• Jules Gomes


Imagine Adolf Hitler composing the anthem “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,” or Joseph Stalin writing the Beatles song “All you need is love,” or Chairman Mao penning the hymn “Brother, sister, let me serve you.”

If you can imagine the unimaginable, you can also fantasise about Justin Welby and John Sentamu apologising to survivors of sexual abuse in the Church of England. And, as a lark, you can also visualise a surrealistic Salvador Dali painting of Lucifer saying sorry to God.

The Arch-enchiladas of Canterbury and York are proving to be congenitally cack-handed at contrition. Getting the archbishops to mutter a mea culpa is more difficult than getting Jeremy Corbyn to hum Hatikvah.

Richard Symonds, founder of the Bell Society, knows that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for Welby to say sorry for trashing the reputation of Bishop George Bell—a man who saved Jewish children from the Holocaust and stood by Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the Nazi regime.

The Arch-enchiladas of Canterbury and York are proving to be congenitally cack-handed at contrition.

The scandal-studded Houdinis of Canterbury and York have the resilience of an India rubber ball and an oiliness to rival that of grease nipples. They are resistant to high degrees of public humiliation even when caught with pants down by the Independent Inquiry for Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) as Martin Sewell pointed out with legal precision last week in his column for Archbishop Cranmer.

At the IICSA hearing, Sentamu refused to apologise to Fr. Matt Ineson, who was in the room with him, even after the Inquiry’s Counsel fired a torpedo at his tuchus reminding him that he could now say sorry for the original abuse, given that liability had been admitted and financial compensation concluded almost a year ago.

Welby shilly-shallied and bleated out a weasel-worded formula claiming that Ineson had “not heard” his apology at a Lambeth Palace meeting. Next day, Ineson’s legal team riffled through the minutes and found no record of the apology. Rather, what was recorded was that the apology could not be officially issued until the legal case was concluded!

It’s not that the archbishops’ tongues turn to tungsten when uttering the dreaded ‘S’ word. In 2015, Welby prostrated himself flat as a pancake apologising for Britain’s bombing of Dresden during the Second World War. In January 2016, Welby crawled on his belly and apologised for the “hurt and pain” the Church of England had allegedly inflicted on LGBTI+ folk.

In 2017, Welby and Sentamu like twin bobbleheads on a car’s dashboard apologised for the 500-year-old Protestant Reformation. Welby also wailed mea maxima culpa before 700 priestesses at St Paul’s Cathedral, apologising for the “scars” and “hurt” to the campaigners for women’s ordination.

Now, it seems, the Archdrone of Canterbury is getting ready to swap his mitre for a Sikh turban in Amritsar’s Golden Temple and beat his breast apologising for General Dyer’s role in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919.

Clearly, these apologies mean little. They are as clinical as the metallic voice on the PA system announcing the delay of a flight and as impersonal as a customer service recording telling you “All our agents are busy right now. We are sorry to keep you waiting.”

Moreover, every virtue signaller on the Leftist celebrity circuit is fumigating the air with apologies for every historic evil—from slavery to chucking Galileo in the clink. Do you think our progressive archbishops will want to be cast out into outer darkness where there is no acclaim on Facebook and Twitter?

The scandal-studded Houdinis of Canterbury and York have the resilience of an India rubber ball and an oiliness to rival that of grease nipples.

Justin and Johnny scatter institutional apologies with gay abandon not just to let their left hand know what their right hand is doing. They also need to let their media boys puff them like a cigar in the secular media—salvation by column inches and photo-ops. One problem: the more you puff a cigar the smaller it gets.

So why are our two ecclesiastical nabobs genetically hardwired against offering genuine apologies for their own failings particularly when it comes to victims of sexual abuse?

A small, but growing, body of literature on the topic is illuminating as to why certain kinds people find it almost impossible to apologise for personal transgressions. “Narcissism decreases apologising,” conclude psychologists Leunissen, Sedikides and Wildschut in “Why Narcissists Are Unwilling to Apologize: The Role of Empathy and Guilt,” in the European Journal of Personality.

Narcissism is characterised by little empathy for the victim, which reduces guilt about one’s transgressions and the willingness to apologise. The researchers characterise such a trait as “grandiose narcissism,” defining it as a “self-centred, self-aggrandising, dominant, and manipulative interpersonal orientation.”

Narcissists see others as instrumental to the accomplishment of their own goals and hence have very low levels of empathy. Because they are so egoistically self-centred, they devalue communion with others. Apology restores fellowship. It means seeing the victim as an equal. But the low empathy, status-orientation and high exploitativeness of narcissists only serve as impediments to apologising.

Scholars like Aaron Lazare have also conjectured that those prone to apologise are characterised by humility and empathy. Canadian psychologists writing on “The Disposition to Apologize” in the Personality and Individual Differences journal studied 900 undergraduates and found that narcissism and entitlement correlated negatively with the refusal to apologise. Conversely, caring as a moral foundation and compassion correlated positively with a willingness to apologise.

Anyone who has worked with Welby or Sentamu knows only too well that the two archbishops have all the empathy and pastoral warmth of a fridge freezer. Entitlement, arrogance, bullying, manipulation, using others as disposable pawns and self-aggrandisement have been outstanding personality traits of the archbishops—as so many pulverised by their high-handedness will testify.

Ineson’s testimony is the most breviloquent. He says: “I cannot see the face of Jesus in the archbishop of Canterbury or York. I see hypocrites and I see Pharisees. I see the people that Jesus stood up against. I’m sorry to be so direct, I’m a Yorkshireman. I don’t think those people are fit for office.”

“I cannot see the face of Jesus in the archbishop of Canterbury or York. I see hypocrites and I see Pharisees.”

The Greeks told the story of Narcissus—a man fixated on himself and his public perception. When Echo fell in love with him and tried to embrace him, Narcissus stepped away without a shred of empathy telling her to leave him alone. Nemesis, goddess of revenge, punished Narcissus by luring him to a pool where he saw his own reflection and fell in love with it, as if it was somebody else.

The author José N. Harris in his novel Mi Vida develops a board game called “I’m Sorry.” It’s a bit like Monopoly. If you land on a yellow “I’m Sorry Space”… the game stops, everyone gets quiet and you have to call a person on speakerphone and apologise for something you’ve done in your past.

If, however, you land on the green space, you call a person up and you explain to them how they hurt you in the past. If they apologise… you move forward 10 spaces. No apologies… you move backward ten spaces. If they curse at you—game over.

For my Christmas gift, I am considering sending a box each of the “I’m Sorry” board game to Lambeth and Bishopthorpe. Nah, on the other hand, I suspect Justin and John would prefer a copy of Caravaggio’s painting of “Narcissus gazing at his own reflection.”