By now many people will have googled the words “meddlesome priest.” The phrase was uttered by James Comey, the former F.B.I. director, during his testimony on Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. When he was asked if he took President Trump’s “hope” that he would drop the Flynn-Russia investigation “as a directive,” Mr. Comey responded, “Yes, yes. It rings in my ears as kind of ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ ”
These are the words that King Henry II of England allegedly cried out in 1170, frustrated by the political opposition of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury. Four royal knights immediately rushed off to Canterbury and murdered the meddlesome priest.
Unlike many contemporary references to medieval history, this one is apt. Mr. Comey’s point was that a desire expressed by a powerful leader is tantamount to an order. When Senator James E. Risch, a Republican, noted that the president had merely “hoped for an outcome,” Mr. Comey replied, “I mean, this is the president of the United States, with me alone, saying ‘I hope this.’ I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.”
King Henry’s contemporaries likewise assumed that a ruler’s wish constituted a command: Although he denied any intention of inciting murder, Henry was widely held responsible for Becket’s death. The pope issued an order prohibiting Henry from attending church services or participating in the sacraments, and the king was eventually forced to do penance for the violence perpetrated in his name.
There are even more instructive parallels. Although the administration offered various reasons for the firing of Mr. Comey, it is clear that Mr. Trump considered his allegiance to F.B.I. protocol over presidential preference to be a form of disloyalty. Likewise, the main issues at stake in 1170 were divided loyalty and institutional independence.
Before Becket had been elected archbishop, he had been a close friend and faithful servant to the king. Henry had engineered Becket’s election in the expectation that, as archbishop, Becket would continue to serve royal interests. This was not an unreasonable assumption; for centuries bishops had performed dual roles, acting as temporal as well as spiritual lords. They commanded armies, enforced royal decrees, and took it for granted that the rulers who appointed them could claim their loyalty.
It was not until the 1070s that secular control over bishops began to be challenged by a series of reformist popes who sought to free clerics from secular influence and insisted that bishops’ first allegiance was to the church. This goal was rarely fully realized — kings were generally closer than the pope and more able to dispense both patronage and punishment. But to Henry’s fury, Becket unexpectedly embraced reform, becoming a vigorous defender of church privileges and critic of royal interference. Henry felt intensely betrayed. Becket died not because he was “meddlesome,” but because, in the king’s view, he was disloyal.
The Becket episode may likewise help explain why Mr. Trump’s advisers did not prevent him from firing Mr. Comey. King Henry expected all his officials to share his fury at Becket and saw any failure to do so as a betrayal as well. The phrase “meddlesome priest” was a later invention, made famous by Hollywood in the 1964 film “Becket.” Henry’s actual exclamation — or at least the cry attributed to him in the medieval sources — was “What miserable drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a lowborn clerk!’”
No wonder the four knights were so eager to take the hint. Henry’s courtiers may well have feared that if they didn’t make a conspicuous display of loyalty, the king might turn on them next. Treachery was a capital offense.
The aftermath of the Becket episode may, moreover, resonate in one final way. Although Henry had longed to get rid of Becket for years, he presumably came to rue the day his words of rage were heeded. In addition to performing humiliating penance, he had to swear obedience to the pope, make a series of concessions to the church and eventually face rebellion. One suspects that Mr. Trump, too, might come to feel the wisdom of the words “be careful what you wish for.”
Archbishop of Canterbury accuses BBC of failing to show same ‘integrity’ over child abuse as the Church
The BBC has defended itself against criticism from the Archbishop of Canterbury that it lacked ‘integrity’ in its response to the Jimmy Savile child abuse scandal.
Archbishop Justin Welby said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the corporation had not shown the same integrity the Anglican and Catholic churches had.
Invited to reflect on the programmes 60th anniversary of being on air, he said: ‘I think we are a kinder society more concerned with our own failures, more willing to be honest where we go wrong in most of our institutions.’ But there were still ‘dark areas’.
He continued: ‘If I’m really honest, I’d say the BBC is one. I haven’t seen the same integrity over the BBC’s failures over Savile as I’ve seen in the Roman Catholic Church, in the Church of England, in other public institutions over abuse. We may be proved wrong about that but you know that’s one area.’
The Archbishop also referred to the dispute over the pay gap between men and women at the BBC, and said that in the church, male and female bishops received exactly the same stipends.
Archbishop Welby was speaking just weeks before Lord Carlile publishes his review into how the Church of England handled a claim by ‘Carol’ into allegations of abuse by the late Bishop George Bell of Chichester, who died in 1958.
