A senior clergyman burnt church files, an inquiry heard today, after he failed to report the systematic abuse of children by a priest to the police.
John Treadgold, the former dean of Chichester Cathedral, returned to the empty deanery after he retired in 2001, took files from the basement and burnt them in the garden, his former colleague Peter Atkinson said.
It happened as Terence Banks, the head steward of the cathedral, was convicted of 32 sexual offences against 12 boys over a period of 29 years. He was sentenced to 16 years in jail in 2001 after an investigation by Sussex police.
However it later emerged through a report conducted by Edina Carmi in 2004 that Treadgold had been told of Banks’ abuse by a victim in 2000 but had not reported it to the police, the child protection adviser or social services.
Of Banks’ 12 victims, all were under 16 years of ago and some were as young as 11. He was eventually convicted in 2001 of 23 charges of indecent assault, five of buggery, one of indecency with a child under 14 years, and two of attempting to procure acts of gross indecency.
The current dean of Worcester, Peter Atkinson, was chancellor of Chichester Cathedral at the time, and told the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse that Treadgold came back to the deanery after he had retired and burnt files that were in the basement.
‘What I remember of the episode is that he returned to the deanery, which was then empty, removed a number of files from the deanery basement and had a fire in the garden,’ Atkinson told the inquiry today.
‘I don’t know what the files were,’ he added.
‘It is a bit odd that he moved away and then came back to do this. It was sufficiently troubling for us to mention this to the police.’
He said the police ‘took it very seriously’ but ‘ultimately no future action was taken’.
He described Treadgold’s dealings with the police as ‘defensive’ and said he blurred homosexuality with paedophilia in his attitude.
‘The conflict over homosexuality and abuse was, like many men of his background and his generation, there was an unease about her whole idea of homosexuality and a sort of presumption that homosexual men where unsafe in relation to other men, particularly younger men or boys.’
The independent inquiry into child sex abuse is hearing evidence into how the diocese of Chichester dealt with allegations of abuse as a case study for the wider Church of England.
George Bell was ‘fond’ of paeodophile bishop Peter Ball and sponsored him for ordination, an inquiry has heard.
As former bishop of Chichester, Bell is considered one of Anglicanism’s heroes. However, it emerged in 2015 the Church of England paid £16,800 to the woman, known as Carol, in a legal settlement after she accused Bell of sexually abusing her as a child.
Now it can be revealed Peter Ball, who was jailed for a string of sex offences against teenagers and young men in 2015, was close friends with Bell.
Ball was initially rejected in his attempt to become a priest in 1951 but Bell wrote to the selection panel in support of Ball’s application.
When Ball applied for ordination a second time it was Bell who sponsored him through the process.
In his witness statement to an inquiry investigating child sex abuse within the Church of England, Ball denied that Bell had ‘overruled’ the selection board allowing him to be ordained.
However he said that after his ordination Bell would visit his parish to take services, adding he was ‘aware that he was “fond” of me’.
In response to a question about Bell’s involvement in his ordination, Ball told the inquiry: ‘It is not right therefore to say that Bishop Bell “overruled” the selection board in order for me to be ordained.
‘Although Bishop Bell had indicated in 1951 in a letter to the first Selection Board who did not recommend me for ministry that he would be “prepared to accept me for ordination” even though the Selection Board had not recommend me for training at that time, that is not how matters proceeded.’
He went on: ‘After theological college, it was Bishop Bell ultimately who did sponsored [sic] me for ordination, but with the approval of the Selection Board. Bishop Bell then placed me in the parish of Rottingdean where I undertook my first curacy.
‘He would visit my curacy on occasion to carry out confirmations and to take services.
‘We had a good working relationship; I was aware that he was “fond” of me. He was someone who I looked up to when I was a young curate starting out in the Church.’
Bell, who died in 1958, was revered by Anglicans before the abuse allegations against him emerged. However a report earlier this year heavily criticised the Church’s handling of the accusations and found it ‘rushed to judgement’ and failed to give proper consideration to Bell’s rights.
But the archbishop of Canterbury refused to back down and said a ‘significant cloud is left over his name’.
