The Christian yearning for reconciliation can lead to damaging pressure on sex abuse victims to forgive their abusers, the churches of Britain and Ireland have been warned.
David Gamble, moderator of a group that drew up a report to churches on the issue, said, “Often we demand that abuse victims forgive – without thinking what this means when the pains and scars have not been addressed.”
Mr. Gamble was speaking at the public launch on Dec. 3 of Time for Action, published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, an organization of 32 churches. Although a series of cases in recent years have focused on the Roman Catholic church, the report is clear that the sexual abuse of both adults and children is an issue facing all churches.
The report criticizes the leadership of both the Roman Catholic church and the Church of England for deflecting attention from “institutional failure” over sex abuse onto individual members of the pastorate. It urges strong action to end “the culture of silence and secrecy that surrounds many aspects of ministry and church life.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, called the report “sometimes devastating reading, but it is timely, necessary and – if we are prepared to hear and act on some unwelcome truths – ultimately hopeful.”