Tag Archives: Church of England

March 5 2018 – “‘Wilful blindness’ existed towards Church child abuse in Sussex, inquiry hears” – West Sussex County Times – Michael Drummond


‘Wilful blindness’ existed towards Church child abuse in Sussex, inquiry hears

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is taking place in London

MICHAEL DRUMMOND Email Published: 17:21 Monday 05 March 2018

A damning image of ‘wilful blindness’ in historic cases of sexual abuse of children who were ‘terrified and silenced’ by clergy in Sussex has been set out at a public inquiry. Fiona Scolding QC, lead counsel to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), said abuse that left an ‘indelible scar’ on children was often ignored or forgiven.

In one segment, Miss Scolding described abuse by a Reverend Colin Pritchard: “There have been suggestions about the culture of abuse operated by Reverend Pritchard and that Bishop Peter Ball turned a blind eye to that abuse.” Reverend Pritchard, who was vicar of St Barnabas in Bexhill, pleaded guilty in 2008 to seven counts of sexual assault on two boys and was jailed for five years.

Speaking on behalf of the Diocese of Chichester and Archbishops’ Council for the Church of England, Nigel Giffin QC said the Church’s response to abuse in the last few decades was ‘not nearly good enough’. The IICSA inquiry in London will look into how far institutions failed to protect children from sexual abuse within the Anglican Church. It focusses on abuse within the Diocese of Chichester, which covers all of Sussex, as a case study.

Lead counsel for the inquiry Fiona Scolding QC Members of the public heard about dozens of offences in Sussex over the last 50 years. Miss Scolding said: “As a society we have ocer the past 10 years had to examine some uncomfortable truths about our wilful blindness to such abuse.”

She noted the convictions for sex offences of Michael Walsh, Terence Banks and David Bowring, who were associated with Chichester Cathedral and local schooling. Miss Scolding also told the inquiry how Reverend Roy Cotton, who was convicted in 1952 of gross indecency with a child, was at one point an ‘alleged abuser hiding in plain sight’.

Richard Scorer spoke on behalf of many of the victims

She added: “Despite his conviction the Bishop of Portsmouth considered him suitable for ordination as a man of ‘considerable ability’ free of any trouble for 12 years. “Because of his criminal record the then Bishop of Portsmouth ensured he did not have to undertake the usual recruitment processes.”

The handling by the Church of allegations made against Chichester’s Bishop George Bell will be discussed later in the inquiry, but not the truth of them or otherwise.

Richard Scorer, speaking on behalf of many of the victims, said: “If you want to abuse children there is no more effective way of terrifying and silencing your victims than to claim to have God on your side.

The inquiry will look into how abuse by people associated with Chichester Cathedral was dealt with

“The Church of England claims to offer moral guidance to the country yet clerical sexual abuse cases powerfully undermine the claim. This leads to the cover-up of abuse.

“The question is whether the Church of England can be trusted to put its own house in order.”

In a statement read out this afternoon, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “The failures that we have seen are deeply shaming and I personally find them a cause of horror and sadness. “That children have been abused within the communities of the church is indeed shameful.” The inquiry continues.

Read more at: https://www.wscountytimes.co.uk/news/crime/wilful-blindness-existed-towards-church-child-abuse-in-sussex-inquiry-hears-1-8403316


March 3 2018 – “Poor treatment of moral figure” – Chichester Observer – Letters – Tim Hudson


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.

March 2 2018 – “Church of England faces ‘deep shame’ at child abuse inquiry” – Guardian – Harriet Sherwood


Church of England faces ‘deep shame’ at child abuse inquiry

Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent
The Guardian
The former bishop Peter Ball, who was jailed for sexual abuse in 2015.
The former bishop Peter Ball, who was jailed for sexual abuse in 2015. Photograph: David Jones/PA

The Church of England is braced for two years of “deep shame” over its handling of child sex abuse cases, with allegations of cover-ups, collusion and callous treatment of survivors under scrutiny from Monday at the UK’s biggest public inquiry.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will be cross-examined in person during three weeks of hearings this month. Two former archbishops, serving bishops and other senior church figures are also to give evidence or submit witness statements to the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA). Further hearings will follow in July and next year.