Ball went on to become bishop of Lewes in the diocese of Chichester and then bishop of Gloucester. He was accused of gross indecency against a 16-year-old in 1992 but escaped with a police caution after he received backing from a member of the Royal Family and a number of other establishment figures. He was told to step down from his role as a bishop. However he continued to minister in churches and schools until 2010 before he was eventually arrested.
At the age of 83 he was sentenced to 32 months for misconduct in public office and 15 months for indecent assaults in 2015. He was released after serving 16 months.
The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse has been investigation how the diocese of Chichester handled allegations of child sexual abuse as a case study for the wider Church of England.
In his concluding remarks today solicitor David Greenwood said the CofE was more ‘malign’ than the Catholic Church in its response to abuse and accused it of ‘a conscious effort to treat survivors badly’.
The archbishop of Canterbury in his evidence said he had ‘learnt to be ashamed again of the Church’ and warned child sexual abuse would ‘destroy the Church’ if not addressed.
You can read more about the past three weeks of hearings here.
The Church of England is facing more than 3,000 abuse complaints, the vast majority of which relate to children or vulnerable adults.
Peter Hancock, the lead bishop on safeguarding will reveal the full extent of the scandal the Church faces when he answers questions from the ruling general synod later today. Of roughly 3,300 ‘concerns or allegations’ dealt with by the Church in 2016 alone, ‘the vast majority of which related to children, young people and vulnerable adults within church communities,’ he will say.
The revelation comes as the CofE’s general synod, or parliament, meets in Westminster for three days that are set to be dominated by questions around abuse.
A presentation around safeguarding on Saturday will outline the issues the Church is facing but Christian Today understands that survivors of abuse are furious the presentation is ‘stage-managed’ by bishops and is not a full debate that would allow more probing issues to be raised. Several synod members are planning to push for a full debate rather than simply a presentation but their calls are likely to be rejected.
Victims of clergy sex abuse will protest outside Church House before the presentation on Saturday and the Archbishop of Canterbury along with other bishops and members of synod are planning to go and join them for two minutes of silent prayer.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will face questioning by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) next month. The Church is facing three weeks of public hearings into how it dealt with allegations of abuse in the Diocese of Chichester and one CofE source told Christian Today they expected the hearings to be ‘very painful’.
Welby has said the way the Church has abused people, particularly children, leads him to tears and frequently keeps him awake at night. But victims are warning the time for words is over as they demand fuller compensation.
The archbishop is also under significant pressure from supporters of George Bell, the late Bishop of Chichester, who the CofE effectively admitted was a paedophile when it announced it had paid £16,800 in compensation and legal fees to a complainant known as ‘Carol’. However a review of the decision by Lord Carlile QC found the Church’s process deficient in a number of ways.
His review was published in December and found the Church had ‘rushed to judgment’ and smeared Bell in its attempt to avoid being seen as soft on clerical sex abuse. The inquiry found ‘serious errors were made’ as a result of an ‘oversteer’ that presumed his guilt without fully looking at the evidence.
But Welby appeared to leave open the possibility of Bell’s guilt when he responded to Carlile’s review by saying a ‘significant cloud’ still hung over his head.
Despite coming under immense pressure from Bell’s supporters, who include academics, historians and peers, Welby has refused to withdraw his statement and last week the Church said ‘fresh information’ has emerged about the case which has been handed to Sussex Police.
The CofE’s general synod meets from today until Saturday in Church House, Westminster.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has said the woman who alleged that Bishop George Bell abused her should be ‘treated equally importantly’ as the reputation of the late bishop, and that she is ‘not an inconvenience to be overlooked’.
In an interview with the Church Times ahead of a gathering of General Synod, which is like a church parliament, Archbishop Welby defended the decision, made by the Church of England with Welby’s involvement, to publicise the £16,800 payment it made to the woman, known as ‘Carol’.
That decision and the ‘rush’ that led up to it was heavily criticised in a review published in December by Lord Carlile into the handling of the allegations made against Bishop Bell, regarded as a 20<sup>th Century giant of Anglicanism who died in 1958.
Since then, Archbishop Welby has come under growing criticism from historians and academics for insisting that a ‘significant cloud’ remains over Bell’s name.
