Category Archives: Archbishop of Canterbury

January 21 2018 – “Imagine…….” – Peter Hitchens – The Mail on Sunday

Imagine what would have happened if, after the Appeal Court had found (say) the Birmingham Six innocent, the Home Secretary had said: ‘I still think there’s a significant cloud over their names. I’m not letting them go.’

Well, this is how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is behaving over Bishop George Bell, wrongly accused of child abuse and cleared last month by a devastating report.

Lord Carlile QC, who reviewed the case, says that had Bishop Bell been alive when the accusations were made, ‘there would have been absolutely no chance… of him being convicted’.

This is how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (pictured), is behaving over Bishop George Bell, wrongly accused of child abuse and cleared last month by a devastating report

This is how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (pictured), is behaving over Bishop George Bell, wrongly accused of child abuse and cleared last month by a devastating report


But the Archbishop refuses to accept that his Church was mistaken when it publicly condemned Bishop Bell.

Now a group of powerful historians and another group of international church leaders have written sternly to Mr Welby, telling him to accept the verdict.

Is he big enough to climb down? We shall see. But if not, is he big enough for his throne?


December 31 2017 – “Who’s really preaching fake news, Archbishop?” – Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday


Peter Hitchens

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.


December 15 2017 – “Archbishop criticised for refusing to clear bishop besmirched by the Church” – Daily Telegraph – Olivia Rudgard and Robert Mendick

Archbishop criticised for refusing to clear bishop besmirched by the Church

Bishop George Bell should not have been named by the Church, a report has found CREDIT: JOHN DOMINIS /THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION 

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been criticised for refusing to clear the bishop besmirched by the Church of England and saying instead that a “significant cloud” hangs over him.

A damning report published today by Lord Carlile of Berriew found that the reputation of Bishop George Bell, who was posthumously accused of sexually abusing a child, was “wrongfully and unnecessarily damaged” by the Church, who publicly named him in an apology made in 2015.

But in a statement following the report, Justin Welby said Bell was “accused of great wickedness” and apologises only “for the failures of the process”. 

“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 C of E is committed to transparency and therefore we would take a different approach,” he adds.

Lord Carlile said the Archbishop’s comments were “very disappointing”. 

“The implication of what he said is everybody accused should have their name made public, and that is just not acceptable,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

Lord Carlile earlier said that he judged the prospect of a successful criminal prosecution, had the bishop been alive, as “low”.

Bell’s supporters also criticised the Archbishop’s response. 

Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson, the daughter of Bishop Bell’s friend Franz Hildebrandt, said Bishop Bell’s family deserved a personal apology from the Archbishop and the Bishop of Chichester. 

“The Church can’t have its cake and eat it. Either he is innocent, in which case they must apologise, or he is guilty, which they can’t prove, and the report makes clear that they have not proved,” she told this newspaper. 

Professor Andrew Chandler, Bell’s biographer, said the Archbishop’s statement was “wrong” and “illogical”. 

“It fails a basic test of rational justice,”he said. “It lacks an understanding of all kinds of dimensions which require compassion, not least in Chichester, where people feel deeply upset by this.”

The review found that the Church was wrong to publicly name Bell, who was accused by a woman known as Carol of sexually abusing her when she was a young child.

It also failed to thoroughly investigate the allegations, failed to find and inform Bell’s surviving family members of the investigation, and did not properly consider the impact on the bishop’s reputation when deciding what to do, Lord Carlile said.

The alleged abuse took place more than 60 years ago but the allegations were first made to the Church in 1995.

It paid compensation of £16,800 and £15,000 legal costs to “Carol” in 2015.

Lord Carlile of Berriew
Lord Carlile of Berriew: ‘The implication of what he said is everybody accused should have their name made public, and that is just not acceptable’. CREDIT: PACO ANSELMI /PA

Before the allegations were made public Bishop Bell was a highly respected theologian who was widely regarded as a hero for his work helping victims of Nazi persecution.

The report includes the findings of psychiatrist Professor Anthony Maden, which were given to Church officials in 2015, several months before the public apology was made.

He found that there were “enormous problems” because of the time elapsed, and said the “possibility of false memories in this case cannot be excluded”.

The alleged victim had been abused by her first husband, and Maden added that her unhappy early life meant there was “an obvious temptation to seek to (consciously or unconsciously) allocate the blame for that unhappiness to the actions of others in the distant past”.

In a statement Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop, said: “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.”

December 16 2017 – “Welby criticised over handling of historic child abuse case” – Newburgh Gazette


Welby criticised over handling of historic child abuse case Dwayne Harmon 16 December 2017

The church commissioned Carlile a year ago to review its processes in the case. George Bell was accused of abusing a woman over a four year period, starting when she was five-years-old in the 1940s and 50s. I have concluded that the process followed by the Church in this case was deficient in a number of respects. As a result, it over-corrected by rushing to judgement against the long-dead Bishop.

“Lord Carlile does not seek to say whether George Bell was in fact responsible for the acts about which the complaint was made. This is despite the widespread publicity which the case has received”. Lord Carlile, who was asked by the Church to review the case, concluded that it had been wrong to make Bell’s name public at the end of a “very weak” investigation and in a “rush to judgment”. The Church of England has apologised to the relatives of a bishop for the way it investigated child abuse claims made against him decades after his death, the BBC News reported on Friday. But so had Carol, he said.

