safeguarding liaison group, said: “This is very welcome news, but so far is only limited to victims of abuse by the Church of England and the Methodists.
“We are advising the church to extend this to other abuse victims because the government has so far failed to offer national support for survivors.”
Wilmer said that the CoE is also planning to change canon law to make bishops responsible for the safeguarding of children.
The campaign group, Stop Church Child Abuse, says that hundreds of clergy with claims against them of child abuse have not been prosecuted, pointing out that safeguarding procedures allow bishops to keep such allegations away from the authorities.
Meanwhile, Exaro has established that the CoE was pressing the government more than a year ago to set up a full-scale inquiry into child sex abuse in a range of institutions in the UK
Anglican leaders, as an initial step, agreed just over a year ago to issue a public apology for the cover-up of sexual abuse of children within the CoE.
The Church of England was considering the launch of a “truth and reconciliation” commission on child sex abuse in organised religions. Anglican leaders, as an initial step, agreed just over a year ago to issue a public apology for the cover-up of sexual abuse of children within the CoE.
As Exaro revealed then, the CoE and the Catholic Church held discussions about the proposed commission, but no firm plans were agreed.
The government urged the CoE and the Catholic Church to set up an inquiry into child sex abuse within all faiths in the UK.
But Welby told David Cameron, prime minister, that a much wider inquiry was needed a year before Theresa May announced just such an overarching investigation in the wake of a series of reports by Exaro.
Paul Butler, bishop of Durham and co-chairman of the joint safeguarding liaison group, even joined ten other Lords – including Baroness Butler-Sloss, former high court judge – to back the call for the overarching inquirythat was by then supported by 146 MPs.
Welby and Butler are regarded by insiders as serious forces in trying to cleanse the CoE of paedophilia, and in uniting with other faiths in that effort.
Wilmer said that the joint safeguarding liaison group is due to receive a report in October on three pilot projects around the country. The Lantern Project, which Wilmer runs, may itself receive some church funding.
The idea to put aside around £2 million to help survivors of child sex abuse came after a review in 2011 by Butler-Sloss for the CoE about abuse by two paedophile priests in Chichester.
May appointed Butler-Sloss to chair the new overarching inquiry. But the appointment came under intense pressure following reports that Butler-Sloss kept allegations against a bishop out of the report of her CoE review.
Butler-Sloss was ultimately forced to resign from the inquiry after May was warned that the baroness’s brother, the late Lord Havers as attorney general, limited an investigation into the sexual abuse of children 30 years ago at Kincora boys’ home in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to reinstate key charges under ‘Operation Fernbridge’ after Exaro exposed how it had wrongly assessed evidence of child sex abuse at the notorious Elm Guest House in south-west London.
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