The Church of England failed to protect children from sexual predators within its ranks for decades, allowing abusers to hide in an attempt to defend its own reputation rather than following its duty to protect young people, an inquiry said on Tuesday.
From the 1940s to 2018, 390 people who were clergy or in positions of trust associated with the Church have been convicted of sexual offences against children, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said.
“Over many decades, the Church of England failed to protect children and young people from sexual abusers, instead facilitating a culture where perpetrators could hide and victims faced barriers to disclosure that many could not overcome,” Professor Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, said.
“If real and lasting changes are to be made, it’s vital that the Church improves the way it responds to allegations from victims and survivors, and provides proper support for those victims over time,” she added.
According to the report, the primary concern of many senior clergy was to uphold the Church’s reputation.
“Senior clergy often declined to report allegations to statutory agencies, preferring to manage those accused internally for as long as possible,” the report concluded. “This hindered criminal investigations and enabled some abusers to escape justice.”
The report recommended that both the Church of England and the Church in Wales should each introduce a Church-wide policy on the funding and provision of support to victims of child sexual abuse concerning clergy.
“It should make clear that support should always be offered as quickly as possible, taking into account the needs of the victim over time,” the report said.
The Church of England said it would issue a statement later.