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How the Church attacks its own Bishops are presiding over a climate of fear

We are all now suspects. (Lorenzo Palizzolo/Getty Images)

We are all now suspects. (Lorenzo Palizzolo/Getty Images)


May 13, 2022   5 mins


When Anthony Trollope submitted the manuscript of Barchester Towers, the publishers rejected it as over-the-top. They thought the Church of England couldn’t possibly behave in this kind of way. Bless. They did and they still do.

Now I have to be slightly careful about what I’m about to write. Because it turns out that the Bishop of Oxford is rather thin-skinned and liable to pick up the phone to his lawyers when challenged — as the author of the Archbishop Cranmer blog discovered this week. The matter at hand was the pastoral support given — or rather, not given — by the Bishop to the Dean of his Cathedral over the last few tumultuous years.

Cranmer’s offence was to repeat words that had already been printed in The Times, and had already been spoken by the Dean, Martyn Percy: “I was despairing, because I felt that actually you would want your bishop to be a person of courage and integrity, somebody who might actually stand up against, pardon the expression, the forces of darkness and oppression, and he just colluded with them.”

Well, the Bishop didn’t pardon the expression and called in his lawyers against the Cranmer blog — though not against The Times. He decided to pick on the little guy, which is not a good look. And the bad blood between the Bishop and the now-former Dean has reached Trollopian proportions, complete with a colourful cast of poisonous featherbedded Dons and warring clerics, all weaponised by expensive lawyers and incompetent PR companies.

When the dons of Christ Church College chose Martyn Percy to be their Dean — uniquely, the boss of both the college and the cathedral — they knew they were taking a bit of a punt. Unlike his predecessors, Percy wasn’t the clubbable type. He wasn’t proper public-school, nor Oxbridge, nor ex-military (like his predecessor). He probably used his fork the wrong way up to eat his peas.

They thought they were being a bit edgy by appointing him. But they also thought they could control him. After all, everyone comes to worship those honey-coloured stones in the end. The privilege is so seductive; they all give in to it eventually. Except, Percy didn’t. And they despised him for it. “[Think] of the Morse episode we could make when his wrinkly body is found,” one of the dons wrote in an email to colleagues.

This sorry tale all started with a stabbing, when a student attacked her boyfriend while drunk. At the time, Percy was the only person in the college able to respond appropriately. In other words, the college was woefully ill-prepared for pastoral emergencies. It was obvious that things needed to change. And not just pastorally: the pay structure was all wrong, too. So Percy became a hated reformer, a moderniser.

The campaign to oust him was long and expensive, even for a college with deep pockets such as Christ Church. Because according to the statutes of the college, the only way they could get rid of him was to expose his “immoral, scandalous or disgraceful conduct”. So if that’s what it took, that’s the sort of evidence the dons would need to find. And set about finding it they did.

Again and again, they charged him with one form of misconduct or another; 27 charges in the first instance. But when a high court judge came in to adjudicate the matter, Percy was fully cleared. But that was just the start of it. New charges were discovered. He was reported to the police. They investigated and concluded there was no case to answer. Then he was reported for touching someone’s hair. Christ Church were trying to paint Percy as a sex pest. Again the police dismissed the case and another high court judge deemed that it would be “entirely disproportionate that this matter should be referred to a tribunal”.

Christ Church paid millions of pounds to try and trap Percy — and then had to pay him £1.4 million in settlement to leave. By that time, Percy resembled a shadow of his former self — thin and gaunt, he looked like a hunted man. Finally, this week, Percy quit the Church of England. “It’s an unsafe place to work,” he concluded.

Part of his reason for quitting was the lack of support shown to him by his Bishop — the one with the trigger-happy lawyers. Even when charges were dropped against Percy, the bishop refused to give him a licence. “He would not even allow me to preach at my own farewell service,” Percy said.

So what has gone wrong? The Church recently advertised for a new director of safeguarding, the fourth in four years. The job is impossible: on the one hand, the church has harboured abusers for too long, moving them on to other jobs when their abuse is discovered. On the other, it conducts campaigns against long dead clerics, unable to defend themselves — such as the former Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, who died in 1958. And now we are all suspects.

