"Nondum Considerasti...": An Open Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury from Survivors, Whistleblowers, Legal Experts, Clergy and Campaigners on Abuse
Dear Archbishop Justin Welby
“Nondum considerasti quanti ponderis sit peccatum – You have not yet taken account how great is the weight of sin” St Anselm
We are writing this open letter to you under the title, “Nondum Considerasti…”, as survivors and whistleblowers of abuse taking place in churches, religious institutions and elsewhere, in which we stand here shoulder-to-shoulder with legal experts, Anglican and non-Anglican clergy and other campaigners. In writing to you, we are mindful of your words of promise to those who have suffered abuse in Church of England contexts:
“The rule is survivors come first, not our own interests and however important the person was, however distinguished, however well known, survivors come first”.
The recent publication by the Methodist Church of its independently-audited past cases review into abuse draws public attention to the pointed failure of the established Church of England to demonstrate the same candour and transparency.
Survivors of Anglican clergy abuse previously tried to hold the Church to the personal promise you as Archbishop made for an entirely independent and wholly externally-audited inquiry into the Church of England’s abuse record (stated in your words, “What they [survivors] want, they will get”). However, campaigners were subsequently told by your own designated bishop on safeguarding that the Church was instead concentrating on working on banking reform and “other issues”, and such internal Anglican past cases audits as have since taken place fall far short of the Methodist example of openness.
Of even greater distress to victims, you will be aware of the strong concerns raised by survivors groups directly with you and your national safeguarding officials about the continued employment by some Church of England dioceses, such as London and Winchester, of private scandal management companies like Luther Pendragon Limited which are known to have acted to obstruct, apply pressure and threaten survivors, whistleblowers and others who have spoken out about Anglican clergy abuse.
It comes as astonishment to many ordinary Christians that the Church of England, which solicits donations from poor parishioners to fix the leaking church roof, nevertheless appears to have unlimited funds to pay expensive scandal management PR companies like Luther Pendragon Limited, which latter has also done lobbying for the tobacco and nuclear industries.
In meetings with senior Anglican leaders, survivors groups have been told tales of how the dispersed authority within the Church of England means that the Archbishop of Canterbury is powerless to speak out publicly with spiritual and moral authority about these serious matters or express criticism to his autonomous bishops who apparently are independent princes in their dioceses, and that he is powerless even to stop convicted Anglican priests from using their clerical titles.
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.
As the community of survivors, whistleblowers and those who stand with us, we therefore call upon you and charge you, Archbishop Justin, in Christian conscience to break your silence about the wrongdoings of the Church of England which we have detailed above, and demand their immediate correction. We ask you to speak out with utmost clarity in moral and pastoral guidance to Anglican dioceses specifically in relation to their employment of scandal management companies, with the same clarity that you readily speak out about financial institutions. We thereafter ask if you would personally meet with us at the earliest convenience to discuss progress on these matters.
We similarly call on your ordinary parishioners in the Diocese of London, Diocese of Winchester and wherever else Church monies are spent on costly scandal management companies, to take an ethical Christian stand and withhold their donations to the collection plate until such time as the bishops of those dioceses terminate their contracts with these firms, and further that diocesan authorities apologise to survivors and whistleblowers of clergy abuse. Rather churchgoers might choose to give their hard-earned money to Christian charities caring for the poor in the UK and overseas, or to survivors organisations supporting victims of abuse. In all of this, the person of Jesus Christ himself stands as the clearest example of one who spoke truth to the corrupted power of religious institutions.
In the context of the current Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, we deplore the repeated misuse of the Official Secrets Act, Harassment Act and other law, applied against the right to protest of everyone from environmental campaigners to whistleblowers of abuse. Rather, on this anniversary of Magna Carta, we call upon the Home Secretary to support a comprehensive Protection of Whistleblowers Bill, to defend the democratic heritage of our country and the freedom of expression of British citizens to expose and speak out about institutional corruption.
Lucy Duckworth, Chair of Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS)
Sam Stein QC, Barrister at Mansfield Chambers
Phil Frampton, Co-Founder of the Care Leaver's Association
Revd Graham Sawyer, Chair of Church Reform Group and Vicar of St James' Church, Briercliffe
Janet Cragg, Barrister at Kenworthy's Chambers
Canon David Isherwood, Rector of Holy Trinity Church, Clapham
Marilyn Hawes, CEO and Founder of Enough Abuse UK
Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hussaini, Senior Fellow in Islamic Studies at the Westminster Institute
Andy Kershaw, Survivors of Forde Park
Pandit Satish Sharma, Secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples
Georgina Halford-Hall, Chair of Whistleblowers UK
Julian Whiting, Former Metropolitan Police and Survivor, Director of Nestedevents.org and Steering Committee of Church Reform Group
Nigel O'Mara, Founder of East Midlands Survivors
DC Jon Wedger, Police Whistleblower
Ian McFadyen, Survivor and Whistleblower