Religion news 23 October

Image credit: Jeff Buck CCLicense

Former Bishop of Chester abused 18 people

Victor Whitsey, a former Bishop of Chester, committed “appalling acts” against 18 children, teenagers and vulnerable adults, both male and female, an independent review has said. The damning report, A Betrayal of Trust, said he used his position of authority to groom and abuse people between 1966 and 1981. Victims who came forward were told to “not make a fuss”, to “move on” or were paid off by the bishop himself from his discretionary fund. Whitsey died in 1987 having never been brought to justice. The report said the victims’ suffering was made worse by the poor response of the church. The current Bishop of Chester has expressed “horror and shame” at the findings of the review’s report, offered sincere apologies and pledged to take action.

Vatican renews agreement with China over the appointment of bishops

The Vatican has renewed an agreement with China which acknowledges that the Pope has the final say on the ordination of Catholic Chinese bishops, while the Chinese government allows the appointments to take place. There are 12 million Catholics in China and after the Communist Party came to power in 1949, they have been divided into the state-sanctioned church and underground churches. But this agreement, first signed in 2018, enables all bishops to be in communion with Rome. The deal is controversial, with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking the Vatican not to renew it, while critics say it has neutered the Vatican’s ability to protest at the treatment of Uighurs.

2020: the year of racial reckoning for US Christian white supremacy

Christians are more racist than non-Christians in America, according to research by the American author Robert P. Jones, who addressed a Religion Media Centre zoom briefing yesterday. In his latest book White Too Long, he suggests that Christians have been complicit in sustaining white supremacy through flawed theology. White mainstream Protestants and Catholics are only marginally less racist than evangelicals, he said, and all need to take up “truth-telling”. This generation could choose to defend ancestors or take pride in being the generation that weeds out white supremacy from the faith. 2020 is the year of racial reckoning, he said. The Zoom briefing is on YouTube here.

Bill to allow humanist weddings presented to the Commons

A bill to allow the legal recognition of humanist marriages has been introduced into the House of Commons by Rehman Chishti MP, who was until last month the prime minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief. At present, couples who are humanists must be married in a civil ceremony, which can be followed by a humanist wedding. Humanist marriages were legally recognised in Scotland in 2005, Northern Ireland in 2018, and Jersey in 2019, but still not so in England and Wales. Mr Chishti said it was discrimination, pure and simple.

Canadian MPs say China’s treatment of Uighurs is genocide

A Canadian parliamentary committee has condemned China’s treatment of Uighurs as “genocide” and called for sanctions against top Chinese officials. The cross-party House of Commons sub-committee on international human rights, said the Uighurs, most of whom are Muslim, are being held in “concentration camps” and subjected to abuse. CBC quotes Zhao Lijian, of the Chinese foreign ministry, saying the “so-called genocide” is “a rumour and a farce fabricated by some anti-Chinese forces to slander China”.