This sort of thing has happened to me more than once. A car window winds down. A random man shouts out at me from the other side of the road. “Paedo!” he screams, his voice tailing off into a cackle. He doesn’t know me from Adam. But I am wearing a clerical collar. I don’t often wear one these days and this is partly why.

The clerical abuse of children and vulnerable adults is such a grotesque crime I feel like echoing Jesus when he said of abusers: “it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” But precisely because of the visceral nature of our repugnance of such crimes, it is easy for emotions to swamp good judgment or simple justice. The accusation is often enough for guilt to be presumed. Guilty until proven innocent. And proving a negative is often impossible.

Reputations sometimes never recover. One clergyman, Fr Alan Griffin, took his own life in 2020 because of a whispering campaign that he was a child abuser — yet, as the coroner admitted, these claims were “supported by no complainant, no witnesses and no accuser”.

Of course, there certainly has been abuse within the church. Rev. John Smyth was accused of the most horrific beatings of teenage boys in his care on Christian holiday camps. Before being prosecuted, he left England for Zimbabwe, where he was arrested after a naked body of a teenage boy was discovered in his swimming pool. A few years ago, the Church of England commissioned an independent report into the clerical abuse of children. 390 clergy were convicted of such abuse between the Forties and 2018. I don’t know if this makes us clergy greater abusers of children than postmen or accountants or teachers. But clergy are supposed to serve a higher calling; even one such example is one too many.

So I totally understand why safeguarding has become such an abiding preoccupation in the church. I understand why we are repeatedly vetted and why safeguarding seems to be the number one preoccupation of Diocesan HQ — not that I have all that much confidence in bureaucratic exercises to root out wrongdoers.

But precisely because of the intense emotions that such terrible crimes create in us, it is not hard to appreciate how safeguarding can sometimes over-reach, creating a culture of fear and distrust within an organisation that can make those within it feel “unsafe”. I have never been accused of wrongdoing, but I have changed my behaviour with parishioners. What used to be called “child protection” transmuted into “safeguarding” some years ago, and now protects all who are vulnerable. So now I always leave the door open when I am talking to someone in my study. I prefer to go for a walk with vulnerable people — a category that now includes the bereaved and those seeking any sort of help — rather than see them in the church. The shepherd has become afraid of his flock.

The whole thing has become an unholy mess. There is no fully independent head of safeguarding in the church. Ultimately, it’s for the Bishops to sort out. But they are also supposed to be the pastors to the clergy, and they cannot be the both prosecutor and defence and pastoral support. As Percy put it: “in the face of partisanship, failure to manage conflicts of interest, double standards and incompetence in the CofE’s safeguarding, I finally took a decision: to leave the church”.

The campaign against Percy began because he raised the whole question of safeguarding at Christ Church. The dons then reached for safeguarding as a way of getting rid of him, requisitioning it for persecutory purposes. They may call it safeguarding. But it’s hardly surprising that so few of us feel safe.


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

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Janet Fife
Janet Fife
1 year ago

The Bishop of Oxford (or his comms, with his evident permission) has publicly deplored all attempts by Dr Percy or his supporters to defend his reputation. Now the Bishop has shown himself very concerned about his own reputation. There’s a certain – how shall I put this? – inconsistency in the Bishop’s approach.

Tony Pears
TP
Tony Pears
1 year ago

I can’t honestly say that safeguarding was my primary reason for retiring seven years earlier than planned, but the worry one vexatious complaint could destroy ones health , reputation and leave your family homeless takes its toll.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Pears

Being called a paedo on the streets will sooner or later lead to being attacked and even killed on the streets.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago

One of the problems with the use of that word is that many who use it are ignorant of the proper meaning. It’s fast disappearing into the past but the home of a paedriatic nurse was subjected to an “Arson Mob” in daylight just a few miles away from me in South Wales. “She’s a Pedo – lets burn her out”. It’s taken these days, certainly where I live, that the word means any sort of ‘sexual deviant’. It’s even taken over from “Pouf” as a casual insult – usually preceded by the F word.