Speaking to the Church Times, Welby acknowledged that the Carlile report ‘points out some of the quite severe weaknesses in the initial investigation of George Bell’ and he said that he ‘accepted its recommendations — all except half of one recommendation’ [the naming of those accused of abuse].
But he added: ‘Let’s just have a hypothetical situation in which Chichester diocese had not declared its payment [to Carol] two years ago. With the Independent Inquiry [into Child Sexual Abuse]…that confidentiality undertaking would certainly have become public. Now, the first question, when I give evidence, would then be asked: ‘What else are you hiding? What do you really know about George Bell that you are not telling us, because you’re so anxious to keep it secret?’ It’s a lose-lose…
Welby continued: ‘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.’
Last week, the Church of England’s national safeguarding team announced that it had received ‘fresh information concerning Bishop George Bell’ and said that Sussex police had been informed, without providing any details of the ‘new’ information about the late Bishop of Chichester. It was subsequently reported that a new complainant had come forward.
The following day, the Bell Society convened a conference at Church House in Westminster, with the keynote speaker as Dr Jules Gomes, the controversial pastor of an independent Anglican church on the Isle of Man.
This led the Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, to attack the meeting as ‘outrageous’ when speaking to Christian Today.
The General Synod will discuss safeguarding policy at its meeting in Church House on Saturday morning.
Reflecting on the past five years in office, Archbishop Welby said that safeguarding was the hardest thing that he had to deal with. ‘It’s the hardest because you’re dealing with the Church’s sin. You’re dealing with profound human weakness. You’re dealing with the consequences in damaged people, in people who’ve been terribly, terribly hurt. And it’s heart-breaking. . .
‘I think we’ve sought to address it, both in mechanistic ways but also spiritually, in prayer, in attitude and culture. We’ve sought to address it in every way we can.’
Archbishop Welby has taken a leading role in defending the Church of England’s approach to Bishop Bell, having been involved in his name becoming public in relation to allegations. The Carlile report reveals an email from the Bishop of Durham on April 29, 2014 to the so-called ‘Core Group’ in the Church of England, which reads: ‘Dear All, At the meeting of Archbishops & Diocesans Archbishop Justin decided that he should inform those gathered of the possibility of the name of the person concerned becoming public in due course.’
The full interview with Archbishop Welby will appear in the next issue of the Church Times.
The Archbishop of Canterbury will be under renewed pressure at the Church of England’s ruling General Synod this week to renounce his claim that a ‘significant cloud’ remains over George Bell, a highly-respected bishop accused of sex abuse.
Members of synod, which acts as the church’s parliament, are today being asked to back a motion expressing ‘regret’ over Justin Welby’s handling of the case and calling for Bishop Bell’s ‘reputation as one of the great bishops of the Church of England is restored untarnished’.
The motion, seen by Christian Today, will be published as synod opens on Thursday after being approved by the church’s lawyers. It will not be debated at this week’s sessions but could be discussed at the next synod in July, if it receives enough support.
It comes after Welby said he could not retract his assessment that a ‘significant cloud’ hung over Bell’s reputation and the Church announced ‘fresh information’ had emerged about the case. Christian Today understands this involves a new complaint against Bishop Bell.
David Lamming, a lay member of synod and proposer of the motion, told Christian Today: ‘Regardless of this new information, the conclusions made in the damning Review by Lord Carlile QC into how the Church handled the case are important. General Synod must be given the opportunity to debate them.’
He added: ‘I initially considered putting the motion on ice while the investigation into these latest allegations unfolded but on second thoughts I think it important that synod has the opportunity to hold the Church to account for its processes and a debate on this motion would do just that. It will not be debated this week in any event, but if sufficient synod members sign it, that will be a clear indication that it should be on the agenda at York in July.’
The controversy over the George Bell case is likely to dominate this week’s synod with several questions tabled to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the issue.
It comes after an independent review into how the Church dealt with the allegation made by ‘Carol’ found officials ‘rushed to judgment’ and smeared Bell in its desperation to avoid being seen as soft on clerical sex abuse. The inquiry by Lord Carlile QC found ‘serious errors were made’ as a result of an ‘oversteer’ that presumed his guilt without fully looking at the evidence.
