Category Archives: Sexual Abuse


Church of England child sex abuse: Sussex failings found / “Church ‘failed to protect children from abusers’, inquiry finds”

By Aidan Barlow  @ArgusAidan Crime Reporter

Professor Alexis Jay has chaired an inquiry into child sex abuse in the Church of England, including against former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball

THE Church of England failed to protect children from sexual abusers in Sussex, an inquiry has found.

An independent inquiry into child sex abuse within the Church looked at the conduct of former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball and former Bishop of Chichester George Bell.

It found the Church fostered a culture where sexual predators could “hide” – and got more support than victims of sexual abuse.

The inquiry found that 390 clergy have been convicted since 1940.

Last year there were 2,500 safeguarding concerns raised and 449 allegations reported.

Photo: Former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball

It had investigated claims against figures in Sussex, which is part of the Diocese of Chichester.

Victim Philip Johnson, from Eastbourne, was a victim of Bishop Peter Ball in 1978.

Ball admitted abusing 18 young men between 1977 and 1992 and was jailed in 2015. He died last year aged 87.

Mr Johnson previously agreed to waive his right to anonymity and said the inquiry has taken a step in the right direction.

He said there is a need for more independent oversight and safeguarding and a need for more thorough support for victims and survivors.

Photo: Philip Johnson has spoken out about the abuse

In 2015, following Ball’s conviction, the then Detective Chief Inspector Carywn Hughes described how Bishop Ball had abused 12 victims at his home in Litlington near Lewes over many years.

The DCI said: “It became clear that under the guise of his status as a Bishop, Ball had systematically abused the trust of the victims, many of whom were aspiring priests, while others were simply seeking to explore their spirituality.

“He abused that trust and used religion, through his Give A Year For Christ scheme, as a cloak behind which to carry out his grooming activity, the principal aim of which was to satisfy his sexual interest in and desire for young men.”

Ball was guilty of misconduct in a public office and sexual assault.

He admitted misusing his position in authority between 1977 and 1992 “to manipulate and prevail upon others for his own sexual gratification” in relation to 16 young men.

He also admitted indecently assaulting two men in their late teens between 1980 and 1983 and between 1990 and 1991.

Ball was Bishop of Lewes between 1977 and 1992 and Bishop of Gloucester from 1992 until his resignation the following year.

Read more on this story:

The inquiry found that public support was often given to clergy like Ball by the Church of England, regardless of the evidence against them.

Bishop George Bell was the wartime Bishop of Chichester.

A victim, who The Argus previously referred to as Carol to protect her identity, said she was five years old when he molested her.

She also explained she had informed the Church of the abuse in 1995, and again in 2012, and again in 2013 – at which time Archbishop Justin Welby saw to it her complaint was fully investigated.

In October 2015, the Church issued a £16,000 payout and an apology for the way the complaint had been dealt with.

Inquiry chairwoman Professor Alexis Jay said: “Over many decades, the Church of England failed to protect children and young people from sexual abusers, instead facilitating a culture where perpetrators could hide and victims faced barriers to disclosure that many could not overcome.

Photo: Professor Alexis Jay chaired the inquiry

“To ensure the right action is taken in future, it’s essential that the importance of protecting children from abhorrent sexual abuse is continuously reinforced.

“If real and lasting changes are to be made, it’s vital that the Church improves the way it responds to allegations from victims and survivors, and provides proper support for those victims over time.

“The panel and I hope that this report and its recommendations will support these changes to ensure these failures never happen again.”

Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologised for church failings and said he felt “ashamed”.

He said the failings revealed were “profoundly and deeply shocking”.


Dear Aidan Barlow

As the Argus crime reporter, would you please maintain your journalistic integrity by amending your surprisingly sloppy piece of journalism [“Church ‘failed to protect children from abusers’, inquiry found”, Argus, Oct 8].

There is a distortion of facts, and therefore truth, if the case of the wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell is confused – deliberately or otherwise – with the case of ex-Bishop Peter Ball.

Peter Ball was found guilty in a criminal court of law. 

George Bell was found not guilty by two separate investigations by Lord Alex Carlile QC and Timothy Briden – both commissioned by the Church.
I would urge you to amend your article accordingly.

Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

2 Lychgate Cottages Ifield Street, Ifield Village Crawley, West Sussex RH11 0NN
Tel: 07540 309592 [Text only – Very deaf] Email:


Here is an example of sloppy journalism which damages truth and justice for those victims and survivors of abuse, and those victims and survivors falsely accused of abuse.