Jeremy Bray
JB
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

It struck me that declining to wear a dog collar simply because some nutter shouted at him showed a lack of spirit. I would have hoped he would be proud to display his calling as a vicar rather than skulking around as a layman since I had never heard of a vicar being attacked for any cover up by the Bishops. I checked by googling “vicar attacked” It threw up this headline from the Mail:
“Lesbian vicar ‘punched and bit her female partner in drunken lovers’ spat after necking glass of wine in lockdown” which suggested Vicars had altered in character somewhat recently. To be fair the Vicar was exonerated on the basis that she was acting in self defence.
There were a few reports of attacks by those who were deranged or drunk or both and the following report appeared in the Guardian in 2001 in respect of a research report:
“The researchers were astonished to have a 71% response rate; of a sample 1,350 clergy sent an 11-page questionnaire, 959 replied. Seven out of 10 reported violence, threats or abuse in the past two years and 12% had been attacked.
According to the British Crime Survey this puts the clergy at the highest risk of violence at work, on a par with police and way ahead of other caring professions”.
The article suggested that part of the cause was that clergy felt obliged to engage with drunk and mentally unstable individuals that other professions might refuse to see if violence was anticipated.
Accordingly I can see being a clergyman may be more risky than I imagined but it does seem sad that Giles seems so reluctant to display the mark of his calling and is not prepared to face the risks of a bit of persecution for the sake of his faith. He certainly doesn’t seem likely to get an entry in any updated reissue of Fox’s “Book of Martyrs”.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Pears

I think you have this back to front. Giles Fraser is in danger only because the C of E was so criminally (and I use this word quite deliberately) delinquent in dealing with criminal sexual abuse of children by some of its staff. These matters should have been promptly reported to the police and were covered up.
One might argue that this is a failure of “safeguarding” by the C of E for the majority of its own staff who are blameless in these matters.
As with the Civil Service, it may be time to fire the entire top two or three layers of the organisation and get people in who understand what the job actually is, who their customers are and actually want to do this job, rather than making up something more interesting that they would prefer to be doing and ignoring the customers.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Pears

Yes the current atmosphere and safeguarding processes puts all who have to deal with the young at risk. Equally it does not necessarily provide a satisfactory outcome for those who complain. My link to the Telegraph’s article published today at 9 pm regarding Alannah Jeune’s version of events concerning Dr Percy has not survived moderation but anyone interested can Google the article.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

We have moved from a society that was reluctant to accept that adults sought sexual pleasure from children and were realistic about the tendency of some children to invent incidents to one that suspects any interaction between adults and children. Previously the Church thought they were doing the right thing in moving on priests accused of pedophilia to protect the reputation of the Church and the priest since the accusation might well be false and was difficult to prove. Now the mantra is that children should be believed which gives great power to the malicious and the fantasist.
In addition a vast bureaucratic superstructure has been erected devoted to safeguarding so that anyone who has anything to do with children has to exercise paranoid levels of caution and which makes normal interaction with children fraught with risk. Like any bureaucracy it provides jobs and careers so that it will be difficult to row back from.
The former state of affairs was too naïve whereas the current one is too paranoid but clearly it is difficult to get the balance right in an area that excites great emotion.

Malcolm Beaton
Malcolm Beaton
1 year ago

Just sad and a sight of the times
The clergy in the good old days would have been the first ones to lead us out of this unholy mess but no more
Joined the establishment (Pharisees and Sadducees?)and is suffering the serious consequences of our current total moral leadership failure-frankly total lack of common sense and courage needed to implement it
xxd09

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Beaton

Hmm. I’m not exactly sure that the history of the Church of England, set up in the first place to enable a monarch to break church law, and then becoming a fully established state church, can ever be described as providing the kind of spiritual and moral leadership you suggest. Indeed, beating up on the poor and marginalised was perhaps one of its main features. Hence the eventual flourishing of the non-conformist churches.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Had Thomas Cromwell not been so unfortunate as to be decollated in his prime things, may have been different.
The ‘plan’ to double the number of Dioceses, plunder and reform Oxbridge, and found perhaps forty odd Secular Colleges* to reform and educate the Clergy may have produced a far more empathetic church.

However as we all know, the CoE slowly but surely degenerated into the ‘Tory Party at prayer’.An opportunity missed?

(* Latimer’s idea.)

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

I doubt that the CoE is anything like the Tory Party at prayer, more like the holier-than-thou toffs parading as Socialists and Liberal Democrats.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago

Are there any true Tories left? Certainly not the present PM and his gang.