In Australia, where the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches have been under investigation by a royal commission into institutional child sex abuse, and the Catholic Cardinal George Pell is facing multiple historic child sex abuse charges, only yesterday it emerged that one victim was forced to take the Anglican Church to court over failure to pay a $1.5 million settlement.
The BBC, Church of England and Roman Catholic Church will all be examined soon in the UK’s own version of the Australian commission, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay. This December, the UK inquiry will look at the English Benedectines and next March, at the Church of England’s Chichester diocese.
Meanwhile six church sex abuse survivors silence condemned the Archbishop’s attack on the BBC.
In a statement they said: ‘Speaking from our own bitter experience, we do not recognise Archbishop Welby’s description of the integrity with which the Church of England handles cases of abuse in a church context.
‘Far from the ‘rigorous response and self-examination’ he claims, our experience of the church, and specifically the archbishop, is of long years of silence, denial and evasion. The Church of England needs to confront its own darkness in relation to abuse before confronting the darkness of others.’
Matthew Ineson, who as a teen was raped by a C of E vicar, Trevor Devamanikkam, who killed himself just before he was due to appear in court to answer to the charges, told The Guardian: ‘I know from my own experience, and the experience of others, that safeguarding within the C of E is appalling.
‘The church has colluded with the cover-up of abuse and has obstructed justice for those whose lives have been ruined by the actions of its clergy. I have been fighting for five years for the church to recognise its responsibilities and I’m still being met with attempts to bully me into dropping my case.’
A BBC spokesman defended the corporation. He said: ‘This isn’t a characterisation we recognise. When the Savile allegations became known we established an independent investigation by a High Court judge. In the interests of transparency, this was published in full. We apologised and accepted all the recommendations.
‘And while today’s BBC is a different place, we set out very clear actions to ensure the highest possible standards of child safeguarding.’
Regarding the Archbishop’s comments on the gender pay gap, the BBC added: ‘Gender pay is a challenge for all organisations not just the BBC. The national gender pay gap is 18 percent. The BBC’s is under ten percent and we have committed to closing it in 2020. We know we have to go further and faster. We are not unique in this. The Church of England’s own published pay gap for non-office holders is 41 percent. We all collectively have more work to do, to sort an issue that is a problem across the vast majority of organisations.’
Lambeth Palace said: ‘We fully accept the failures of the Church of England in the area of safeguarding.
‘Since the Archbishop took up his role, he has been very clear that the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be the highest priority of all parts of the Church and was one of the first to call for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
‘The Church’s National Safeguarding Team was created in 2015 and there are now robust House of Bishops safeguarding policies in place along with independent audits for all dioceses and dedicated training on hearing disclosures for all senior clergy.
‘The Archbishop fully supports the Church’s commitment to develop a stronger national approach to safeguarding to improve its response to protecting the vulnerable.
‘The Archbishop believes this level of rigorous response and self-examination needs to extend to all institutions, including the BBC.’
Church helped to cover up sexual abuse
THE Church of England “colluded” with and helped to hide the long-term sexual abuse of young men by one its bishops rather than help his victims, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
The Most Rev Justin Welby’s statement came as the Church published Abuse Of Faith, an independent review of how it handled the case of Peter Ball, the former Bishop of Lewes who was jailed for 32 months at the Old Bailey in 2015 after pleading guilty to a string of historical offences, including two counts of indecent assault.
The review, chaired by Dame Moira Gibb, found that “Ball’s conduct has caused serious and enduring damage to the lives of many men”.
It stated: “Peter Ball betrayed his Church and abused individual followers of that Church.
“The Church at its most senior levels and over many years supported him unwisely and displayed little care for his victims.
“Much of what we have described took place in different times and should be viewed from that perspective.
“But such perverse and sustained abuse by a senior figure in the Church and the Church’s failure to safeguard so many boys and young men still casts a long shadow.”
During his time as bishop, Ball hand-picked 18 vulnerable victims to commit acts of “debasement” in the name of religion, such as praying naked at the altar and encouraging them to submit to beatings, his trial heard.
“This is inexcusable and shocking behaviour and, although Dame Moira notes that most of the events took place many years ago, and does not think that the Church now would conduct itself in the ways described, we can never be complacent; we must learn lessons.”
He restated his “unreserved apology” to the victims who had been brave enough to come forward, adding: “There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and the systematic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball over the decades.”