“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”. He said that the allegations against Bell, who died in 1958, were… “We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name”. He is also accused of great wickedness. “No human being is entirely good or bad”, Mr. Welby said.

Questioned about Archbishop Welby’s statement, Lord Carlile described it as “less than fully adroit”.

In 2015, the church issued a formal public apology and paid £16,800 to the woman, known as Carol. The review, commissioned past year after a fierce campaign by defenders of Bell (News, 25 November 2016), was published on Friday morning. Church of England figures rejected one part of Lord Carlile’s report, which urged that the names of those accused of abuse should in some circumstances be kept secret unless there are “adverse findings of fact” and “it has also been decided that making the identity public is required in the public interest”. He said: “The good deeds that Bishop George Bell did were recognised internationally”. The Church made a decision to compensate Carol, to apologise and to be open about the case. Lord Carlile’s report makes a series of recommendations about how future safeguarding inquiries should be conducted. “In every other respect, we have all been diminished by the case that Lord Carlile has reviewed”. The current Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, has described it as a “lessons learned” review. “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. In a press conference after the review was published, Lord Carlile criticised the original 2015 statement for “hanging [Bishop Bell] out to dry”. Lord Carlile writes that Bishop Bell was treated as having been guilty. Lord Carlile said that her allegations, “if true, amount to serious and horrifying criminal offences committed against a defenceless child”. Campaigners have since said the inquiry committed a grave miscarriage of justice after failing to interview key witnesses or examine documents which could have cleared him. It was “premature” for the C of E to come to a conclusion about Bishop Bell “before actively seeking the widest available evidence about what had happened at the time”. This led to “over-steering”: where the Church allowed its preconceptions to drive the outcome. “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. Dr Warner conceded, none the less, that there was no guarantee that this would be the last review of safeguarding failures. Newburgh Gazette

December 1 2017 – “Justice” – Joanna Bogle



…and the reputation of a good man.

Read about Bishop George Bell here, and then sign this petition here

June 9 2017 – “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” – ‘Trump’s Meddlesome Priest’ – New York Times

By now many people will have googled the words “meddlesome priest.” The phrase was uttered by James Comey, the former F.B.I. director, during his testimony on Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. When he was asked if he took President Trump’s “hope” that he would drop the Flynn-Russia investigation “as a directive,” Mr. Comey responded, “Yes, yes. It rings in my ears as kind of ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ ”

These are the words that King Henry II of England allegedly cried out in 1170, frustrated by the political opposition of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury. Four royal knights immediately rushed off to Canterbury and murdered the meddlesome priest.

Unlike many contemporary references to medieval history, this one is apt. Mr. Comey’s point was that a desire expressed by a powerful leader is tantamount to an order. When Senator James E. Risch, a Republican, noted that the president had merely “hoped for an outcome,” Mr. Comey replied, “I mean, this is the president of the United States, with me alone, saying ‘I hope this.’ I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.”

King Henry’s contemporaries likewise assumed that a ruler’s wish constituted a command: Although he denied any intention of inciting murder, Henry was widely held responsible for Becket’s death. The pope issued an order prohibiting Henry from attending church services or participating in the sacraments, and the king was eventually forced to do penance for the violence perpetrated in his name.

There are even more instructive parallels. Although the administration offered various reasons for the firing of Mr. Comey, it is clear that Mr. Trump considered his allegiance to F.B.I. protocol over presidential preference to be a form of disloyalty. Likewise, the main issues at stake in 1170 were divided loyalty and institutional independence.

Before Becket had been elected archbishop, he had been a close friend and faithful servant to the king. Henry had engineered Becket’s election in the expectation that, as archbishop, Becket would continue to serve royal interests. This was not an unreasonable assumption; for centuries bishops had performed dual roles, acting as temporal as well as spiritual lords. They commanded armies, enforced royal decrees, and took it for granted that the rulers who appointed them could claim their loyalty.

It was not until the 1070s that secular control over bishops began to be challenged by a series of reformist popes who sought to free clerics from secular influence and insisted that bishops’ first allegiance was to the church. This goal was rarely fully realized — kings were generally closer than the pope and more able to dispense both patronage and punishment. But to Henry’s fury, Becket unexpectedly embraced reform, becoming a vigorous defender of church privileges and critic of royal interference. Henry felt intensely betrayed. Becket died not because he was “meddlesome,” but because, in the king’s view, he was disloyal.

The Becket episode may likewise help explain why Mr. Trump’s advisers did not prevent him from firing Mr. Comey. King Henry expected all his officials to share his fury at Becket and saw any failure to do so as a betrayal as well. The phrase “meddlesome priest” was a later invention, made famous by Hollywood in the 1964 film “Becket.” Henry’s actual exclamation — or at least the cry attributed to him in the medieval sources — was “What miserable drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a lowborn clerk!’”

No wonder the four knights were so eager to take the hint. Henry’s courtiers may well have feared that if they didn’t make a conspicuous display of loyalty, the king might turn on them next. Treachery was a capital offense.

The aftermath of the Becket episode may, moreover, resonate in one final way. Although Henry had longed to get rid of Becket for years, he presumably came to rue the day his words of rage were heeded. In addition to performing humiliating penance, he had to swear obedience to the pope, make a series of concessions to the church and eventually face rebellion. One suspects that Mr. Trump, too, might come to feel the wisdom of the words “be careful what you wish for.”