The Bishop Bell affair; and the plea to unfrock
From the Diocesan Secretary of Chichester
Sir, – Marilyn Billingham (Letters, 19 August)
asks for an explanation of the basis on which the settlement of the claim made against Bishop George Bell was made public.
As the Bishop of Horsham, the deputy Lead Safeguarding Bishop for the Church of England, explained last year (Letters, 11 December 2015),
“Had we not published – and others would – we would also rightly have been criticised.”
In addition, the concern that there might be other victims, and the concern that to keep silent would have made us complicit in maintaining in public an image of Bishop Bell on which doubt had now been cast, meant that publication was important.
The diocese of Chichester participated in that decision and supported the national Church’s media release. A fuller explanation of the decision to settle with the survivor, and then to publish, can be found in a blog published last month by the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler ( http://cofecomms.tumblr.com/post/147338306887/further-points-on-the-george-bell-case ).
I would add that the Church shares the police’s regret that Bishop Bell’s niece was not informed before publication. The Bishop of Chichester apologised to her in January for the failure of the Church’s efforts to trace family members, shortly after she made herself known.
Diocesan Church House, 211 New Church Road, Hove BN3 4ED