Category Archives: Safeguarding

May 24 2019 – “I find Dr Warner’s reluctance [to declare Bishop Bell innocent] incomprehensible” – Church Times – Letters – Richard W. Symonds – The Bell Society

download

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2019/24-may/comment/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor

IICSA report on Ball’s translation; clearing Bishop Bell…

From Mr Richard W. Symonds

Sir, — Your leader comment (“Power of abuse”, 17 May) states: “. . . It is easy, then, to see why Dr Warner [the Bishop of Chichester] has been so reluctant to declare Bishop Bell innocent of the charges of abuse brought against him by ‘Carol’, despite encouragement to do so from those who have investigated the case thoroughly.”

As someone who has assisted “those who have investigated the case thoroughly”, I do not find the Bishop’s reluctance to declare Bishop Bell innocent “easy . . . to see”.

In fact, I find Dr Warner’s reluctance incomprehensible.

RICHARD W. SYMONDS
The Bell Society
2 Lychgate Cottages
Ifield Street, Ifield Village
Crawley
West Sussex RH11 0NN

 

From the Rt Revd Dr Colin Buchanan

Sir, — Your account (News, 17 May) of the Report of the Independent Investigation into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), while picking upon the part played by Archbishop George Carey, omits any mention of another key figure, who must bear much responsibility for the whole miserable event.

The hinge on which the case turns is the appointment of Peter Ball to be Bishop of Gloucester. The earlier Gibb report merely reported that Ball had been no 2 on the list sent to John Major, though it did report that the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary, Robin Catford, had earlier tried Peter Ball’s name on the diocesan representatives of Norwich when they were seeking to appoint a diocesan bishop there in 1985. The Norwich representatives then indicated that they did not want a bishop who seemed so greatly to enjoy the company of young men.

The IICSA report mentions this in para. 61. It does not mention here that the previous year Catford had made the same approach to the Portsmouth representatives when their diocese was vacant, and they (I have on good authority from one of the four) replied that they lived too near to Sussex with too much knowledge of Chichester diocese to contemplate nominating Ball.

To anyone who asked the question, which the Gibb report omitted, how Ball was appointed to Gloucester, the IISCA gives a part-reply. It does highlight the critical role played by Catford in persuading John Major to use his discretion and appoint the second name on the list, with a very loaded and possibly even devious exercise of his advisory role. Catford appears in a very bad light in paras. 65-66 of the IISCA report. But the report does not consider the prior question how Ball ever became considered for appointment by the Crown Appointments Commission. The CAC must surely have received clean unqualified references, tabled by the two appointments secretaries (one the Archbishop’s, the other the Prime Minister’s) and including, presumably, a detailed reference from Eric Kemp, Ball’s diocesan bishop in Chichester.

The report does show that Kemp was well aware of activities (or at least rumours) that would have seriously qualified any frank report; so we are left to wonder what kind of references the two secretaries laid before the CAC. Had Kemp written nothing, or had anything damaging been filleted out of anything that he had written? Ball was also an unlikely candidate on the quite different grounds that he opposed the ordination of women, which Gloucester diocese strongly supported (a point that it does not appear that Catford made in his memorandum to John Major).

So it becomes reasonable to assume that, as previously with Portsmouth and Norwich, Catford was pressing a strong case for Ball’s appointing — and securing Ball’s position as second on the list with the CAC was enough to enable him then to recommend to the Prime Minister that Ball be appointed. But IISCA does not report what references and what other support Ball had at the CAC; and the natural conclusion must remain that George Carey, along with the CAC, was being taken for a ride on behalf of Catford’s favoured candidate.

If this is so, three immediate reflections come to mind. First is that it is hardly surprising that George Carey, with the PM’s appointments secretary’s glowing character reference before him, was fully ready to believe Ball’s protestations of innocence. Second, if a proper handling of the stories around in Chichester diocese had been put before the CAC, Peter Ball would never have been even second in the candidates for appointment to Gloucester, and, while the matter would no doubt have reached the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is Bishop Kemp who would have had to deal with the first round of complaints; and, third, the key person responsible for getting Ball into this position was the civil servant who was adviser to the PM, in relation to which the State is as liable as the Church for the unwanted outcome.

