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!
18 responses to “Archbishop Of Canterbury Tells Survivor That Paedophile Vicar Will Not Be ‘Defrocked’”
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Reblogged this on L8in.
The Problem with the Church of England’s take on things is that Ordination is regarded by them and other Churches as Indelible – defrocking removes the RIGHT to exercise Ministry in any form – and clearly Welby’s comments indicate that this individual has rightly been prohibited from exercising his Ministry WITHIN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND for life in accordance with the Clergy Discipline Measure. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukcm/2003/3/contents
Theologically , he is still a Priest, and therein lies the problem as the “powers” conferred upon him at his Ordination are still “valid” even though the institution attempts to block him using them. Thus he is still able to use his title. Generally the mechanisms in the C of E are such that he will be closely monitored and mechanisms are in place to ensure that he does not act / work in any capacity as a Priest. Where the difficulty lies is that there are a large number of smaller splinter churches out there who are at best shoddy in background checks on clergy , at worst do no checking at all and thus it is quite possible that this individual may be able to resume Ministry outside of the Church of England – a very frightening prospect.
My Own Archbishop (who’s church, although small, is meticulous in background checks and very quick to remove licenses from any who are under suspicion of anything untoward) made an interesting plea before members of the House of Commons recently calling for regulation of Religious groups to reduce the possibilities of abuse.
The Problem is a Lack of Regulation
Religion is allowed to infect ordinary minds, colonising them and infusing them with fears, phobias and paranoia. Rational thinking is replaced by superstition and magic. Fact based education is undermined by emotive belief, leaving the individual susceptible to the whims and wiles of religious leaders and society at risk of extremism.
In the UK, other than the criminal law, and for the Church of England, Ecclesiastical Law that is largely self-serving, there is no jurisprudence that covers religious activity. The lack of independent scrutiny and accountability has proved fertile ground for a wide array of abuses to be perpetrated.
Developed denominations have advanced structures of vetting and supervision, but none effective enough to prevent the serial abuse of thousands.
The reason lies in the nature of religious believing and the relationship this engenders between religious leaders and their devotees, that are intrinsically abusive.
Once others regard humans, as the conveyors or mediators of Divine truth and instruction, they can gain a totalitarian position of authority and influence over their followers and this provokes transgressive dynamics.
The systemic corruptibility produced, has been potent enough to pervert or facilitate even the most educated, privileged and finest minds within the Anglican and Catholic Church, including bishops and cardinals.
Further alarm is found in the smaller religious jurisdictions, where uneducated, untrained and unsuitable individuals, even those with criminal convictions, can raise themselves overnight to be priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and metropolitans and present themselves in society, with impressive web sites, offering ministry to an unsuspecting public.”
The full text can be found on his Blog -http://www.bishopjonathanblake.blogspot.co.uk/
Its interesting to note that the Church of England attempted to block his speech and have him removed from the list of speakers.
Until such time as ALL religious institutions have a collective, and accessible register of those authorised to Minister, such as the Social Work Register which can be viewed by anyone, the public have to rely on the surmise that the person in the dog collar is authorised and licensed to Minister. With so many interactions taking place BEFORE the public have time to check validity of credentials it is even more important that universal regulation takes place, as is it of paramount importance that Organisations like the Church of England operate in the open (much of the Clergy Discipline Measure proceedings are behind closed doors) and that those found guilty of serious offenses that warrant “defrocking” ARE defrocked , regardless of theological issues which , frankly mean nothing to the person on the street.
Many thanks for your input on this Father Chris. I think you’ve helped make a complex issue clearer and I’m grateful for that.
I thought the Church of England did have an effective register of those authorised to minister, as if you do not have “permission to officiate” , granted by diocesan authorities you are quite simply banned from doing so. The lists of those who have “P.o.T. ” would be readily available, though those who do not would be only deduced by absence, and would include illness, complete retirement and perceived midemeanour other than paedophilia.