Despite the highly critical report Welby refused to apologise to Bell’s relatives and supporters and instead issued a statement that appeared to leave open the possibility of his guilt.
Two groups of Bell’s supporters, alongside a number of historians and academics, have criticised Welby’s statement after Carlile’s review judged there would not have been sufficient evidence for a guilty verdict in a criminal court.
A question from Mr Lamming is thought to have prompted the Church’s admission of ‘fresh information’ after he tabled a question asking if there is ‘considered to be any evidence or other information that would support or corroborate the claim by “Carol” that she was sexually abused as a child by Bishop Bell?’
There can surely be no middle ground when it comes to sexual abuse: it makes a villain of anyone who perpetrates it.
George Bell was either a giant of the Anglican Church who helped rescue Jewish children from the Nazi regime and, against the grain, heroically opposed the bombing of Dresden, or he was a child abuser and all his achievements are for the birds.
Perhaps that is why the debate, if it can be called that, around the reputation of the late Bishop of Chichester who died in 1958, is so binary, even by the standards of the age of social media.
This stark reality helps explain why so many of Bell’s supporters have directed their anger in the aftermath of Lord Carlile’s report into Bell at Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who insists that a ‘significant cloud’ remains over the late bishop’s name.
It is worth quoting at some length from Welby’s statement which coincided with the release of the Carlile review in December, a statement that he has since refused to rescind.
It said: ‘Bishop George Bell is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century. The decision to publish his name was taken with immense reluctance, and all involved recognised the deep tragedy involved… The complaint about Bishop Bell does not diminish the importance of his great achievement. We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name. Let us therefore remember his defence of Jewish victims of persecution, his moral stand against indiscriminate bombing, his personal risks in the cause of supporting the anti Hitler resistance, and his long service in the Diocese of Chichester.
‘No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good. Whatever is thought about the accusations, the whole person and whole life should be kept in mind.’
To be fair to Welby, although he has pointed out that his position is supported by the Bishops of Chichester and Bath and Wells, in standing by this statement, even in the face of direct attacks against him from leading academics and historians, he is taking responsibility for the modern-day Church’s controversial position on Bell – and seeking to subvert that binary narrative by saying any bad things he did should not entirely obliterate the good.
Welby is surely right to take responsibilty. For the detail of the Carlile report makes it clear that the archbishop himself was involved in the early stages of discussions about releasing Bell’s name to the media and public following complaints from the woman known as ‘Carol’ who claims she was abused by Bell and to whom the Church paid damages of £16,800 in 2015.
It should be said at this point that it is almost impossible to believe that ‘Carol’ made her allegations up out of thin air. And some of Bell’s fiercest critics are surely wrong to traduce her, or claim that the abuse came later than her childhood. But it remains possible of course that she was abused by some church figure other than Bell. We will never know.
Nonetheless, the Carlile report reveals an email from the Bishop of Durham on April 29, 2014 to the so-called ‘Core Group’ in the CofE, members of which have come under immense strain in recent weeks and who were, after all, amid all the chaos of the modern media age, trying their best to do their difficult jobs.
The email reads: ‘Dear All, At the meeting of Archbishops & Diocesans Archbishop Justin decided that he should inform those gathered of the possibility of the name of the person concerned becoming public in due course.’
It was the ‘rush’ to name Bell, and the very fact of naming him at all in the face of unproven and unprovable allegations, that led Carlile to be so critical in his report.
Arguably, Welby and the Church have since backed themselves into a corner on the case. The archbishop’s refusal to climb down, doubtless heavily influenced by legal advice, leaves wide open the question about what is justice for an accused person. There are false and mistaken accusations, but the position still seems to assume that an accusation alone can be taken as almost conclusive.
Of course, the Church must be hyper-cautious following the separate case of the former bishop Peter Ball – and the safeguarding team should be commended for its efforts in recent years — but the two cases are in fact widely different, as Ball was accused by a significant number of people and accepted his guilt.
