Tag Archives: Archbishop Cranmer

MAY 28 2020 – CHRIST CHURCH AT WAR – PRIVATE EYE

https://www.private-eye.co.uk/in-the-back

in the back

Christ Church at war

Oxford by gaslight, Issue 1522

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OXFORD BLUES: Dr Martyn Percy, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, who is being hounded by a cabal of disgruntled dons and ex-dons

THE dean of Christ Church, Oxford, has a unique double status: head of a major university college and senior resident cleric at the city’s cathedral. As the current incumbent the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy is learning, two jobs also mean twice the opportunities for a cabal of disgruntled dons and ex-dons who want to force him out.

War was publicly declared in September 2018, when seven of them formally accused Percy of “conduct of an immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature” – the wording that justifies removal from office under college statutes (Eye 1484). The governing body duly suspended him and set up an internal tribunal, chaired by the retired high court judge Sir Andrew Smith. The college said the dispute “relates to issues surrounding the dean’s own pay and how it is set”, without explaining how that could be immoral or scandalous.

Percy had indeed proposed a pay review for himself, and for the treasurer and bursar. But his enemies were plotting well before that. The old guard didn’t see Percy – adopted, and from a humble background – as “one of us”. They were also infuriated by his attempts to modernise the college’s safeguarding practices, following a violent incident involving a student.

The sword of truth

Internal emails seen by Sir Andrew Smith revealed what the judge called “distinct hostility” from a clique of former “Censors”, the academics who regulate the college’s academic and social life. “He’s got to go,” an emeritus professor wrote in an email to cronies. “Does anyone know any good poisoners?” Another commented: “Just think of the Inspector Morse episode we could make when his wrinkly withered little body is found at Osney Lock.”

Sir Andrew Smith’s inquiry, completed last August, rejected all charges against the dean. His 110-page report, which the Eye has seen, often seems bemused by the whole affair: “I find it difficult to understand the real complaints… I cannot understand the Prosecutor’s reasoning… Nor can I understand how the dean can be said to be guilty of culpable behaviour, still less immoral, scandalous or disgraceful conduct.”

When the Censors read the report, they promptly lived up to their name by announcing that the rest of the governing body would get only a heavily redacted version. But college alumnus Revd Jonathan Aitken then deployed the sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play. Outraged that a “small cabal of anti-dean dons” were suppressing the report, in February this year he sent unredacted copies to all 60 governors. Within half an hour they had an email from the panic-stricken Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson, ordering them to “immediately delete the email from Mr Aitken”.

 

‘Safeguarding concerns’

Despite being fully vindicated, Martyn Percy is left with legal bills of more than £400,000 – and because there is no internal grievance process available to him, the only resort is to an employment tribunal to recover his costs. But he is still dean. Having failed to oust him using college statutes, Percy’s nemeses have now turned to the Church of England to do the job for them. Early this year they alerted church authorities to “very serious safeguarding concerns” about him. The new allegation is that on four occasions students had told Percy that they had been abused, but he didn’t report this to the local authority.

The former students were all adults, and not otherwise vulnerable. Percy’s pastoral role was to listen and offer counsel. He gave them the option to pursue their case within or beyond the college. In the end they chose not to, and he respected their wish for confidentiality. The students made no complaint about the dean. But the word “safeguarding” sends the Church of England’s leadership into a spin, as his detractors presumably knew. The wily Censors went directly to the National Safeguarding Team rather than the local diocese in Oxford. They also retained the church’s own lawyers, Winkworth Sherwood – and hired its favourite PR firm, Luther Pendragon, to brief selected hacks.

Scores to settle

Yet Percy is not accused of breaching any C of E safeguarding protocols. Nor does he even work for the Church of England: he is employed directly by Christ Church, Oxford. Only a few months ago the National Safeguarding Team declined to take action against Revd Jonathan Fletcher, a proven serial abuser, on the grounds that he didn’t technically work for the C of E, even though he had been a parish priest for 35 years (Eye 1513).

