We welcome the priority the Church of England has accorded in recent years to improving its record on safeguarding. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has produced its final report and it is clear that more needs to be done. We know that all those involved in the life of the Church will strive to meet the challenges arising.
There is one particular strand of the report which we must respond to immediately given its serious – and negative – implications for Church life and that is the recommendation that there should be a duty of disclosure for serious safeguarding matters. The duty would be without exception, thus breaching the Seal of Confession.
We are unaware of any evidence to suggest that the Seal of Confession has hampered progress on safeguarding in any way. Equally, we are unaware of any evidence to suggest that applying the duty of disclosure to Confession will lead to improvements in safeguarding.
Moreover, we feel deeply uneasy at a secular body seeking to impinge on the administration of the Church’s sacraments – of which Confession is one – which are at the core of its mission to the world, and which have been provided by God to His people as channels of His grace. The sacraments are preserved and administered by the Church and do not belong to us; they are therefore not ours to amend.
We now need to spend time studying the report in detail and consulting with ecumenical partners before responding further.
The Trustees of Forward in Faith
20 October 2022
Footnote: Paragraph 109 on page 230 of the IICSA final report is of particular concern to us and, no doubt, many others seeking to uphold the Church’s received understanding of the nature of the sacrament of Confession.