The publication by the Church of England of Lord Carlile’s review was accompanied by three episcopal statements. I look today at those by the Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
Dr Warner contends that “Lord Carlile’s Independent Review is a demonstration of the Church of England’s commitment to equality of justice and transparency in our safeguarding practice.”
This opening remark is ambiguous. Does Dr Warner mean that the report itself demonstrates …? If so, he is clearly mistaken, since the report does nothing to strengthen the Church’s reputation for seeking justice.
Or does he mean that the fact that the he asked for a report to be compiled demonstrates…etc? In that case his account is partial, for without public pressure the Church would not have perceived any need for a review.
Dr Warner goes on to apologise for the Core Group’s deficiencies, and seems to think that improving Its protocols will help in future. But the Core Group’s failure was nothing to do with protocols. It stemmed from lack of direction, (which the Bishop could have remedied) and from muddled thinking, which he could have prevented.
Warner refers to the complexity of the case, before making the statement that “The emotive principle of innocent until proven guilty is a standard by which our actions are judged…”Did he really mean ‘emotive’? Was the case really so complex?
Warner’s next remark is even more striking: “Irrespective of whether she is technically a complainant, survivor, or victim, ‘Carol’ emerges from this report as a person of dignity and integrity. It is essential that her right to privacy continues to be fully respected.”
Can he possibly have meant to write ‘technically’? The distinction between a complainant on the one hand, and a survivor or victim on the other is very far from technical, if by ‘technical’ is meant ‘unimportant’.
It is mysterious that Warner emphasises the need for the complainant’s privacy to be respected. The law is well known to all concerned, and none of the critics of the Church’s procedures has sought to break it.
Dr Warner concludes: “The good deeds that Bishop George Bell did were recognised internationally. They will stand the test of time. In every other respect, we have all been diminished by the case that Lord Carlile has reviewed.”
As I have remarked before, he is surely wrong to allege that we are ALL diminished. What is clear is that the reputations of those who lent themselves to the Church’s handling of the case have been diminished.
We come, finally, to a statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, which also accompanied Lord Carlile’s report. He begins that “Bishop George Bell is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century. The decision to publish his name was taken with immense reluctance, and all involved recognised the deep tragedy involved. “
Lord Carlile’s account of the proceedings of the Core Group, the body that took the decision, does not indicate any great reluctance in its members, nor any deep sense of tragedy.
Welby correctly says that Carlile does not pronounce on whether or not Bell was guilty, but fails to point out that the question of guilt was not in his terms of reference.
He does apologise for the failures of the Church’s procedures, but spoils the effect by adding “We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name…No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good. Whatever is thought about the accusations, the whole person and whole life should be kept in mind.”
Welby here gives the impression that, if he has read Carlile’s review, it has not dented his determination to leave open the question of Bell’s guilt. It seems not to have occurred to him that, if there is a cloud over Bell’s name, it is there because the hierarchy allowed it to gather and has done nothing to remove it.
There are two more questions. Why are these prelates so obstinately wedded to their non-committal approach to the question of Bell’s guilt or innocence, and what can they do to salvage their reputations?
One possible answer to the first question is that the bishops know some real facts which remained unknown to Lord Carlile, and which they believe allow them to leave the door open to Bell’s guilt. That explanation seems too far-fetched for an otherwise prosaic group of men.
Yet they are not stupid men, and cannot be ignorant of the acrimony and disappointment that they have caused. Perhaps they are simply the victims (survivors?) of habit, in other words they are used to thinking of Bell as guilty; of collegiality, meaning that a self-reinforcing consensus has grown up among them and of pride, which speaks for itself.
As for their reputations, we must hope that the Archbishop will take note of the Bell fiasco in the book that he is writing on values, and that the whole subject will be fully aired at the Synod in February.
I wrote to The #Bishop of Chichester, @DrMartinWarner, on 14th November 2015, asking some basic questions about the Church’s handling of the allegations against @BishopGeorgeBell. Dr Warner sent a prompt and courteous reply, dated 19th November.
At that time it was not even known that the complainant, later known as ‘Carol’, was a woman, and no detail had been published of where the alleged molestation had taken place. Nor was anyone allowed to know who had seen the evidence in the case, though there is no legal requirement for such secrecy. Even the #DeanofChichester had no direct knowledge of the facts, but relied on an assurance that he had been given that the evidence was incontrovertible.
