I used to get very upset (I've grown up a bit now) when people said the church shouldn't get involved in politics. Not because I necessarily disagreed with that completely but because it's such a sloppy sentence. Who did they mean? By and large, in the 1970s and 80s it meant, 'The clergy shouldn't get involved in party politics,' which is far more specific.
So today's big headline on the BBC news page is:
Church accused of abuse cover-up
Beneath that is a snippet from the story saying, 'The Church of England is accused of covering up child sex abuse carried out by a former choirmaster.'
The illustration is the pectoral cross on the breast of a bishop. Given that there are people who can recognise a football strip from a brief glimpse at the shirt collar I bet someone will tell us which bish it is.
But the suggestion therefore is that the church hierarchy (bishops) covered up. Reading the text of the story we discover that the hiearchy claim they dealt with the case as best they could given the knowledge and practice of the time. One bishop and one vicar, having received an allegation, spoke to the man involved and got him to leave his job. There is no criticism of this in the BBC report. The parents of one of the victims, who made the initial complaint also, presumably, chose not to report the matter to the police. Yet we don't get, 'Parents in abuse cover-up.'
Spokespeople for the Church of England quite rightly point out that current best practice is er, much better. Should it have been much better in the late 1980s when this, admitedly dreadful, abuse happened? It's borderline. At that time I recall having been on the most basic of training sessions on spotting and acting upon allegations of abuse, but this through CYFA Pathfinder Ventures (who run holidays for young people with volunteer leaders) and not the Dioceses of Southwell and Durham for which I worked at the time. I was a venture leader from 1985-2002 and this period saw an extreme increase in the requirements of leaders to understand and deal with potential allegations of abuse.
I also have a good friend who has been a professional in this area of work (working with disadvantaged, abused and excluded children) for many years so my personal knowledge in say, 1990, probably owed more to her than officialdom.
Today I have a small card on my desk with quick reference to best practice in child protection matters following a thorough, top-up training day a few weeks back by the Diocese of Bath and Wells.
My best guess/recollection is that the Dioceses of Southwell and Durham were not early adopters of best practice in these matters but neither were they last in. The CYFA Ventures team were early in.
I think 'Church accused of abuse cover-up' is sloppy given the many shades of meaning of 'church', the absence of such allegations in the story under that heading and the other people who must have, wittingly or unwittingly, colluded in such a cover-up were it to have taken place.
'Church' can mean a representative, many people, a building, a parish, a diocese, a denomination, and world-wide catholic. Let's try and be as clear as we can when speaking of it.