There is criticism in the review of Lord Carey, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, and other senior figures in the Church, saying the Church was “most interested in protecting itself”.
The review states that Lambeth Palace’s actions, especially in failing to pass on six letters of allegations to the police, while giving them one which was of “least concern”… “must give rise to a perception of deliberate concealment”.
The review points out that the Church’s management of those seven letters, containing allegations against Ball, was perhaps “its greatest failure in these events”.
The NSPCC spoke of its disgust at the findings.
A spokesperson said: “It is utterly disgraceful to discover that collusion at the heart of the Church of England led to the abuse of so many young men and boys. Abuse can happen in any institution or walk of life and we must ensure it can never be covered up by the powerful. Abuse in our most revered institutions must be exposed and investigated, offenders brought to justice, and victims given confidence to come forward.”
ARCHBISHOP CALLS ON LORD CAREY TO STAND DOWN FOLLOWING RELEASE OF DAMNING REPORT
THE archbishop of Canterbury has asked his predecessor George Carey to step down as an honorary assistant bishop.
Lord Carey was singled out for criticism in yesterday’s report, with it stating he was more concerned with protecting the church rather than the victims.
In particular, it refers to Lambeth Palace’s failure to pass on six letters of allegations to the police.
Instead it forwarded one letter which was described as being of “least concern”.
The report stated this “must give rise to a perception of deliberate concealment”. It added that management of the seven letters was perhaps the church’s “greatest failure”.
It stated: “The letters came from a range of families and individuals quite independently of each other. They raised concerns which were all either indirectly or precisely suggestive of sexual impropriety, or worse, by Ball.
“These were not people who were at war with the Church or had any axe to grind. In fact, some of the correspondents go to great lengths to try to avoid rancour and find a constructive way forward.”
The report found that Lord Carey was significantly involved in the way the Church treated victim Neil Todd in 1992/1993. Despite years of abuse in Sussex, Ball was able to leave the diocese in 1992 to take up his post as Bishop of Gloucester.
A year later, the then 16-year-old trainee monk Neil Todd prompted a police investigation which led to Ball’s resignation from the clergy. Ball escaped with a police caution in 1993 for an act of gross indecency against Mr Todd who took his own life in 2012.
Lord Carey described the paedophile bishop as “basically innocent” and said he had a “very high” regard for him in a September 1993 letter to Ball’s brother Michael.
The review, which said Lord Carey had played a leading role in enabling Ball to return to ministry, described this comment as “alarming”. It added: “Ball was basically guilty and had admitted that. Lord Carey was also aware that the Church had received further allegations of potentially criminal actions by Ball.”
Current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the review made for harrowing reading.
Steven Croft, the bishop of Oxford, said Mr Welby had written to Lord Carey asking him to “carefully consider his position”. Mr Croft and Lord Carey will meet “in the coming days for that conversation. In the meantime he has voluntarily agreed to step back from public ministry”.
The decision to end the lone child refugee scheme is “truly shocking” and should be reviewed, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has said.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols said stopping the scheme would mean unaccompanied youngsters would be more likely to fall prey to human traffickers.
The Home Office said more than 900 minors were transferred to the UK last year, under either the Dublin Regulation because they have family links in this country, or under the Dubs amendment that requires the Government to give refuge to youngsters stranded in Europe.
But the Government sparked controversy when it emerged the Dubs scheme, named after its architect, Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs, will be capped once another 150 unaccompanied children are brought to Britain, on top of the 200 who have already arrived.
Campaigners and politicians had originally called for 3,000 to be resettled.
Cardinal Nichols is the latest high-profile figure to criticise the decision, following charities and the head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
The Archbishop of Westminster said: “By repealing Article 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, known as the Dubs amendment, the Government is seen by many as abandoning its statutory and moral duty to take effective action for the protection of vulnerable, unaccompanied child refugees.
“The Home Office have stated that during 2016 over 900 unaccompanied children were brought to safety from Europe, including 750 from Calais.
“However, the need is evidently far greater and I am informed that there are a number of Local Authorities willing and resourced to take many more of these children into their care.
“I urge the Government to look again at all available resources and to work with renewed vigour, internationally and at home, to support and enable programmes to assist these vulnerable children.”
He also urged those concerned about the scheme’s closure to volunteer to take in refugees.
Lord Dubs, flanked by a group of children, local politicians and faith leaders, delivered a 50,000-signature petition to Number 10 on Saturday, accusing the Government of a “very shabby cop out”.