Top UK cleric suspended from active ministry over the way he handled abuse claim

JOHN Sentamu, former Archbishop of York and a member of the House of Lords, has reacted with anger to his suspension, claiming that “safeguarding is very important but it does not trump Church Law.”

The suspension of the “arrogant bully” is centred on Sentamu’s mishandling of a rape allegation made against Anglican priest Trevor Devamanikkam.

Devamanikkam, who committed suicide in 2017 days before he was due to appear in court on sexual abuse charges, was accused of raping 16-year-old Matthew Ineson in the city of Bradford in 1984.

Ineson became a priest, but later left the C of E.

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In 2019 Ineson, above, was quoted by Yorkshire Live as saying:

I cannot see the face of Jesus in the Archbishop of Canterbury or York. The Archbishop of Canterbury consistently takes no further action and, to me, therefore, condones all these actions.

I don’t think those people are fit for office. Bishops sit on thrones. They live in fine palaces and houses, they wear the finest robes and garments, they bully people. People literally kneel down and kiss the ring on their finger.

Ineson said he met Sentamu at a meeting for survivors of clerical abuse at a General Synod in York.

He said he asked the archbishop for an apology for his failure to act on his disclosures but Dr Sentamu replied:

Apologies mean different things to different people.

He added:

He’s arrogant, he’s rude and he’s a bully.

Sentamu’s suspension was reported today (Monday) by Church Times which said that the decision to suspend him came after he rejected the conclusions of a church safeguarding review

The independent review, commissioned by the Church of England in 2017, was published last Thursday.

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After disclosing the abuse to the then Bishop of Sheffield (now the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, above) in 2012, Ineson wrote to Lord Sentamu about this and other disclosures.

The reviewer, a former director of adults’ and children’s services, Jane Humphreys, said:

The Archbishop of York should have sought advice from his Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser at the time as to how to proceed with the letter sent from the survivor. The survivor’s allegation that he disclosed his abuse to the Archbishop of York, and he did not act on this, is substantiated.

Sentamu’s rejection of the decision

In a written response, Lord Sentamu rejects these last points outright, claiming that safeguarding was solely the responsibility of the diocesan bishop and safeguarding officer, and that, by responding to the letter with prayers and assurances, he had not failed to act.

Safeguarding is very important but it does not trump Church Law (which is part of the Common Law of England).

Humphrey’s conclusion that “No church law excuses the responsibility of individuals not to act on matters of a safeguarding nature” is described by Lord Sentamu as “odd and troubling”.

Image via YouTube

Last Saturday, a statement released on behalf of the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, above, said that “having taken appropriate advice”, she had:

Required Lord Sentamu, Honorary Assistant Bishop in Newcastle Diocese, to step back from active ministry until both the findings and his response can be explored further.

The statement said that the decision was “fully supported” by the current Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell.

Sentamu told The Sunday Times that this decision was “devastating”.

They have besmirched my name and I have been made a public example. Those who believe that suspension is a neutral act, its effect on me is more devastating than they will ever imagine.

Meanwhile Ineson, a C of E priest who resigned his incumbency in 2013 after disclosing his ordeal to several bishops, has since called for the suspension of Dr Croft, too. He told The Times:

I lost my home, living, vocation, pension and near sanity. If Croft had any decency he would step down. You cannot ignore disclosures of rape by a priest and do nothing.

The lead bishop for safeguarding, the Bishop of Stepney, Dr Joanne Grenfell, said in a statement regarding the Devamanikkam review that:

The Church should be ashamed that a vulnerable 16-year-old in its care was let down by the Church and abused by someone in a position of trust.

She said she understood “the distinction that Lord Sentamu is trying to make” between his legal responsibilities at the time.

On Sentamu’s assertion that safeguarding did not “trump” Canon law, she said that the culture of the Church—“attitude and behaviour” — on every level needed to change.

The Church of England’s national safeguarding director, Alexander Kubeyinje also supported Sentamu’s suspension.

What happened in this case makes for incredibly harrowing reading and I apologise for the hurt and harm caused to the survivor. The review was to highlight failures and how the Church can and must learn from its past mistakes.

Hat tip: Barriejohn

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2 responses to “Top UK cleric suspended from active ministry over the way he handled abuse claim”

  1. I hope that he is also suspended from the Lords.


  2. Sentamu, like others of his kind, sees no fault in himself. The C. of E. seems more concerned with protecting the perpetrator rather than the victim.

    Liked by 1 person

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