Archbishop of Canterbury tells inquiry even those who repent should not get a second chance
People who sexually abuse children or vulnerable adults can never be trusted again even if they genuinely repent, the archbishop of Canterbury has told the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse.
“We know abusive behaviour tends to repeat. If someone has been an abuser, they can never be trusted again. You will never take a chance on them again,” Justin Welby said.
The Bible was “utterly, brutally blunt about the difference between forgiveness and the consequences of sin. Where there is something done wrong, there will be consequences,” he said.
“If you have abused and repent genuinely, you should still go to prison,” he added.
Welby was giving evidence on the last day of witness testimony in three weeks of hearings into sexual abuse in the Church of England, focusing on the diocese of Chichester in West Sussex.
Speaking on the fifth anniversary of his installation as archbishop, and amid bouts of sustained coughing due to a heavy cold, Welby said cultural change was the biggest challenge facing the church with regard to abuse.
“We have to get to the point where if anything is seen that is untoward, people say this isn’t right and I’m going to do something about it.” The church was in the process of training about 30,000 parish safeguarding officers, he said. “It’s at parish level that we will change everything.”
But he also stressed it was compulsory for bishops to undergo training, and that he had said he would not consecrate anyone as a bishop who had not been trained in safeguarding issues.
Welby said he was challenging a culture of “clericalism”, in which excessive deference was shown to senior church figures, which he described as “insanity”.
Bishops and archbishops were now subject to performance reviews, he said. Welby disclosed that he was in the midst of such a review, in which 43 colleagues had been invited to comment on his performance.
He also said psychosocial or psychometric assessments should be deployed when selecting people for ordination: “If it can be demonstrated that [such tests] will be helpful in identifying pathologies that are likely to lead to behaviours, then it is worth doing.”
Abuse of power lay at the heart of sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse, “and that’s what you want to pick up on”, he said.