Bishop of Chichester 'ashamed' over church abuse failings

Dr Martin Warner

The Bishop of Chichester has said he is “profoundly ashamed” the Sussex church failed to protect children from abuse.

Dr Martin Warner, who has led the diocese since May, said apology was “too light a word” and the organisation needed to register “our shame”.

He said it needed to do everything in its power to stop it happening again.

His comments came after a report found a “profoundly negative culture” within the Diocese of Chichester led to two decades of child protection failures.

The inquiry by the Archbishop of Canterbury's office said “fresh and disturbing” aspects of the way abuse claims were handled keep surfacing.

Lambeth Palace has said it will now oversee clergy appointments and child protection matters in Sussex.

Dr Warner told BBC Sussex: “I think as a Christian and as a minister of the gospel I have been profoundly ashamed that the church, and all of us have to take responsibility for this, has failed so, so signally in the care, proper care, of people in its charge.

“We have to register with them and for them our shame, apology is too light a word almost for that, and to recognise that there is a massive imperative on us now to ensure that we do everything we can in our power to prevent this happening in the future.”

He agreed with the report that there was “dysfuntionality” in the structure of the Diocese of Chichester and said the bishops all needed to work together better.

Dr Warner also said that new checks for clergy would stop anything similar happening again, adding: “I believe that they [children], in this diocese, they are going to be safer now than they ever have been.

Roy Cotton (left) and Colin Pritchard
Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard abused young boys

“The benchmark has been very low, [but] it has been raised very, very swiftly and dramatically over the last couple of years or so, which again is something the archbishop recognised in terms of work that has been done.

“I'm not saying we can be complacent and I'm not saying we're there yet.

“But one of the things I think I do want to emphasise [is] the strength of determination throughout the diocese, with our officers and in terms of implementation, that mean that it is unsafe, unsafe for anyone to think that children can be abused here and that that would not come to light and be dealt with.”

The report by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams's office is believed to be the first of its kind in the Church of England for more than a century.

Lambeth Palace's interim report followed one by Baroness Butler-Sloss last May which found there had been “a lack of understanding of the seriousness of historic child abuse”.

The Church of England appointed her to examine how senior clergy dealt with historical claims of abuse.

It looked at the cases of Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard, who abused children in the 1970s and 1980s.

This year three former Church of England priests in the diocese have been charged with sexual offences against children.

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