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The English Inquisition: Church of England team get power to probe and charge sex abuse clergy

The English Inquisition: Church of England team get power to probe and charge sex abuse clergy
It was prompted after a report commissioned by the Most Reverend Justin Welby
It'd be the first organisation to police clergy in England in nearly 1,000 years
It mirrors the Vatican organisation investigating allegations against priests

8 December 2020

The first English inquisition to investigate and charge clergy accused of child sexual abuse is being set up by the Church of England.

A central office should be created to look into abuse allegations against bishops, vicars, priests or cathedral clergy, according to a report commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby.

It will take over the power bishops have to examine complaints of serious misconduct.

Experts in the body will bring suspects for trial before a new tribunal system, which is likely to be supervised by judges from the secular legal system.

This 'central office' would be the first organisation set up to police clergy in England in nearly 1,000 years.

It mirrors the Vatican organisation -- the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- charged by Pope Francis with investigating allegations of child sex abuse against Roman Catholic priests.

It was founded in 1542 as the Roman inquisition against heresy, under the name Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.

The Church of England's move to follow the Roman Catholic example reflects its embarrassment and financial loss after decades of allegations of child sex abuse against clergy.

Archbishop Welby was forced into a humiliating apology in October after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse found the Church had let the nation down by repeatedly covering up for paedophiles.

The Church has also begun paying compensation to victims of clergy abuse that is expected to exceed £200million.

The recommendation for an investigative office was produced by the Clergy Discipline Measure Working Group chaired by Archbishop Welby's right-hand man, the Right Reverend Tim Thornton, Bishop at Lambeth.

His report said complaints would be 'triaged', with less serious cases weeded out and sent for mediation.

Serious ones will go to a tribunal with 'external judicial monitoring'.

It said of the child sex abuse scandal: 'It is a point of personal sorrow... that the institutional Church has caused hurt to so many individuals.

'We have made it our goal... to prevent these types of stories from being repeatable under new legislation.

It is proposed that new legislation will mitigate these concerns by processing (investigating, and bringing to tribunal, and possibly triaging) all complaints of serious misconduct at a central office.'

It said this would allow a new team of officers 'to develop the expertise and experience required to administer complaints'.

The reform could include a new professional code of conduct for clergy.

The behaviour of Church of England priests used to be regulated by public consistory courts, which were part of the English legal system, set up by William l following the Norman Conquest.

However, the 2003 Clergy Discipline Measure led to complaints against priests being investigated by bishops and heard in closed tribunals.


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