SIR – The proposition put forward by a parish officer that the maxim of “innocent until proven guilty” should be reversed in matters of church safeguarding (Letters, March 27) is utterly pernicious.
How is anyone to defend themselves against charges to an action that is alleged to have occurred decades before, and is based on no more than the word of one person?
To place the onus of proving innocence on the accused, as opposed to the need for the accuser to prove guilt, is contrary to our most basic freedoms and undermines the rule of law.
Sir – I think I may be able to enlighten Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson (Letters, March 24) who writes about the case of Bishop Bell, as to the Church of England’s thinking on safeguarding.
At a recent parochial church council meeting in the Chichester diocese, a parish safeguarding officer gave a briefing on the introduction of a programme being trialled in the diocese. Bishop Bell and others were mentioned, along with the stance taken by Archbishop Justin Welby.
The meeting was told that a change of mindset is needed. The old idea that one is “innocent until proven guilty” does not apply when dealing with a safeguarding complaint; the view has to be that there is a case to answer, and the defendant must prove his innocence.
Clearly Lord Carlile was operating under the old rules and Bishop Bell can never comply with the new rules.
In this way, church leaders are able to accept almost all of Lord Carlile’s report but still maintain there is a shadow over Bishop Bell.
Storrington, West Sussex
“Bishop Bell’s memory”
Sir – Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson’s letter (March 24) puts the case for the late Bishop George Bell very well.
Those of us who live in the Diocese of Chichester suffer a further frustration. Within days of the Church’s original finding being published, orders were given to remove almost all memorabilia to George Bell. In places where this was not possible, such as in the south aisle of the cathedral, a notice was displayed for many months referring to being a cloud over George Bell’s name.
At the same time, a building in Canon Lane that had been refurbished with nearly £1 million pounds of funds and named “George Bell House” was renamed “4 Canon Lane”.
Dr Hildebrandt Grayson asks how long we shall have to wait for the Archbishop to have the grace to admit that the Church made “the most colossal error of judgement”.
We in Chichester are asking how long before we can see the restoration of his name, and particularly of George Bell House.
Chichester, West Sussex
Truth is the scapegoat for Pilate Welby
March 24, 2018
It is a week before Good Friday. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are re-enacting the Passion Play. The prelates take the part of Pontius Pilate – the archetypal political opportunist around whom pivots the denouement of the Passion. Pilate’s melodramatic and stunningly symbolic ritual of washing his hands has become a colourful and compelling metaphor for the artful evasion of responsibility at the highest level of authority.
Archbishop John Sentamu is standing in a queue before Pilate’s washbasin. He is waiting his turn. A bevy of bishops are dipping their hands into the shallow pool of sophistry and prevarication. They are chanting the absolution from the Church of England’s liturgy for Safeguarding and Child Protection. ‘It’s not my problem. It’s someone else’s problem.’ Amen.
They are shepherds and guardians of the flock. Fr Matthew Ineson is a member of that flock. Ineson complains that another vicar repeatedly raped him when he was 16 years old. He wants the Pilates in purple to give him justice. He appeals to Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster. ‘That bishop did nothing,’ says Ineson. ‘Nothing.’
Ineson hopes that the other magnificent men in mitres will shield him with their staff and apply the balm of Gilead to his wounded soul. Like Bunyan’s Pilgrim he sets off to meet Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield; Martyn Snow, Bishop of Leicester; Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverly; Roy Williamson, Bishop of Bradford (retired); and finally the Archbishops of York and Canterbury. But each time he says he is shoved into the Slough of Despond and the bishops ceremoniously wash Fr Matt’s muck off their hands.
‘It’s not my problem. It’s someone else’s problem.’ Amen – Absolution from the New Liturgy of Safeguarding
Ineson is calling on the bishops to resign over their handling of his complaints. This month he has been parading Sentamu before the judiciary of the mainstream media, social media andblogosphere. A Data Protection Act request has unearthed amemo that would make Pilate look like an amateur.
The memo deals with Ineson and the suicide of his alleged abuser. It is headed: ‘For the attention of the Archbishop.’ It ends with THERE IS NO NEED FOR YOU TO TAKE ANY ACTION. THE NATIONAL TEAM ARE MANAGING THE CASE. The last box on the memo is for ‘Archbishop’s Response’. The second highest-ranking cleric in the global Anglican Communion sums up his response to the suicide of one priest and the alleged rape of another in a single word: NOTED.
