THE Bishop of Chichester has responded to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s damning report on child abuse within the Chichester Diocese.
Newly-appointed Dr Martin Warner, whose role covers Worthing, Shoreham and Littlehampton, said: “We have much to learn from all that has happened and must be humble in doing so, accepting our failures, responding with honesty and penitence, and demonstrating proper and appropriate engagement with those who are the victims of criminal and sub-Christian behaviour.
“But the future of the diocese cannot be determined by the failures of the past. Review and vigilance will be required of us at all times in the matter of safety and welfare for those who are young and vulnerable. We are determined that this is a diocese in which the vulnerable will feel safe and will be safe.”
Dr Rowan Williams, who set up the inquiry into child protection policies in the diocese, said the interim report “confirms that there have been many and long-standing failures in implementing a robust and credible safeguarding policy in the Diocese of Chichester”.
In May last year, a review found serious failings in the senior clergy after two priests were allowed to continue working despite being accused of serious child abuse offences.
Colin Pritchard was a vicar in Bexhill-on-Sea until 2007, despite having first been reported to police over sex offences 10 years earlier. He was later jailed for sexually abusing two young boys.
One of the boys was also abused by Roy Cotton, a former parish priest in Brede near Rye, but prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to charge him before his death in September, 2006.
Dr Warner said he was fully committed to implementing the recommendations outlined in the Archbishop’s Interim Report so abuse survivors know there is complete transparency concerning any abuse that has already taken place. He said he will meet with “survivors” when his public ministry begins.
“Since my appointment as bishop earlier this year I have heard, time and again, that the diocese has been buffeted by a seemingly never-ending saga of episodes that have, in the minds of some, called into question our ability to act decisively in response to instances of abuse.
“Together with all who exercise the responsibility for leadership, we shall work across the Diocese of Chichester to ensure that we are able to act, and seen to do so, whenever the issue of a child’s protection is at stake.”
Dr Williams appointed Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC to conduct the inquiry in the wake of child abuse scandals, the first such appointments for more than 100 years.