Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Rewriting History

‘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. – G.K. Chesterton, The Scandal of Father Brown

I must be reading the same old books of logic, because I’ve just been reading the latest BBC News posting about the call for the publication of the Dame Heather Steele enquiry.

The report states that:

“Reverend Key was suspended for two months in March 2013 for allegedly failing to properly investigate the treatment of the 26-year-old woman. He was reinstated after apologising for anything he might have got wrong in the handling of the abuse complaint.”

And the timeline also has this:

“April 2013 - Dean Key is reinstated after apologising for anything he might have got wrong in the handling of an abuse complaint”

But when you look at the original report, it says the following:

Dean Key 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 [safeguarding} Review."

Now my old books of logic tell me that if I said “I apologise for anything I may have got wrong”, which is implied by the recent reporting, that does not mean the same thing as “I regret mistakes I made”.

The new story is saying that there may or may not have been mistakes, and if there were, an apology is being issued.

But the old one said – and quoted the Dean as saying – that there were mistakes that he did actually make.

That’s not anything he might have got wrong, but an apology for things he did get wrong.

It is very important that we should not rewrite history to suit our own slant on matters, and I don’t know where the new story comes from, but it directly contradicts the Dean’s own words.

If the Dean has retracted his apology in the form it was made, I think we should be told.

Meanwhile, the retiring Bailiff, Sir Michael Birt, has said on BBC Radio that he regrets the Dean’s suspension, the disconnect with Winchester, and the failure to release the Steele report.

He also stated words to the effect that it was certainly not about a personal conflict between two individuals, the Bishop of Winchester and the Dean.

While the whole matter has mushroomed, rather like the Dreyfus Affair, with people taking sides, and the Church becoming polarised between Winchester and Jersey, there can be little doubt to outside observers that it is precisely a quarrel or disagreement between two individuals which has led to the whole split.

It is rather like trying to remove Henry VIII and the Pope from events that led up to the English Reformation. Now I would not cast either protagonist in those roles, but cite it just to show how conflicts and separations are often caused by disagreements between individuals. In those cases, and in this case, it would be a mistake to downplay the role of the personal conflict in the events which transpired.

As an outside observer, what seems to have happened is that a series of rash decisions caused an estrangement between the Bishop and the Dean, which can been seen (for example) both in the Korris report being published, the suspension of the Dean, but also the Dean’s refusal to participate in the enquiry even before there was any notion that it would be made public (as stated in his apology).

This escalated, as other Anglican individuals, particularly in Jersey, seem to have sought not a reconciliation between the two sides, but a division between them. I won’t name anyone as the possible contender for Thomas Cromwell, but I suspect there are at least two individuals who would easily fit that role. Wolf Hall casts a long shadow.

That is why it is being described as a “temporary” arrangement. If there was a new Bishop of Winchester, and a new Dean, much of the original cause of the conflict would be gone. Whether Jersey can get back to Winchester is another matter, and much would depend on the good will of the other participants who, so far, seem to have been more content to stir up disunity than to look for a rapprochement.

People tell me that they  find it quite amazing that two grown men cannot sit down together, and sort out their difficulties, or if they are unable to do so on their own, that a mediator cannot be found. Is there no ecclesiastical equivalent of relate? The fact that other grown men have also got in on the act, with what appear to be silly power games, will not endear the Church of England in Jersey to outsiders.



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