The PM retained the final discretion in the appointment of bishops; he, on the wholly misleading advice of the civil servant who was supposed to have first-rate and dispassionate knowledge of the clergy, exercised his discretion on behalf of a deeply flawed candidate; and considerable blame should therefore lie with Downing Street.

None of this touches directly on the part played by either the police or George Carey or the Prince of Wales, but it helps to explain why Ball was so readily believed.

COLIN BUCHANAN
21 The Drive
Leeds LS17 7QB

 

 

May 21 2019 – Bishop Gavin Ashenden on Bishop George Bell and The Deleted Files – Anglican Unscripted 505 [Time: 20.45 to 28.05]

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Bishop Gavin Ashenden

The implications of hiding crosses in churches. Anglican Unscripted 505.

Anglican Unscripted 505 – Bishop Gavin Ashenden on Bishop George Bell [Time: 20.45 to 28.05]

Ref: “Footprints In The Sand – tracking changes in online content” – A short report for The Bell Society by Peter Crosskey

https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/may-20-2019-footprints-in-the-sand-tracking-changes-in-online-content-chichester-cathedral-website-a-short-report-for-the-bell-society-by-peter-crosskey/

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May 19 2019 – Peter Hitchens on Bishop Bell – What is at Stake and Why is it Important?

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Peter Hitchens

https://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2019/05/please-sign-this-petition-for-truth-and-justice.html

15 May 2019

Please Sign This Petition for Truth and Justice

I hesitate to ask readers one again to support a petition, but my good friend Peter Billingham, a long-standing and dedicated fighter in the cause of truth, and justice for the late George Bell, needs your support in a good enterprise.

There is now no serious question that the late Bishop Bell has emerged with his reputation unstained after allegations made against him. Regular readers will know of the case, but for new readers, or those wishing to refresh their memories, the best summary of the long saga may be read here http://www.georgebellgroup.org/statement-may-2019/

The distinguished QC Lord Carlile of Berriew  reviewed the case in a report which showed that the investigation of the allegations against the late Bishop bell was a one-sided, sloppy kangaroo court. But the Archbishop of Canterbury, who commissioned that report, debarred him from stating a conclusion about George Bell’s guilt or innocence. Lord Carlile made it clear, when questioned at the time of publication, that he thought the case against George bell was extraordinarily weak.  He has since said clearly that he believes that Bishop Bell *was* innocent of the charges,

Lord Carlile declared on 1 February 2019,  ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.’

But while the Church has plainly retreated from its earlier attitude, and the media which joined hastily in the Church’s hasty, unfair condemnation are now licking their wounds, relieved that the dead have no redress in such situations, there is still a failure in some quarters to admit error. In a Stalinist frenzy after the first accusations were made, George Bell’s name was hurriedly and shamefully stripped from a number of buildings and institutions, by people who failed to understand the most basic principles of English justice.

The most important of these was the handsome and tranquil guest house in Chichester Cathedral precincts, called George Bell House. This building was originally the gift of an order of Anglican nuns who had loved George Bell when he was alive and wanted to honour him after his death. Yet despite the vindication of George Bell by the Carlile review, his name has still not been restored to it. This is small-minded and petty, and putting it right would go a long way towards the penitence the Chichester authorities, and the Church of England as a whole, ought to show.

So, in the names of Truth and Justice, I ask you please to take a moment to add your names to this petition:

https://www.change.org/p/the-dean-chapter-of-chichester-cathedral-justice-for-george-bell-479a626f-47aa-400d-8fc3-61b19fcc5d98?recruiter=834778373&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email

 

 

 

There are many things going on in this world but this is also an important issue one should not ignore, if one cares for truth and justice in everyday life.

However, I was wrong to believe that I could not sign this petition. This one does *not* require the residence address/postal code. There are many readers who do not live in the UK but really care for this subject.

I hope more people, even those who living outside of the UK, would sign this petition now.

 

 

The petition claims:

Two major reports in 2017 and 2019 established that allegations of abuse made against Bishop Bell sixty years after his death were unfounded.

Which is just a way of browbeating the original complainant into withdrawing – so back to the dark ages of the C of E – when everyone knew that htis sort of thing was rife but nobody spoke out – not even those who were happy to speak out against the war effort.

The facts have not changed.

