The Diocese in Europe and the Church of England has formally apologised for the inappropriate and abusive behaviour by a former Bishop of the Diocese in Europe, who is now deceased, and failure to follow Church of England policy, following a complaint from a priest who had served in the Diocese.

The priest who wishes to remain anonymous, had alleged that in the late 1970s, when he was a 26 year old Assistant Curate and at a time when he was vulnerable, the Right Reverend John Satterthwaite, who served as Diocesan Bishop from 1970 to 1993, had invited him to his home, on the understanding that there was to be a discussion about a job in the Diocese, plied him with alcohol, made inappropriate comments to him, embraced him and kissed him.

The allegations were not made until 2006 when Bishop Satterthwaite’s behaviour was raised with the then Bishop in Europe. Subsequently a series of meetings and exchange of letters took place between the priest and senior clergy over the following years to try and resolve the issues raised. The matter was finally referred to the National Safeguarding Team and in 2014 to the recently appointed Bishop in Europe, the Right Reverend Robert Innes.

An inquiry to establish the full facts, commissioned by Bishop Robert Innes, by two experienced safeguarding advisers independent of the Diocese in Europe, found that the late Bishop in Europe, John Satterthwaite, had acted inappropriately and in a wholly unbecoming manner to one of his priests in the late 1970s. The facts showed that in the light of the vulnerability of the priest and the imbalance of power between the bishop and the priest, the behaviour was abusive. The facts also showed that the policy of the Church of England had not been followed for although the priest was treated with care and compassion, the issues raised were not treated as safeguarding matters.

As a result of the recommendations of the inquiry a full apology has been offered to the priest concerned. The Church of England and the Diocese in Europe are now working closely with him and his family to provide support as appropriate.

Commenting on the report Bishop Robert Innes said:

“I have apologised to the priest who has raised these issues for the hurt and suffering that he has felt as a result of the abusive behaviour of the late Bishop Satterthwaite. I have also apologised for the failure to see the issues he raised as safeguarding matters. It is a matter of shame and deep regret that any member of the clergy should exhibit abusive behaviour of this kind, it is especially shameful when that member of the clergy is a bishop. Across the Church of England we are adamant that any abuse of a safeguarding nature affecting a child or a vulnerable adult will not be tolerated and that there is no room in the Church for those seeking to perpetrate their abuse.”

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