LETTER: Poor treatment of moral figure TIM HUDSON, HAWTHORN CLOSE, CHICHESTER Published: 20:00 Thursday 01 March 2018
On Monday 5 March the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, will begin its consideration of the Church of England, especially Chichester diocese.
The details so far known about our diocese are lurid and they will become more so; some clergy already are or have been in prison, including a former Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball.
The independent inquiry will also look at the case of Bishop George Bell (died 1958), who has not been convicted of any child abuse, but whose reputation has nevertheless been shredded by the Church over the last two years. Notably by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, who, ignoring the findings of Lord Carlile’s report on the accusation against Bell delivered before Christmas, still regards the long-deceased bishop as being ‘under a cloud’.
In this context the Bishop of Chichester’s recent ‘Just a Thought’ (15 February) makes dispiriting reading. Bishop Martin tells us apropos of the grant to Tim Peake of the Freedom of the City that ‘the Christian welcome also wants to say some things about what makes a good citizen: … respect for human dignity, honesty, justice and the common good’.
Can the bishop really claim that the way the Church of England has treated and still treats Bell, a figure of towering moral authority before and during the Second World War, exemplifies those qualities in full, or even at all?
Bell’s surviving family and friends, besides his many younger admirers in the UK, Germany and elsewhere, would certainly not agree.
DR RUTH HILDEBRANDT GRAYSON, WHITFIELD ROAD, SHEFFIELD
Published: 10:00 Friday 23 February 2018 – Chichester Observer
It is mind-blowing that the Church of England can possibly think its position over the handling of an abuse claim against the late Bishop George Bell is in any way defensible.
Subsequent to the Carlile report, it now claims to have ‘some more information’ relating to the case, which it is not prepared to divulge. It is thus not only ignoring Lord Carlile’s recommendations about further procedures, but in his own words is also ignoring ‘due process of the rule of law’. It is probably also hoping that by such tactics, supporters and potential witnesses will go away or, indeed, die off – as one key witness already has.
One has to question why, again, the Church authorities are not prepared to publicise the so-called ‘new information’ in advance of an investigation, or to allow surviving family members their own legal representation. The answer could be that they are afraid that an outside QC would simply rip the case to pieces. Indeed, this may be the reason why they refused to allow Lord Carlile’s remit to extend to an actual verdict in the first place.
And with the IICSA inquiry into other cases in the Diocese of Chichester about to take place, they do not dare to appear politically incorrect.
The Carmi report of 2004, not published until 2014, makes it abundantly clear that for decades there have been ample opportunities for sexual abuse to occur in the wider cathedral context at the hands of a very wide range of potential perpetrators – of whom the bishop himself was not one.
Church defends its position on Bishop Bell amid mounting pressure
George Bell was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death on October 3 1958 Published: 17:45 Monday 12 February 2018
A Church of England representative has defended its position amid mounting pressure over its handling of abuse allegations against Bishop George Bell.
An independent review carried out by Lord Carlile found the Church ‘rushed to judgement’ in paying compensation to a woman who claimed she was sexually abused by Bishop Bell as a girl.
Days after its publication the Church announced on January 31 it was now investigating ‘fresh information’ concerning the late bishop.
Lord Carlile, having advised in his report that alleged perpetrators, living or dead, should not be publicly identified unless a ‘proper and adequate investigation’ is settled with ‘admission of liability’, has openly criticised the Church for ignoring his recommendations in announcing this new information. Speaking on Radio 4 Today on Saturday morning ahead of the General Synod gathering for a third day, Lord Carlile said:
“The Church in doing this is behaving in a very peculiar way…It’s like a small dictatorial government deciding to go ahead and acting any way it wishes, regardless of due process of the rule of law…It flies in the face of the recommendations I made which the Church said it accepted…The Church has got to get a grip on this.”
The programme also reported that the Church has denied Bishop Bell’s surviving family legal representation from their chosen barrister for this new investigation.
Speaking on the programme on behalf of the Church, Tim Thornton, Bishop at Lambeth, said instead someone had been ‘put forward to represent the voice of Bishop Bell’ and his family. Bishop Thornton said: “We are taking Lord Carlile’s recommendations very seriously, we are going through our processes. “Even before they’ve done that it’s tragic that some more information has come forward since the publication of his report and we are taking the voice of the survivors and those who are complaining very seriously”.
Archbishop Justin Welby’s response to Lord Carlile’s report that a ‘significant cloud remained over Bishop Bell’s name has provoked growing anger amongst Bell supporters, some calling for his resignation. Asked if that remained the position of the Church, Bishop Thornton replied ‘yes’.
Mr Welby was among several bishops to join a silent protest staged by surviving victims of abuse within the Church of England outside Church House. He told the Church’s ruling synod that its approach to safeguarding ‘needs culture change’.
George Bell was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death on October 3 1958. He was revered for his support of Christians and Jews in Nazi Germany during the Second World War and condemned the British government over its bombing of civilian areas in Germany. Read more about Lord Carlile’s review here
‘Fresh information’ sparks new Bishop Bell investigation Bishop Bell
STEPHEN PICKTHALL Email Published: 15:57
Wednesday 31 January 2018
The Church of England has announced that it has received ‘fresh information concerning Bishop Bell’ and is now in the process of launching a new investigation.
A statement on the Church website today (Wednesday, January 31), states: “The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has received fresh information concerning Bishop George Bell. “Sussex Police have been informed and we will work corroboratively with them.” The Church said the new information had been received following the publication of the Carlile Review, which looked into the Church’s handling of an allegation of sexual abuse by a woman when she was a child while the late George Bell was bishop between 1929 to 1958.