When reading the Argus article, be aware that ex-Bishop Peter Ball was found guilty in a criminal court of law, while wartime Bishop of Chichester was found not guilty by two separate investigations by Lord Alex Carlile QC and Timothy Briden – both commissioned by the Church.

I look forward to the Church of England Comms correcting this media sloppiness – just as I look forward to flying pigs getting landing rights here at Gatwick.

Dear Richard, 

I agree with you that Aidan Barlow’s report is sloppy.  It is more than that: it is reprehensible and Bishop Bell would have grounds to sue the Argus for damages for defamation were he still alive. 

The report does not say in terms that Bell was guilty of abusing ‘Carol’, but that is the clear inference from referring to her as a ‘victim’ (rather than as complainant or claimant) and the £16,000 ‘payout’ by the Church, without making any reference to the subsequent investigation and Review by Lord Carlile.  

The article contains a link (Read more on this story: Fresh material given to police in Bishop of Chichester George Bell case) to the report by Joel Adams in the Argus on 31 January 2018 referring to the ‘information’ received following publication of the Carlile Review in December 2017.  At least that report includes an accurate summary of the conclusions of Lord Carlile QC (though wrongly elevating his status by calling him a ‘Law Lord’!) and refers to Carol as ‘the alleged victim’ (emphasis added), but this does little to correct the position when there is no reference in the current report to the subsequent Sussex police statement (in March 2018) “The matter is now closed as far as Sussex Police are concerned and the Church of England have been informed of this” ( nor to the Briden report, dated 17 January 2019, finding the new allegations to be “unfounded”:  

The IICSA report published on 6 October 2020 does refer to the Bell case on pages 70-71, but (I would suggest) in a disingenuous way, leaving the innuendo that Bell might have been guilty of the abuse alleged. 

First, on page 70, it records criticisms of Lord Carlile’s report voiced in evidence by Ecclesiastical (EIO) claims director David Bonehill (a witness who had to be recalled on 12 July 2019 to correct misleading evidence given earlier).  The report makes no comment on those criticisms and, so far as I am aware, Lord Carlile was not asked for his response to them.  

Second, at page 71, para 39, the IICSA report states simply in respect of ‘the second George Bell case’: “Mr Briden concluded that no further allegations were proven on the balance of probabilities.”  The footnote reference (footnote 578) is not a reference to Mr Briden’s report but to inquiry document ACE027643_138-142. |This is pages 138 to 142 of Graham Tilby’s witness statement dated 14 June 2019 in which (at para 348) he purports to summarise Timothy Briden’s conclusions.  His first bullet point states simply, “Alison’s complaint was not considered to be proved on the balance of probabilities”, omitting Mr Briden’s reason, namely “her evidence being unverified by independent sources and her account unreliable.”  Likewise, Mr Tilby’s second bullet point states “The incident described by witness K was not considered proved on the balance of probabilities”, omitting Mr Briden’s reason, “the hearsay account being inherently unconvincing and without corroboration.” (See Appendix III).  Further, Mr Tilby makes no reference to Mr Briden’s overarching conclusion at his para 43: “Concentrating exclusively on the allegations remitted to me, I have decided that they are unfounded.” (emphasis added). 

I should add, for the sake of accuracy, that Lord Carlile did not find Bishop Bell ‘not guilty’ of the abuse alleged by Carol as his terms of reference precluded him from doing so (see paras 9, 10 and 258 of his Review), but reading between the lines of his criticisms of the flawed core group investigation, it is pretty clear that that is his (unstated) view. 

In view of what I have set out above, I am copying this e-mail, inter alios, to Alex Carlile. 

Kind regards, 


David Lamming – General Synod member


General Synod member David Lamming has called this sloppy piece of journalism by the Brighton Argus as “reprehensible” – but it represents a part of the media which is beyond ignorant – and dangerously distorts the truth – deliberately or otherwise.

There needs to be pastoral care and support, not just for the victims and survivors of abuse, but also the victims and survivors of those falsely accused of abuse.


Dear Arron Hendy
Please register this as a formal complaint – one of accuracy [lack of] due to poor research by a professional journalist.
If this complaint is not dealt with by the end of today (Friday October 9 2020), I will formally complain to IPSO.

1. Accuracy

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published.