Earlier in the week, Justin Welby has been dragged before theIndependent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Welby is not so foolish as to stand on the balcony of Lambeth Palace with a washbasin and towel. He has watched Sentamu and other bishops wash their hands using distilled water and carbolic soap. He has observed the media backlash.
At the hearing, Fiona Scolding QC socks it to Welby. ‘The other thing that we have seen a lot of in respect of leadership, or some people would say we have seen a lot of, is shifting the blame,’ she says. ‘Yes,’ replies Welby, carefully picking his monosyllable. Scolding lands an uppercut on the archbishop’s jaw. ‘Everybody admitting that it was partly their responsibility and they’re sorry for that, but actually, “It wasn’t really my responsibility and these are the 15 reasons why somebody else was responsible for it”.’ Welby knows when he’s out for the count. ‘Sure,’ he mumbles his second monosyllable.
A Data Protection Act request has unearthed a memo that would make Pilate look like an amateur.
But soon, with Machiavellian cunning, Welby spins Pilate’s washbasin strategy at dizzying speeds like a schoolboy spinning his top. He spits righteous outrage at Pilate’s washbasin. ‘Nobody can say it is not my fault. It is so absurd,’ says Welby. ‘To say, “I have heard about a problem but it was someone else’s job to report it”, that is not an acceptable human response, let alone a leadership response. If you know a child is being abused, not to report it is simply wrong, for every human being.’ Bravo, bravissimo, Archbishop Justin!
Ineson tweets back to the Arch of Cant: ‘Tell that to @JohnSentamu who ignored my disclosure & 5 years on (5 years my abuser was left to abuse again) now says it wasn’t his job, it was @Steven_croft’s. Problem is neither of them have the decency to apologise & @c_of_e hasn’t got the decency to hold them to account.’
He’s right. Aren’t these just ‘words, words, words’ that sicken Eliza Doolittle? Why isn’t Welby calling for the resignation of his opposite number in York?
Ah! But what if this is precisely what Welby is doing? The mob on the portico of Pilate’s palace is baying for Jesus’s blood. The best way to feed the hungry sharks is to throw them a steak. Pilate gives the mob a choice. He lines up a terrorist named Jesus Barabbas alongside Jesus of Nazareth. Pilate is not too fussed about whom the crowd will choose. After all, they have the same first name, ‘Jesus’!
Why isn’t Welby calling for the resignation of his opposite number in York?
Barabbas is Pilate’s joker in the pack. With Faustian foresight Welby has struck a bargain with Mephistopheles and crucified other bishops at the altar of public relations – the dead Bishop George Bell and former Archbishop George Carey. Now it’s time to throw Sentamu to the sharks. If he has not shredded every fibre of self-respect, though, Sentamu should resign immediately.
Pilate is a postmodernist. He has three principles. Power is absolute. Truth is relative. Survival is non-negotiable. Pilate makes Jesus of Nazareth the scapegoat that allows him to survive in power at the expense of truth.
After scapegoating Bell and Carey, Welby magically produces a number of sacrificial lambs he can lead straight to the slaughter. He pretends the problem is factionalism. ‘A lot of it goes down to tribalism within the Church. Different groups who felt the liberty of defending their own position, right or wrong.’ To claim that tribalism leads to sexual abuse is a high jump of faith only an Olympic athlete would attempt. Welby’s solution is to ‘introduce diversity in training’.
He blames clergy and laity in the parish. The Twitterati erupts with indignation. ‘This is appalling deflection. It’s not PCCs, CWs and Parish Clergy who have routinely undermined safeguarding protocols, passed the buck and allowed space for child abuse to continue is it. No, it’s Bishops and Archdeacons. Blame the small guys. Nothing changes,’ tweets Gareth Jones, Crown Court Chaplain.
Ultimately, the real scapegoat is truth. ‘What is truth?’ asks Welby, in his poshest Roman accent. Pilate survives to this day. Every time we recite the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed we remember that Jesus was ‘crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate’. And at every rock concert when the heavy metal group Megadeth belt out their song Elysian Fields from the Youthanasia album, they are singing the line ‘Pontius Pilate is still washing his hands . . .’