With Percy, however, there were scores to settle. The dean is not much loved in Church House Westminster, having helped to expose its mishandling of the false allegations against Bishop George Bell (an alumnus of Christ Church). Instead of telling the college to sort itself out, the C of E has decided to form one of its notorious Core Groups. The Core Group convened to deal with the Percy problem appears to breach the House of Bishops’ own rules. These say that if a complaint is made against someone who is engaged in a statutory process (such as an employment tribunal), that must be completed before the church has its go. Percy’s employment case will not be heard until the autumn of 2021.

The church has swept aside these obstacles and set up a secretive investigation. The dean himself is not represented on the Core Group, and not allowed to know who is on it or when it meets. But two of the complainants from the college, including Senior Censor Geraldine Johnson, are members. It is hard to see what the group can achieve. It can’t question the students whose safeguarding issues the dean allegedly mishandled, since they did not make any complaints and their identity is not known. It can’t ask the dean, since the students spoke to him in confidence. And it can’t see Sir Andrew Smith’s report exonerating the dean, because the Censors have censored it.

The National Safeguarding Team has now asked Dean Percy to stand down during the inquiry, even though nobody believes he poses a risk to anyone. Professor Johnson has indicated that if Percy is still in post when the governing body next meets, she will put a notice on the college’s website to the effect that Christ Church’s safeguarding protocols are all robust except in respect of the dean – richly ironic, given that one of the Censors’ previous complaints about Percy was that he wanted them to take their safeguarding responsibilities more seriously.

 

COMMENT BY RICHARD W. SYMONDS – THE BELL SOCIETY

This is beyond shocking…”Christ Church At War” – Private Eye

“But the word “safeguarding” sends the Church of England’s leadership into a spin, as his detractors presumably knew. The wily Censors went directly to the National Safeguarding Team rather than the local diocese in Oxford. They also retained the church’s own lawyers, Winkworth Sherwood – and hired its favourite PR firm, Luther Pendragon, to brief selected hacks.

“Yet Percy is not accused of breaching any C of E safeguarding protocols. Nor does he even work for the Church of England: he is employed directly by Christ Church, Oxford. Only a few months ago the National Safeguarding Team declined to take action against Revd Jonathan Fletcher, a proven serial abuser, on the grounds that he didn’t technically work for the C of E, even though he had been a parish priest for 35 years (Eye 1513).

“With Percy, however, there were scores to settle. The dean is not much loved in Church House Westminster, having helped to expose its mishandling of the false allegations against Bishop George Bell (an alumnus of Christ Church).

“Instead of telling the college to sort itself out, the C of E has decided to form one of its notorious Core Groups. The Core Group convened to deal with the Percy problem appears to breach the House of Bishops’ own rules. These say that if a complaint is made against someone who is engaged in a statutory process (such as an employment tribunal), that must be completed before the church has its go. Percy’s employment case will not be heard until the autumn of 2021.

“The church has swept aside these obstacles and set up a secretive investigation. The dean himself is not represented on the Core Group, and not allowed to know who is on it or when it meets. But two of the complainants from the college, including Senior Censor Geraldine Johnson, are members”

The Church ‘Bell’ Core Group was a kangaroo court made up of moral and legal incompetents who casually dispensed with the presumption of innocence for Bishop Bell and wantonly threw him under the bus in a despicable act of character assassination and injustice.

There seems little difference between the ‘Bell’ Core Group and the ‘Percy’ Core Group.

I’m afraid to say the fish stinks from the head down in the Church of England which has become institutionally corrupt.

 

 

FURTHER INFORMATION

 

May 28 2020  – Thinking Anglicans – Christ Church makes safeguarding accusations against Dean

 

The Church of England prong has been reported in Private Eye, and is an altogether more concerning development, for it alleges “very serious safeguarding concerns”, which, as we know, ring alarm bells in the Church louder than bombs over England. But instead of informing Christ Church’s Governing Body that the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has no jurisdiction in this matter; and instead of informing them that an NST investigation would be ultra vires and in breach of a number of the House of Bishops’ own guidelines, the church has determined to establish a ‘Core Group’ to examine these alleged “very serious safeguarding concerns” against Martyn Percy.