Yours sincerely 

Richard W. Symonds
2 Lychgate Cottages Ifield Street Ifield Village Crawley West Sussex RH11 0NN
Tel: 07540 309592 (Text only please) Email:



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The Argus (Brighton) (Newsquest Media Group)

“Church’s child sex abuse shame” [Hard Copy] + Church of England child sex abuse: Sussex failings found / “Church ‘failed to protect children from abusers’, inquiry finds” [Online], date of article 08/10/2020

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Clause(s) breached:

1 Accuracy

The integrity of the professional journalist concerned is questioned with an inaccurate, poorly researched and sloppy piece of journalism.
There is a distortion of facts, and therefore truth and justice, if the case of the wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell is confused – deliberately or otherwise – with the case of ex-Bishop Peter Ball.
Peter Ball was found guilty in a criminal court of law. George Bell was found not guilty by two separate investigations by Lord Alex Carlile QC and Timothy Briden – both commissioned by the Church.

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07540309592 [Text only – Very deaf]



Looking ahead to IICSA report day on Tuesday

Stephen’s Blog Stephen Parsons

by Gilo

By no means a comprehensive list. Just a brief visit across a number of things we may probably see further comment upon after the Inquiry makes its final Anglican report.

Mandatory Reporting

It’s possible that any expecting to see the much needed recommendation for Mandatory Reporting as part of the statutory framework – will be disappointed. It is long overdue.

The argument is won.

And this presents an ideal moment as the Church has come round to acceptance of MR after a rather circuitous route of yes we do, no we don’t. Many of us suspect the Inquiry want to hold on to this as a ‘big ticket’ recommendation for the final report at the end of 2021. Why wait until then? Current policies across many institutions in regulated activities have been called “bags of bits” by Mandate Now; labyrinthine policy jungles which would become largely redundant with MR. Culture change will happen in a single weekend with its eventual introduction. But I think we have to wait until the Inquiry gets the last train home.


The Archbishops Council statement was notably vague on this. That the Church is keen to put this theme out just before the final Anglican report suggests that the Inquiry will call serious question to the Church’s fitness for self-governance. There is an overwhelming need for the National Safeguarding Team to be given independent oversight, well away from the control of Archbishops’ Council secretariat. The current NST is almost an entirely new team, but part of the difficulty facing Melissa Caslake and her newbies is picking their way through the considerable wreckage of the previous era which has left many survivors deeply suspicious of the NST.

Many disaster sites might have been avoided, or reached quicker resolution, if the NST hadn’t been shaped by the culture of Church House, its comms and lawyers and managers, and at times, the Church’s own dodgy reputation launderers.

The Christ Church core group debacle would in all likelihood have been avoided. I am told the probable outcome of this independence will be the formation of a new NCI (National Church Institution) – called Safeguarding – with independent members alongside Church appointees in an oversight committee to beef up scrutiny. We will have to wait and see how and when this happens.

Archbishops and Bishops

Many of us expect to see Archbishop Justin Welby and former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, criticised. Both their hearings were embarrassing. When each had an opportunity to apologise to a survivor sat directly behind them, they failed to do so despite being invited by the Inquiry. Those watching sensed that the Inquiry took a dim view. The wider existential crisis of the bishops – how many senior figures and their dioceses have responded, or failed to respond – is likely to come under heavy fire.

The walls of silence to major questions that so many of us have experienced as a pattern across the bishops is something we hope the Inquiry will highlight.

I know that Bishop Jonathan Gibbs is keen to see more vigorous accountability injected into the structure. At present it is at best variable, at worst: absent.

Some bishops are thrown under the bus. Others get away with run-for-the-hills behaviour and hope the fallout from their denial and distancing will not follow them.

The National Safeguarding Steering Group, the church’s current overarching board of governance, to many of us seems to resemble a shielding for senior figures who should be facing critical questions. It includes bishops who have managed to hide within the structure behind dysfunctional processes and a culture of protection.

Ecclesiastical Insurance

Many of us expect to see the church’s insurer take a substantial hit following the recall to IICSA when Ecclesiastical Insurance tried to pull the wool over a government inquiry.

It’s worth pointing out that Carl Beech is serving 18 years in prison for perverting the course of justice and lying under oath to the police. But Ecclesiastical, a big corporate, have managed so far to get away with apparent dissembling in front of a government inquiry – under oath!

It’s also notable that their lawyer, top QC Rory Phillips, had only one client at the Inquiry and a very small handful of statements to be across. What a mess he made. I don’t think anyone assumes he knew his client was being dishonest. But to be candid, he could have done an hour’s easy homework – and realised he was representing a client who was being considerably less than ‘sufficiently full and frank’ in their testimony. It took the Inquiry less than 45 mins to devastate their testimony on three significant counts. Now, much more is emerging about malevolent psychiatric reports used against survivors, ‘genetic predisposition’ defences, desk-topping, and other strategies deployed by EIG and their lawyer – much of this reflecting dubious ethics.

