Ad Clerum from the Bishop of London: Fr Alan Griffin
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
I did not know Fr Alan Griffin. I cannot begin to imagine the pain his family and friends felt following the terrible circumstances of his suicide in 2020. The enormity of that pain will persist, despite the recent coroner’s inquest into his death.
On Monday, I met with the clergy of the Two Cities Area. A number of them knew Fr Alan, and I heard their grief, their hurt, and their questions. We do not yet have all of the answers. However, I am clear that the Diocese is absolutely committed to opening itself up to independent, external scrutiny over this tragic matter, and we are commissioning a full review with the National Church. This will examine any errors made in the lead-up to Fr Alan Griffin’s death, and we will act on its recommendations.
I realise that many of you will by now have read the coroner’s recent comments, either directly or through the media. The Diocese does have the opportunity to respond formally, but this response will not be published by the coroner’s office for a number of weeks, so I want to clarify a number of aspects at this stage.
When the former Head of Operations in the Two Cities retired, he held several meetings by way of handover, from which a report was compiled. It was not simply about safeguarding – it contained a whole range of historical and current information relating to forty-two matters, some to do with buildings and churchyard management, some relating to people, clergy and lay, past and present.
The report was reviewed by the Registry. There were no clergy discipline matters that required a complaint under the Clergy Disciplinary Measure. There was no investigation into Fr Alan Griffin under the CDM. There is no outstanding list of further action yet to take place, nor are there any unresolved issues resulting from the report that affect others. Nevertheless, any member of the clergy named in the report will now be contacted individually to provide further reassurance.
The Safeguarding Team reviewed the report for immediate actions. Out of that, information was passed to their counterparts in the Roman Catholic Church regarding Fr Alan Griffin, given he had left the Anglican Church in 2012. It was handed over with the caveat that no evidence had been produced to support the allegations.
Questions continue to be asked about how and why information, handed over by a retiring staff member, was passed to the Diocesan Safeguarding Team. The Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) said last year:
“We concluded that diocesan safeguarding officers – not clergy – are best placed to decide which cases to refer to the statutory authorities, and what action should be taken by the Church to keep children safe. Diocesan bishops have an important role to play, but they should not hold operational responsibility for safeguarding.”
IICSA’s findings were difficult for us all to hear, but we cannot ignore its damning indictment of historic safeguarding in the Church of England. It is vital that everyone in this Diocese continues to be trained in safeguarding, to follow practice guidance, and to ensure that information that could pertain to a safeguarding risk is passed to the Diocesan Safeguarding Team. It is for them in their capacity as safeguarding professionals, not us as clergy, to dismiss the information, or to act upon it.
We continue to invest in and improve our safeguarding, particularly in the light of IICSA. It is vital that safeguarding processes properly support everyone and create the safest possible culture in the church, and at the same time ensure proper pastoral care is in place for those affected by allegations that are made. We have a new Head of Safeguarding, Martin Goodwin, arriving at the beginning of August, alongside two new Safeguarding Advisors during the Autumn. Equally, it is vital that proper pastoral care is in place for those affected by allegations that are made.
We are taking the coroner’s comments extremely seriously. All of these events, and the decisions that were made at the time, will be properly and rigorously scrutinised. I will ensure that pastoral care is in place for anyone who has been named in the coroner’s report, and additional support is also available for everyone – please see below. We have been working with Lambeth Palace and the National Church to commission the review. We will confirm who is leading it in due course, and the terms of reference are being finalised at the moment. The review will examine all of the circumstances before and after the referral to the Roman Catholic Church.
I will not be involved in the review, but will receive its recommendations, alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury. I am clear that there are vital lessons we must learn from this desperately tragic situation. Together, we are committed to making this Diocese a safe place for all.
Safe Spaces is a free and independent support service run by Victim Support, providing a confidential, personal and safe space for anyone who has been abused by someone in the Church, or as a result of their relationship with the Church of England, the Catholic Church in England and Wales, or the Church in Wales.
The diocesan communications team provides support to the network of clergy, churches, parishes and other worshipping communities that comprises the Diocese of London, as well as to the staff teams of the London Diocesan Fund.
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