An allegation was made. The C of E had it checked and concluded that in a civil case they would lose (with the facts judged on the balance of probabilities) and so they settled – about GBP16,000 plus a similar amount of costs.

In the absence of corroboration it was widely assumed that a criminal case against Bell (had he still been alive) would not get up if judged beyond reasonable doubt.

After the settlement the Cof E (and various elements of the media) reported the situation so as to give the impression that Bell had been found guilty. That is the only thing that was handled wrongly.

The difficulty still remains for the C of E (and any other organisation finding itself in a similar situation) that they have a lauded hero but htere is an uncorroborated allegation against him. What to do about statues and other celebratory artefacts relating to that person.

That a tough nut to crack.

No amount of further pontification changes the original facts.

Clearly there are those who would like the original complaint to be withdrawn and are applying pressure in manners such as this and Spacely-Trellis type reports which waffle around before eventually putting the boot in.

Disgraceful.

The original point (about the church’s (and media’s) misreporting of the original settlement) was won long ago.

Time to let it drop was long ago.

The only way you can get the original uncorroborated allegation to be withdrawn is by pressuring the complainant to do that – of which this is clearly a part.

***PH remarks: This contributor plainly has not read the two reports on the allegations against Bishop Bell. I suggest he goes to the website of the George Bell Group and studies the issue. Both sets of charges were shown in detail to be ( I put this politely) hopelessly weak. ****

 

 

 

adbob | 18 May 2019 at 01:14 AM

-“The facts have not changed.”-

The facts have changed.

-“An allegation was made. The C of E had it checked and concluded that in a civil case they would lose (with the facts judged on the balance of probabilities) and so they settled – about GBP16,000 plus a similar amount of costs.”-

As a previous thread post pointed out:

Yes, maybe a “legal process” had begun – but there was no trial. 
“Presumption of innocence”, “reasonable doubt”, “balance of probabilities”, etc. all apply only *during a legal or civil trial*. – Phil W | 29 January 2018 at 09:42 AM

-“No amount of further pontification changes the original facts.”-

The “original facts” did not include the facts which came to light since.

 

Signed and donated. In order for evil to prosper it is only necessary for good men to do nothing.

 

 

Signed. Mr Hitchens deserves great credit for his campaign to ensure that justice is done.
I wrote to Canterbury and Chichester to complain about what had been done. I received unsatisfactory replies. It would be interesting to see what they gave to say now.

 

 

 

Thank you for continuing to pursue this.

Is it worth asking how this happened, so that it might be prevented from reoccurring? My guess is that the Establishment (George Carey, the Prince of Wales, etc) was so stung by its worryingly misguided defence of Peter Ball, the convicted sex offender and ex Bishop of Lewes, that it swung too far the other way when faced with an unsubstantiated allegation.

 

 

Signed.
Yes, well done Mr Hitchens for keeping this up.

 

signed.

 

 

I signed. I don’t live in Chichester but do visit occasionally and these visits always include the Cathedral. It has been associated with some very notable people. I noticed that Gustav Holst’s remains are interred there, but my favourite is Thomas Weelkes, who was the Cathedral’s organist about 400 years ago. I do love his music and wondered why he never became a Gentleman of The Chapel Royal. Then I found out that he was rather too fond of the bottle and was often in trouble, even behaving badly enough to be dismissed but being able enough to be re-instated! His greatest/lowest moment must surely have been urinating on the Dean of the cathedral from the organ loft during Evensong. If the Cathedral authorities then were much like those now then perhaps he had a point.

 

Done

Signed. What a shame it has come to this. Welby and his ilk have no honour and integrity and should be ashamed to call themselves Christian, let alone purport to lead and represent a Christian institution.

 

Signed and shared on Facebook in the hope that others might sign it too…

 

 

PH is unwittingly beginning to sound like the defenders of Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby, it is extremely rare for people to completely fabricate allegations of sexual abuse, so I think it is right that someone’s reputation is at least tarnished by such an an accusation.

Of course if they were alive the law would presume innocence as it should, the alleged victims and the defendant could provide testimony and be subject to rigorous, persistent cross-examination, alas, this was never done and now cannot be done.

However, given that we are not talking about taking away Mr Bell’s liberty,, and given how rare it is for people to fabricate sexual abuse,, is it not absolutely correct that the CofE distances itself from this man?

