Review of priest’s assault against boy in 1976 criticises Justin Welby’s office and expresses disbelief that senior figures cannot recall being told of attack
The Church of England is to make far-reaching changes to the way it deals with cases of sex abuse, following a highly critical independent report that details how senior church figures failed to act upon repeated disclosures of a sadistic assault by a cleric.
The first independent review commissioned by the church into its handling of a sex abuse case highlights the “deeply disturbing” failure of those in senior positions to record or take action on the survivor’s disclosures over a period of almost four decades.
The Guardian understands that among those told of the abuse were three bishops and a senior clergyman later ordained as a bishop. None of them are named in the report by Ian Elliott, a safeguarding expert, but the survivor identified them as Tim Thornton, now bishop of Truro; Richard Holloway, former bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal church, now retired; John Eastaugh, former bishop of Hereford, now dead; and Stephen Platten, former bishop of Wakefield and now honorary assistant bishop of London.
The church acknowledged the report was “embarrassing and uncomfortable” reading.
Elliott examined the case of “Joe” – described in the report as “B”, and whose identity is known to the Guardian – who as a 15-year-old was subjected to a “sadistic” assault in 1976 by Garth Moore, a leading figure in the church, the chancellor of three dioceses and vicar of St Mary’s Abchurch in the City of London. Moore, who died in 1990, is described in the report as “A”.
Over a period of almost 40 years, Joe made disclosures about the abuse to dozens of people in the C of E, including senior members of the hierarchy. While some of those Joe spoke to had clear recollections of his disclosures, none of the senior figures had any memory of such conversations. Elliott describes this as “a deeply disturbing feature of this case”.
The report says: “What is surprising about this is that [Joe] would be speaking about a serious and sadistic sexual assault allegedly perpetrated by a senior member of the hierarchy. The fact that these conversations could be forgotten about is hard to accept.”
Despite the seriousness of the disclosure, no records were kept by the four clergymen Joe spoke to and no further action was taken. “Practice of this nature is simply not acceptable,” the report says.
Last October, the C of E paid £35,000 in compensation and apologised to Joe, saying “the abuse reported is a matter of deep shame and regret”. It also commissioned the independent review into its handling of the case.
The review also criticises the office of Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, for failing to respond meaningfully to repeated efforts by the survivor throughout 2015 to bring his case to the church leader’s attention.
The review’s conclusions were released on Tuesday as the government-appointed inquiry into child sex abuse prepares to examine hundreds of thousands of files relating to the abuse of children and vulnerable adults within the church. Welby has said that abuse by church figures and within other institutions has been “rampant”.
The full 21-page report has been seen by the Guardian, although the C of E published only its conclusions and recommendations.
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