A call for genuine open discussion

May I through your columns encourage open discussion in the Chichester diocese not least on the subject of justice?

Saturday, 22nd September 2018, 11:00 am

After all, as we heard at the royal wedding – ‘let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream’.

Discussion on this and other topics is lacking. What a breath of fresh air has been the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, with churchmen publicly held to account. Let there be more of it.

Accountability and openness are accepted means in challenging corruption and incompetence, so why not in the Church?

Disquiet has already been expressed in the national press concerning the handling of Bishop Bell’s case, begging the question whether priests have the appropriate skills, knowledge and attitudes to administer justice.

My experience of the diocese’s administration of its complaints policy and procedure begs the same question.

Although this states many worthy intentions, viz. ‘to ensure that all complaints are investigated fairly... to resolve complaints and repair relationships wherever possible... to gather information to help us improve what we do and how we do it’, there was little evidence of them in practice when addressing my complaints.

These involved the failure to engage in correspondence. Silence is a tool of the totalitarian state. In its avoidance of the truth, it is dishonest. It corrodes trust. It is disrespectful.

I discern a sense of entitlement informing such behaviour, echoing the title of Bishop Jones’ Hillsborough report, “The patronising predisposition of unaccountable power”.

Unless challenged, such behaviour perpetuates. Perhaps the recently reported decline in church congregations can be attributed to this mindset rather than to any anti-religion attitudes.

I trust you will allow Bishop Warner and his colleagues space to reply, setting in train genuine open discussion and a proper sense of engagement with our national church.

Paul Devonshire, Lane End, Sidlesham Common