Bishop George Bell review to criticise Church’s handling – reports
Bishop George Bell’s reputation could be restored after an official review in the Church’s handling of abuse allegations is expected to be critical of how the CofE handled the case.
The wartime Bishop of Chichester, a celebrated Anglican figure who was given the equivalent of a Saints’ Day, was accused of historic abuse in 2015.
A Church inquiry two years ago found ‘on the balance of probabilities’ he had abused a child in the late 1940s and 1950s. The Church awarded his alleged victim, known only as ‘Carol’, compensation of £15,000 after experts said they had ‘no reason to doubt’ the claims.
The case is hotly debated both within the Church and across the wider establishment with Bell’s accusers saying the compensation is long overdue. But a George Bell support group was launched last year to argue his positive reputation and legacy is being tarnished by unsubstantiated claims.
A recent debate on historical child sex abuse in the House of Lords reflected the growing concerns among leading establishment figures about the George Bell case.
It is expected to be critical of the Church’s initial investigation, although it does not rule on the bishop’s guilt or innocence, according to the Mail on Sunday.
Archbishop of Canterbury accuses BBC of failing to show same ‘integrity’ over child abuse as the Church
The BBC has defended itself against criticism from the Archbishop of Canterbury that it lacked ‘integrity’ in its response to the Jimmy Savile child abuse scandal.
Archbishop Justin Welby said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the corporation had not shown the same integrity the Anglican and Catholic churches had.
Invited to reflect on the programmes 60th anniversary of being on air, he said: ‘I think we are a kinder society more concerned with our own failures, more willing to be honest where we go wrong in most of our institutions.’ But there were still ‘dark areas’.
He continued: ‘If I’m really honest, I’d say the BBC is one. I haven’t seen the same integrity over the BBC’s failures over Savile as I’ve seen in the Roman Catholic Church, in the Church of England, in other public institutions over abuse. We may be proved wrong about that but you know that’s one area.’
The Archbishop also referred to the dispute over the pay gap between men and women at the BBC, and said that in the church, male and female bishops received exactly the same stipends.
Archbishop Welby was speaking just weeks before Lord Carlile publishes his review into how the Church of England handled a claim by ‘Carol’ into allegations of abuse by the late Bishop George Bell of Chichester, who died in 1958.
In Australia, where the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches have been under investigation by a royal commission into institutional child sex abuse, and the Catholic Cardinal George Pell is facing multiple historic child sex abuse charges, only yesterday it emerged that one victim was forced to take the Anglican Church to court over failure to pay a $1.5 million settlement.
The BBC, Church of England and Roman Catholic Church will all be examined soon in the UK’s own version of the Australian commission, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay. This December, the UK inquiry will look at the English Benedectines and next March, at the Church of England’s Chichester diocese.
Meanwhile six church sex abuse survivors silence condemned the Archbishop’s attack on the BBC.
In a statement they said: ‘Speaking from our own bitter experience, we do not recognise Archbishop Welby’s description of the integrity with which the Church of England handles cases of abuse in a church context.
‘Far from the ‘rigorous response and self-examination’ he claims, our experience of the church, and specifically the archbishop, is of long years of silence, denial and evasion. The Church of England needs to confront its own darkness in relation to abuse before confronting the darkness of others.’
Matthew Ineson, who as a teen was raped by a C of E vicar, Trevor Devamanikkam, who killed himself just before he was due to appear in court to answer to the charges, told The Guardian: ‘I know from my own experience, and the experience of others, that safeguarding within the C of E is appalling.
‘The church has colluded with the cover-up of abuse and has obstructed justice for those whose lives have been ruined by the actions of its clergy. I have been fighting for five years for the church to recognise its responsibilities and I’m still being met with attempts to bully me into dropping my case.’
A BBC spokesman defended the corporation. He said: ‘This isn’t a characterisation we recognise. When the Savile allegations became known we established an independent investigation by a High Court judge. In the interests of transparency, this was published in full. We apologised and accepted all the recommendations.
‘And while today’s BBC is a different place, we set out very clear actions to ensure the highest possible standards of child safeguarding.’
Regarding the Archbishop’s comments on the gender pay gap, the BBC added: ‘Gender pay is a challenge for all organisations not just the BBC. The national gender pay gap is 18 percent. The BBC’s is under ten percent and we have committed to closing it in 2020. We know we have to go further and faster. We are not unique in this. The Church of England’s own published pay gap for non-office holders is 41 percent. We all collectively have more work to do, to sort an issue that is a problem across the vast majority of organisations.’
Lambeth Palace said: ‘We fully accept the failures of the Church of England in the area of safeguarding.
‘Since the Archbishop took up his role, he has been very clear that the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be the highest priority of all parts of the Church and was one of the first to call for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
‘The Church’s National Safeguarding Team was created in 2015 and there are now robust House of Bishops safeguarding policies in place along with independent audits for all dioceses and dedicated training on hearing disclosures for all senior clergy.
‘The Archbishop fully supports the Church’s commitment to develop a stronger national approach to safeguarding to improve its response to protecting the vulnerable.
‘The Archbishop believes this level of rigorous response and self-examination needs to extend to all institutions, including the BBC.’