Geoff Cooper
GC
Geoff Cooper
1 year ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

C of E ‘Tory Party at Prayer’? Yeah – like sixty years ago maybe!

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Not quite, though the historical nuance is of course less snappy.
Pope Clement denied Henry VIII a divorce from Catherine of Aragon largely because Philip V of Spain was besieging Rome and had essentially taken the pope hostage. He wasn’t likely to grant Henry a divorce form Catherine whilst being physically menaced by the in-laws, after all. Interestingly, I understand that there was also a controversy in canon law over Henry’s marriage to Catherine in the first place, she being his dead brother’s widow. All of this was, moreover, being adjudicated by a papacy rather more temporal in outlook than is expected in our current age. Autres temps, autres moeurs, I suppose.
Meanwhile, England’s schism with Rome was more fraught than festive, going by contemporary accounts: it seems that much of England’s laity, at least, still regarded itself as Catholic for quite some time afterwards. I suppose the C of E still must regard itself as Catholic in some sense, though not Roman Catholic, given its continued recitation of the Nicene Creed (“…one holy Catholic and apostolic church”).
No need to let any of this get in the way of fashionable iconoclasm, though.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

I am sure the pope could have wangled a divorce if he could. But Catherine’s cause was a popular one too and the royal divorce became a defining moment in the conflict between the temporal and the spiritual. I suppose it matters still as we live with the consequences.

Richard Parker
RP
Richard Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Terrell

Yes, I think you’re quite right: the repercussions do keep coming. The split with Rome still seems to have been far from festive, though, on the available evidence, especially amongst the faithful.

Anthony Reader-Moore
AR
Anthony Reader-Moore
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

Not Philip V, Charles V, his father.

Sharon Overy
SO
Sharon Overy
1 year ago

It’s very much part of the current zeitgeist – weaponising ‘care’, concern-trolling, and cry-bullying.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
1 year ago

It has been my experience that the louder one cries about “safeguarding” the less one tends to actually care about it. The Church — particularly the Catholic Church — is an alternative source of power and therefore a potential danger to a state which, depite constantly returning supposedly Conservative governments, is culturally leftist to the core, and in the leftist creed, “everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

The Church of England has never, almost by definition, been an ‘alternative source of power’.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Agreed, however it (CoE) could “put the boot in”, to lapse into the vernacular, when it wanted.
For example during the acerbic debate on Evolution in the 19th century, Bishop Wilberforce & Co effectively prevented Darwin, Huxley and Wallace receiving Knighthoods as might have been expected.

R Wright
RW
R Wright
1 year ago

It seems so much easier to worship in your own time and on your own terms that to engage in this nonsensical bureaucratic machine that is the organised church.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago

Here’s what I find most interesting about Martyn Percy’s dreadful story. Percy was a very ‘liberal’ clergyman (in the modern, American sense). He supported the ordination of women bishops and church marriage for gay couples. He was a leading light in the (successful) campaign to prevent the ordination of a traditionalist Archishop of York. Yet some of Percy’s most vociferous supporters against Christ College’s injustices have been relatively conservative such as the Cranmer blog. Could this have happened the other way round? I doubt it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Judy Englander
Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Percy’s most vociferous critics have also been conservatives, even if they themselves would refer to themselves as liberals. There is nothing liberal about using the immense wealth of an Oxbridge college amassed through who knows what evil practices in order to punish a Dean who wants to update college practices to accommodate male and female students.

Richard Maslen
Richard Maslen
1 year ago

The CofE is beset with clerics so ‘safeguarding’ their own status, position and prospects of promotion that everything else, including pastoral care, is forgotten. As a result the parish priest, who used to be the most important person in the Church is now least important. Priesthood diminishes as bureaucracy flourishes.

E. L. Herndon
EH
E. L. Herndon
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Maslen

Yes. In Confirmation class, ages ago, I remember being instructed that “Religion is the cult owed to God as the first principle of all things.” The practice of awareness of that straight line of accountability seems to have got lost in the woods. Not the bright and gentle 100-acre Wood, but in the shadowy woods stalked by the prince of this world, the Stained Glass Jungle.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
1 year ago

This makes Barchester Towers seem like Listen with Mother.

