‘Shameful’ report a big wake-up call for Church, says Archbishop Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the findings of an inquiry into child sexual abuse within the Church of England are “shameful and disgraceful”.

Justin Welby said the report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) had been “a big wake-up call” and the Anglican Church had been “poor” at dealing with victims of abuse.

The damning report said the Church put its own reputation above the safety of children and young people, and found examples of clergymen being ordained despite a history of child sexual offences.

Mr Welby told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the revelation of a culture in which such abuses had been covered up was “deeply shaming” but not a surprise.

“It’s shameful and disgraceful and reveals exactly what they said, a culture in which there was cover-up and hiding, and it is deeply shaming,” he said.

“It wasn’t a surprise because I’ve lived with that for the seven and a half years I’ve been in post.

“I was shocked at the level when I came into this job (and) the extent to which it was happening.”

The IICSA inquiry heard that from the 1940s to 2018, 390 people who were either members of the clergy or in positions of trust associated with the Church had been convicted of sexual offences against children.

Mr Welby said he was “not going to contradict” the report on allegations that many abusers had been given more support than their victims.

“The whole system has been broken,” he said.

“The way we deal with this… it needs to move towards, as the report suggests, to move towards a much more independent oversight of safeguarding in which there is responsibility clearly assigned and it is not in the hands of those who are, in a phrase that was used in the report, seeking to mark their own homework.

“I think we have been poor at leading with redress and dealing with the victims and survivors – I don’t dispute that for a moment.”

He added that the Church had also failed to support the families and friends of abusers who were often also affected by the allegations.

“We have not cared for them as we should, the whole lack of care in this is shocking.”

The IICSA report highlighted the Church of England’s failure to have its safeguarding measures independently audited.

Mr Welby said the amount of money spent by the Church on safeguarding had been increased 10-fold and a reform of the system was needed.

“We have become bureaucratised,” he said.

“We need to focus and put at the centre of our attention now the victims and survivors – we need to have a redress system in place very soon.

“I know that since I came into this job I have worked as hard as I could to move the church to a different place.

“It is necessary to show that we have changed and we’ve systems in place and part of that is independent oversight.

“Nothing must get in the way, and we must do whatever it takes.

“This report is a big wake-up call.”