Oct. 6 (UPI) -- The Church of England failed to keep children safe from predatory clergy and should hire "safeguarding officers" who can act independently from bishops on sexual abuse allegations, a report concluded Tuesday.
The 170-page report by the Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse slammed the church for not protecting children, saying nearly 400 convicted child sex abusers came from the church between the 1940s and 2018.
"The culture of the Church of England facilitated it becoming a place where abusers could hide," it states. "Deference to the authority of the church and to individual priests, taboos surrounding the discussion of sexuality and an environment where alleged perpetrators were treated more supportively than victims presented barriers to disclosure that many victims could not overcome."
The investigative report called the church's culture "clericalism," in which the moral authority of clergy was widely perceived as beyond reproach, regardless of past accusations.
"In the context of child sexual abuse, the church's neglect of the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of children and young people in favor of protecting its reputation was in conflict with its mission of love and care for the innocent and the vulnerable," it said.
The first of five recommendations called for creating "diocesan safeguarding officers" to replace the church's current safeguarding adviser.
"Diocesan safeguarding officers should have the authority to make decisions independently of the diocesan bishop in respect of key safeguarding tasks," it said.
The officers should be hired locally by the diocesan board of finance and supervised by an independent national safeguarding team, it added.
Other recommendations include revising discipline to make clergy more accountable, improving the way the church responds to accusations and having the Church of England and Church in Wales agree to formal information-sharing protocols.
The report also said the church should adopt a policy to fund and support victims and survivors.
"Over many decades, the Church of England failed to protect children and young people from sexual abusers, instead of facilitating a culture where perpetrators could hide and victims faced barriers to disclosure that many could not overcome," wrote inquiry chair Alexis Jay.