Monks and nuns to be recognised by the Church of England for first time since Reformation

Monks and nuns will be formally recognised by the Church of England for the the first time since the Reformation following criticism over its response to a series of child abuse scandals.

For the first time since Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, between 1536 and 1541, the C of E has voted to create a law, known as a canon, so that it can regulate religious groups.

It follows heightened concerns about safeguarding, after some religious communities faced allegations of sexual abuse in a damning report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in May.

The report criticised the Prince of Wales for his friendship with Peter Ball, a former Bishop of Gloucester who abused his position as a senior member of the clergy to “manipulate vulnerable teenagers and young men for his own sexual gratification”.

IISCA’s report concluded that the Church’s response to claims of child sexual abuse was “marked by secrecy, prevarication and avoidance of reporting alleged crimes”.

Addressing the General Synod, Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester said:

“As Archbishop Justin has already said to Synod, the recently published IICSA report relating to the abuse perpetrated by Peter Ball under the cover of setting up religious communities is truly shocking. 

“I live with a sense of shame and disgust as the proper human and Christian response to reading that report.”

He cited the IICSA recommendation that asks the C of E to introduce appropriate guidance which deals with safeguarding within the context of a religious community affiliated to the Church”. 

It continues:

“It must ensure that these organisations meet adequate requirements for safeguarding and child protection. The needs of victims should be prioritised when designing safeguarding policies and practices.”

Following a unanimous vote at the General Synod in York on Monday morning, the House of Bishops has more oversight in how it can regulate monks and nuns.

The regulations specify conditions relating to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, as well as financial affairs and the making of vows or promises.

Once finalised, the canon will also specify the minimum number of members required for a community to be eligible for regulation. Dr David Walker said that it will provide structure following the “growth in new religious communities”.

One nun, Sister Catherine Harvey of the Sisters of the Love of God in Oxford questioned the canon’s introduction whilst there is a decline in the numbers of those observing private religious life.

“It does seem ironic that after 150 years of religious life in England, the church has chosen a time when we are in terminal decline to regulate and recognise us by canon,” she said.

“The answer most often given is that of safeguarding. It is of course right that the shame of the church should have concrete expression in this form. The need has been highlighted by the death of our brother Peter Hall.”

Maine image copyright: Reuters

Written by: Laura FitzPatrick

First published 08.07.19:


Help Keep The Faith deliver hope to global Christians during the coronavirus period

For 15 years, Keep The Faith's team of volunteers have provided our Christian journalism for free, and kept it open for everyone.

The coronavirus disease is affecting all global communities. Christians and people of faith all over the world are looking to our faith for answers during these troubling times. As more people fall ill with Covid-19 or go into self-quarantine over the next few days, we expect our visitors to grow even further.

Your gifts are so important to our future, and any donation will help. 100% of your gifts will be used to continue providing our services for free to help those who are in need of God's Word during these difficult times.

So please, continue to support us and everyone looking for hope. Partner with us in this journey together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *