Bishop’s apology to abuse victims

VICTIMS of the St Andrew’s Church abuse scandal have this week received an apology from the Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev Wallace Benn.

In a statement issued yesterday morning, the bishop and John Hind, the Bishop of Chichester, said they apologised unreservedly for “any past mistakes which may have left children vulnerable and which may have more recently made victims feel that they have not been taken seriously”.

The church has been criticised for allowing disgraced priest Roy Cotton to continue practising despite a conviction for and allegations of sexually abusing children.

Cotton was convicted of indecently assaulting a child in 1954 yet was allowed to go on to become a priest and served at St Andrew’s Church, in Seaside, from 1976 to 1984.

He was also barred from having any connection with the scout movement in the 1950s.

He was arrested in 1997 for abusing choirboys at St Andrew’s but died in 2006 before being charged.

There are thought to be other victims who have yet to come forward who suffered at the hands of Cotton.

The current priest at St Andrew’s is in no way connected with the case.

The two bishops said on Thursday they wanted to put on record their profound sadness and regret for the pain caused to all who had been abused.

They said, “The abuse of children under any circumstances is a tragedy and an affront to their human dignity.

“This is a particular betrayal when it is committed in the church where people should be safe and respected.

“The abuse committed during the 1970s and 1980s by the priest is particularly harrowing and we are determined to learn from this experience and do all that we can to create and maintain the safest possible environment for all involved in the life of the church.

“We are also both very sorry for any weaknesses in implementation of our procedures that may have compounded the problem for victims.

“Recent changes in policy and practice have already been introduced. Although we are confident in our current policies and procedures, we shall subject them to continuous independent scrutiny.”