 

 

Thomas O’Thornton | 15 May 2019 at 04:48 PM:-“it is extremely rare for people to completely fabricate allegations of sexual abuse […] and given how rare it is for people to fabricate sexual abuse”-

If only that were so.

 

 

Just signed it now. Thank you for keeping up interest in this matter Mr. Hitchens, I hope Justice is served.

Jan 24 2019 – “A report by Timothy Briden relating to Bishop George Bell” – Chichester Cathedral

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Chichester Cathedral [from 4 Canon Lane – formerly George Bell House]

Chichester Cathedral Enterprises Ltd

https://www.chichestercathedral.org.uk/news/report-timothy-briden-relating-bishop-george-bell

A report by Timothy Briden, relating to Bishop George Bell

24th Jan 2019

A report by Timothy Briden, a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, relating to fresh information received about the late Bishop George Bell, has been published today. Mr Briden was appointed by the Bishop of Chichester to make an independent assessment of the evidence.

The Cathedral Chapter welcomes Timothy Briden’s report and the accompanying statements by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team, the Bishop of Chichester and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The full report and statements can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/safeguarding/safeguarding-news-statements/national-safeguarding-team-statement-bishop-bell

The Bishop of Chichester’s statement refers to the difficulty of this complex case:

‘The legitimate quest for certainty has been defeated by the nature of the case and the passage of time. Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty, nor can it be safely claimed that the original complainant has been discredited. There is an uncertainty which cannot be resolved. We ask those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognize the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’

The Archbishop of Canterbury also notes:

‘The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has already questioned the Church of England over its response to the Bishop Bell case and the review by Lord Carlile. We expect that their report on our hearings will address further the complex issues that have been raised and will result in a more informed, confident, just and sensitive handling of allegations of abuse by the church in the future. We have apologised, and will continue to do so, for our poor response to those brave enough to come forward, while acknowledging that this will not take away the effects of the abuse.

This very difficult issue therefore leaves the church with an impossible dilemma which I hope people with different perspectives on it will try to understand.’

May 14 2019 – “George Bell Group issues new statement” – ‘Thinking Anglicans’ – Simon Sarmiento

George Bell House - 4 Canon Lane - Chichester Cathedral

George Bell House – 4 Canon Lane – Chichester Cathedral – before the name change [Picture: Alamy]

George Bell Group issues new statement

George Bell Group issues new statement

The George Bell Group has issued this: Statement May 2019.

Since October 2015 when the Archbishops’ Council announced that they had paid compensation to the woman given the pseudonym ‘Carol’, who alleged that she had been abused by Bishop George Bell, his defenders have criticised the Church authorities for never once affording the Bishop the presumption of innocence.  Now, after the inquiries of Lord Carlile and Timothy Briden, it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.

THE CARLILE REVIEW

The Carlile report, whose conclusions (save as to publicity) the Church accepted, criticised the investigation of Carol’s allegations as a rush to judgment predicated on Bell’s guilt. It concluded that the decision to settle with Carol was indefensibly wrong and that the process completely ignored the Bishop’s reputation and the interests of his surviving family, including his very elderly niece.

The original statement by the Archbishops’ Council in October 2015 claimed that none of the expert independent reports had found reason to doubt Carol’s veracity. But Lord Carlile discovered that the only expert consulted by the Church thought it very likely that Carol’s experience of abuse in her first marriage had affected her recall, and that the possibility of false memories was a real one.

Regrettably Archbishop Welby added his authority to the destruction of Bell’s reputation: on Good Friday 2016, before the Carlile report was completed, he told BBC Radio that the investigation of Carol’s claim had been ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse correct on the balance of probabilities. We now know how far from the truth that was.

The Archbishop told Lord Carlile during his inquiry that if there had not been a proper investigation of Carol’s story, the Church would have to apologise. But sadly, when the Carlile report was published in December 2017, he chose not to do so. To the disappointment of Bell’s defenders, he appeared to reject the presumption of innocence; instead he commented that there was still ‘a significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell’s name without giving any explanation of why he continued to hold that view in the face of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.

