Holy smoke! I’ve made the Church retreat
As the vast Goddard inquisition lurches off the rails, are we finally recovering our sanity about child abuse? Terrible as this crime is, it is not an excuse for losing our heads and trampling on justice.
This week I record a small victory in one such case of injustice, that of the late, saintly and much-loved Bishop George Bell. He was publicly smeared as a paedophile without a hearing by the Church of England – on the basis of a single, ancient uncorroborated accusation.
I am pleased to say that, under cover of a cloud of holy smoke, the C of E has retreated.
The Church doesn’t understand English law (hence the kangaroo court) and has a nasty habit of using the anonymous complainant, an elderly lady known as ‘Carol’, as a human shield. Any criticism of the Church’s injustice is falsely alleged to be an attack on her.
The current Bishop of Chelmsford, The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, recently said in the House of Lords that defenders of George Bell had ‘made hurtful comments’ about ‘Carol’. It was a nasty thing to say, and it was not true. I have been pursuing Mr Cottrell, helpfully pointing out to him what the Bible says about bearing false witness, and about owning up to wrongdoing. He is, after all, a modern sort of Bishop and can’t necessarily be expected to be well-versed in such things.
And now I have wrung out of his spokesperson a pathetic, grudging so-called ‘clarification’. By this word, the C of E actually mean ‘admission’, but they obviously don’t believe that confession is good for the soul.
It runs ‘when he said in the House of Lords that “some in the Bell Group had made hurtful comments” about “Carol”, it would have been more precise to say that these were comments that she found hurtful’.
More precise! They mean ‘true’. And of course the two things are totally different. When I derided this formula, they retreated a few more inches, saying: ‘He acknowledges that what he actually said was mistaken, hence the clarification explaining what he meant to have said… When the new parliamentary term begins he promises to look into how a proper clarification can be produced.’
When I said I would report this as ‘the Bishop now admits that what he said was untrue, and that he intends to correct it in the Lords at the earliest opportunity’, they moaned this would be inaccurate.
You may judge for yourselves. I’ve been fairer to them than they ever were to George Bell.