To their credit, the Scottish Liberal Party have moved swiftly to suspend and investigate Lord Steel’s case. In this they put to shame the Church of England. At virtually the same time problems have again hit the Church of England with reports
from Chester Crown Court that the local Diocesan Bishop had received an admission from a priest abuser but accepted an assurance that he “would not do it again”. This has resulted in campaigning journalist Andrew Graystone writing to directly call for the Bishop’s resignation.
In both cases, plainly those exercising misjudgement are not bad people. I constantly remind readers that the context of the time must be factored in. However, the time for this to be an excuse allowing us to continue, simply apologising, undertaking a “learned lesson review’ and moving on, has surely passed. That scenario has been played out too many times in too many places. Victims need to see more robust responses either from the individuals concerned or from the relevant institutions.
Until such public figures pay a price, either through voluntarily resignation, through the withdrawal of honours conferred upon them, or through being shunned by the court of public opinion, we shall continue to have a culture of minimisation and cover-up. Hitherto the only ones who have paid a price for these matters coming into the public domain are the victims who have to revisit their history of pain, humiliation, anger and all the tragedies within their personal lives that go with this.
If the Establishment, secular or faith, is to retain any credibility, it is time for its members to grasp the personal responsibility that such cases require. Great reputation and personal advantage goes with pubic status: with great privilege goes great responsibility. Respect for both victims betrayed and the institutions served requires no more feet shuffling but bold moral acceptance of consequence through principled resignation.
Anything less would demonstrate precisely the kind of cynicism which our Archbishop advised us to give up for Lent when he addressed the General Synod last month. It will continue to poison our public discourse unless or until those privileged with public approval voluntarily surrender it when public confidence is no longer merited.