I agree that some should be defrocked, and that a theology which suggests that once ordained always set apart whatever vile thing you do is a deficient one, for there is sin which so marks and debilitates the character that although that person may be redeemable, they will never be fit for the privilege of ministry, nor, in the statistically unlikely event that they become remarkably renewed and soaked in the Holy Spirit, would their repentance and humility allow them to wish it;; it would be the unregenerate by definition who would seek this indelibility.
Yes they do have lists. There are what are known as the Archbishop’s Lists – known in the trade as the Lambeth List. These lists are only available to senior clergy and detail ALL those who are unable to Minister within the Church of England (who have at some stage been able to do so) . These lists contain a plethora of Clergy and ex clergy who are unable to Minister in the name of the C of E for a whole host of reasons. Some are on the list because they have moved to another denomination and have chosen to formally break ties with the C of E, so to ensure that they don’t wander back in without following a prescribed legal procedure they are added to the list. Others might just have given up the Ministry.
As far as published lists of licensed clergy are concerned, there can be problems for the public in accessing them. Welby , in his letter , mentions Crockford’s Clerical Directory – this rather weighty tome us published every couple of years and lists serving and retired clergy, an in many cases includes those who do not have a licence to Minister (retired clergy who have chosen to hang up their boots for example). Crockfords costs quite a bit to buy, they do have a website but anyone wanting to look up a priest has to fork out for a subscription. Many diocesan websites do list licensed clergy, not all, and in more than a few cases it is not always easy to locate a list of licensed clergy via a website without trawling through a number of menus. So, the info is out there, but not always easily accessible. That is the situation with the C of E, I cant speak for other churches or religious groups. I suspect some are more transparent than others.
As a former Church of England Priest myself, I do remember clearly that when barred clergy moved into the local area, we were told – just in case they approached us and offered their services.
At the end of the day , more transparency is needed – we can always ring the relevant diocese to check or report anything untoward.
Thank you once again for replying and answering questions
Can I ask whether this list, where it concerns child sexual abuse has in the past, and is today, shared with the police?
I know that there is a similar list held by the Jehovah Witnesses which is not shared.
I think the C of E means well and is trying to put right past wrongs and they potentially have a very important role to play but I worry that they still don’t fully understand the current situation.
Yes, thank you from me too, very interesting indeed.
I met and looked after a very high ranking man of the church, he was in an institution as mentally damaged himself after being caught screwing many of his parishioners and he survived.
I explain the story so you understand, he WAS defrocked, not for screwing his trusting parishioners, he got defrocked for trying to kill himself, as that is God’s choice not ours. How bloody ridiculous, abuse children Not defrocked upsets their equilibrium, try suicide, get defrocked nice and quick as that’s a sin. So obviously abusing children is not deemed a crime against the church.
This bishop should be ashamed, but he won’t as probably is involved, or condones their actions, WHY he got the frock/mitre.
“…Real people effected…”
Should that be affected? Sorry, editors eye…
Sorted, thanks. Should that be ‘editor’s eye’?!
Exaro story featuring a closed forum for police officers.
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Justin Welby is such a BANKER………..he really doesn’t get it!
Hate to say this, but he,s part of the problem/ establishment, and right now their taking part of one of the most monumental cover ups in Britsh history. From the Church to th BBC to the NHS to local authorities. They will give us a few heads to give us the impression they mean to get to the bottom of this, but they won’t, nor do they want too.
Rotherham is everywhere………..
Reblogged this on TIME TO START CARING and commented:
RELIGION IS MAN CREATING GOD IN HIS IMAGE TO PROMOTE HIS OWN AGENDA, IN THIS CASE PAEDOPHILIA,
Blessed be the pederasts?
‘Wonga shares’ Welby is using the same argument which Islamic extremists use to maim & kill – Our religion is above your laws or legal system and we have the moral high ground.
& I couldn’t sell the shares of a PLC loan shark because it would cost us too much money.
Cheers Justin, you’ve just reminded me of why I’m very comfortable being an atheist.
“He was remanded on conditional bail until 28 May, when he will be sentenced”. Why?
I’m somewhat baffled as to how Welby got to be in the position he is
(gojam edit: And that is where I have to cut you off. I defend no one or no group but I’ll not approve comments that undermine the survivor position. Yours did.)