But I doubt these will be visited in the report as some of these have only recently started to emerge, despite being brought to the attention of senior church figures over the years. But I would expect to see the Church criticised for its duplicity in some aspects of its relationship to the insurer.

It has sought to protect a corrupted nexus, from whom it derives substantial income through the owner of the insurer, AllChurches Trust. It has been, as one cleric put it, “a very English form of corruption”.

Interim Support Scheme

This is not part of the Inquiry. But it’s definitely worth comment – as the Church announced this flagship scheme last week perhaps as an attempt to plea-bargain with the Inquiry, and certainly to address widespread concern at the lack of compassion towards survivors. My understanding is that this scheme will help up to ten people initially (to help create the structure) and then quickly scale up. Quickly being the operative word.

If it fails to do this, or rows back on its promises, and becomes another smoke and mirror delaying tactic – then it will raise much more ire.

The proof will be in the extent to which it is prepared to rescue economies of those left in wreckage as result of reporting and re-abuse. And not just the initial ten or so. But fifty, then a hundred, and so on. This is not the redress scheme and should not be confused with it. It is the interim support prior to redress. My understanding is that there is no figure attached to this scheme – instead the lead bishops have argued for an open credit line – which I think is the right approach. The final redress scheme will cost a great deal more. The figure that has been talked about in the longer term has been £200million. But many of us think this will not be sufficient.

What happens after?

Will the Church go back to sleep after the Inquiry? My sense is that the current lead bishops are keen to use this opportunity to bring about as much culture change as they can and I think they recognise that this is required across the top of their Church.

My own view is that a Truth & Reconciliation initiative may be needed, in which bishops end the long procession of crafted apology statements, and apologise for real. But that has to go hand in hand with real justice and genuine repair of lives.

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Cumbria. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues. View all posts by Stephen Parsons →

← Is the Church of England ready for new moves in Safeguarding?

2 thoughts on “Looking ahead to IICSA report day on Tuesday”

  1. Gilo BBC Radio Sunday. 25mins in.
  2. Jane Chevous Thank you Gilo, your predictions sound spot on and give us some hope that things will change. I know that you and others are working behind the scenes to do this and am very grateful for all you do.
    I do hope the report calls for independent scrutiny & that this results in a total reform of the core group process, because this is where the real canker is. It’s unfit for purpose and often reabusive. And as you say, fails to hold abusers and especially bishops who do nothing, to account. Nothing is happening to either of the bishops who failed (refused) to respond to my report of clergy rape.
    A redress scheme doesn’t bring justice. I hope the idea of a restorative justice process, including a Truth & Reconciliation commission, does gain traction. Counselling and compensation alone do not bring justice, or repair the rupture of abuse












All 33 Roman Catholic bishops in Chile offered to resign Friday after meeting with Pope Francis in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Latin American country.

The unprecedented offer by the Chilean church’s top hierarchy came after a week of tense meetings with Francis in the Vatican to discuss the harsh conclusions of a report on the Chilean scandal prepared by Malta Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna that accused church leaders of a coverup.

“We want to announce that all bishops present in Rome, in writing, have placed our positions in the Holy Father’s hands so that he may freely decide regarding each one of us,” Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez said in a news conference Friday in Rome.

It was unclear whether Francis would accept any or all of the resignations. Thirty-one of the 33 bishops attended the Vatican meetings, and the two who did not attend added their names to the resignation letter.

“I assume with responsibility, in communion with the rest of the church, this need to support the Holy Father,” Bishop Carlos Pellegrin said after arriving Friday at the Santiago airport.

After visiting Chile in February to investigate the alleged abuses of an unspecified number of victims that included minors and adults, laymen and clerics, Scicluna filed a report that slammed a coverup by church leaders of sex crimes committed by Father Fernando Karadima during his tenure at a parish in Santiago, the capital.

The report blamed, among others, Karadima’s superior Bishop Juan Barros, who attended the Vatican meetings. Karadima, now 87, was condemned by a special canonical court to a lifetime of penance and prayer, but he faced no criminal charges because of the statute of limitations.

In his five years as pontiff, Francis has been praised for his attention to social issues and the poor but accused of failing to punish clergy who abused children. Such criticisms intensified during the pope’s visit to Chile in January, when he labeled the accusations against Barros as “calumny.”

