Hostility and anger towards church on social media is stopping abuse survivors

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Hostility and anger towards the church on social media is stopping abuse survivors coming forward, the Church of England’s General Synod has heard. Speaking in a debate about new plans to tackle sexual, spiritual and other forms of abuse in the Church, Canon Simon Butler, chair of the house of clergy, warned that church staff were being unfairly targeted for criticism. He told the church’s governing body, which is meeting this weekend in York, that he had been contacted by “a number of survivors” who “feel inhibited about sharing their stories publicly because of the public tone of the conversation”. In one case, a woman had told him that she had tried to speak out about her experience on social media but had been shouted down “by one or two people, one a survivor”. “The silencing will cause further damage”, he warned.  Mr Butler said he was “ashamed” of the language used to talk about people working for the National Church Institutions (NCIs), a group of organisations including Lambeth Palace and the Archbishops’ Council, some of which manage abuse complaints.“They are people, they are not heartless functionaries. If survivors have names, so do our staff,” he said. “I’m sometimes ashamed of the way that some members of Synod claiming to speak on behalf of survivors speak about our staff. “Many of them are not practising Christians, when we talk about how the world sees the church we should remember that. “So we find ourselves in something of a standoff between disgruntled survivors and the NCIs, and the anger and frustration is palpable, chiefly on social media,” he said. Mr Butler, who is the vicar of St Mary’s, Battersea, urged bishops to “heal the breach” with the group of “rightly angry survivors”. He was speaking in a debate over new measures which include introducing a new policy for clergy selection and propose the creation of an independent ombudsman to manage complaints about how abuse allegations have been dealt with. They were overwhelmingly approved by the Church.  I’m sometimes ashamed of the way that some members of Synod claiming to speak on behalf of survivors speak about our staff. Canon Simon Butler Introducing the measures, Peter Hancock, the bishop of Bath and Wells, and the church’s lead safeguarding bishop, said it had spent £7m on safeguarding in 2018, up from £37,000 in 2013. “Over the years, the Church and its leaders have singularly failed to see what was before our eyes.“We did not give safeguarding the prominence it deserved,” he admitted. The debate came after a report released last month found that a review carried out by the church into the scale of abuse had underestimated the figures and counted cases inconsistently. Sir Roger Singleton’s report into the Past Cases Review, which took place a decade ago, concluded that close to 100 cases were whittled down to just a handful and that the church had “downplayed” the issue in public statements to avoid reputational damage. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *