THE Archbishops’ Council, the House of Bishops, and the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England have issued a formal response to the recommendations set out in the final report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
When the IICSA report was published last autumn (News, 21 October 2022), the national Church responded with a series of statements. On Thursday, a more detailed response was published on the C of E’s website which refers to specific recommendations.
The Inquiry made three key recommendations, asking for mandatory reporting to the statutory authorities of suspected or known incidents of child sexual abuse; the creation of Child Protection Authorities; and a national redress scheme for survivors of abuse.
In his foreword to the latest church response, the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gibbs, lead bishop for safeguarding, writes that all three recommendations had been addressed because they “are directly relevant to the Church’s ongoing safeguarding work and commitment to make it a safer place for all.”
He remarks: “Safeguarding is a key part of the Church’s mission, and it is vital that we respond to these recommendations in an open and transparent way.”
Currently in the UK, there is no legal requirement to report an allegation of sexual abuse to authorities — even if the victim is a child. In the document, the Church bodies reiterate their commitment to reporting any concerns, a practice which they say is “enshrined in the House of Bishops policy”. The wording of this policy had previously been criticised by IICSA and survivors for its ambiguity about accountability.
The recommendation for mandatory reporting touches upon confidential disclosures made to a priest during the course of sacramental confession, the absolute nature of which was found by IICSA to be problematic. The Church’s response this week confirms the establishment of a working group to decide whether the seal should be abolished, upheld, or amended in line with this recommendation.
The report says: “The group, which will meet over the next 12 months, will bring together theologians, church leaders, and safeguarding professionals along with other advisers as part of the wider reference group. The voices and experiences of survivors will be critical to this work.”
READ ON BELOW…Church of England responds in more detail to IICSA’s challenges on confession and redress