Dr Warner’s letter to me contained some difficult passages. To start with, having said that the allegation against Bell was indeed disturbing, he asserted “We are all diminished by this.”
I do not know what this flourish means. It is plainly false to say that we are ALL diminished, but perhaps the Bishop meant that he and other church people were diminished in the public estimation by the way in which they had handled the case.
Dr Warner went on: “All facts that were capable of independent corroboration were corroborated.” Again, I do not know what this means. @LordCarlile’s review of the Church’s procedures yields little evidence of anyone trying to corroborate any facts.
Dr Warner went on to say that “evidence was exchanged.” This is uninformative, without any details being given of the parties to the exchange.
With regard to the conduct of the investigation he said “independent advice from all the professional disciplines which are usually involved in such claims was obtained, including of course independent legal advice, and the survivor ( this is what Church insists on calling her) was questioned in person about their (sic) evidence.”
I do not know what professional disciplines Dr Warner had in mind. Lord Carlile does record that two psychiatrists were instructed, with different terms of reference. @ProfessorAnthonyMaden, the one who was asked to comment on Carol’s credibility, said that the truth of her allegations could not be established without corroborative evidence, and that false memory could not be excluded.
An illustration of the unusual procedures of the Core Group, the investigative and decision-making body set up by the Church, is that Professor Maden’s report was circulated to some members in full, and to others only in summary.
Apart from the psychiatrists, there was contact with the police. Are these the “usual disciplines”?
As for legal advice, It was indeed available from a solicitor who advised the Group, but Carlile comments several times on its failure to instruct any criminal lawyer to advise it on the strength of the evidence.
Finally, in response to my question about the removal of Bell’s name from #GeorgeBellHouse, the Bishop answered that this was a matter for the Dean and Chapter. Yet they seem to have been almost as much in the dark as everyone else.
From these remarks by Dr Warner it does seem that he was not well informed about the proceedings of the Core Group, which appears to have been unable to investigate systematically, or to make decisions based on rational assessments. His relative ignorance is in a way understandable, as his attendance at the Group had been sporadic,and he was apparently not even invited to its fifth and final meeting.
But surely he must have been aware of the consensus to which the Group found its way, first that Bell was probably guilty, then that he probably had abused other children, and in the end that his name must be published, a public apology made and compensation paid? After all,in the end it was he who had to accept responsibility and sign thx letter.
One cannot tell what was going through Dr Warner’s mind, but he does seem to have been the victim of lax procedures and muddled thinking, which somehow affected his own assessment of the case.
In a day or two I shall continue the exegesis of pronouncements on the Bell matter by Dr Warner, @DrJustinWelby (the #ArchbishopofCanterbury) and perhaps other prelates.
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At this hopeful time of year it is a pleasure to congratulate @LordCarlile QC on his review of the procedures followed by the @ChurchofEngland in dealing with sexual allegations against @BishopGeorgeBell of Chichester, who died in 1958. The allegations were first made in 1995 by a woman known only as ‘Carol’, and renewed in 2012 and 2013.
Carlile had not been asked to pronounce on Bell’s guilt or innocence, and he did not do so. What he did was to expose the startling deficiencies in the conduct and administration of the “ Core Group” set up by the Chichester diocese and the national church to look into the whole question. The Group was chaired by members of the diocesan Safeguarding Team, with the current @BishopofChichester , @DrMartinWarner, as a member, though he only attended three (or perhaps fewer) of its five meetings. It came to the conclusion that Bell was probably guilty, whereupon Warner publicly apologised and paid off the complainant.
The Core Group’s deficiencies, identified by Carlile, provide a lesson in how not to run an enquiry which might well be included in university courses. There was unacceptable discontinuity of attendance and chairmanship, papers were not always distributed in the same format to all members, no Advocatus Diaboli was appointed to watch Bell’s interests, the complainant was regarded as a ‘survivor’ or ‘victim’ rather than as a complainant, no attempt was made to find any relations of Bell, nor his chaplain, who was still alive and well, though very old, and it seems that no serious attempt was made to test Carol’s allegations, nor to find any corroborative evidence. Carlile tartly says that he had to accept what he was told, that several Group members had extensive experience of the criminal justice system, but that unfortunately there was no evidence that they had shared it.
One of the.most shocking details is that the Group seems to have been determined to believe that Bell must have abused more than one child. Having discovered that he had been in close touch with the German Kindertransport, and had put up young British evacuees at the Palace, it apparently convinced itself that these opportunities for wrongdoing strengthened the case for believing in Bell’s guilt. In fact they strengthen the opposite case, for no whiff of complaint from anyone except Carol had ever been detected. The opportunities were there, but there is no evidence that Bell took them.
