Former Church in Wales Bishop to become a Catholic
A former Church in Wales bishop who was cleared of wrongdoing after a complaint that he acted inappropriately towards a female church employee is converting to Catholicism.
The handling of the complaint against former bishop Richard Pain of Monmouth and its aftermath highlighted a need for a significant change of culture at the highest level in the Church in Wales, according to an official report published in 2021.
The bishop had agreed to stand aside temporarily after the allegation of inappropriate behaviour that fell short of criminal conduct was made.
Senior clergy in the Monmouth diocese were at the same time concerned about the Bishop’s excessive drinking.
The employee withdrew her complaint, but an investigation went ahead anyway and concluded that the bishop had not done anything that warranted disciplinary action.
The bishop wavered between returning to his episcopal duties or taking retirement. Senior colleagues of the bishop, including Dean Lister Tonge, were reluctant to work with him because of their concerns about his behaviour, and although the Bishop had been formally exonerated, attempts were made to resolve the conflict by mediation.
An overview of the 2021 report, written by the then recently elected Archbishop of Wales, Andy John, and James Turner, chair of the Representative Body of the Church in Wales, said of the Dean and his colleagues: “Their concerns were considered to have been well founded and they acted professionally in the way they reported these concerns.”
The overview concluded: “[We] wish to express our sorrow and regret that what could have been an opportunity to attend well to a challenging situation became ruinous and distressing and left numerous people vulnerable and damaged.
“This has not reflected well on the Church in Wales and for that we apologise unreservedly to all those wounded by our failures.”
The review itself stated: “The prevalence of swearing and an excessive intake of alcohol among bishops and senior clergy was commented upon by several witnesses in their evidence to us.
“The impression we gained was that events in Monmouth had provided such a shock to the system that some self-balancing mechanism was already in place, and that the culture within the Bench [of Bishops] had already been reshaped.
“Recommendations to change culture are unlikely to be effective. There needs instead to be a recognition by those who inhabit a culture of its weaknesses and blind spots.”
Referring to the role played in the events by the previous Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, the review stated: “As the process became enmired by issues of legal probity, the Archbishop found himself overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation, without a clear plan or strategy in place with which to resolve it.
“When matched to the length of time involved in managing this difficult situation, it is easy to understand why this added to the anxiety of some participants and heightened suspicions that the process was neither transparent nor being managed with the necessary leadership.”
Among a long list of recommendations was the need for an improvement in the way safeguarding issues were handled and the need for the Church to develop a formal dignity at work policy.
It has now been confirmed that the former bishop will be received into the Catholic Church on Sunday July 2 at St Basil and St Gwladys Church in Rogerstone, Newport. He will serve as a priest with the Anglican Ordinariate, which was set up by former Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.
Monsignor Keith Newton said: “We are delighted that after much prayer Richard has asked to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. He will be the first bishop from the Anglican Church in Wales to be received into the ordinariate since its creation in 2011.
“Richard has a long and distinguished ministry in the Church in Wales. He has many gifts which he will continue to use to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Wales.”
The ordinariate is structured similarly to a diocese and allows former Anglican priests and bishops to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while maintaining certain Anglican traditions. It has its own eucharistic liturgy, which is distinct from the standard Roman Rite liturgy, and incorporates elements of the Book of Common Prayer that do not conflict with Catholic doctrine.
Through the ordinariate, an Anglican priest or bishop can enter into full communion with the Catholic Church and serve as a priest even if he is married. Pain married his wife, Juliet, more than 40 years ago, and they have two sons.
Richard Pain told us: “I have no bitterness at all over the events that led to my retirement as bishop. Everyone involved was hurt.
“After a long period of contemplation, I came to the decision to join the Catholic Church. It is an opportunity for renewal and a fresh beginning.
“I have much to be grateful for the experience gained over a lifetime as an Anglican. Yet the call to Catholicism seems natural and spiritual at the same time. To start afresh will be a welcome challenge and I come — as we all do — as a learner and a disciple.”
Born in London in 1956, he trained for the priesthood at St Michael’s in Llandaff and was ordained a priest in the Church in Wales at Newport Cathedral in 1986. He was ordained the bishop of Monmouth in 2013 and retired in 2019.
At least 15 Anglican bishops have converted to Catholicism through the Anglican ordinariate since its inception.
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