Last edited 1 year ago by Malcolm Knott
Alison Wren
Alison Wren
1 year ago

And yet the Church continues to push the safeguarding nightmare that is gender ideology. Men who say they are women in womens prisons, boys in school who say they are girls in the girls toilets, changing rooms and dormitories, men who say they are women in rape crisis centres. I cannot get ANYONE in the Church of England to meet with me and discuss this issue. Emails ignored, supposed appointments broken. All to protect the so-called transgender priests and high profile autogynephiles (not naming any names, but many will know of whom I speak).

Peter Scott
PS
Peter Scott
1 year ago

Women priests, blessing in church of the marriages of divorced persons (whose first spouse is still living; cf Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles), ordination of practising homosexual priests – all contrary to the explicit word of God in the New Testament; bishops and archbishops constantly sounding off about the ‘social’ gospel (their leftwing politics) and seemingly uninterested in converting souls, getting people to be The New Creature in Christ (the ideal human beings God has always wanted us to be)….
Has the Church of England anything to do with Christianity nowadays?

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

It is possible to be a Christian and left wing!

Peta Seel
Peta Seel
1 year ago

I read Barchester Towers for the fist time a couple of years ago, and from the perspective of an active member of a CofE congregation for many years. There was not a single character in it that I did not recognise!
390 clergy were convicted of such abuse between the Forties and 2018. I don’t know if this makes us clergy greater abusers of children than postmen or accountants or teachers.”
I suspect that an investigation into orphanages, children’s care homes, fostering agencies etc. would turn up a lot more than 390 abusers of children between the Forties and 2018. Those kind of institutions are magnets for them.

Christopher Barclay
CB
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago
Reply to  Peta Seel

True. All professions offering access to children have been attractive to paedophiles.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
1 year ago

Why don’t these bishops just change their motto to “when you’re in a hole, keep digging” ?
Martyn Percy may have his faults (though it appears that none have been proven and it seems every investigation has cleared him, so as Ifar as I can see he is innocent), but these are nothing compared to those of his opponents.
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” !
Honestly, the sooner we get the C of E disestablished and stop the pretence that they represent England, the better. What a shower.

Eric Rasmusen
Eric Rasmusen
1 year ago

(1) I’d like to see an article laying out what happened with Percy. Not just for Oxford’s sake, but as an example of a process. Is there a good one out there?
(2) Keeping your door open and going for walks with troubled people (a great idea!) is good, not bad. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” I have always done that with my economics undergrads. It is for my soul more than my fear of being sued. Of course,most students are far from tempting, but one needs a general rule.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Rasmusen

On (1), I quite agree. I’ve read several accounts of this odd and sorry saga, but have always been left with the feeling of being not much the wiser (or better informed)

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Rasmusen

So would I, but I doubt we’re going to see such an article.
However, I’ve had a fairly reliable account from someone close enough and reliable enough to understand what happened. I’m fairly sure that the balance of fault in the matter is no more than 10% Percy vs 90% Christ Church. And likely far lower (quite possibly zero).
The astronomical severance package Percy achieved tells you everything here.
The incompetence of Christ Church in getting into this mess and then keeping digging is just staggering. Glad I went to Cambridge.

Deborah Bromley
DB
Deborah Bromley
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Martyn and his lovely wife Emma were parish priests where I live, before moving into more academic roles. It was clear through their ministry that both were really good people. I’m glad that Martyn didn’t cave in to the collosal pressures he faced. The wider public now know how “ugly” in all senses of the word Christ Church is. It’s good to be reminded of this and the final outcome.

Allison Barrows
AB
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Yet another tragic story confirming there are no institutions that aren’t utterly, irredeemably corrupt. Our only hope is to appeal directly to The Source.

