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The archbishops of Canterbury and York, the two most senior Anglican clerics, on Tuesday apologised to victims of sexual abuse within the church ahead of the publication of what is expected to be a damning report.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said the release of the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) would be a “very harrowing time” for survivors of abuse.
“We are truly sorry for the shameful way the church has acted and we state our commitment to listen, to learn and to act in response to the report’s findings,” they wrote in an open letter.
“We cannot and will not make excuses and can again offer our sincere and heartfelt apologies to those who have been abused, and to their families, friends and colleagues.”
The report is expected to tackle the response of the Church of England and the church in Wales to claims of child sexual abuse.
“The report will identify failings that we are already working to change, and failings that we will need to work harder to change,” wrote the archbishops.
The government-created IICSA, which is examining institutions across Britain, last year said the church had “put its own reputation above the needs of victims”.
Its response was marked by “secrecy, prevarication and avoidance of reporting alleged crimes”, the inquiry into abuse in the diocese of Chichester found.
The report also criticised Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, for his “misguided” support along with others of Bishop Peter Ball, a prolific sex offender.
In 2015, Ball admitted and was jailed for abusing 17 teenagers and young men while Bishop of Lewes — part of the Chichester diocese — and Bishop of Gloucester.
He was arrested and cautioned by police in 1992 for gross indecency but the report said the Church allowed him to return to work “with indecent haste”.
Prince Charles, who kept up correspondence with Ball for more than two decades, later insisted he did not know the nature of the clergyman’s 1992 caution.