01 January 2018 11:38 AM
Justin Welby’s astonishing refusal to accept the outcome of a report he commissioned
I’m posting this item from my Sunday column as a stand-alone article, because it seems to me that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s refusal to accept the outcome of the independent inquiry by Lord Carlile QC – which he himself commissioned – into the George Bell case has become a scandal in its own right.
Not only is it shocking for a man in such a position to reject a report he asked for, and whose author he presumably helped to choose. It is , er, highly disingenuous for the Archbishop to have said (as he did ): ‘Lord Carlile does not seek to say whether George Bell was in fact responsible for for the acts about which the complaint was made’. This is not because Lord Carlile reached no conclusions on that issue. It is because Lord Carlile was narrowly limited in his terms of reference to examining the process by which the Church condemned George Bell. In fact it is plain from the Carlile report that George Bell was condemned on inadequate evidence, sloppily and unfairly gathered and sloppily and unfairly considered. Lord Carlile told me on the day of publication that he, a distinguished QC, would have lost the case had he attempted to prosecute George Bell on such evidence. Given that a man is innocent until proven guilty, and it is plain that the Church has not proved George Bell guilty by any standard, he is therefore innocent.
The Archbishop’s unlovely behaviour is licensing all kinds of people to shuffle and delay over important actions which are necessary to restore Bishop Bell’s good name.
These include the return of his name name to schools and buildings from which it was Stalinistically stripped, the re-hanging of various portraits and pictures of him which have been taken down or moved to less honoured positions, the revision of his Wikipedia entry which currently gives absurd credence to the allegations against him, the rewriting of the Chichester Cathedral guidebook, the renewed observance of the day which commemorates George Bell’s memory in the Church calendar, the return to widespread use of the hymn ‘Christ is the King, written by Bishop Bell, which some churches have abandoned since the allegations surfaced, and the re-starting of work on a sculpture of him commissioned by Canterbury cathedral, which was abandoned when the claims against him were first published:
‘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.’
Perhaps, because of its severe and careful ,legal language, some people may not have realised just how devastating Lord Carlile’s report was to the case against George Bell.
It may be read here