The Church in Wales (CiW) refuses to specify the latest figures for ‘safeguarding’ investigations underway into alleged child sexual abuse inside its own organisation despite saying the subject is taken very seriously, The Eye can reveal.
We were told by a CiW spokesperson: “I can’t specify the number of cases the (safeguarding) team is dealing with at the moment…”
The disturbing response was in answer to our question: “What is the latest figure for how many open cases of safeguarding the church is currently dealing with, and are those cases related to lay people or members of the clergy?”.
But officials may be forced to become more open once the report is published by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) into allegations within the separate Anglican Church of England (C of E).
Inquiry members state on their website: “We are examining what went wrong and why, and will challenge those institutions responsible”.
On Tuesday they published a scathing report on sexual abuse of children in custodial institutions.
In the conclusion they warned that the system of whistleblowing was not robust enough: “Whilst children demonstrate a good awareness of the complaints system, there exist a number of barriers to them actually using it.”
Despite an apparent reluctance to give figures, the CiW proudly declared to us how it has participated in the inquiry that is underway.
The spokesperson told The Eye: “The Church in Wales – ‘The Anglican Church in England and Wales’ – is a core participant in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
“We have already submitted written evidence as requested and are cooperating fully with the inquiry but have not yet been called to appear before it”.
But it seems officials are less than candid about alleged abuse investigations underway within their own institution.
We were told that we cannot be told the number of cases in Wales because a lot of time is taken up deciding whether or not there were ‘safeguarding’ concerns.
Our requests for this crucial information are at a difficult time for the CiW.
They come in the wake of a growing controversy over how investigations are conducted into allegations of child sexual abuse in the C of E.
The Rt Revd Peter Hancock, The Bishop of Bath, Wells and Safeguarding, was out by 700 when he was asked at the General Synod last month to specify how many open cases of ‘safeguarding’ the Church was currently dealing with.
He said it was “around 3,300” cases when he last looked.
The “vast majority” related to children.
Later Rt Revd Hancock said there was actually 2,600.
Earlier this month worrying information was reported by media outlets, as the IICSA took evidence.
The BBC reported that senior figures in the C of E may have conspired to enable the sexual abuse of children.
A lawyer representing victims suggested the Church ignored abuse convictions and allowed records to be burnt.
David Greenwood said victims were “silenced” by the Church.
The Roman Catholic Church has fared no better as it has coped with a torrent of allegations of child sex abuse by priests.
Alleged abuse has been uncovered in 10 countries around the world.
Yet the CiW remains defiant, and has stressed to us that firm action is being taken.
The Eye were told: “We were possibly the first organisation in Wales to undertake an historic cases review – examining all clergy files for any allegations which had not been previously dealt with”.
Perhaps the CiW will also be the first to specify how many ‘safeguarding’ investigations are being undertaken.
Or perhaps not…