The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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The real problem with bad blood

‘A day of shame for the British state’.

That’s how the prime Minister described the report of the public inquiry into the infected blood scandal, which suggests evidence of a cover up. Thousands of victims were repeatedly failed by the NHS and successive governments, after being infected with HIV and Hepatitis C by imported, contaminated blood.

Campaigner Clive Smith of the Haemophilia Society said: ‘Now the country knows, and the world knows, there was a deliberate attempt to lie and conceal.’

The Prime Minister has promised that changes will be made to ensure this kind of appalling scandal can never happen again – though the recent election announcement suggest those changes will fall to the next government.

Except we all know this will happen again, don’t we? Perhaps not this exact scandal, but another one very like it. Only recently we witnessed a very similar pattern of cover up in the Post Office debacle. I don’t doubt the Prime Minister’s sincerity, but improvements to organisational systems alone will not solve the problem, because even the best system can be corrupted by those who operate it.

The root cause of corruption and cover up is not our imperfect systems of organisation or government: the root cause is the broken system of the human heart.

Ever since the original cover up of shame with fig leaves in the Garden of Eden, humanity has suffered with ‘contaminated blood’ – a heart contaminated with selfishness and self-centredness. Our motivations, our instincts, and our methods are all damaged and we ourselves need to experience healing before we can bring true healing. Jesus is the vital key to that.

As the lyrics of an old hymn say: ‘He breaks the power of cancelled sin, he sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood availed for me’. Jesus washed clean the bad blood of humanity with the sacrifice of his own sinless blood on the cross. In a world still infected with selfishness, we can apply that cleansing personally.

In response to scandals like this, Christians can promote good governance that deters and detects corruption, by campaigning for structures and systems that require openness and transparency in reporting, and by modelling truthfulness in our everyday transactions. In whatever system and contexts we find ourselves, alongside those of all faiths and none, we must work and speak with clarity and courage – as this public inquiry has done, to seek justice and call people to account.

Paul Valler
Chair, LICC Board

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  1. If only it were that simple. Faced with 2 stories I could give to the press, the one that shows my organisation in a good light or the one that shows it in a bad light I release the good story. Is that a cover-up or common sense? I’d probably be sacked if I voluntarily released the bad story anyway. If someone asks about the bad story, sure we’ll tell them but we’ll not go out of our way to tell them.
    There is also the phenomenon of group think. Most of these people did not think they were doing anything wrong.
    And of course it’s not just as simple as getting Christians in senior positions. The former head of the post office is an ordained Anglican minister. Perhaps the sin is a society which will not tolerate people honestly admitting their mistakes

    By steve.bagnall  -  31 May 2024
  2. Great article Paul, with a clear call to action.
    Perhaps the most effective tool for concealment, used in both scandals you mention above, is the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) – deployed by the powerful to suppress openness, transparency and truthfulness. Sadly, they are also widely used in churches and Christian organisations for the same purposes.
    #NDAfree is a campaign with a vision to see individuals, Christian organisations and local churches free from the misuse of NDAs – see for more information. I would love to see the church on the front end of this issue and able to positively influence wider society.

    By Ben Nicholson  -  31 May 2024
  3. I totally agree, the response to these matters is often to change the system rather than address the basic failure and expecations in relation to honesty and integrity

    By Mr ID Clements  -  31 May 2024

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