THE ‘FRESH INFORMATION’ AND THE BRIDEN PROCESS

The publicity given to the Carlile report appears to have triggered a copy-cat claim by the woman given the name Alison. The Core Safeguarding Group which had been responsible for the shambolic investigation of Carol’s claim now set about trying to substantiate that by Alison. They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol. But within weeks the police, to whom the Core Group had reported the matter, closed their enquiries.  Next an investigation by a senior retired police officer commissioned by the Church quickly showed that Alison’s evidence was unreliable and incapable of supporting any adverse finding against the Bishop.

Mr Briden reported that her account not only had internal inconsistencies but was also contaminated by her having read Carol’s story, a contamination revealed by her repeating verbatim some of Carol’s words which had been reported in the press. He ended his report by saying that all the allegations against George Bell remitted to him were unfounded.

Many will have hoped that on reading Mr Briden’s report Archbishop Welby would have publicly acknowledged that the cloud of which he had previously spoken had been dissipated. He did not do so.

THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH NOW

The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal. It is now the plain duty of the Church of England, nationally and in the Diocese of Chichester, to make amends by working to restore Bishop Bell’s reputation, not least in institutions which were once proud to adopt his name.

We welcome the decision of Canterbury Cathedral to revive a commission to create a statue of Bell and note the expression of ‘delight’ with which the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded. We acknowledge with gratitude the firmness with which the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford have maintained and cherished the chapel there dedicated to Bell’s memory throughout the controversy. We note that the meeting room dedicated to Bishop Bell remains, as before, at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

It is only in Chichester itself, the place in which Bishop Bell lived and worked for almost thirty years and where his ashes are interred in the cathedral, that any public adoption of his name is now suppressed.

We find the public stance of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, incomprehensible and indefensible. The Bishop’s ‘Response’ to the Briden Report, published on 24 January 2019 and now promoted on the websites of the diocese and cathedral, only went as far as to acknowledge that ‘Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty’. He added that it could not be ‘safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited’. This is a most regrettable insinuation that there was, or likely was, substance to Carol’s allegation and hence that Bell was to be suspected of abuse.

The Bishop emphasised the defamatory innuendo by asking ‘those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognise the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’ There is, regrettably, no evidence in this response of the Bishop’s commitment to justice or of any compassion towards those who are wrongly accused. His words have been repeated verbatim by the Bishop at Lambeth in response to a Question at the recent session of the General Synod of the church. Indeed, the Bishop even invoked the authority of the House of Bishops in support of this view. So far as we are aware the House has never even discussed the matter.

Such words simply preserve the impression that there was, and remains, a case against Bell. A not dissimilar state of mind was revealed by the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Officer when he told the Child Abuse Inquiry in March 2018 that ‘all the indications we have would suggest that the simplest explanation for why someone comes forward to report abuse – because they were abused – is likely to be the correct one’.

As the High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques has pointed out in his report to the Metropolitan Police on allegations against prominent individuals, such an assumption results in an investigation which does not challenge the complainant, tends to disbelieve the suspect and shifts onto the suspect the burden of proof, ignoring any presumption of innocence. It becomes a premise for a miscarriage of justice such as can now be seen to have been inflicted on the reputation of George Bell.

It should be sufficient to observe that like Professor Anthony Maden, Lord Carlile did interview this first complainant. We note Lord Carlile’s statement of 1 February 2019, made to the local campaigner Mr Richard Symonds: ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.’

We are more than conscious that this saga represents a wider pattern in the Church and across society where many other such miscarriages of justice have become notorious. Now it is surely essential that if all the many safeguarding bodies, national and diocesan, are to be retained by the Church of England their work must be placed under real legal discipline and in the hands of officers who observe fully the expectations and rule of law and act without fear or prejudice.

There must never again be any repetition of such a discreditable, indeed disgraceful, performance.

Andrew Chandler, Convenor of George Bell Group, 9 May 2019

COMMENTS
Susannah Clark

“it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.”

What does that precisely mean? If the group is saying that the case is ‘unproven’ then I’d agree, because it is impossible to prove one way or the other whether her allegations against the Bishop are true or untrue. If it is saying that ‘Carol’s allegations about George Bell can be proved to be untrue, then that is a slur on a woman whose narrative they have repeatedly said is false. To say that George Bell *is* innocent (except in legal terms) is a false claim.