Case for Bishop Bell
Sir – The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, is not alone in being ashamed of the Church in its handling of child abuse cases in the Diocese of Chichester (report, March 22). So are quite a few others. And some of us would add that we are ashamed of Archbishop Welby too.
At the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse hearing on Wednesday, the Archbishop was questioned about his continuing attack on the late Bishop George Bell, whose reputation has been besmirched by what Lord Carlile, the Church’s own eminent appointee to examine its legal processes, has described as a very misguided rush to judgement on a single accusation of historic child sexual abuse.
The continued anger that the case has aroused has nothing to do with Bishop Bell’s eminent reputation. It has everything to do with the fact that no one has ever been allowed to present a case in his defence.
The recent effort by the family to appoint its own lawyer in a new investigation has been turned down by the Chichester authorities. And once again, the Archbishop missed a chance to affirm his belief in Bishop Bell’s innocence as presumed by the law.
When will the Archbishop have the grace to admit that the Church leaders responsible for handling the George Bell case – including himself – have made the most colossal error of judgement in this instance?
Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
George Bell was ‘fond’ of paeodophile bishop Peter Ball and sponsored him for ordination, an inquiry has heard.
As former bishop of Chichester, Bell is considered one of Anglicanism’s heroes. However, it emerged in 2015 the Church of England paid £16,800 to the woman, known as Carol, in a legal settlement after she accused Bell of sexually abusing her as a child.
Now it can be revealed Peter Ball, who was jailed for a string of sex offences against teenagers and young men in 2015, was close friends with Bell.
Ball was initially rejected in his attempt to become a priest in 1951 but Bell wrote to the selection panel in support of Ball’s application.
When Ball applied for ordination a second time it was Bell who sponsored him through the process.
In his witness statement to an inquiry investigating child sex abuse within the Church of England, Ball denied that Bell had ‘overruled’ the selection board allowing him to be ordained.
However he said that after his ordination Bell would visit his parish to take services, adding he was ‘aware that he was “fond” of me’.
In response to a question about Bell’s involvement in his ordination, Ball told the inquiry: ‘It is not right therefore to say that Bishop Bell “overruled” the selection board in order for me to be ordained.
‘Although Bishop Bell had indicated in 1951 in a letter to the first Selection Board who did not recommend me for ministry that he would be “prepared to accept me for ordination” even though the Selection Board had not recommend me for training at that time, that is not how matters proceeded.’
He went on: ‘After theological college, it was Bishop Bell ultimately who did sponsored [sic] me for ordination, but with the approval of the Selection Board. Bishop Bell then placed me in the parish of Rottingdean where I undertook my first curacy.
‘He would visit my curacy on occasion to carry out confirmations and to take services.
‘We had a good working relationship; I was aware that he was “fond” of me. He was someone who I looked up to when I was a young curate starting out in the Church.’
Bell, who died in 1958, was revered by Anglicans before the abuse allegations against him emerged. However a report earlier this year heavily criticised the Church’s handling of the accusations and found it ‘rushed to judgement’ and failed to give proper consideration to Bell’s rights.
But the archbishop of Canterbury refused to back down and said a ‘significant cloud is left over his name’.
Ball went on to become bishop of Lewes in the diocese of Chichester and then bishop of Gloucester. He was accused of gross indecency against a 16-year-old in 1992 but escaped with a police caution after he received backing from a member of the Royal Family and a number of other establishment figures. He was told to step down from his role as a bishop. However he continued to minister in churches and schools until 2010 before he was eventually arrested.
At the age of 83 he was sentenced to 32 months for misconduct in public office and 15 months for indecent assaults in 2015. He was released after serving 16 months.
The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse has been investigation how the diocese of Chichester handled allegations of child sexual abuse as a case study for the wider Church of England.
In his concluding remarks today solicitor David Greenwood said the CofE was more ‘malign’ than the Catholic Church in its response to abuse and accused it of ‘a conscious effort to treat survivors badly’.
The archbishop of Canterbury in his evidence said he had ‘learnt to be ashamed again of the Church’ and warned child sexual abuse would ‘destroy the Church’ if not addressed.
You can read more about the past three weeks of hearings here.