Thursday, 12 December 2013

Said and Unsaid

"'Well, I say things,' said Father Brown in a weak voice, which could alone convey the weakness of the words. 'I say things, but everybody seems to know they mean more than they say. Once I saw a broken mirror and said "Something has happened" and they all answered, "Yes, yes, as you truly say, two men wrestled and one ran into the garden," and so on. I don't understand it, "Something happened," and "Two men wrestled," don't seem to me at all the same; but I dare say I read old books of logic. (GK Chesterton)

One of the interesting things about modern historical research is seeing how historians look at narratives, and step back and see how past historians have been selective with evidence, and made assumptions which frame their narrative.

Filling in the gaps, and making assumptions on what was not said is also something which came up in the States recently.

1.4 Statement from the Right Reverend Bishop of Winchester

"The Deputy Bailiff: The next item of business under A is that I am asked by the Bailiff to draw formally to Members' attention the statement issued by the Right Reverend Bishop of Winchester on 22nd November that, based on Dame Heather Steel's findings to date, the Bishop will not be taking disciplinary action against the Dean or any other member of the clergy in Jersey.  The Dean is a Member of this Assembly and while, of course, there may be other issues to be canvassed in connection with the matter generally, I am sure that Members will want to join me in expressing the greatest pleasure that the Dean has been exonerated from criticism.  [Approbation]"

The Bishop's statement said:

"What I can state at this point, based on Dame Heather's findings to date, is that I will not be taking disciplinary action against any member of the clergy in relation to the handling of the safeguarding complaint in question or the subsequent review process."

But it also went on to state:

"I am all too conscious that questions remain about safeguarding best practice."

That is something that has rather been forgotten in the use of the term "exonerated from criticism", which is the narrative that the Deputy Bailiff is suggesting. But he is going beyond what has been stated, and there is no indication anywhere in the Bishop's statement that "not taking disciplinary action" equates with "exonerated". He is bringing into his narrative something that is not there. It was unsaid.

And moreover, the questions remaining about safeguarding are an indication that there still remains criticism, even if it is not deemed of such seriousness as to warrant disciplinary action. Now that ties more in with the real course of events.

If we look at an earlier statement by the Diocese, we can see that there was a failing of safeguarding, else why would the Dean have had to apologise? Is the Dean to retract the apology? And if he did, would he explain why he felt it necessary to make it? Whatever we present as historical narrative must include that apology.

As the statement said:

"The Very Reverend Robert Key, the Dean of Jersey, has, today, apologised for mistakes in the handling of a safeguarding complaint and added his own apology to that of the Bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury to the vulnerable person at the heart of this matter."

"The Bishop acknowledges that, although mistakes were made, the Dean believed he was acting in good faith."

"The Dean said: 'I regret mistakes that I made in the safeguarding processes and I understand that, upon reflection, it would have been more helpful if I had co-operated more fully with the Korris Review. I now add my own apology to that of the Bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury to the vulnerable person at the heart of this matter.'"

To paraphrase Father Brown, I dare say I read old books of logic, but "exonerated from criticism" hardly seems to match up with the Dean's own confession of "mistakes that I made in the safeguarding processes".

It is as if the Deputy Bailiff wants to draw a veil over the earlier apology. I'd sooner have history that is unvarnished, warts and all, than a version which has been tidied up, sanitised, and air-brushed for public consumption.

And how are improvements to be made to safeguarding? It is now forgotten, in an act of collective amnesia, the practices that were in place which almost certainly increased the risk of a failure to safeguard. Chaperoning an individual in a position of authority to keep an eye on him when he was in close proximity to women is not, as far as I am aware, a practice that would be tolerated in any other organisation (and I've taken soundings), and yet in Jersey, it was an acceptable informal policy at one church.

Putting it in perspective, there are no indications of this occurring in any other Anglican churches within the Island. It is also clear, on reading Korris, that some churches had much better awareness of safeguarding than the one at the centre of the complaint.

But it was the weakness in the system of general policy of safeguarding that meant this church did not have good safeguarding; moreover, the matter was known to the Dean. There were clearly deficiencies, and it has not yet been stated what action is being taken to ensure better safeguarding procedures for the future.

That is something which has also remained unsaid.


Póló said...

There is a serious constitutional row going on between the Church/State in Jersey and the Diocese of Winchester.

Perhaps this is why the Bishop said he would not be taking disciplinary action, because he can't.

If this were the case, then his statement would be the opposite of an exoneration.

James said...


This is familiar ground, horribly so.

Do I recall correctly that a States member claimed that no murder had been done at Haut de la Garenne, and therefore the Power/Harper investigation was a waste of time and money?