A reader responds to last month’s article
I am writing in response to the wonderful article ‘We need to talk about Safeguarding’ in your April 2021 edition. As I read it my heart lifted because here was someone who plainly understands the issues raised by current Safeguarding practices. I write as the wife of a priest who has suffered greatly since a complaint was made against him which led immediately to the loss of his PTO after which we found ourselves caught up in a process.
First there is the non-disclosure of the identity of the ‘survivor’ or the nature of the complaint, other than that it was a past failure to act on a disclosure. Without this information there is no chance to prepare any defence or even to tell another side of the story. Thus, contrary to British justice, one is ‘guilty’ from the outset. Then there are long waits when nothing appears to be happening, then interviews, then a risk assessment, the result of which appears to suggest that, with a low risk level, the PTO could be restored. All this was completed but the PTO was still refused.
How can this be? My husband has willingly done all that was asked of him, is willing to undergo enhanced safeguarding training but is still told that he may never again be able to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. This is agony after 40 years of priestly ministry.
The stress for both of us is unbearable. We have been living in one of the levels of hell through this most difficult of years. Our mental and physical health has suffered and we both feel helpless and abandoned.
The Safeguarding policies of the Church of England rightly focus on survivors of abuse but, as the writer of the article says, those in positions of power and influence ‘deliberately and publicly mistreat another group of people (accused clergy) … thus failing to put right egregious errors from the past and merely compounding them by fresh errors in the present’. He is right in all he says and I thank him for it. And yes, ‘it denies the Gospel, and hinders the Church’s proclamation of it.’ With him I plead, IT HAS TO STOP.