Cathedral deans should not need an MBA to enable them to handle cases of abuse or run a cathedral. An MBA does not increase skills in pastoral care or liturgy; it doesn’t improve preaching and teaching or raise awareness of how to relate a cathedral to the local community or improve the quality of music. A cathedral does need staff trained in accountancy whose voices are heard but it is too common in Britain today to think that accountants are the best people to run hospitals or other organisations.
Finally what are we to say about abuse and the theology of forgiveness? Linda Woodhead claims that ‘a faulty doctrine of forgiveness was used by abusers to salve their consciences, by officials to move on without dealing with the problem, and by parishioners to marginalise “unchristian” victims and whistleblowers’.
Quite honestly, I have never come across this theology of forgiveness. If someone in confession confesses to a serious sin such as abuse or murder the confessor will normally make absolution conditional on the penitent reporting to the police. This is why forcing clergy to reveal what is told to them in confession is huge mistake. Catholic clergy will never break the seal of the confessional but the threat that attempts will be made to make them do so will stop penitents being frank.
As well as sending the penitent to the police, confessors will also point out that God’s forgiveness does not rule out the need for legal penalties or, where appropriate, reparation to victims. Knowing that a pattern of abuse is almost impossible to break, bishops are not being kind or forgiving in moving abusive clergy to another parish. Allowing the law to take its course and then providing some kind of care and counselling for the perpetrator but not a future opportunity of ministry may be the kindest policy.
All this could have been learnt from Jason Berry’s reporting 30 years ago.