Just like they did for Bishop George Bell, where the conflicts of interest of certain members of that ‘Core Group’ were manifest; and the notable exclusion of an advocate for the dead Bishop and his descendants was a clear breach of natural justice.

You would think that the National Safeguarding Team, now under the new leadership of Ms Melissa Caslake at Church House, might have learned from their past mistakes. But no: the ‘Core Group’ convened by Ms Caslake reportedly includes at least two members of Christ Church’s Governing Body (who may have slight conflicts of interest); and excludes any advocate for Martyn Percy (which may constitute a slight breach of natural justice). The make-up of the group hasn’t been disclosed the Dean: its membership is secret, except to the two members of the Governing Body.

Quite why the Church of England is prepared to collude in a chronic campaign of bullying against the Dean of Christ Church is a mystery. The mere establishing of this ‘Core Group’, in contravention of its own guidelines, constitutes harassment: the NST can’t create a bespoke investigatory process for Martyn Percy – who isn’t even an employee of the Church – without defaming him further. What exactly are these “very serious safeguarding concerns” which merit a quasi-judicial process which bypasses established guidelines, contravenes basic principles of natural justice, and ignores the law on defamation?

And yet, setting aside the fact that the Dean of Christ Church is not an office-holder of the Church of England; and setting aside the fact that the safeguarding disclosures all concerned adults (not undergraduates); and setting aside the fact that none of them has complained about the Dean or his conduct; and setting aside the fact that there has been no internal investigation at Christ Church which has established “a consistent lack of moral compass”; and setting aside the fact that the Employment Tribunal process needs to have been completed before any investigation may be initiated, the Church of England has indeed convened a ‘Core Group’, which its own guidance says it must do:

Martyn Percy is not accused of any of these behaviours or crimes, but the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England has now smeared him with the whiff of possibility.

The only evidence of  “a consistent lack of moral compass” in this whole sorry saga is that manifest by the conduct of certain members of the Governing Body of Christ Church, along with the consistent moral failures and poor legal judgment of the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England. The only compass points which might touch upon Martyn Percy are his being driven mad north-north-west.

Nov 24 2019 -“Chichester Cathedral moves to restore Bishop George Bell” – ‘Archbishop Cranmer’ – Martin Sewell

Chichester Cathedral moves to restore Bishop George Bell

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Chichester Cathedral

CRANMER’S ‘CURATE’S EGG’ COMMENTS

  • Well in the case of Bishop Bell daylight should have been allowed into this long ago. I firmly believe if you want to accuse you do so in the light of common day, not in the shadows of anonymity. And nor do I believe that the Church, nor anyone else for that matter, should be sending fat cheques for allegations which have not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

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      This was a civil proceeding and claim, not a criminal case. Out of court settlements happen all the time without acceptance of culpability or liability. The error in this instance was not the payment (which was small given the nature of the allegations) but the Church of England accepting the claims were credible and that George Bell was guilty. There was no need for Welby to say he could not, with integrity, clear Bell’s name.

      To be honest, having been in similar situations, Jack has some empathy with Welby’s statement:

      “We have to treat both Bishop Bell, his reputation — we have to hold that as something really precious and valuable. But the person who has brought the complaint is not an inconvenience to be overlooked: they are a human being of immense value and dignity, to be treated equally importantly. And it is very difficult to square that circle.”

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        I agree. For many reasons the CoE made a grotesque mess of its handling of this case, but it is worth asking what should have been done that wasn’t. In my view, (1) ‘Carol’ should have been told: “We are not pre-judging anything but we need to cross-examine you, because someone who has genuinely been abused and a golddigger would say the same thing, and cross-examination will give us more information to distinguish. Can you see why we require that?” And (2) That reporter who said others had been abused in a local newspaper should have been followed up by the enquiry, no matter how many phone calls had gone unreturned.

