The Church of England has formally apologised to a victim of sexual abuse after senior figures – including the former Archbishop of York John Sentamu - failed to act appropriately when disclosures were made to them.
The apology was one of the recommendations of an independent review into the Church's handling of allegations against a priest who abused a 16 year old boy in the 1980s. Rev Trevor Devamanikkam died by suicide in May 2017, on the day he was due to appear in court on six sexual abuse charges. His victim, Matthew Ineson, has since waived his right to anonymity.
The review found that John Sentamu and Steven Croft, who were Archbishop of York and Bishop of Sheffield respectively at the time, failed to act on disclosures made by Mr Ineson in 2012 and 2013.
The highly critical report stated that Mr Ineson had been sexually abused by Trevor Devamanikkam as a child. It said senior members of clergy had failed to act on his disclosures and that he had not been supported to refer the disclosures to the police. The report also found that he had also not been provided with pastoral care and support at the time.
Matthew Ineson, who didn’t engage with the review because he didn’t believe it was independent, gave his reaction to Premier: “All I’ve ever wanted is for the Church to find out what went wrong in my case so others don’t have to go through it in the future. The Church suffers from wanting to protect itself against awful allegations such as the ones I made.
“I knew the Church would try protect itself so I wanted to make sure there was a fully independent process to get to the truth. I’ve seen other similar reviews and I don’t think they’ve been independent. I suggested a process to ensure independence but the National Safeguarding Team rejected my suggestion. I therefore decided not to engage with the review.
“I don’t recognise the review as providing a full or independent picture of what happened in my case." He claims the reviewer was hand picked by the church, and the terms of reference were inadequate. He also said there’s a huge amount of evidence that hasn't been explored.
“The Church needs to acknowledge independent oversight is going to be painful and commit to it. Until then it continues to cover up the whole truth in cases like mine.”
The review, by senior social care consultant Jane Humphreys, found that Mr Ineson had sent a letter to the then Bishop of Sheffield, in June 2013, in which he disclosed the historical abuse he had suffered, and had copied it to the then Archbishop of York.
In it, the victim said he had already disclosed his non-recent abuse twice to the Bishop of Sheffield but that the Bishop hadn't taken any action.
The review said John Sentamu had acknowledged the correspondence, but should have sought advice from his diocesan safeguarding adviser at the time as to how to proceed.
Lord Sentamu has now issued a statement rejecting the opinions of the reviewer "due to a fundamental misunderstanding on her part of the jurisdictional, pastoral and legal responsibilities of Diocesan Bishops and Archbishops in the Church of England. I am saddened that a report that rightly seeks to review the workings of the church in order to learn lessons has demonstrated a lack of necessary understanding regarding the operation of dispersed authority in the Church of England."
However speaking to Premier, the Church of England’s lead bishop for safeguarding Rt Rev Joanne Grenfell said: “I welcome the review and its recommendations. Most of all I welcome it because it really shows something that I'm deeply ashamed of - that the Church of England hasn't responded as well as it should have done to a survivor of abuse. And I can only begin to imagine what it was like to be that vulnerable, 16 year old boy, as Matthew was when he was abused by somebody in the church who should have looked after him and cared for him. And so I extend, as I've done in a letter to Matthew already, my deepest apologies and sorrow for what happened to him and for the church's response.”
Matthew Ineson had been a priest in the Church of England until a decade ago when he walked away because of his treatment by the church after he revealed what had happened to him. He told Premier that he had now lost faith in the church’s leadership, because of the way his allegations were handled.
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