Church of England Checks 60 Years’ Files for Child Abuse

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the Church of England is reviewing personnel files going back more than 60 years as it deals with allegations over sexual abuse of children.

Welby told a lunch for journalists in Parliament in London yesterday that “there’s more that has not been revealed” on abuse. He said the church’s audit of clergy records is looking for “anything in the file that would suggest at all that there is anything that needs following up.”

The past two years have seen a series of revelations about historical sexual abuse in British institutions including the BBC, Parliament and schools. Welby listed things the church is doing, including reviewing whether confessions should be confidential in all circumstances.

“Yes, many institutions failed catastrophically, including in the media, children’s homes, foster parents, all kinds of areas,” he said. “But the church is meant to hold itself to a far, far, far higher standard and we failed terribly.”

Welby said he and other bishops regularly meet survivors of abuse. “And it is, beyond description, terrible,” he said. “When you abuse a child or a vulnerable adult, you mark them for the rest of their lives.”

He said he recently “broke down completely” after hearing from victims of child abuse, the result of “the shredding effect of hearing what we did -- what WE did -- to those people.”

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