Friday, May 31, 2019
The sad saga of the late John Smyth, who allegedly brutally beat more than 100 boys while operating church summer camps connected with the Church of England, has been front and center in the UK, as media examine both the allegations and accusations that church officials ignored and covered up the allegations for decades. The controversy, which reaches all the way to the Archbishop of Canterbury, sounds painfully similar to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and its role in covering up and ignoring Bob Malm’s misconduct. As such, it serves as a cautionary tale of the myriad ways church officials abuse power as they seek to protect to the reputation of the church.
Before we go further, I want to be clear: Bob Malm is not accused of sexual misconduct, and Smith’s alleged conduct does not imply or suggest similar activity on Bob Malm’s part.
What is telling, however, is that the allegations about Smyth swirled from the 1980’s until his death approximately 30 years later. Not only does it appear that senior church officials were repeatedly informed, but at one point a senior official urged Smyth to leave the country. He then moved to Zimbabwe, where allegations of misconduct were almost constant.
It was not, however, until a youth under his care was found dead that any effort was made to hold Smyth accountable. The resulting criminal charges were later dropped when an official in the case was found to have a conflict of interest.
Survivors further allege that the Justin Welby, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, has known for many years of the allegations, and to this day has not requested to see documentation of the abuse compiled by survivors. Here is what the Church Times says about Welby: