The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has written to a survivor of child sexual abuse (full letter below) to tell her that the clergyman who sexually abused her will remain a clergyman within the Church of England. ‘Reverend’ Guy Bennett was convicted of sexual offences against children in 1999. The ‘Reverend’ Bennett was not convicted for offences committed against the recipient of the letter.
A retired vicar who pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting three 11-year-old girls has been told he faces a jail term at the Old Bailey.
The Rev Guy Bennett, 66, who resigned from St Mary’s parish church, Oxted, Surrey, earlier this year, admitted indecently assaulting the girls between 1976 and 1988.
But on Friday he denied four further offences. One of them dated from last year, but the prosecution said it would not be in the public interest to proceed and they were left to lie on file.
He was remanded on conditional bail until 28 May, when he will be sentenced.
This follows a recent interview with Justin Welby with CNN at the Vatican in which the leader of the Anglican Church explained that the abuse by clergymen within the Church of England was historically “considered relatively acceptable” and that the church was now “tightening up the current practice” and that “dodgy’ people from “that nightmare era” would be dealt with.
So, why is Guy Bennett, given his conviction for child sexual abuse, still part of the Church of England communion and a clergyman ?
Today, I spoke to a Bishop from the Church of England, who told me that there were ‘mechanisms’ within the Church of England to expel clergymen.
So why do we have this ‘legalese’ talk in this letter? This mealy mouthed splitting of hairs?
This is NOT an abstract scholastic philosophical question like ‘how many angels can dance on the point of a needle’. That was cutting edge thinking 800 years ago and we’re long past all that. This is about real lives. Real people affected today by abuse in the very recent past.
It matters not that there is no specific law which prohibits a person impersonating a clergyman in the same way as a police officer. Frankly, it is a moot point, as paedophile Guy Bennett can quite legitimately call himself ‘Reverend’ because he is still officially a clergyman with the Anglican Church.
But, even so, there is a law which prohibits someone in a more general sense from misrepresenting themselves, including calling themselves ‘Reverend’ and wearing a dog collar if they might abuse the ‘status’ that it affords.
But again, I say it is moot, irrelevant! Because Guy Bennett is a clergyman in the Church of England. He is NOT misrepresenting himself!