Church of England draws criticism for withdrawing pastoral care from sex abuse victims

(Wikimedia Commons/Antony McCallum)Canterbury Cathedral from the south-west.

The Church of England has drawn criticism for withdrawing pastoral care and emotional support for sex abuse victims after it reached a financial settlement with them.

An independent review by child safeguarding specialist Ian Elliot alleged that the church withdrew emotional support from the victims after paying compensation on the advice of its insurer Ecclesiastical.

The review found that the advice had "directly conflicted" with the pastoral responsibilities of the church and that "financial interests were allowed to impact practice" at least in one victim's case.

One victim, identified only as Gilo, told the BBC that he had attempted to contact senior members of the Church more than 20 times after he decided to report that he had been raped, but he received no reply.

Gilo, who is now a middle-aged man living in the southwest of England, had been raped in the early 1970s by a City of London clergyman, Rev. Garth Moore.

The Church agreed to pay him £35,000 (US$45,580) after verifying his claims but it severed contact, including emotional support or pastoral care, with him.

Gilo blames the insurer, but the company insists that the withdrawal of pastoral care was not a result of its advice.

"I think because of the relationship that the Church has with the insurers, the pastoral response is so fused with the legal response it's really effectively led by the insurers," Gilo told the BBC.

"When that insurer has got such significant presence of senior clerics on its board across the years, then you're into an area of moral responsibility," he added.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has accepted the findings of the review, but Ecclesiastic strongly denied that it advised the church to sever ties with the victims after compensation payment.

"We were not asked to participate in this review and were not given the opportunity to set the record straight. Contrary to what the Elliott Report claims, we did not advise the Church of England to withdraw pastoral care from the survivor," a spokesperson for Ecclesiastical stated.

"We have always been clear that pastoral care and counselling can and should continue in parallel with an insurance claim," the spokesperson added.

Ecclesiastical has several senior members of the clergy on its board of directors. But the company maintains that having clergy on its board of directors was standard business practice because the Church of England was a major customer, adding that the clergy were non-executive directors.

The Church of England's responses to complaints of historical abuse have prompted calls to transfer the responsibility for safeguarding from its ruling bishops to an independent organization.

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