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          What should have been done ? That is patently obvious: ‘Carol’s’ story should have been rigorously examined and she should have been made to make her accusations in the light of common day, not in this hole in corner manner. Bishop Bell deserved far better than this nonsense. I think the lessons of ‘Nick’ should be heeded and those who claim to have been abused in 1892 or whenever should not be believed without their story being tested properly. And the last thing that ought to be done is sending fat cheques. Time to derail the compensation gravy train.

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          Any decent qualified child protection expert assessing this woman’s allegations, would have tested her account. “Cross examination” is an adversarial process intended to discredit and undermine. Truth and justice isn’t always the outcome. For victims of abuse, this can be harmful and traumatic. This matter was settled and didn’t go to court – civil or criminal. If it had gone to a civil court, given that George Bell was dead and the action would have been against the Church of England, it would have been the Church who would have been “cross examining” the claimant and seeking to undermine her testimony. As Jack said, he empathises with Welby in this situation.

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            I mean the same by “cross examination” as you mean by “testing her account”. I agree with the words of Welby you have quoted, but overall I believe he grotesquely mispresided over the matter.

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              In going public with George Bell’s name? He argued that when the details eventually became public at the inquiry, the Church would have been accused of a cover-up. And he was right in this. His error was in stating (or implying) that he believed Bell was guilty when there was no clear evidence for this.

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    At IICSA Justin Welby said “We’ve got to learn to put actions behind the words because ‘sorry’ is pretty cheap.”
    He also said that he had apologised to me in person at lambeth palace in November 2016. He did not. Neither my solicitor or myself remember an apology and the minutes for the meeting, taken by a member of the nst, record no apology. This meeting was 7 months before Devamanikkam was even charged (and nobody knew if he would be). Was Justin Welby so convinced of Devamanikkams guilt that he apologised to me 7 months in advance of charges? This is not likely.
    Further an internal memo (obtained through a subject access request) from the same member of the nst dated April 2018 clearly states that no apology had been issued.
    So was Justin Welby mistaken, badly briefed or deliberately telling an untruth to the inquiry?
    The ‘letter’ Justin Welby produced (a few minutes before the start of the hearing despite there being months to prepare statements and hand in documentary evidence) , which I have never received, was a fudge anyway and the barrister asked Justin Welby if that was an apology or the beginning of one.
    I was sat behind him the whole time but he never turned round once.
    I have still had no formal apology despite being raped by a vicar in a vicarage. I would not want that regurgitated excuse now anyway.
    If apologies are so cheap..then do it along with restorative action that is appropriate.
    The truth is that any apology now would be worthless because it would have had to be dragged out of Mr Welby or Mr Sentamu. It is a cold, cold heart that behaves like this.
    Raped by a vicar in a vicarage as a youngster and the archbishop, nor any of the other bishops who have acted shabbily and shambolicly can even say sorry. I was right in my observations at iicsa….not fit for office.

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    About time too! Any idea when George Bell’s statue will be unveiled at Canterbury cathedral? A great Dean and a great Bishop. Let’s hope that his hymn – “Christ is the king” will have been sung today in many churches and cathedrals on Christ the King/Stir up Sunday.

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    When is Welby resigning?

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    The guide book has been changed. Good.
    Central to justice for George Bell is the fight against those who judge the past, without sufficient evidence or context, by the standards of today, to buy approval and signal virtue.

    If you can see this in the case of George Bell, Martin, why do you still support us repenting for the acts of slave traders, antisemites and persecutors of homosexuals? These things were done in different times by other people. To suggest that we bear guilt is just another form of injustice and stupidity.