Then there is the Church’s decision to release yesterday what some see as a cryptic statement saying that it had received ‘fresh information’ concerning Bell, a statement which left open the assumption that another complainant had come forward, and one that appeared to critics to be a case of ‘We told you so’. It is reported that the Church has known about this ‘new’ information for two weeks, which raises questions, if true, about the timing of the release of the information ahead of General Synod which begins next week and at which Welby is expected to come under fire. More importantly, it also raises the question why Bell has effectively been named again as the subject of an accusation, but this time only weeks after the Church received the information, not years as in the case of ‘Carol’.
On the other hand, it is hard not to sympathise with the safeguarding team especially, and even with Welby. After all, the only truth present in this tale with few heroes is that no-one knows whether or not Bell committed the grave sins of which he has been accused. And, as even the leading pro-Bell campaigner Peter Hitchens concedes, if Bell did do it then his achievements are as nothing.
He tells me: ‘George Bell’s memory is revered not because he was a great artist, the inventor of a drug or medical procedure which transformed the world for the better or a warrior who saved his country from subjugation. Such persons can be to some extent separated form their other deeds because their actions endure in a material way. Bishop Bell’s memory is revered because of repeated acts of self-sacrificing goodness, a rare example of a man who placed truth and justice before self. If it turns out that he was in fact a lying traitor, who abused defenceless little children by perverting the Gospel and sought to make them complicit in concealing the crime, then he was not good and his reputation was a shining robe laid over a rotting heap of filth. William Blake reminds us that true good is done in minute particulars. Likewise evil.’
But in the terms of reference, the Church of England constrained Carlile from making a judgment on whether or not Bell was guilty as accused.
All of which is why this argument will, sadly but inevitably run and run.
As the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner has said: ‘The good deeds that Bishop George Bell did were recognised internationally…[and] will stand the test of time. In every other respect, we have all been diminished by the case.’
Like Welby, he is anxious to move beyond the binary split between Bell as hero or Bell as villain. But in this polarised and super-sensitive area, that may not be an option.
It is ‘outrageous’ that a disgraced priest banned from ministry has been allowed to speak at the Church of England’s headquarters, a bishop said today.
Jules Gomes, formerly a priest at St Mary’s on the Harbour on the Isle of Man, addressed a group of supporters for the former Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, who is accused of historical sex abuse, in Church House, Westminster, this morning.
But today the Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, blasted his presence at the event, which is titled ‘Rebuilding bridges’.
‘He has been invited to speak under that wonderful title whereas all his writings about me and other bishops who are women are being destructive and destroying bridges not building them,’ she told Christian Today.
‘I think it is outrageous that he has been allowed to speak at Church House under that title when his writings demonstrate that he is not up for living in reconciliation or relationship.’
Church House is the building used as the Church of England’s main London base. The National Church Institutions (NCIs) which govern the Church’s daily running, do not own the building nor control its bookings and the CofE appeared to distance itself from the event.
A Church of England spokesperson previously told Christian Today: ‘We are aware of an event due to take place at Church House Conference Centre Limited, in Westminster, on Feb 1 at which we understand Jules Gomes, a former Church of England parish priest prohibited from ministry for 10 years by a Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal, has been invited to speak.
‘The National Church Institutions are tenants at Church House. Church House Conference Centre Limited, who manage bookings from clients and operate the conference spaces, is an independent conference centre located at Church House.’
Gomes was banned from ministry for 10 years after a disciplinary tribunal found against him following complaints about his behaviour. Deeply opposed to female clergy, refers to female bishops as ‘bishopesses’ described Sarah Mullally, the new Bishop of London, as ‘safe space Sarah, the box-ticking Bishopette of Londonistan’ who ‘doesn’t have the foggiest idea about the biblical gospel’.
Elsewhere in a blog badged as ‘satirical’ he described a ‘gaggle of anorexic and bulimic teenage girls’ accompanying ‘Rachel Treweek, Bishopess of Gloucester’.
Treweek told Christian Today: ‘I have known him in the past so it is deeply disappointing that he feels able to write things about me and others without ever trying to communicate in a relational way.
‘If rebuilding bridges is about relationship then it is a very funny and strange way to demonstrate that if you feel able to simply write abusive things on blogs.’