The bishop of Newcastle says she is “extremely disappointed” that the former Archbishop of York, Lord Sentamu, is still refusing to apologise over his criticism of a review into a clergy abuse case.
In a strongly worded statement on the Diocese of Newcastle’s website, Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley said his tone is inconsistent with the culture expected around safeguarding and that it has had a significant impact on survivors as well as undermining public confidence.
In May, bishop Helen-Ann told Lord Sentamu to step back from ministry in the diocese as a result of his public response to criticism of him contained within an independent review into the case of a vicar – the late Trevor Devamanikkam – who raped a 16-year-old boy in the 1980s. The review concluded that several bishops, including the then Archbishop of York John Sentamu, “failed to act” after the survivor disclosed the abuse on multiple occasions over a decade.
Bishop Helen-Ann said she had asked him to step back until the findings of the report and his response to it could be explored further. However, she said that following a meeting with Lord Sentamu on 25th July, her “concern remains that his public statement, following the Learning Lessons Review, is inconsistent with the tone and culture I expect around safeguarding in Newcastle Diocese, and has had a significant impact on survivors and undermined public confidence”.
He statement continued: “It is for these reasons that I have asked Lord Sentamu to reflect on his words, and in particular the impact of them, and to offer an apology.
“I am extremely disappointed that Lord Sentamu feels unable to make an apology at this time, and it is with sadness that I do not feel able to grant him my Permission to Officiate within the Diocese of Newcastle, or delegate authority to him. My door remains open, and the matter is in his hands.
"The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell has been kept fully informed through this process and remains supportive of my decision and continues himself to pray that a way forward may be found. The Diocese of Newcastle remains committed to the highest standards of safeguarding which seek always to place victims and survivors at the heart of this vital work.”
Commentator and advocate for abuse survivors Andrew Graystone told Premier:
“It’s about culture. It's about how the church responds to external scrutiny. These are lessons you must learn, and the question is, when somebody comes in as an expert from the outside and tells the church it has lessons to learn, how does it receive that report? The answer should be, ‘Well, we must learn from experts from the outside’. That’s what the bishop of Newcastle is saying. However, Lord Sentamu has said that church rules supersede whatever might be said to us from outside.”
In June, the Church of England sacked its Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) to an outcry from survivors. However, earlier this month, it was announced that the former Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Professor Alexis Jay is to look at ways of creating an independent structure to provide oversight of safeguarding in the Church.
Andrew Graystone continued: “In the end, it comes down to individuals who are hurt in church life, and children and vulnerable adults who are put at risk. If the Church wants to improve its safeguarding, it must listen to its external experts.
“My sympathies lie with victims and survivors of abuse, who are seeking to find justice and restoration and need the Church's help. And for the church to help them that way, [it] requires real humility from church leaders. We haven’t at the moment seen that humility from Lord Sentamu.”