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      Absolutely agree, Chef. The biblical, godly principle is that each person is responsible for his (or her) own wrongdoing or sin, and no-one elses’s. The instruction given in Deut.24:16, 2Ki.14:6, and 2Chr.25:4, while expressed within a context where the death penalty was implemented, gives a principle of personal responsibility that applies in contexts where other penalties are implemented.

      The requirement for retrospective grovelling apology for wrongdoings that are not a particular person’s fault or responsibility is a form of guilt manipulation that needs to be resisted with full determination, no matter what the force of social coercion applied to that person to perform an act which is nothing but virtue-signalling. Justice demands that the innocent should not be punished, but the guilt-manipulating coercing social mob cares nothing for justice, but only for vindictive, unjustified punishment.

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Feb 20 2019 – “‘General Synod has no confidence in the Church of England’s capacity to regulate its own safeguarding culture'” – Martin Sewell – ‘AC’

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http://archbishopcranmer.com/general-synod-no-confidence-safeguarding/

 

MARTIN SEWELL

“Was this not the process that created the Bishop George Bell debacle? The Church of England leadership will still not follow the plain and increasingly irritated advice of its independent investigator Lord Carlile, who said: “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….

“If witnesses accounts and denials of knowledge (if appropriate) are not captured in a timely way, may not their reputations be placed “under a cloud” of complicity in the cover-up by some future archbishop without evidence, just as Justin Welby has tainted the memory of Bishop George Bell? Justice requires due process to victims and those under suspicion alike. We are woefully failing many in this case”

COMMENTS

Len

“The church in trying to preserve its reputation has all but lost it. Kicking allegations ‘into the long grass’ and then throwing long dead Bishops ‘under the bus’ has all added to the loss of credibility of the church and its hierarchy…

Nov 2016 – “In Defense Of George Bell” – Peter Hitchens – ‘First Things’

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/11/in-defense-of-george-bell

 

George Bell, Bishop of Chichester: Church, State, and Resistance in the Age of Dictatorship
by andrew chandler
eerdmans, 224 pages, $35

The best way to get a belly laugh from a Roman Catholic is to mention the words “Anglican” and “principle” in the same breath. It is easy to see why.

The current leaders of the American Episcopalians and their English mother church are wedded firmly to the spirit of the age. And as William Inge, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London warned long ago, “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.” So it has proved, and so it will continue to prove. The leaders of this rather interesting version of Christianity mistook its breadth and openness for a benevolent, politicized vagueness. They adopted social democratic politics and economics in England, and 1960s liberationism in the U.S. They then waited for the kingdom of heaven to arrive as their churches grew emptier and their voices fainter and shriller.

And yet there were exceptions. The British radical politician Tony Benn was fond of saying that there were two types of public figure: weathervanes that revolved, squeaking, in the prevailing wind, and signposts that grimly continued to point the way, often to an oblivious multitude, which missed the straight and narrow and surged instead on to the winding primrose path. George Bell, bishop of Chichester in the middle part of the twentieth century, was one such signpost. By a single action he asserted the primacy of the Christian conscience above all considerations of power, popularity, and convenience. Yet by this same action he gravely damaged himself. I have a slight suspicion that the merciless attacks being made on his reputation today are part of the reaction to this singular act, an attempt to tear down an example to which we cannot rise.

After much study of his life, I am convinced that I would not have liked George Bell if I had met him, and that he would not have thought much of me. This is surely a good thing. Bishops are not supposed to be likeable. They are supposed to be stern, set apart from the world, and ready to put up with some unpopularity. In the seventeenth-century consecration service which Bell would have undergone, he had to assent to the following question: “Will you deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; that you may show yourself in all things an example of good works unto others, that the adversary may be ashamed, having nothing to say against you?”