Anthony Reader-Moore
Anthony Reader-Moore
1 year ago

I was leaving my study door open thirty years ago when I was a CofE vicar, especially if the interviewee was young and single. Even then it seemed safer both for them and myself. I am glad to be retired and out of the ‘front-line’ as it seems a very dangerous place!
Tony Reader-Moore

Tony Lee
Tony Lee
1 year ago

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Be that within the church, politics of all hues (the apparently virtuous are always the power less), FIFA, UEFA, IOA, Universities etc etc And so the church is simply a reflection of the human condition and made worse by it’s hypocrisy and normalisation of the unacceptable. No church could be born today, established upon the behaviour of the C of E or Catholic Church – they’d be in court in no time under any objective inspection. Shameful really and thank ‘god’ that there are still those who might speak out even at risk to their livelihoods and lives.

geoffrey cox
geoffrey cox
1 year ago

Though I’m all for anything which deters child-abusers, I think it’s a pity that Fr Fraser should perpetuate the notion that the passage about drowning people with millstones is about them. The condemnation is of those who cause believers in Jesus (often termed ‘little children;) to ‘stumble’ (σκανδαλίζειν), probably by leading them astray by false doctrines. The connection of ideas with what goes before – ‘children’ – is purely verbal, as is often the case in the Gospels.

Jane Hewland
JH
Jane Hewland
1 year ago

And this is why although I have a faith, I no longer seem to have a church. This and their utterly craven behaviour over Covid. Odd position to be in. I go to church because it’s a wonderful 900 year old building steeped in history, with a great choir and wonderful acoustics. But I sit there seething at the general wrong-headedness, chicanery, cowardice, pompous self righteousness and even cruelty of the institution. None of this is what I would call Christianity.

Gordon Arta
GA
Gordon Arta
1 year ago

Organised religion is all about the interests of the organisation, and ‘religion’ is simply the theme of the products and services it sells.

Andrew Bell
AB
Andrew Bell
1 year ago

The case of Martyn Percy is not so simple. Christ Church, where I got my degree, is like all educational establishments these days predominantly liberal. It isn’t a matter of liberals against conservatives, though the frondeurs of Percy’s party, prominently perhaps himself, have, with considerable organisational ruthlessness, skilfully promoted this thesis.
The Dean has to work with the Canons running the diocese and with the Students (what we would elsewhere call Fellows) running the College (or House, “Aedes Christi”, as it is known). As one very senior Churchman said to me, the Church today no longer has people of the calibre to perform these two functions simultaneously.
Unlike in the days of Henry Chadwick, of whom Hugh Trevor-Roper memorably observed “If you went into Harrods and asked for a Dean of Christ Church, Henry Chadwick is what you would be given”.
If the Senior Common Room and the Diocese had turned against him, which from my sources, including other heads of houses, they had, it was an example of unanimity rare indeed in the annals of the Church but quite unheard of in an academic institution of this type.
Perhaps we should be wiser to see this as an unhappy marriage, best ended sooner than it was, and where judgment should pause at the reflection that neither party behaved faultlessly, and not attempt to go further.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Bell

I think we can agree that Christ Church’s management structure is not only archaic, but ridiculous. That’s on Christ Church, not Percy. Remember, they chose him in the first place. Now they’ve lost over £1m cleaning up their own mess. Are they completely incompetent down there ?

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

A whiff of “Porterhouse Blue” perhaps? Tom Sharpe would have loved it.

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
1 year ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

A welcome, very amusing, take on it. Thanks!

Iris C
Iris C
1 year ago

I wonder how many scholarships could have been awarded if the squandered millions had been directed towards educating students rather than on virulent power struggles within the college..

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

Here, for anyone interested is Alannah Jeune’s response to the former Dean’s complaints:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/05/13/exclusive-victim-breaks-silence-reveal-alleged-sexual-harassment/

Douglas Gray
DG
Douglas Gray
1 year ago

What needs to happen is that the Monarchy must separate itself from the Church of England, so that it will have to stand on its own as regards providing spiritual upliftment. Having the link between the Church and the Monarchy is harmful on so many levels.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago

“Suffer little children to come unto me”

Mathew. 19:14.

Mel and Shirley Rich
Mel and Shirley Rich
1 year ago

This is sad. The greatest need is for THE CHURCH to rediscover The Kingdom of God…not the church who has lost the Kingdom. The Kingdom is total as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Adrian Doble
AD
Adrian Doble
1 year ago

Love thy neighbour

DC Taylor
DC Taylor
1 year ago

How sad for the church, the Church of England, the Roman Catholics or any other denomination plagued by charges of abuse, real or not, and choose cover up, innuendo and denial to address the situation. Discussions about the churches’ shortcomings and failures take away the glory of God, the beauty of salvation and grace. The real abusers, whether accused or not, whether discovered or not, will have their day of judgement and then be handled appropriately according to God’s will. The church (and I don’t mean specific denominations) should only be for worship. Large organizations, their administration and their doctrines, too often get in the way of God’s will, thereby preventing his blessings to God’s clergy and to lay Christians. Stop the murmuring. Judge offenders as God would, not stopping short of fully implementing God’s will, stop the intra-group “politics” and set the church as it should be in God’s sight.