What I read in this statement is the use of insinuation.

“The possibility of false memories was a real one.” Yes. But ‘possibility’ means just that. It’s also possible her recall of who abused her was not false. Possibility either way is not the same as fact.

“They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol.” Setting Alison aside, why is Carol described as “the discredited Carol”. That is offensive to a woman whose claims remain unproven one way or the other. It is slur.

As Dr Martin Warner correctly acknowledges: “Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty.” But he is also right to add that it could not be “safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited.” That is not insinuation. It is fact. The fact remains that Carol may or may not have been abused by George Bell.

Process was faulty, and reform in the Church’s safeguarding procedures is overdue, but at the same time, this campaign group has created an incredibly hostile and partisan environment for an abuse victim herself. ‘Carol’ in all likelihood has indeed suffered abuse. It may have been committed by George Bell. With the passage of time we shall probably never know. However, assertions that – as a matter of fact – Carol’s claims are false… that is a disgraceful shutting down of an abuse victim’s experience and allegation.

Yes, the accused need safeguarding protection too… few deny process needs improvement… but no, it CANNOT “be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.”

That is a falsehood, a false assertion. If we create a virulent and hostile environment for people with the courage to come forward to accuse abusers – and it takes incredible courage – then we should be ashamed, because what it will do is drive victims back into secrecy and silence.

In addition, we must never lionise powerful men, even good men of known courage, to the extent that hagiography silences those who – in some cases – are nevertheless victims of the very dark side of human character. Great men can be flawed. We cannot simply disbelieve women because of their abuser’s reputation. That cannot wash. What we need is process that is discreet, measured, and factually very precise with its language. And non-partisan.

We do not, factually, know if George Bell was innocent or guilty. I doubt we ever will. Carol may be right.

T Pott
“We do not know, factually, if George Bell was innocent or guilty.” If that were so, it would put him in exactly the same position as everybody else who has ever lived. So, perhaps, we should simply remember people for what we do know about them.
Susannah, if you make an allegation I raped you when you were 5-years-old, the onus is on you to provide evidence that I raped you. The onus is not on me to prove I am innocent.

If you cannot provide that evidence in a court of law, then however convinced you are that it was me who raped you, I am to be presumed innocent. That’s the law.

After two investigations (Carlile & Briden), ‘Carol’ – who has had the benefit of anonymity and been paid nearly £30,000 (?) in compensation – has provided zero evidence that it was Bishop Bell who abused her.

Therefore, Bishop Bell is to be presumed innocent. That’s the law.

But the Church seems to consider itself above the law by presuming Bishop Bell’s guilt and presuming the innocence of ‘Carol’.

May 9 2019 – “IICSA publishes report on Chichester and Peter Ball” [and Terence Banks and Bishop George Bell] – ‘Thinking Anglicans’

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Chichester Cathedral [from George Bell House, 4 Canon Lane]

IICSA publishes report on Chichester and Peter Ball

IICSA publishes report on Chichester and Peter Ball

IICSA has published its report on the Chichester diocese and Peter Ball investigations.

Full Text of Report: Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

Executive Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

Press release: Inquiry publishes report into the Diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball

The Church of England has published this: Publication of IICSA report into Anglican Church 

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, IICSA, has today published its report into the Anglican Church  based on its case studies last year of the Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against the former Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball.

The 252-page report makes 5 recommendations about a range of issues. These will now be studied in detail and a full response released at a later date. The Inquiry’s third and final hearing in the  Anglican church case study  will start on Monday 1 July 2019 and run for two weeks. This will focus on both the Church of England and the Church in Wales in the context of their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse. The Inquiry notes that further recommendations directly relating to the findings in this report will be made following the hearing in July.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead bishop for safeguarding, said:

“We thank the Inquiry for the report and note the findings and recommendations which we will now study in full. The report states that the Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors and the Inquiry’s summary recognises that it failed to do this.  It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report.

“Whilst the report acknowledges the progress the Church has made in safeguarding, we recognise that our work must continue at pace in order that we can ensure that the Church is as safe as possible for all. We are committed to working to bring in specific changes that will help us better protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual and all other forms of abuse. If anyone is affected by today’s report I would urge them to come forward. Details of how to do this can be found on the Church of England website.