One of several sons of a parson (two of his three brothers died in the last bitter months of the First World War), Bell was academically bright, but not brilliant. He had, it is necessary to say, a poor speaking voice. He had an unlikely early friendship with Oliver St. John Gogarty, a bohemian Irish republican whom he defeated in the battle for an Oxford poetry prize. He had little in the way of social life outside his work. He was identified early in life as one destined for high position, and spent several years as an aide-de-camp to Randall Davidson, the archbishop of Canterbury. He loved poetry, wrote it competently, and was one of the earliest to recognize the genius of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Without his encouragement, T. S. Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral might never have been written, or performed in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral. He showed similar friendship and encouragement to the composer Gustav Holst. He was austere and painfully honest in personal dealings, traveling third-class by train and pursuing the railway company with offers of payment (often for tiny fares) if by any chance he had failed to buy a ticket for some rural journey. But his own trusting nature meant he was sometimes embarrassingly wrong, continuing (for instance) to harbor hopes of peace with Hitler’s Germany after the outbreak of war in 1939, and intervening mistakenly on behalf of some Germans who were later shown beyond doubt to have been war criminals.

state the case against him because I am currently being told (by Bell’s modern accusers) that I refuse to accept that he had faults because of my admiration for his good deeds. On the contrary, I have long believed that there are no great men, only great deeds. And yet it takes exceptional men and women to do such deeds, and Bell was exceptional. What were his great deeds? Many of them are easy to admire. He strove to comfort and rescue those persecuted by Hitler, recognizing the wickedness of the National Socialist state earlier than most. Several owed their lives to his efforts. He was a constant support to that giant, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who sent a last message of gratitude and comradeship to him from his cell. He intervened (this took some courage) to secure the release of undoubted anti-Nazis interned alongside actual Nazis thanks to a Churchillian invasion panic, just when Britain needed their skills and commitment to fight Germany more effectively. He supported the resistance to Hitler, and in 1942 tried to interest the British Foreign Office in early German plans for the overthrow of Hitler, of which he had been told in a meeting in Stockholm. Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, would not get involved. He probably knew that any talk of peace with Germany, even one cleansed of Hitler, was impossible once we were allied with Stalin. Bell, still clinging to ideals of just war and hoping to save Europe from a prolonged fight to the end, could not see this. Was he wrong? Probably. Britain had by then lost control of the war and was a helpless, bankrupt client of Moscow and Washington. And it seemed possible then that he was being used, though in fact this was not so.

But this is just a preliminary to the one thing about which Bell was wholly right, the thing which marks him out from his generation of English Christians, and the thing for which we all owe him a great debt till the end of time. One righteous man can save a city and cancel out the unrighteousness of millions. And this is what he did.

After long preparation and study, Bell publicly condemned the deliberate bombing of German civilians in their homes, which had by then become Britain’s main contribution to the war in Europe. For this purpose he used the House of Lords, in which a small number of senior bishops sit by right. They must always speak there clad in their priestly robes of plain and puritan black and white, to remind everyone that they are not politicians or their placemen. The privilege has never been used better. To this day, few really understand the issue. Many still believe that Britain accidentally killed German civilians while aiming at oil refineries and munitions factories. Or they think that Bishop Bell was protesting against the notorious bombing of the city of Dresden in 1945, so frightful that even supporters of the policy had their doubts about it. In fact, his speech, delivered on February 9, 1944, was a protest against years of deliberate warfare against defenseless women and children. Few now realize that British forces did this, and even to this day, debates about it in Britain can degenerate into fury and abuse, combined with simple refusal to acknowledge recorded fact. Those interested in the full, grisly story should read Richard Overy’s The Bombing War, Max Hastings’s Bomber Command, and A. C. Grayling’s Among the Dead Cities.

These are the facts: In November 1941, Sir Richard Peirse, then commander in chief of RAF Bomber Command, declared in a semi-public speech that his planes had for nearly a year been attacking “the people themselves,” intentionally. He said, “I mention this because for a long time the Government for excellent reasons has preferred the world to think that we still held some scruples and attacked only what the humanitarians are pleased to call Military Targets. . . . I can assure you, gentlemen, that we tolerate no scruples.” Senior government officials knew of the policy but preferred the truth of it not to be widely known in case “false and misleading deductions” were made. An Air Staff memorandum stated that towns should be made “physically uninhabitable” and the people in them must be “conscious of constant personal danger.” The aim was to produce “destruction” and “the fear of death.” This is not chivalry.

