Paedophile ex-priest may have officiated in church without permission
Disgraced former Eastbourne priest, Robert Coles, could have officiated in church without proper permission.
The Diocese of Chichester has launched an investigation that Coles conducted acts of worship as a priest at St Luke’s in Stone Cross after his retirement in December 1997.
Last month, the 71-year-old from Upperton Road, Eastbourne, pleaded guilty to 11 charges of abusing boys in West Sussex, Devon, Cornwall and the Isle of Wight dating back to the 1970s.
Now church authorities are investigating claims that after his retirement, Coles assumed the role of priest on well over a hundred occasions between 1997 and early 2003 without the legally required ‘Permission to Officiate’ status.
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Chichester said last night that it wasn’t clear what acts of worship were involved, and whether these included baptisms, weddings or funerals.
In a statement, the Diocese said: “As has already been made clear in the interim report of the Archiepiscopal Visitation into the Diocese of Chichester, to invite or permit a cleric to officiate without a proper licence or permission to officiate is an ecclesiastical offence.
“If any of the relevant persons who allowed the situation described above to happen were still ministering in the Diocese, and if they turned a blind eye in any way, they will face disciplinary proceedings.
“The fact that Mr Coles illegally exercised a priestly ministry after he was investigated by Sussex Police for offences of child abuse, and after he made a partial admission as to the truth of those allegations in 1997 to Diocesan authorities, shows that the processes followed at the time were seriously flawed.
“Both the Bishop of Chichester and the Archbishop of Canterbury made clear on the day of sentencing how seriously these failures are viewed.”
The Diocese said that very strict procedures were now in place to prevent anything like this from happening again.
“No priest is granted permission to officiate without a satisfactory disclosure and barring Service (CRB) check, and it has been made clear across the Diocese that disciplinary action will be taken against any priest who seeks to exercise ministry without the correct permissions, or who permits another priest to do so,” added the Diocese in their statement.
“We continue to deplore the abuse of young and vulnerable people.
“Where the Diocese bears responsibility for clergy who have perpetrated these crimes we are ashamed and continue to offer apology and whatever support is appropriate.
“In the light of exploring every avenue of investigation, we encourage anyone still burdened with not having spoken about such an experience to come forward in the knowledge that they will be heard, understood and supported.”
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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