The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has now published its full report into the Anglican Church in England and Wales. It follows last year’s public hearing, and it builds upon the findings of other reviews of specific cases, including the Gibb Report of 2017 into the case of Peter Ball, Bishop successively of Lewes and of Gloucester. IICSA’s report makes a number of recommendations, and the full report is linked from this website, but as a first response I offer three thoughts.
First, these are shocking concepts. We speak of ‘IICSA’, but the actual words behind these initials are ‘Child Sexual Abuse’. Is it because those words are so terrible that they are best conveniently hidden within an acronym? Go to the Scriptures and see what the Lord says about what it means to maltreat or to harm children; go particularly to the first part of Chapter 18 of St Matthew’s Gospel, where the true horror is starkly apparent.
Second, these are ‘abuses of faith’ in every sense. All abuse or exploitation or maltreatment is wicked, but it is particularly so when it emerges from a context or pretext of faith. Dame Moira Gibb’s review of the case of Peter Ball was entitled ‘An Abuse of Faith’, and that is precisely what such behaviour is: it is amoral nihilism, a wilful rejection of all that is good, a denial of grace, a baptism of wickedness, a deliberate insult to God, a turning away from the Gospel.
My third thought has to do with arrogance. When an institution or organisation becomes arrogant, it loses its way. Its sense of external reference and accountability begins to drift, and, as humility recedes, so too does that acute moral awareness which must always govern our relationship with others, and particularly with God’s children. The Church of England is not alone among large public organisations that have failed in this regard in recent years, but it is a particularly shocking sadness that such a lapse should happen within a people of faith and within its leadership. The Lord called His people to humility 2,000 years ago, in Chapter 18 of St Matthews Gospel and elsewhere; St Benedict and St Gregory the Great spoke the same message to Christian leaders fifteen centuries ago; and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse recalls us to humility in our own day.