The Bishop of Manchester issues a statement today on the publication of The Inquiry into the Church of England's response to child abuse allegations made against Robert Waddington.
Robert Waddington abused children. He abused them in Australia and in England. He exploited the trust placed in him, first as a teacher and then as a priest, to gain repeated and unsupervised access to the children he abused. My heart goes out to those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by what Robert Waddington did to them. When I read of the ongoing effects of his abuse, decades after it took place, it makes my blood run cold.
So I want to thank Archbishop Sentamu for setting up this inquiry. I also want to thank Judge Sally Cahill and her colleagues for their hard work over these last months. But above all I want to say thank you to those who Robert Waddington abused, and who came forward. Thank you, because every time a survivor of abuse speaks out it makes it just a little easier for the next person to speak. Thank you, because every time one of you tells your story, you make a little narrower the space in which abusers can conceal their crimes. Thank you for the courage you have found, and for the long years you may have spent in plucking up that courage.
The Cahill Inquiry has done what it could to encourage other survivors of abuse by Robert Waddington to come forward. They state clearly that they have heard no evidence that he was continuing to abuse children at or after the turn of the millennium, when allegations were first raised with Child Protection Advisors here and in York. Nevertheless, it is plain that a more vigorous and coordinated response by the dioceses involved, and with the police, might have led to a situation where it would have been possible to bring Robert Waddington to account for his earlier crimes, in his lifetime. That opportunity was tragically missed. The eight recommendations in the Report, which largely focus on the national dimension of safeguarding, will go some way to avoiding similar situations ever happening again. Manchester Diocese itself is in a very different place now. Our safeguarding work is led by a full time professional officer, fully qualified to carry out her responsibilities. In her absence and as additional back up we have access to consultancy from one of the major and most highly respected national safeguarding organisations.
Every day, across the Diocese of Manchester, many children are involved in activities run by churches. They learn and play supervised by trustworthy and responsible adults, most of them volunteers. These parishes have up to date and appropriate safeguarding policies, training and procedures in place. They are able to call on diocesan officers for support and advice. The reputation of their work, and all children's work, is tarnished by the abuse committed by Robert Waddington. But that work is a vital part of the life of the church, and I ask them not to be discouraged by the past but emboldened to set an example of what good and safe work among children looks like in the twenty first century.
Should anyone have further information or need to discuss the personal impact of this report I would encourage them to contact the Police or other statutory authorities.
Notes to Editors:
Safeguarding Helpline - 0845 120 4553 - This is a special helpline that has been set up for those who have been affected either directly or indirectly by abuse in a church or cathedral setting. The helpline will be staffed by the Church's Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) - an independent safeguarding charity and is available 7 days a week. You may be asked to leave a message but will be called back. Calls will be handled sensitively and confidentially.