In light of the independent review’s findings, the Church of England has taken a significant step by issuing a formal apology to a survivor of sexual abuse.
The review shed light on the failure of top leaders within the Church to appropriately address the allegations, revealing that former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and Bishop of Sheffield, Steven Croft, did not fulfill their responsibilities when disclosures regarding the abuse were brought to their attention.
The apology is a direct response to the review’s examination of the Church’s handling of allegations against Reverend Trevor Devamanikkam, who was accused of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy in the 1980s. Tragically, Rev. Devamanikkam took his own life in May 2017 on the day he was scheduled to appear in court on six sexual abuse charges. The victim, Matthew Ineson, has chosen to waive his right to anonymity.
The independent review shed light on the actions, or lack thereof, taken by high-ranking Church officials upon receiving disclosures from Mr. Ineson in 2012 and 2013. John Sentamu, who held the position of Archbishop of York at the time, and Steven Croft, the Bishop of Sheffield, were both implicated in the review’s findings, which concluded that they failed to appropriately respond to the information provided.
This failure of the Church’s leadership to take decisive action has been met with widespread condemnation and has raised significant concerns about the institution’s commitment to addressing instances of sexual abuse within its ranks. The report’s findings highlight a deeply troubling disregard for the well-being and protection of survivors, casting a shadow over the Church’s credibility.
Premier interviewed Matthew Ineson, who shared his response to the highly critical report that revealed his experience of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Trevor Devamanikkam. According to the report, senior members of the clergy failed to respond appropriately to Ineson’s disclosures, neglecting to take necessary action or provide support for him to report the abuse to the police. Furthermore, the report highlighted a lack of pastoral care and support provided to Ineson during that difficult time.
In the interview with Premier, Ineson expressed his skepticism regarding the independence of the review, explaining why he chose not to participate in it.
“All I’ve ever wanted is for the Church to find out what went wrong in my case so others don’t have to go through it in the future. The Church suffers from wanting to protect itself against awful allegations such as the ones I made.
“I knew the Church would try protect itself so I wanted to make sure there was a fully independent process to get to the truth. I’ve seen other similar reviews and I don’t think they’ve been independent. I suggested a process to ensure independence but the National Safeguarding Team rejected my suggestion. I therefore decided not to engage with the review.
“I don’t recognise the review as providing a full or independent picture of what happened in my case.”
“The Church needs to acknowledge independent oversight is going to be painful and commit to it. Until then it continues to cover up the whole truth in cases like mine.”
The revelation of the Church’s mishandling of abuse allegations underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive reassessment of safeguarding procedures and a culture of accountability within religious institutions. This case serves as a stark reminder that no institution is immune to the scourge of sexual abuse, and it is the duty of all organizations to prioritize the well-being and protection of those in their care.
As the Church of England works to rectify its past failures and enhance its safeguarding practices, the hope is that this apology marks a significant step towards justice and healing of the victim.