The woman, known as ‘Carol’, received compensation and an apology from the Church, as well as an apology from current Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner in September 2015. The Church statement adds: “This new information was received following the publication of the Carlile Review, and is now being considered through the Core Group and in accordance with Lord Carlile’s recommendations. “The Core Group is now in the process of commissioning an independent investigation in respect of these latest developments. “As this is a confidential matter we will not be able to say any more about this until inquiries have concluded.”
Archbishop refuses to lift ‘significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell
The Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to apologise for his response to a report into the Church’s handling of historic sex abuse claims against Bishop Bell.
His comment that ‘a significant cloud had been left over’ the Bishop Bell’s name had provoked anger from campaigners pushing for George Bell to be celebrated again following the review by Lord Carlile, which found the Church ‘rushed to judgement’.
Responding yesterday, the Most Rev Justin Welby said he ‘cannot with integrity’ rescind his statement, in which he also said the Church would continue to name alleged perpetrators of sexual offences.
He said: “Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the Church covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions.
“I need only refer to the issues relating to Peter Ball to show an example.
“As a result, the Church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny (focussed in part on the Diocese of Chichester) through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Our first hearing is in March.
“The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability.
“It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt.
“The two standards should not be confused.
“It should be remembered that Carol, who brought the allegation, was sent away in 1995, and we have since apologised for this lamentable failure; a failure highlighted by Lord Carlile.”
He added that abuse was ‘often kept very secret’ but reiterated his previous comments that Bishop Bell was one of the ‘greatest Anglican heroes of the 20th century’.
Bishop Bell, who was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in 1958, was commended for his work supporting the anti-Hitler resistance.
The Bell Society had invited clergy to a ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ event in Westminster on February 1, with the aim of securing pledges to ‘restore Bishop Bell’s place in history’.
Measures being called for include 4 Canon House in Chichester being returned to its former name of George Bell House.
The Bishop of Chichester is under fire over his claim, made after the Carlile report into the Church of England’s handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against Bishop George Bell, that the Church did not proclaim the late Bishop Bell’s guilt.
The Mail on Sunday journalist Peter Hitchens, who has vigorously campaigned on behalf of the late bishop since the Church made public the claims against Bell in 2015, penned a hard-hitting letter to Martin Warner this week.
In his letter, Hitchens focused on the impression that was left in the press after the Church issued a formal public apology and announced that it had paid £16,800 to the woman in question, known as ‘Carol’.
Hitchens wrote: ‘You said on Friday [the day the Carlile report was published], and yet again in your Radio 4 interview on Sunday that you had never proclaimed George Bell’s guilt. On Radio 4, you said ‘What we did not do and have not ever done is to make a clear statement which says “We have found George Bell guilty”. We have never done that’.
‘I must ask, in that case, why you did not write to The Times, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the BBC, the Argus of Brighton or the Chichester Observer, correcting their reports of your statement, reports which proclaimed that George Bell was guilty? Is it possible that you did so and they ignored your letters? Or did you choose to leave the impression of guilt which your statement had created, which you now insist you had not intended to create? Had you written to complain, it would have been very helpful to my own unending efforts to get these media to change their tune.’
The Church of England was criticised in the Carlile report for a ‘rush to judgment’ in its handling of the allegations against Bishop Bell, who died in 1958.
The report by Lord Carlile said that although the Church acted in good faith, its processes were deficient and it failed to give proper consideration to the rights of the accused.
Hitchens dramatically clashed with Bishop Warner and Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, at the press conference for the release of the report on Friday, accusing the Church of behaving in a ‘Stalinoid’ fashion towards the memory of the late Bishop Bell.
The columnist also raised the removal of Bishop Bell’s name from buildings, institutions and guide books in Chichester including from the former George Bell House. He said that ‘many mentions of George Bell have been excised from the Cathedral guide book, his name has been removed from the House which used to bear it at Bishop Luffa school where I should think you might have some influence, and also from a hall of residence at the University of Chichester.
‘I pointed out to you last Friday that even the Soviet Union had eventually rehabilitated those whom it had unjustly condemned in unfair show trials (whose memories, names and pictures were likewise removed from buildings, streets, photographs, encyclopaedias and so forth).’
Hitchens concluded: ‘The Church of England is surely judged by (and should regulate itself by) a higher standard than an atheist secret police state.’
A spokesperson for the Bishop of Chichester said: ‘We have received a copy of the letter and as it is a long, detailed document Bishop Martin will be responding in the New Year. There is no actual time to do it properly between now and Christmas as this is obviously a hugely busy week.’
Bishop Warner said on Friday: ‘Lord Carlile’s Independent Review is a demonstration of the Church of England’s commitment to equality of justice and transparency in our safeguarding practice. The diocese of Chichester requested this “lessons learned” Review.
‘We welcome Lord Carlile’s assessment of our processes, and apologise for failures in the work of the Core Group of national and diocesan officers and its inadequate attention to the rights of those who are dead. We also accept the Report’s recognition that we acted in good faith, and improvements to Core Group protocols are already in place. Further work on them is in hand.
‘The Report demands further consideration of the complexities of this case, such as what boundaries can be set to the principle of transparency. Lord Carlile rightly draws our attention to public perception. The emotive principle of innocent until proven guilty is a standard by which our actions are judged and we have to ensure as best we can that justice is seen to be done. Irrespective of whether she is technically a complainant, survivor, or victim, ‘Carol’ emerges from this report as a person of dignity and integrity. It is essential that her right to privacy continues to be fully respected.
‘The good deeds that Bishop George Bell did were recognised internationally. They will stand the test of time. In every other respect, we have all been diminished by the case that Lord Carlile has reviewed.’
Bell’s niece Barbara Whitley, 93, has said she wants the reputation of her uncle restored and has asked for a face-to-face apology from the Church of England.
‘I’m determined to clear his name before I die,’ she told the BBC.