Church of England 'put reputation before abuse victims': Report

LONDON (AFP) - The Church of England "put its own reputation above the needs of victims" of sexual abuse by clergy, a damning report found Thursday (May 9).

Its response was marked by "secrecy, prevarication and avoidance of reporting alleged crimes", an inquiry into abuse in the diocese of Chichester found.

The report also criticised Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, for his "misguided" support along with others of Bishop Peter Ball, a prolific sex offender.

In 2015, Ball admitted and was jailed for abusing 17 teenagers and young men while Bishop of Lewes - part of the Chichester diocese - and Bishop of Gloucester.

He was arrested and cautioned by police in 1992 for gross indecency but the report said the Church allowed him to return to work "with indecent haste".

The report was conducted by the government-created Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which is examining institutions across Britain.

"For years, the Diocese of Chichester failed victims and survivors of child sexual abuse by prioritising its own reputation above their welfare," said IICSA chairwoman Professor Alexis Jay.

"Peter Ball is one example of how a senior member of the clergy was able to sexually abuse vulnerable teenagers and young men for decades," she added.

"The public support he received is reflective of the Church's culture at the time; a support that was rarely extended to his victims."

The Church's most senior cleric in 1992, then Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, defended Ball in what the report said showed "poor judgement" and a failure to recognise victims' experiences.

The report said Prince Charles also acted in a way that appeared to be sympathetic, including maintaining a correspondence with Ball for more than two decades after the 1992 caution.

Given that the prince will be supreme governor of the Church when he becomes king, the report said his behaviour "had the potential to influence the actions of the Church".

Charles later insisted he did not know the nature of the caution against Ball, but the report said he did not try to find out.

A spokesman for the prince said Thursday that "at no time did he bring any influence to bear" over the case.

"It remains a matter of deep regret to the prince that he, along with many others, was deceived by Peter Ball over so many years," the spokesman said.

"His thoughts remain with victims of the abuse suffered over many years."