Nicholas Rowe
Nicholas Rowe
1 year ago

The subsequent history of the church was all prefigured in Apostle Paul’s epistles.
See how these Christians love one another, any unbelievers will say, if they pay any attention to this wrangle between clergy.

Richard Hovey
Richard Hovey
1 year ago

So sad.

Betty Parton
BP
Betty Parton
1 year ago

I’d love to know how an age discrimination charge fits in with the narrative we have been presented. Yes, believe women, but when things don’t add up that just makes it harder for the cause across the board. If this was truly about sexual harassment and feeling uncomfortable in the workplace, why this? https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions/ms-a-jeune-v-reverend-m-percy-and-the-dean-and-chapter-of-the-cathedral-church-of-christ-in-oxford-of-the-foundation-of-king-henry-the-eighth-3300927-slash-2021-and-others

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

Among the 100s of strands in Abrahamic religion based on the “people of the book” CofE is perhaps the worst. They lack the swivel eyed commitment of Wahabism or the Charadim or the chilled out laissez-faire of modern Mediterranean Catholocism. Aside from an adjunct supporting the English state like a Russian Patriach or Persian Ayatollah there is no reason for them to exist. Sadly for these pseudo Christians a cleric is NOT supposed to be clubbable! The word for Cleric in Korashan languages is “Taliban”. I think Percy did a pretty good job at living up to his name. God help the “Bishop” of oxford if the roles are ever reversed, he’ll find himself being re-educated.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago

It will come as no surprise to those familiar with Roman civilisation- undoubtedly the greatest the world has ever seen- that ‘they’ were completely relaxed about pederasty.
Unfortunately the mandatory adoption of a Semitic Necro Cult, now known as Christianity in the late Fourth century shattered this classical idyll, and replaced it with a barbaric world, riven by cant, superstition, and prejudice.
The ramifications of that fatal decision, made on the 27th February, 380 AD*are still with us, as this apposite essay so succinctly tells us.

(*1133 AUC.)

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
1 year ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

You’re quite right – they were completely relaxed about pederasty, and (of course) a number of other things, such as slavery, genocide of enemies (cf Caesar in Gaul), forced prostitution, exposure of unwanted children – particularly girls – and so on. Since it was the introduction of Christianity that (pace Gibbon) gradually eradicated these things, or at least provided the rationale to do so, I take it that you’re happy with those practices?

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

Slavery and Genocide existed quite happily under Christianity, the former being eventually abandoned because it was a rotten economic system. As to “forced prostitution “ are you referring to economic necessity?
Exposure of infants is hard to quantify but I suspect prior to the Black Death was as widely practiced in the Medieval World as in the Classical.

To remain in the same vein as your question no doubt you approve of the institutional misogyny that is/was practiced by Christianity up to the time of Gladstone and even beyond.
Even today a female Pope – Mama- not a Papa is unthinkable to many, a concept which would frankly have astonished the Ancient Romans. ( Vesta).

Some, perhaps your good self included, may believe we are at the very zenith of our civilisation. Perhaps from a scientific point of view, but from a philosophical standpoint, particularly in regard to sexual prejudices and the equally important status of women, we lag far behind the standards set by the Pax Romana.

We set ourselves a low standard and can’t even maintain that, as this essay apply demonstrates.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

The Romans were not completely relaxed with pederasty, they regarded it as a Greece perversion. It might have gone on but it wasn’t sanctioned, even Hadrian was looked at askance for his s*xual preferences.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago

Yes but it wasn’t legally persecuted, as it was here within living memory.
Off course it wasn’t the only ‘Greece perversion’ the Romans mocked, even beards were the source of some mockery as I recall.
As to Antinous,* Hadrian had clearly breached the accepted etiquette that was meant to be observed between the Erastes and the Eromenos, so he had to go.

(* Reputed to have “a bottom like a peach”.)

