‘Jo’, victim of church abuse, finds justice

Last June (2016) we covered in three sections the story of ‘Jo’ who had been sexually abused by a distinguished and senior churchman, Garth Moore. This took place when the victim was 16. The facts of the abuse were never in question as the offender admitted to the offence before he died. There was also a further incident of abuse by a Franciscan who later became a Bishop in the Church of England.

As the result of this blog covering Jo’s story which had been the subject of a special report, the Elliot Report, I was contacted directly by Jo. Jo wanted the bishops to address directly the numerous other issues which arose from the report, pastoral care, support and communication. He entrusted this blog with the task of printing an open letter from him to the House of Bishops. This was printed on the 21st June. http://survivingchurch.org/2016/06/21/jos-letter-to-the-anglican-house-of-bishops/ Although he had been awarded a modest sum of money from the Church’s insurers, he felt that money alone would never make the situation in the future better for other survivors. In particular, he felt that the attitude of the Church’s insurers, Ecclesiastical Insurance, towards survivors like himself was making a bad situation worse. They were, apparently, forbidding communication between church officials and survivors, presumably as it was thought that this might complicate the legal aspects involved with financial pay-outs. (This may have come about as the result of a misunderstanding between insurers and church) Survivors like himself needed to be heard, not shut out of meaningful communication with church people who can make things better and offer proper spiritual and emotional care

Today we can reveal from a piece of Thinking Anglicans website that Gilo (Jo’s real name) has achieved a complete and proper response from the church. In a process of mediation that has been going on for 18 months, Gilo’s complaints or suspicions about Ecclesiastical are being addressed fully. A letter is being sent from the Bishop in charge of Safeguarding, Paul Butler and Tim Thornton, Bishop at Lambeth to Ecclesiastical asking them to make their policies in dealing with survivors clearer and pastorally appropriate. Also, the letter was signed by the Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson who has acted as a supporter of Gilo during this process of dialogue. In addition, Justin Welby has expressed his deep regrets over the way that the Church failed Gilo, both in the abuse and subsequently.

What we are recording is the beginning of a real shift in attitude by the Church towards survivors of abuse. Gilo’s clear sense of the proper way that things should be has won through. He, in other words, is a pioneer in the cause of justice not only for himself but for other survivors who may come in the future. I would like to think that, even if the Bishops never saw Gilo’s letter that he wrote for this blog last June, we have been able to play a very small part in supporting him along this courageous journey of seeking justice for himself and for many others.

As the news of this important meeting only broke today, I have not had the chance to consider the implications. But important developments will take place, no doubt. The first thing is that the greater openness of church leaders to episodes that may have taken place decades ago but are still wreaking havoc in individual lives will take up an inordinate amount of time. Now that stones are being looked under, who knows what nasties will be found there? Quite apart from the financial implications of so many new horrors that may be revealed, where are the resources, psychological and pastoral, to deal with the flood that could emerge?

Gilo’s victory is to be applauded but there is still a need to have a far better understanding of how any kind of power abuse, spiritual or sexual, takes place in the church. Insight as to why some people choose to dominate and exploit others for reasons of personal gratification is not difficult to uncover. Examples of political coercion in the States are being extensively studied and these can provide important parallels to our own church power issues. Meanwhile our church seems pretty inept at spotting the dangerous situations and people that create the disasters which come upon us thick and fast. Today’s announcement is an important stage along the road of understanding power and abuse. But there are still too many humps ahead along this road for me, at any rate, to believe that we are yet getting it right.

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Northumberland. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues.

4 thoughts on “‘Jo’, victim of church abuse, finds justice

  1. Your road with many humps reminds me of Isaiah 40, where it was announced that every valley and rough place was to be smoothed out. I also recall my sister as a new driver in the 1950s speeding over a hump-backed bridge and becoming airborne long enough for her to turn the steering wheel while in the air so that on landing, she and my brothers veered dangerously towards the ditch. Thankfully, I was not in the car, but I did get the point: when dealing with a difficult road, slow, careful and steady wins the race.

  2. I wonder if the Church is willing to listen to people who speak of bullying. Gilo had the advantage that the abuser admitted to it. If the abusers don’t, the Church always has the option of denying that it happened. And even punishing you for “lying”.

    1. Tell me about it.

      Here in the US, it is illegal to retaliate against those who complain about potential legal or ethics violations in publicly traded companies. But it is perfectly okay to retaliate in churches, and it goes on more often than not.

  3. These 3 bishops, at least, seem finally to understand. Let’s hope the rest of the church hierarchy and systems soon get it too.

    I posted on Thinking Anglicans saying that Ecclesiastical Insurance’s response seemed unhelpful and uncaring, and got a post in response that insurance companies have no responsibility for pastoral care, that’s the church’s remit. Which ignores the complex relationship between the church and its insurers, and the effect this has on survivors. In any case, shouldn’t a supposedly Christian company also take an ethical and caring attitude? Isn’t that what we would expect -or at least, ought to be able to expect – of Christians in the business world?

    Christian attitudes and behaviour are not just for the church and church services, they’re for the whole of our lives.

    I hope Jo/Gilo is now feeling heard and respected. This is a big step along a long and hard road.

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