Carlile’s devastating review does not explicitly assign responsibility, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it rests with Dr Warner, and with the @ArchbishopofCanterbury himself, who was kept intermittently informed.
Tomorrow I hope to compare with Lord Carlile’s findings some statements made by Dr Warner in November 2015.
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When the Church published @LordCarlile’s review on 15 December it was accompanied by statements by three prelates, Hancock, the “#LeadSafeguardingBishop”, @Warner (#Chichester) and @Welby, (#Canterbury). All three managed to play down Carlile’s adverse findings and adopted a tone of half-hearted contrition, whilst evading or weakening Carlile’s main points.
Carlile’s findings were often biting, terse and trenchantly expressed. He can hardly be pleased with the gloss that has been put on them.
Carlile found that the Church’s procedures in arriving at its guilty verdict on @BishopBell, and in deciding to publish his name,had been very far from best practice. To the careful reader of his review the Core Group sounds amateurish and verging on the shambolic.
It is clear that a consensus, confirmed by majority vote, grew up within the Group, but the arguments that led its members to commit themselves are not stated. There seems to have been little effort to find facts, beyond the allegations made by the complainant, ‘Carol’, whom the Church’s spokesmen insist on describing as “the survivor”.
Against this background the prelates’ task was not easy. The first apologist, Hancock, did his best:
“At the heart of this case was a judgement, on the balance of probabilities, as to whether, in the event that her claim for compensation reached trial, a court would have concluded that Carol was abused by Bishop Bell. The Church decided to compensate Carol, to apologise and to be open about the case.”
Hancock says nothing about how or why the Church reached these decisions, but went on to admit “It is clear from the report, however, that our processes were deficient in a number of respects, in particular the process for seeking to establish what may have happened. For that we apologise”
Since the whole point of the Core Group was “to establish what may have have happened” this admission is crucial, though Hancock seems not to realise how fundamental it is.
He went on: “The Bishop Bell case is a complex one and it is clear from the report and minutes of Core Group meetings that much professional care and discussion were taken over both agreeing the settlement with Carol and the decision to make this public. As Lord Carlile’s report makes clear, we acted in good faith throughout with no calculated intention to damage George Bell’s reputation.”
The reader of Carlile’s review will not have gained an impression of “much professional care and discussion”. Nor does the case see particularly complex, resting, as it does, on uncorroborated allegations. As for the damage to Bell’s reputation, could the Group have done more damage if it had acted in BAD faith?
Hancock concludes with proper genuflection to Bell’s wartime record, but adds: “ At the same time, we have a duty and commitment to listen to those reporting abuse, to guard their confidentiality, and to protect their interests.
“We recognise that Carol has suffered pain, as have surviving relatives of Bishop Bell. We are sorry that the Church has added to that pain through its handling of this case.”
It is fair to comment that the Church did not ADD TO Bell’s relations’ pain: it created it.
Hancock’s statement is well drafted, but is unlikely it to satisfy anyone, for the overall impression that it leaves is of studied reluctance to say anything that would tend to exonerate Bishop Bell, whatever the evidence, or lack of it.
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Who’s really preaching fake news, Archbishop?
I see the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been complaining about ‘fake news’. As well he might, since ‘fake news’ is a good description of the statement which Archbishop Welby’s church put out to the media, insinuating incorrectly that the late George Bell was a child molester.
Lord Carlile has now produced a devastating report which shows that statement was full of false claims. It said Bishop Bell would have been arrested if he’d still been alive, when he wouldn’t have been. It said there had been a thorough investigation, when there hadn’t been.
It said experts had found no reason to doubt the charges, when one expert most definitely had found such a reason and clearly said so.
Yet despite this total demolition of a case that any court would have thrown out, Archbishop Welby continues to claim (more fake news?) that there is a ‘cloud’ over George Bell’s name, like some dim wiseacre in a pub, utterly defeated in an argument by facts and logic, intoning doggedly that ‘there’s no smoke without fire’.
The only cloud over Bishop Bell’s name hangs there because Justin Welby’s pride prevents him from admitting he got it wrong. He knows what he needs to do.
Two high-profile cases in the U.K. have underscored the unfairness of accusations receiving immediate credibility. In one case, the accused could not mount a defense as he had died years earlier; in the other, the accused pleaded not guilty to rape. He would be in prison today had truth not intervened.