The pope’s words were widely criticized, even by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a key Vatican advisor on clergy abuse.

Francis later apologized and asked Scicluna to investigate the matter. The pontiff also had emotionally charged meetings with three men who said they were abused by Karadima. Those meetings prompted him to write a letter to the Chilean bishops last month, saying that he felt “pain and shame” over the men’s accounts and that he wanted to “apologize to all those I have offended.”

One of the men who met with the pope, Juan Carlos Cruz, described their discussions as “raw.” Cruz said he had “never seen someone so contrite. He was truly sorry, and I felt he was hurting.”

The night before the Chilean bishops sent Francis their offer of resignation, he sent them a letter. According to the Vatican news service, it referenced his meetings with the bishops and said, in part: “In light of these painful incidents which concern abuse — of minors, power, and conscience — we exchanged views on their seriousness as well as on their tragic consequences, particularly for the victims. For each of them I have wholeheartedly asked for forgiveness, an action to which all of you have united in one will and with the firm intention of repairing the damage done.”

Scicluna’s 2,300-page report enumerated “a series of absolutely reprehensible acts that have occurred in the Chilean church in relation to those unacceptable abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse that have resulted in the lessening of the prophetic vigor,” Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos of Santiago said at the Friday news conference.

Karadima served as spiritual guide to more than 40 priests and four of the current bishops whose future is now at stake — Barros, Horacio Valenzuela, Tomislav Koljatic and Andrés Arteaga. They all have denied covering up abuses. Barros was perhaps closest to Karadima, having been trained by him as a junior priest

“The fame of Father Karadima was extraordinary at that time; he even had a reputation of being a saint,” Emeritus Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz testified at a civil court hearing in 2015, explaining why he didn’t believe the accusations against Karadima in the early 2000s.

Triggering the crisis was Francis’ appointment of Barros in 2015 as head of the Osorno Diocese in Southern Chile. Up to then, Barros had a low profile as Chilean armed forces bishop, but his alleged role in the Karadima coverup was widely known by then and many parishioners protested the appointment.

On Friday in Santiago, another of the whistleblowers who exposed Karadima said Francis needed to get rid of the bishops.

“I hope the pope accepts the resignation of all the bishops, because none of them was willing to side with the victims,” Jose Andres Murillo said at a news conference. “The church must transform itself from a refuge of abusers to a refuge for the victims.”

Poblete is a special correspondent. Special correspondent Chris Kraul in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.







Dear Editor

The Chief Constable of Norfolk Simon Bailey states [‘Officers told to believe sex abuse claims despite fantasist scandal’, Times, Aug 6]:

“We shouldn’t allow one investigation to be the basis upon which we ignore a substantial body of evidence that talks about the importance of being believed”

The professional approach is to neither believe nor disbelieve the complainant and their allegation. There is no right or entitlement for a complainant to be believed, but there is a right and entitlement for a complainant to be treated with respect, to take their allegation seriously, to listen with compassion, and to record the facts clearly.

Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society


Dear Editor

Concerning the Bishop Bell injustice, one Chichester Cathedral Friends member says (‘More than 1,000 sign petition’, Observer Letters, June 27):

“Steps are in progress for personal approaches to be made to both the Dean and the Bishop and these are to be separate meetings of a conciliatory nature, appealing to their good sense and Christian conscience in both cases”

‘We got it wrong’ would suffice in both cases.

Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

June 19 2019 – “The Blackburn Letter – A new beginning for the Church?” – Stephen Parsons – ‘Surviving Church’

The Blackburn Letter. A new beginning for the Church?

A document which I hope will always be referred to as the Blackburn Letter appeared yesterday June 17th 2019.  It is written by the senior staff of the Blackburn Diocese and is addressed to their licensed staff, clergy and Readers, and safeguarding officers. 

In essence, it is commending study of the recent IICSA report on the Diocese of Chichester and the Peter Ball case. 

Those of us who have been cheering on the case of safeguarding for some time cannot but feel that this is progress.  The Letter may claim historic importance because it shows that in one diocese of the Church of England a group of senior church people really seem to understand all the dimensions of safeguarding in the Church.  They understand it in a way that goes far beyond the box-ticking reputational management process which is what safeguarding comes to be in many places.

