In sworn testimony yesterday before the Church of England’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby allegedly lied under oath. The allegations were made by Matthew Ineson, a survivor of child sexual abuse, whose abuser, a priest in the Church of England, committed suicide when the allegations became public.
During his testimony, Welby claimed that he apologized to Ineson during a meeting at Lambeth Palace in November 2016, and by letter in July 2017. Yet neither Ineson nor his attorney recall any such apology during the meeting, nor have they received Welby’s purported letter.
Ineson’s contentions appear consistent with an email from Moira Murray, the senior casework manager for the Church of England’s national safeguarding team, which references the November meeting, and says that no formal apology would be issued until after the legal case against Ineson’s abuser was complete. The abuser was not criminally charged, however, until seven months after the meeting.
Of course, the fact that Welby claims he sent a written apology in July 2017 — one which the victim has not seen — illustrates a larger problem. Had the Church of England been following up with an appropriate pastoral response, it would have known right away that the letter was not received. Indeed, it would have been appropriate to hand-deliver the letter, and ensure that someone was there to answer questions or address concerns, if any. But, as is often the case when it comes to church abuse, the approach is to do as little as possible, as late as possible.
Or, as ++ Welby said, “And we have to learn to put actions behind the words, because ‘sorry’ is pretty cheap.”
Yup, sorry is cheap. But Welby doesn’t even do that well, or with integrity.