Supported by the military historian Basil Liddell Hart and his own long-standing anti-Nazi credentials, Bell challenged this. These words of his speech echo right down to our own time: “It is common experience in the history of warfare that not only wars, but actions taken in war as military necessities, are often supported at the time by a class of arguments which, after the war is over, people find are arguments to which they never should have listened.”

The speech, which infuriated Winston Churchill and his friends, probably ensured that George Bell did not become archbishop of Canterbury. And yet the speech showed that the broad, reasonable church of Cranmer, Hooker, and Andrewes still possessed a backbone of righteousness, such as it had not shown since it defied the despotic King James II in 1688, and so helped save liberty for posterity. It was the culmination of a life of thought, prayer, love, dedication, and Edwardian high seriousness, just as notable in its way as all the other thousands of stories of physical heroism in the same generation. Bell’s example ought not to be forgotten, and Andrew Chandler’s new biography will help ensure that it will not be. This is a very different book from Ronald Jasper’s rather flat earlier biography, which gave the facts but lacked the personal sympathy with Bell’s intense seriousness of purpose and self-discipline, and also lacked the deep knowledge of Bell’s archive that Chandler demonstrates—especially in his account of Bell’s work with the German resistance.

Yet it is a sad story, and its ending—if such stories ever end—is sadder still. Bell himself, writing of a dead colleague, once adapted Richard Hooker’s words to say, “Ministers of good things are like torches, a light to others, waste and destruction to themselves.” Bell’s life did not really end very happily or completely, perhaps because he was kept from the high position he deserved. He was confined to a second-rank bishopric when his mind, distinction, and experience should have taken him to the Archbishoprics of York or Canterbury, or to the almost-as-significant See of London. His great energy had less and less of an outlet. He had been consumed by his work during his life, and so had little to fall back on as retirement approached. Like so many of his generation, he began to be forgotten by a modern age that regards the past as a storehouse of mistakes, best left locked. And then he was remembered, because of a solitary, ancient, uncorroborated anonymous accusation that he had long ago sexually abused a little girl.

What was his church to do about this charge? Reasonably and understandably, it offered sympathy and money to the unnamed accuser. Given the length of time (more than sixty years ago) and the shortage of witnesses—though it failed to look for at least one such witness, who worked closely with George Bell at the time and says the allegation is absurd—this was a kind and decent thing to do. Less reasonably, it publicized the allegation in such a way as to allow several major London newspapers and the BBC to behave as if the charge were proven. Yet it bears, as Chandler says, no relation to anything else in his well-documented life. Indeed, it contradicts the personal testimony of Canon Adrian Carey, a decorated naval veteran now in his nineties but absolutely lucid, who was Bell’s personal chaplain during the years covered by the accusations, and who has said the events described by the accuser are impossible to match with his own close experience of Bell’s daily life. Yet Canon Carey, who actually lived and shared meals with Bell and his wife during this era, was neither contacted nor consulted by the church authorities, who claimed to have “found no reason to doubt” the accusations.

Why were his successors so willing to toss his reputation into this stinking pit of ultimate shame? Was it because they did not value it, and had forgotten who he was, if they had ever known? Or was it because, when they did understand the great thing he had done, they did not much like it, not being men of his sort? As I think I may have said at the beginning, principle and the Church of England do not always mix very well, and it is not only Roman Catholics who think this. And yet, whatever they do, there is still the collect for the twentieth Sunday after Trinity: “O Almighty and most merciful God, of thy bountiful goodness keep us, we beseech thee, from all things that may hurt us; that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things that thou wouldest have done.” George Bell would have known those words, said them many times, and, I believe, meant them.

Peter Hitchens is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.