“We are  immensely  grateful to survivors for their courage in coming forward to IICSA to share their experiences of how they were treated by the Church, knowing how difficult this would have been; their testimonies have made shocking and uncomfortable listening. Since the Archbishop of Canterbury asked for the Church of England to be investigated by IICSA as a matter of priority, we have sought to help the Inquiry  in every way that  we can  and  we will now fully consider the report.”

COMMENT BY RICHARD W. SYMONDS

Initial reflections regarding the IICSA Report – as they relate to the Chichester Diocese and the Bishop Bell case:

Para. 434. “In 1995, some 37 years after Bishop Bell’s death, a letter was sent to his [Bell’s] successor as Bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp. The author of the letter is known by the pseudonym ‘Carol’. Carol alleged that when she was aged between five and eight years, she was sexually abused by Bishop Bell. The abuse occurred every few months during visits to the Bishop’s Palace in Chichester. It included digital penetration, forced masturbation and attempted rape. The [IICSA] Inquiry cannot determine the truth or otherwise of these allegations”

Nobody can determine the truth or otherwise of these allegations by ‘Carol’, but if the ‘exclusive’ in the Brighton Argus [giving a detailed analysis of Carol’s abuse] – and the detailed analysis of her allegations by the George Bell Group – are accurate, her account simply doesn’t add up.

Para. 454. “It seems to be acknowledged by all that the process was significantly flawed, particularly in its failure to establish at the outset who should be responsible for managing the civil claim. In its response to the Carlile review, the [Chichester] Diocese suggested this should be a separate ‘litigation group’ which should consider whether the claim was proven on the balance of probabilities. We [the IICSA Inquiry] agree that this would be a sensible course of action”

A “litigation group” is a very good suggestion by the Chichester Diocese, and it would be a very sensible course of action.

But has the suggestion been followed by action? No.

Para. 460. “In a document produced to the Synod by the National Safeguarding Steering Group in June 2018, the Church itself recognised that there may need to be independent investigation of complaints against senior clergy. This would include posthumous allegations [eg Bishop Bell – Ed]. The Church is to undertake a scoping exercise, during which it will consider the appointment of an independent ombudsman to deal with complaints about safeguarding management. Both of these issues require serious consideration. They may present a practical solution to the concerns raised in the Carlile review” (eg regarding Bishop Bell – Ed].

A “scoping exercise” (?) by the Church and an “independent ombudsman” are very good practical solutions to the serious problems.

But isn’t this too little, too late? These solutions to such problems should have taken place at least four years ago.

May 3 2019 – “Panorama on C/E. Further reflections” – Stephen Parsons – ‘Surviving Church’

Panorama on C/E. Further reflections

Panorama on C/E. Further reflections

 

It is perhaps unfortunate for the Church of England and other public bodies that iPlayer was ever invented.  It allows the curious and those obsessed by detail to go back and watch small sections of a programme over and over again.  The Panorama episode on the Church of England last Monday was a case in point.  Certain things within it jarred for me and I needed to check out what had really been said as well as the demeanour of the person uttering the words.

This blog piece has to assume that the reader saw the programme (or at least read my previous blog) as space does not allow me to run through the things said.  Three people were especially prominent in the programme, in addition to the valiant survivors who appeared.  One was the investigating Lincolnshire Superintendent, Rick Hatton.  The other two were Bishop Alan Wilson and Bishop Peter Hancock.  All three came over as having individual sincerity and honesty.  Each, in different ways, conveyed emotion and this drew the viewer in to feel with them the sentiments of sorrow they were experiencing.  The emotional connection between Superintendent Hatton and the viewer in particular was unexpected, but it made for powerful television.  The other two individuals mentioned also drew us into their personal emotional world.  We felt caught up in the way they had reacted as human beings to the horrors of sexual abuse by clergy.

However, this spell of identification was partly broken in the final few moments of the programme.  One of the bishops showed himself to be unable to answer a straightforward question about the statistics of abuse.  Suddenly the good rapport that Bishop Hancock had built up with the viewer over the programme was shattered.  His evasive response to the interviewer changed the way we related to everything he had previously said in the earlier parts of the interview.  Instead of being a man of feelings and integrity, Bishop Hancock suddenly showed himself as someone who was there to perform in front of an audience.  He was there not to speak for himself but on behalf of others. 