Steve Osmond
SO
Steve Osmond
1 year ago

As you yourself admit in this piece, the Church has a scandalous record of facilitating and harbouring abuse. If you make a personal choice to publicly associate with it, you’re going to get some negative repercussions from it. These are your choices, and these are the consequences for making the conscious decision to be the public face of a deeply corrupt institution.

Francis MacGabhann
FM
Francis MacGabhann
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Osmond

That would only make sense if the reaction was uniform wherever there was “a scandalous record of facilitating abuse”. It isn’t. Nobody cares when it happens in schools or care homes, therefore something other than a natural revulsion against paedophilia is driving this.

Ian Barton
IB
Ian Barton
1 year ago

It is the supposed “place on a pedestal” occupied by priests that increases the disgust that people feel when “the holy” do the abusing.
In short a blatant hypocrisy added to the appalling crime.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Agreed. Religions are particularly prone to preach the comprehensive nature of their values and then some of their priests (etc.) show human failings. This is regrettable and entirely human.
But the blackest hypocrisy is when those in positions of power within the religion ignore, lie, spin, misdirect to ‘protect’ the organisation. This is entirely corrupt and over time undermines the ‘good works’ and trust of the ‘flock’.

Ian Barton
IB
Ian Barton
1 year ago

I’d suggest that you might consider removing the statement “Nobody cares” from your comment.
Sure – the BBC don’t seem interested in covering ongoing child rape – but others do care enormously.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

Who says ‘nobody cares’? The Catholic Church presided institutionally over a large amount of abuse carried out by its clergy, and then, disgracefully, tried to cover this up and protect the abusers by quietly moving them on.

If the same were true, say, of a network of care homes or schools, the same condemnation should apply. If you mean by your comments on the state above, that any organisation should somehow be exempt from the law, then I disagree.

Francis MacGabhann
FM
Francis MacGabhann
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I mean by my comments that all organizations should be answerable, but the public seems to reserve its opprobrium only for clerical abusers. As I said above, as far as the rest are concerned, nobody cares. Why? Ian Barton suggests it’s because the religious are perceived to be — and should be — on a higher pedestal, therefore their fall is greater. He is correct, but I suspect this is only part of the answer. My own feeling is that, once these abuses came to light, there were no exemplars to aspire to and a cry of “that’s it boys, we can all fill our boots now” went out. That’s why abuses in, say, children’s homes and sporting organizations attract little interest from the public. Those groupings were not chivvying people to act more morally, and liberation from that does produce a great feeling of euphoria, especially when it seems that everybody is of the same opinion. Unfortunately, to quote Bishop Fulton Sheen, “moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right even if nobody is right”

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Osmond

Swimming coaching, football coaching, teaching and many other activities also have “a scandalous record of facilitating and harbouring abuse”. Three national swimming coaches in a row in Ireland were convicted of child abuse for example. Are you applying the same standards to all people involved in those activities?

Last edited 1 year ago by Stephen Walsh
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Precisely, even some of the most illustrious Public* Schools in the land have had their reputations trashed due to the prevalence of ‘botty bandits’ amongst the staff.
The days of Dr Arnold are long gone.

(* Private or fee paying for US readers.)

Ian Barton
IB
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

No. Although the swimming coaches should have the “key thrown away”’ those people who also parade and preach as though representing a benign higher power should expect to be held to an even higher standard.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Yes, we are. The difference is that there was not active resistance to investigations and accountability on the grounds that the Catholic Church was a superior organisation that arrogantly presumed itself should somehow above state law.

Stephen Walsh
SW
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

You know very little about such secular institutions if you believe there was not active resistance to investigations and accountability in those cases.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

However at least Cormac Murphy-O’Connor was kept out of the House of Lords.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Osmond

I am no fan of the C of E, but this is not reasonable.
You are endorsing “collective punishment” here and calling down retribution on the majority of decent clergy for the actions of a minority for which they have no responsibility and likely have no knowledge. Yes, it’s different for the bishops at the top – they are responsible.
Remember also, that this is a lifetime vocation for many who will have been unaware of these abuses when they joined the Church.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Osmond

Congratulations! You have won today’s thumbs down challenge!
I was on 18 and hoping to overtake you, but got ‘sent off’ at 17.30.