Survivors of sexual abuse by authority figures in the Church of England have accused the Archbishop of Canterbury of “breathtaking hypocrisy” over his response to the BBC’s handling of the TV personality Jimmy Saville’s sexual abuse scandal. Archbishop Welby had said, “I haven’t seen the same integrity over the BBC’s failures over Savile as I’ve seen in the Roman Catholic Church, in the Church of England, in other public institutions over abuse.” In response, six survivors of sexual abuse by Church of England authorities released a statement, saying, “Speaking from our own bitter experience, we do not recognise Archbishop Welby’s description of the integrity with which the Church of England handles cases of abuse in a church context.” They said that the church had a history of “long years of silence, denial and evasion,” with regards to sexual abuse. The BBC also responded, saying, “When the Savile allegations became known we established an independent investigation by a high court judge. In the interests of transparency, this was published in full. We apologised and accepted all the recommendations.” Independent reviews have shown multiple instances of collusion between sexual abusers and other church officials to cover up instances of abuse. However, since Justin Welby was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England has been attempting to right these wrongs and “that the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be the highest priority of all parts of the church.”
Survivors say that they have been stonewalled and bullied by the church as they have sought justice. Matthew Ineson, one victim, said, “The church has colluded with the cover-up of abuse and has obstructed justice for those whose lives have been ruined by the actions of its clergy. I have been fighting for five years for the church to recognise its responsibilities and I’m still being met with attempts to bully me into dropping my case.” Survivors are planning a protest at the end of the Primates’ meeting this week to draw attention to what they view as a failure on the church’s part to respond appropriately to revelations of sexual abuse within the institution.