Thursday, 17 July 2008

Should I be worried?

As it happens, this evening I came across a story in the press about the appointment of a minister. Out of habit, I 'googled' his name, and found a number of stories associated with the same person, which made me wonder if the right decision is being taken. I have blanked out the crucial details but here are the two principle stories side by side, as it were.

First, there is the 2008 story:
"A popular vicar whose work attracts worshippers “in their hundreds” has been put in charge of -- parishes across ---.

The Rev --, rector of -, has been appointed area Dean of -, [...].

Mr - takes over from --, of St -’s Church, -, who is moving to -. A new minister will be appointed at St -’s and Mr - will still be in charge at St -, -.

The Rt Rev --, Bishop of -, praised Mr - as a “first-class” priest. He added: “He is able to offer very strong support to other clergy and parishes.

“He has a great deal of church experience and runs a parish where people simply are coming to the church in their hundreds.”

Then there is this about the same person, from November 2006:
An MP has called for the removal of a vicar after it emerged he was jailed for allegedly having sex with young girls.

The Rev -- had the convictions overturned on appeal and was freed.

However, -- MP -- said Mr -, who has been the subject of a fresh police investigation, should be "removed from the priesthood completely".

[The MP] said that although Mr -'s conviction in 1988 had been quashed, he felt the case raised concerns.

In a separate case Mr - admitted having sex with a girl but insisted she was 16.

[The MP] said: "I have written to the Bishop of - and asked him to put the protection of children above the protection of the church's priests and I am waiting for a response."

Mr - [...]was recently reinstated as Rector of - after a year-long investigation by -- Police into "child protection issues", which resulted in no charges.

He was supported by the MP during the investigations.

However, now [the MP] has called for Mr - to be sacked after learning he was jailed for six months in - 19-- for indecently assaulting three girls aged 13 to 15.

He served his prison sentence, minus remission, but an appeal court hearing quashed the convictions ruling them "un-safe and unsatisfactory".

It was ruled the three cases should have been heard separately, rather than together.

The allegations were made while Mr - was chaplain at - in -, -.

He later became curate of St --, in -.

[He] was said to have had an affair with a 13-year-old girl, which lasted two years.

He was also said to have had a relationship with a 15-year-old girl after meeting her at a youth group at her school.

In a separate trial in - 19--, Mr - was charged with the indecent assault of another teenage girl.

He admitted having sex with her, but insisted she was 16 at the time.

He was also acquitted on this charge.

[The MP] called for the Diocese of -, which employs Mr -, to investigate why the - vicar was hired despite his past.

[The MP] said: "I was first made aware of these matters by the police two weeks ago and I immediately wrote to - Child Protection and the Bishop of -, the Rt Rev --.

"I am yet to receive any answers to my questions in my letter to the bishop about whether he knew, and particularly if the church sought to protect its vicar, rather than our children."
Is this a case of past sins forgiven? (I think of Luther's remark, "If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners.") Or is the church (specifically the bishop) acting unwisely? I can't help thinking "Ray Lewis".


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  1. John, haven't you heard of the principle of innocent until proved guilty? In fact this man was apparently acquitted, twice. So he should be accepted as innocent. It is not "a case of past sins forgiven" because there are no sins, at least none that we know about. Well, sex with a 16-year-old, outside marriage, is a sin, but presumably one which can be forgiven. Also how old was he at the time?

    I'm sure this man is being watched carefully by his bishop. Also like any person in the church he should not be left alone with teenagers, as a protection for himself as well as for them. His appointment as Area Dean is probably quite an appropriate one as I doubt if he will be tempted by teenage girls on his Deanery Synod!

  2. I understand the age of consent is different in the US and your country. Even so, while it may not have been a crime to engage in sex with a 16 year old (as admitted), it is an abuse of the trust and power of a religious leader. I forgave the dog that bit me, but I never put my hand in that spot again. The Bishop should use similar wisdom.

    U.P. Rock Hill, SC USA

  3. I'm hoping that is someone different. If it isn't, I'm not convinced I'd be comfortable with him being around any teenage girls of my aquaintance, given that he appears to have admitted having sexual relations with several of them in the past. Maybe I am reading too much into what you said.

    Joe, Coventry.

  4. Arrgh, a similar thing is happening in San Francisco.

    Former murderer turned priest charged with sex abuse.

    UP Rock Hill SC

  5. Joe, it is the same person.

    Peter, according to the dates available, the person concerned would have been 33/34 at the time of the incident with the 16 year-old, and would also have been ordained then. I rather hope he was not then married!

    You say you're sure he is being watched carefully by his bishop. I hope he doesn't need to be watched carefully - it would be very odd to promote a man who needed to be watched!

    My worry is not really about his forgiveness - of that we can be sure. It is rather that the Church authorities seem to have a habit of failing to respond adequately (see the Ray Lewis situation). In 2007 the man in this present case was working under a supervision scheme drawn up by his diocesan child protection team. Yet he has now been made an area Dean - surely something of a promotion to a supervisory role?

    It just seems odd to me.