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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