In 2015, accusations by an unidentified woman of repeated child abuse acts against much-admired clergyman Bishop George Bell, who died in 1958, received national headlines. His only accuser, she gained national support, even from the Bishop’s own Church of England, which “found no reason to doubt her.” Fortunately, some journalists, upset at this one-sided story, rose to the bishop’s defense. An independent report accused the church of over-reacting, “rushing to judgment … without sufficient investigations,” based on its under-reacting on previous, justified abuse claims against other clergymen. Bishop Bell was fully vindicated. As a male journalist later put it, “If a saintly man can be branded a sex abuser, none of us is safe.”
For two years, Liam Allan stood accused by a fellow student of raping her numerous times. The charges and negativity against him they generated hung like a cloud over Allan’s head until dropped just recently when determined that he had been falsely accused. It was discovered police had withheld thousands of the accuser’s emails proving she “wanted and enjoyed the sex she later claimed was non-consensual.”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2017/12/the-silence-breakers-time-magazine-overlooks/#CqrzVZJ8DwE0MbmZ.99
LETTER OF INVITATION
C of E says sorry for its response to child abuse allegations against Bishop George Bell
An independent review has been carried out into the way the Church of England handled allegations that the former Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, sexually abused a young girl in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In October 2015, the Church of England issued a statement in which it announced that the complainant had received compensation and an apology. The statement also said that Sussex Police had confirmed “that the information obtained from their enquiries would have justified, had he still been alive, Bishop Bell’s arrest and interview, on suspicion of serious sexual offences.” The Church asked senior human rights lawyer Lord Carlile to undertake a review of their handling of the case, after supporters of Bishop Bell accused it of unfairly deciding Bell’s guilt.
In 1914, while in his early 30s, George Bell was appointed Chaplain to the then-Archbishop of Canterbury; becoming Dean of Canterbury around 10 years later. He was an acknowledged theologian with important international Christian connections. Within five years he was appointed Bishop of Chichester, a post he held for almost 30 years. He died on 3 October 1958, shortly after his retirement.
The complainant, known by the pseudonym Carol because her identity is legally protected, first contacted the Church of England to complain about Bishop Bell in 1995. The C of E acknowledges that her complaint was not handled appropriately at that time. She made a fresh complaint in 2013, leading to the settlement and statement which was the subject of Lord Carlile’s review. Carol alleges that she was abused by Bishop Bell over a period of time when she lived near the cathedral in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The abuse stopped when her family moved away from the area around 1951, when she was aged eight or nine.
Lord Carlile said that her allegations, “if true, amount to serious and horrifying criminal offences committed against a defenceless child. They would be the most serious breach of trust imaginable. However, the fact that they are serious does not ipso facto mean that they are also true.”
In his review, Lord Carlile does not attempt to determine “the truthfulness of Carol, nor the guilt or innocence of Bishop Bell” as that did not form part of his terms of reference. Instead, his task had been “to examine the procedures followed by the Church of England in its various parts, the way in which it obtained and assessed evidence in this case, and whether it was right to make a public statement of apology and pay damages.”
He found that, the Church of England had “acted throughout in good faith” and “was motivated by a desire to do what it perceived to be the right thing by the complainant.”
He said: “Its actions were informed by history in which the Church has been, at best, slow to acknowledge abuse by its clergy and, at worst, believed to have turned a blind eye. I have concluded that the process followed by the Church in this case was deficient in a number of respects. The most significant was that the Core Group which it established failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides.
“It is axiomatic that, in appropriate cases, the Church should be ready to acknowledge sexual abuse committed by the clergy. However, that does not mean that the reputations of the dead are without value.”
Lord Carlile made a number of recommendations, including that Core Groups set up to deal with cases should have within its membership “someone assigned to . . . represent the interests of the accused person and his or her descendants.”
He said that “alleged perpetrators, living or dead, should not be identified publicly unless or until the Core Group has (a) made adverse findings of fact, and (b) it has also been decided that making the identity public is required in the public interest.”
He said that in cases which are settled with admission of liability, “there should be a presumption that the perpetrator’s name will be published together with a description of the conduct concerned (unless the complainant objects on reasonable grounds).” But added that “where as in this case the settlement is without admission of liability, the settlement generally should be with a confidentiality provision: there should be a presumption that the name of the alleged perpetrator should not be published, unless the alleged perpetrator agrees that it should be, or the circumstances are held to be wholly exceptional.”
