January 23 2018 – “Welby declines to lift the cloud hanging over Bishop Bell” – Church Times

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2018/26-january/news/uk/welby-declines-to-lift-the-cloud-hanging-over-bishop-bell

Welby declines to lift the cloud hanging over Bishop Bell

22 JANUARY 2018

PA

 

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he cannot, with integrity, clear the name of George Bell, the former Bishop of Chichester.

On Monday afternoon he issued a statement in response to continued criticism of the Church’s treatment of Bishop Bell, saying that action had been taken based on “the balance of probability”.

He described Bishop Bell, none the less, as “one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century”.

An independent review conducted by Lord Carlile found flaws in the process by which the diocese of Chichester had assumed that Bishop Bell was guilty of abusing a girl, “Carol”, who later came forward with her story. After the publication of Lord Carlile’s report in December, Archbishop Welby remarked: “We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. No human being is entirely good or bad.”

George Bell’s supporters have since been campaigning for the Bishop to be exonerated, or, at the very least, for an independent review of the accusation. (Lord Carlile stuck to his brief of examining only how the C of E responded to the accusation.) Two letters were sent to the Archbishop last week by historians and theologians stating: “There is no credible evidence at all the Bishop Bell was a paedophile.”

In his response, Archbishop Welby says: “I cannot with integrity rescind my statement, made after the publication of Lord Carlile’s review into how the Church handled the Bishop Bell case. I affirmed the extraordinary courage and achievement of Bishop Bell both before the war and during its course, while noting the Church has a duty to take seriously the allegation made against him.”

The Archbishop compares the case with that of Peter Ball, a former Bishop of Gloucester, whose abuse of several young men was, first, disbelieved by the Church hierarchy, and later ignored.

“Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the Church covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions. I need only refer to the issues relating to Peter Ball to show an example. As a result, the Church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny . . . through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).”

Archbishop Welby says that his December statement was made with the support of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, and the Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, the lead bishop for safeguarding.

The decision to make a payment to “Carol” was based, he says, “on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused.”

Archbishop Welby’s statement ignores the claim by Bishop Bell’s supporters that circumstantial evidence pointed away from the Bishop, as well as the fact that no other allegations have emerged. If the abuse was carried out, they have argued, the perpetrator might have been another cleric.

Instead, Archbishop Welby concentrates on Bishop Bell’s character references. “It is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged.

“As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit but because abuse is often kept very secret. The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic.

“But as I said strongly in my original statement, the complaint about Bishop Bell does not diminish the importance of his great achievements, and he is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century.”

 

Archbishop Welby’s statement in full:

Following a letter sent to Lambeth Palace and also to the Telegraph newspaper by a group of academics, I felt it important to send a considered, personal response and this statement reflects the essence of my reply.

I cannot with integrity rescind my statement made after the publication of Lord Carlile’s review into how the Church handled the Bishop Bell case. I affirmed the extraordinary courage and achievement of Bishop Bell both before the war and during its course, while noting the Church has a duty to take seriously the allegation made against him.

OTHER STORIES

Welby is urged to withdraw George Bell ‘cloud’ statement after Carlile report

THE Archbishop of Canterbury faces gathering international opposition and criticism over his response to the Carlile review of the Bishop Bell affair.

Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the Church covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions. I need only refer to the issues relating to Peter Ball to show an example. As a result, the Church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny (focussed in part on the Diocese of Chichester) through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Our first hearing is in March.

The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused. It should be remembered that Carol, who brought the allegation, was sent away in 1995, and we have since apologised for this lamentable failure; a failure highlighted by Lord Carlile.

I wrote my response with the support of both Bishop Peter Hancock, the lead bishop for safeguarding, and Bishop Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester. We are clear that we accept all but part of one of the recommendations Lord Carlile makes and we are extremely grateful to him for what he has done and the help he has given the Church.

He indicates that in his judgement, a better way to have handled the allegation would have been for the Church to offer money on condition of confidentiality. We disagree with this suggestion. The confidentiality would have been exposed through the IICSA process, and the first question we would have faced, both about Bishop Bell and more widely, would have been ‘so what else are you concealing?’. The letter from the historians does not take into account any of these realities, nor the past failures of the Church. But we will go on considering how we can make our processes better and more robust, as pointed out by Lord Carlile.

As in the case of Peter Ball, and others, it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged. As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit but because abuse is often kept very secret. The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic. But as I said strongly in my original statement the complaint about Bishop Bell does not diminish the importance of his great achievements and he is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th Century.

 

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