“Nobody can say it is not my fault,” was how Archbishop Justin put it when he addressed the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in 2018. For me, those words still speak to the heart of the ongoing drive for a culture change on safeguarding within the Church of England. This is a bigger and harder task than at first it might seem, and we need from time to time to recommit to what is a complex and challenging process.
Yes, this Diocese, like the rest of the Church, has gone through a period of considerable investment, significantly-improving our safeguarding resources, training and practices. Yes, we have learnt often heart-wrenching lessons from terrible stories, told by survivors of abuse. Yes, the Past Cases Review 2, which is running right across the Church of England, is crucial in helping us to understand where past allegations were not properly managed. Yes, we must continue to understand where we have gone wrong before, to listen, to take responsibility, and most importantly to act. Yet, we have still not gone far enough in the process of transformation that is required: culture change will not simply happen.
You are all playing a vital role in our journey towards making the Church a safer place for everyone. I am grateful for the work you are doing, because the necessary change is not something any of us can do alone, but must be a continuing effort of us all. Together, I know that we are committed to making a reality that safe culture, where abuse has no place, and where survivors can flourish. We continue to be well-supported by the Diocesan Safeguarding Team. I know that we have had challenges in ensuring clear communication of what can be complex material; the Parish Safeguarding Handbook and the new check list are tools to help ensure that we have much-improved practices locally across our churches.
However difficult it may be, understanding survivors’ perspectives remains fundamental as we strive to ensure our churches are places of safety and refuge. Their speaking-out often comes at huge personal cost – we owe it to them to listen, and to allow them to be heard.
The Rt Hon & Rt Revd Dame Sarah Mullally is the 133rd Bishop of London.
In 2012 she was installed as Canon Treasurer at Salisbury Cathedral, before becoming Bishop of Crediton in the Diocese of Exeter in 2015, primarily serving North and East Devon. She is a member of the Church of England's National Safeguarding Steering Group.
Bishop Sarah was a senior civil servant in the Department of Health before ordination. A trained nurse, she became Chief Nursing Officer for England in 1999, the youngest person to be appointed to the post.
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