Why am I personally moved by this letter?  For a start, the Blackburn senior staff want those who study the IICSA report to notice before anything else the suffering that has been caused by sexual abuse to real victims.  Many people, including myself, have always pleaded that safeguarding should start at this end – the needs of survivors.  Sexual abuse, however many years ago it took place is a ‘human catastrophe’ for those caught up in it as victims as well as causing ‘lifelong impact’.  How right that the Blackburn Letter begins with words from Psalm 51.  ‘Have mercy on us O God, for we have sinned’.  The letter makes no apology for putting the human suffering endured by survivors right at the beginning. 

The traditional preoccupation of the Church, reputation management, only gets a mention in para 5.  It is mentioned, but only as a way of explaining that it has been a factor in not dealing well with allegations from the past.   When protecting the good name of the institution has taken precedence, the suffering of survivors has been made far worse. 

Moving on from what appear to be genuine expressions of sorrow and contrition on behalf of the whole Church, the letter begins to explore what can be done in the future.  The congregations are to be places where ‘children and vulnerable adults can be entirely safe’ but also where ‘the voices of those who have difficult things to say or disclosures to make are heard and acted on.’  The second part of this wish is far harder to deliver.  Many survivors report that the reason the Church has found it so hard to deal with their needs is because the recounting of their past experience of suffering causes so much discomfort in the hearer. 

None of us find it easy to listen to stories of abuse, particularly when the abuser was a trusted figure, like a priest or a bishop.  Taking on board the idea that a member of the home team is an abuser is deeply unsettling.  It is far easier to shut down the discordant thought and that is what many people will do in practice.

A further insight in the letter, which is music to my ears, is the recognition that clericalism, deference and abuse of power lie behind the ‘cover-up’ and the silencing of the ‘voices of the vulnerable’.  Clergy and other leaders have power within the relationships they possess and there needs to be ‘deeper awareness’ of that power.  This theme of ministerial power and its potential for harm is the topic that I have chosen to reflect on in the forthcoming volume of essays Letters to a Broken Church. There is so much more to be said on this topic.

I want to make two further observations about the letter.  One is that the letter appears to have been written at a visceral level.  In short, the emotions of sorrow and repentance are allowed to rise to the surface and be dominant themes in what is communicated.  Somehow the letter, assisted by a quotation from Andrew Graystone’s essay of a week ago, manages to avoid completely the somewhat petulant tone of so many expressions of ‘regret’ and ‘apology’ that we associate with official statements. 

Are we correct in seeing in this letter the beginning of something new, a combination of deep sorrow and genuine feeling for the needs of survivors and those wronged by the Church?    

Such sentiments, if they are followed through, will begin to meet the needs of survivors.  It may be the beginning of the ‘change of culture’ that has been looked for by so many.  It is also the first sign that some senior clergy individually and corporately are beginning to ‘get it’.

My final observation is a somewhat irreverent one but it needs to be made.  Is it a coincidence that this remarkable statement of unanimity and contrition about safeguarding emerges from a diocese that is far away from London?  The Diocese of Blackburn may be articulating a somewhat prophetic position precisely because it feels itself geographically and in other ways remote from the centres of Anglican influence represented by Church House and Lambeth Palace respectively.  The prospect of an entire diocese studying the articulate comments and criticisms of the Independent Inquiry must be causing considerable discomfort among those who try hard to control the narrative and set the agenda for the Church of England.  The forthcoming debates at York General Synod may or may not get to the heart of the issue as the Blackburn Letter seems to have done.  Whatever is said at York, the effect of the process of study in the Blackburn diocese will have implications which will reverberate long into the future.  It will be increasingly hard to claim that no one understands the issues.  The consequences of this serious reflective study on safeguarding and the needs of survivors will be hard to limit only to one circumscribed geographical area represented by the Diocese of Blackburn.

Right at the heart of this blog’s concern and many other places is the desire that the suffering of abuse survivors should be understood, responded to and healed.  Up till now the Church has often insisted of responding through damage limitation and avoidance.  The Blackburn response is suggesting that these methods are no longer viable.  Perhaps the Blackburn Letter is the beginning of a new phase in the history of the Church of England.  One day it may be said that that on the 17th June 2019 the Church of England, represented by the Diocese of Blackburn, began to move from denial and avoidance of the issue of abuse victims to a stance resembling healing, humility and new beginnings.

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Northumberland. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues.

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


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.

The Bell Society
2 Lychgate Cottages
Ifield Street, Ifield Village
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.

21 The Drive
Leeds LS17 7QB



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

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Peter Hitchens

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

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:




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.


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.



Yes, well done Mr Hitchens for keeping this up.





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.



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.