On the Twittersphere this question has been asked by several people.  Who was Bishop Hancock representing and who was he speaking for?  The evasiveness of the final moments of the programme showed that all his earlier answers were in all likelihood rehearsed and controlled by other unseen people.  Unlike all the other people in the programme, the Bishop’s words came to be revealed as the words of a corporate entity.  We were, in other words, hearing from, not a live independent human being but rather we were witnessing a stage-managed, damage limiting show.   The story of the Wizard of Oz immediately comes to mind.

Whenever an individual has the task of standing up on stage and presenting views for someone else, particularly when they are likely to be challenged at a later date, one can feel sorry for that person.  I felt sorry for Bishop Hancock on Panorama just as I had felt for Archbishop Welby when he spouted out nonsense about the Smyth scandal to Channel 4 barely three weeks ago.

Whoever are the hidden forces who pull strings behind the scenes, one feels an atmosphere of desperation in the system when half-truths and palpably false information are fed to the public.  In this age of Twitter, Facebook and email, information travels as fast as light.  How anyone can expect to hide truth in 2019 is a mystery?  The story of spiritual/sexual abuse in the Church is far too big to be buried in a flurry of misleading statistics.

The revelation in 2010 that there were only 13 cases of serious abuse to be examined in the entire C/E was palpably false information but it had the effect of damping down criticism of the institution for a period.  Control of information was then power for those in charge of the Church and they used it effectively to delay the day of reckoning that seems now to be very close.

The truth of the full extent of the abuse scandal within the Church of England is, for the moment, hidden from most of us.  The IICSA hearings did prise open numerous cans of worms and give us a glimpse of what appear to be outrageous manipulations of information which were used to protect the institution.  I am still haunted by what was revealed at the hearing about Chichester when a detective investigating the crimes of Bishop Ball was actively obstructed in the course of his duties by the then Bishop of the Diocese.  The IICSA hearings of last year lead us to suspect that next Monday’s reports and conclusions on the Diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball are likely to be fairly dire. 

Somehow the horror of what churchmen (it does seem to be men) will do to try to protect the church from scandal and malfeasance has now limited power to shock.  It is a bit like the situation in the States where presidential lies have become so much the norm that no one expresses any shock at a new one.  But even the negative conclusions of IICSA towards the Church may be survivable if the Church finally comes to the realisation that it cannot prosper when information in this area is suppressed or manipulated. 

The interviewer on Panorama upset Bishop Hancock (and presumably his minders) when she scratched at potentially the greatest scandal of all – the statistics of abuse across the whole Church. What was being discussed was sensitive information about the full extent of abuse in the Church. Not being ready to share that information suggests that Church authorities know that it cannot yet be revealed without a great deal of spin and preparation.  The need for the application of extensive communication skills suggests that the news in this area is very bad indeed.  Some months ago, it was suggested to me by someone ‘in the know’ that the Church dealing with abuse scandals was a bit like fighting forest fires which keep erupting all over the place.

Panorama indicated to us that control of information is a tactic of power still actively employed by the central Church authorities.  The originators of this tactic do not appear to be the bishops themselves but the highly paid Church House officials at the centre of things.   Unfortunately for them, their control of the levers of power was all too easy to spot in both the recent television interviews. 

The interview of Archbishop Welby on Channel 4 was, like that of Bishop Hancock, unconvincing and somewhat contrived.  The bishops themselves both had personal integrity and human warmth but nothing could disguise the fact that they were speaking for someone other than themselves.  The Church cannot continue to go down a path of fielding individuals to act as spokesmen for the institution.

The public want, as far as possible, to encounter real human beings who can speak for the church.  The people of England relate to real people, people who, like them, are living lives of joy mixed with pain.  They will never want to identify with a group when they suspect that the information put out is being manipulated and managed before it is shared with them.  In short, let bishops be bishops, shepherds of the flock, not puppets being controlled by forces that are invisible and are not necessarily working for the good of all.

Wow. Thanks, Stephen. There’s an article in the Church Times about safeguarding where Bishop Stephen Cottrell says the Church now has “Marvellous guidelines and policies”. No comment.