A bishop used his position in the church to commit “appalling” acts of sexual abuse against children, young people and vulnerable adults over a period of more than 15 years, a report has found.
At least 18 people have been identified as the victims of the former Bishop of Chester, Hubert Victor Whitsey, from 1966 until after his retirement in 1981 .
The independent investigation into the Church of England’s handling of the allegations against Whitsey also found that the disclosures from victims were mishandled by church officials up till 2012.
Whitsey, who died in 1987, “groomed his victims, and often their families to enable this abuse” according to the report’s authors – retired judge David Pearl and Kate Wood, a former detective inspector with the Sussex Police.
They said that their findings will make “deeply uncomfortable reading for the church” as they concluded that the victims’ “appalling” suffering was “clearly made worse by the poor response of church officers at different times when they had the courage to come forward.”
Their statement summarised: “He used his position in the church to abuse both prospective ordinands, and children and young persons, many of whom were particularly vulnerable as they were experiencing personal family difficulties, such as the death or departure of a parent.”
One victim, who was abused in the late 1970s, has said they want “the church to have more accountability”.
In a statement issued through their lawyer Slater and Gordon, the person said: “We want them to go towards mandatory reporting and a regulation that is independent of the church.
“At the moment it is like the church are marking their own homework.”
The current Bishop of Chester has expressed “horror and shame” at the findings of the report.
Mark Tanner said: “Our apologies, which are freely and sincerely given, must be backed up by action.”
“I am grateful to all those who have already helped us start to change, to Judge Pearl for this report, and most of all to the incredibly brave survivors who have spoken up and made us listen.”
An apology has also been offered by Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell.
The Church of England first apologised in 2017, after a police investigation was launched into Whitsey.
Then-Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu and then-Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster said: “Sexual abuse is a heinous crime – and is an absolute and shameful breach of trust.
“We acknowledge that for survivors, the effects of sexual abuse are lifelong.”