The C of E has welcomed the report, but rejected the recommendation that settlements should be subject to confidentiality agreements.
“We have to differ from Lord Carlile’s point that ‘where as in this case the settlement is without admission of liability, the settlement generally should be with a confidentiality provision”, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said. “The C of E is committed to transparency and therefore we would take a different approach.
“Lord Carlile . . . does make significant comments on our processes, and we accept that improvement is necessary, in all cases including those where the person complained about is dead. We are utterly committed to seeking to ensure just outcomes for all. We apologise for the failures of the process.”
The current Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, described Lord Carlile’s Review as “a demonstration of the Church of England’s commitment to equality of justice and transparency in our safeguarding practice.”
He said: “We welcome Lord Carlile’s assessment of our processes, and apologise for failures in the work of the Core Group of national and diocesan officers and its inadequate attention to the rights of those who are dead. We also accept the Report’s recognition that we acted in good faith, and improvements to Core Group protocols are already in place. Further work on them is in hand.
“The Report demands further consideration of the complexities of this case, such as what boundaries can be set to the principle of transparency. Lord Carlile rightly draws our attention to public perception. The emotive principle of innocent until proven guilty is a standard by which our actions are judged and we have to ensure as best we can that justice is seen to be done. Irrespective of whether she is technically a complainant, survivor, or victim, ‘Carol’ emerges from this report as a person of dignity and integrity. It is essential that her right to privacy continues to be fully respected.”
And the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, the C of E’s lead bishop for safeguarding, said that the church accepts “the main thrust” of Lord Carlile’s recommendations.
“In responding to the report, we first want to acknowledge and publicly apologise again for the Church’s lamentable failure, as noted by Lord Carlile, to handle the case properly in 1995.
“At the heart of this case was a judgement, on the balance of probabilities, as to whether, in the event that her claim for compensation reached trial, a court would have concluded that Carol was abused by Bishop Bell. The Church decided to compensate Carol, to apologise and to be open about the case.
“Lord Carlile states that ‘where as in this case the settlement is without admission of liability, the settlement generally should be with a confidentiality provision” but respectfully, we differ from that judgement. The Church is committed to transparency. We would look at each case on its merits but generally would seek to avoid confidentiality clauses.
“It is clear from the report, however, that our processes were deficient in a number of respects, in particular the process for seeking to establish what may have happened. For that we apologise. Lessons can and have been learnt about how we could have managed the process better.”
Bishop George Bell, photographed in 1936.
Photo: Howard Coster
© National Portrait Gallery. Used with permission.
Bishop Bell gave strong support to Christians and Jews in Germany in the 1930s, and contributed to the work and survival of noted priests. He helped to expose Nazi atrocities and played a key part in the Kindertransport – the process of evacuating some 10,000 Jewish children to safety in the UK in the months before the Second World War. Some of the children were housed and educated in the Bishop’s Palace.
He described the Allied bombing of German cities as “barbarian”, disproportionate and a crime against humanity. It is said that those strongly-held views blocked his translation to the See of Canterbury during vacancies in 1942 and 1945. His reputation continued to soar after his death. A number of institutions and bodies were named after him; and he was given a “Name Day” by the Church – an annual commemoration.
The report says that no allegations of sexual or other impropriety were made against him during his lifetime. Carol’s first allegation, in 1995, came 37 years after his death. And, “despite the considerable publicity Carol’s case has received, no one else has come forward to make allegations against Bishop Bell,” Lord Carlile said.
“The Church has always affirmed and treasured Bishop Bell’s principled stand in the Second World War and his contribution to peace remains extraordinary,” Bishop Peter Hancock said. “At same time, we have a duty and commitment to listen to those reporting abuse, to guard their confidentiality, and to protect their interests.
“We recognise that Carol has suffered pain, as have surviving relatives of Bishop Bell. We are sorry that the Church has added to that pain through its handling of this case.”
Archbishop Justin Welby said that the complaint about Bishop Bell “does not diminish the importance of his great achievement.”
He said: “We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name. Let us therefore remember his defence of Jewish victims of persecution, his moral stand against indiscriminate bombing, his personal risks in the cause of supporting the anti Hitler resistance, and his long service in the Diocese of Chichester.
“No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good. Whatever is thought about the accusations, the whole person and whole life should be kept in mind.”
- Click here to read the full report by Lord Carlile.
This article was corrected on 15 December to correct an erroneous name it its headline.