Anglican Church in trouble over gay priest’s suicide


Both the Catholic Church and the Church of England have admitted a gay priest’s suicide followed systemic failures in the way they handled false sexual abuse allegations.

Father Alan Griffin, 78, died last in November. He had been under investigation although the allegations were never explained to him.

The claims were “supported by no complainant, no witness and no accuser”, said Coroner Mary Hassell.

The events leading to the gay priest’s suicide began after an official in the Anglican Diocese of London retired in 2019.

He suggested to his archdeacon that he undertake a “brain dump” of information he had acquired over the preceding two decades.

This included both substantiated and unsubstantiated information, some of which the official said was gossip.

The archdeacon decided assessing whether it was “gossip” was not his job and left it for the director of safeguarding.

The director of safeguarding said deciding what to do should be for “safeguarding professionals”.

No-one took responsibility for making reasonable decisions based on the evidence.

“The origin of the information in the entries was in places obvious and factual, but in places entirely nebulous,” Hassell’s subsequent report says.

“He was an HIV positive … gay priest. He killed himself because he could not cope with an investigation into his conduct, the detail of and the source for which he had never been told.”

During the year-long investigation before his suicide, Griffin converted to Catholicism. Last June, the Catholic safeguarding team met him to discuss a background check.

The Anglican Church had given the team a summary of allegations against Griffin. It was inaccurate and omitted mention of Griffin’s earlier suicide when he learned of his HIV status.

Hassell’s report is unequivocal about Griffin’s innocence of the allegations against him.

One allegation maintained he “used rent boys”, which suggests the use of male sex workers, but is often interpreted as involving the abuse of children.

“Fr Griffin did not abuse children. He did not have sex with young people under the age of 18. He did not visit prostitutes. He did not endanger the lives of others by having sex with people whilst an HIV risk,” Hassell wrote.

“There was no evidence that he did any of these things.”

Hassell also wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury (pictured) informing him of the “breadth of the systemic and individual failings which had come to light.

“It is often the case that organisations have already themselves recognised their errors and have undertaken meaningful attempts at improvement by the time of the inquest.

“This was not the case here.”

The Bishop of London has vowed to ensure any allegations is taken seriously, and referrals made where appropriate to statutory agencies and other relevant parties. She also says there will be a review, which will look for ways “to shape any necessary changes to our reporting processes in the future.”

Welby is also planning to work with all those involved in the safeguarding process, “especially the Diocese of London.”


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