Survivors of sexual abuse are expected to accuse the church of failing to act on disclosures and failing to treat them with compassion. Their lawyers are likely to call for independent oversight of the C of E’s safeguarding processes, claiming that the church has shown itself incapable of dealing properly with allegations and disclosures.

Welby himself has said the church must acknowledge where it went wrong. “[We] failed really badly around the issues of the care of children and vulnerable adults. We have to face the consequences of that and learn … to be transparent and honest – and genuinely repentant,” he recently told reporters.

Peter Hancock, the bishop of Bath and Wells and the C of E’s lead bishop on safeguarding, who will also give evidence, told the Guardian he expected to feel “a deep, deep sense of shame” during the hearings.

The church had cooperated fully with the IICSA, but the inquiry would ask “challenging questions and I don’t run from that”, Hancock said. The church needed to learn and that meant “not just new policies, but new courage and resolve” to change.

As well as Welby and Hancock, among those expected to give evidence, either in person or by written statement, are former archbishops of Canterbury Rowan Williams and George Carey, and the current bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner.

In preparation for the hearings, the church has submitted more than 25,000 documents and 36 witness statements.

This month’s hearings will focus on abuse in the diocese of Chichester, where there have been multiple allegations of sexual abuse, some dating back many years. The church’s handling of a controversial abuse allegation made against George Bell, the former bishop of Chichester who died 60 years ago, will be examined. But the issue is far from historical: in 2016, the C of E was dealing with more than 2,600 reports of sexual abuse within its parishes, with more than 700 relating to church officers.

As well as hearing accounts of abuse from survivors, the inquiry is also expect to be told of the “secondary abuse” experienced by many at the hands of church figures who allegedly ignored, disparaged or covered up their disclosures.

“The church is guilty of two distinct crimes: cover-up and its treatment of survivors,” said the Rev Graham Sawyer, a survivor who gave evidence against Peter Ball, the former bishop of Gloucester jailed in October 2015 for sexual abuse. “The corporate narcissism and hubris of the C of E’s leadership has meant they’ve made horrendous mistakes.

“The [IICSA] hearings are going to be immensely uncomfortable for the church, but the key question is whether they will bring about change.”

Gilo, another survivor, said the C of E hierarchy was “likely to go into meltdown” in the coming weeks and months.

“The damage is self-inflicted and centres around denial and dishonesty across the top of the church. The public imagines that cover-up is a thing of the past; I’m not so sure. I suspect we’ll see senior figures in difficulty. There are likely to be resignations. The C of E will need a reboot at the end of all this.”

He hoped the hearings would “shine a spotlight on a broken culture” and usher in a legal requirement to report abuse disclosures to the police. “I do not expect the C of E will look the same in a year’s time. If it does, then IICSA will not have achieved much.”

Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said the hearings were likely to be “highly damaging” for the church.

“They will expose the mistreatment and denigration of victims which happened over many years, and the culture of abuse which was prevalent in the Chichester diocese and the church generally. They will expose the cover-up of abuse allegations, in relation to Peter Ball and many other cases.”

The fundamental problem for the C of E in dealing with abuse was that bishops were not accountable, he said. “A bishop is king in his diocese. If a bishop is resistant to safeguarding there is no real way to overcome this.

“We need external oversight of safeguarding and external handling of complaints, and mandatory reporting of all allegations to police and social services. Until these are put in place the church will continue to have a serious problem. Unfortunately the church is currently unwilling to face up to this reality.”

The church says it has professionalised its safeguarding processes and acknowledges it needs to strengthen its response to survivors. Safeguarding officials see the IICSA hearings as an opportunity to learn from past mistakes with humility and courage.

Alan Wilson, the bishop of Buckingham, who has pressed for cultural change within the church on abuse, said the IICSA hearings would only “examine the tip of a large iceberg”.

He added: “[The inquiry] has promised to go beyond individual failures and the processes by which they were handled and examine habits, attitudes and beliefs that made them so possible and pervasive. An ounce of culture is worth a ton of policy.”


February 28 2018 – “The Importance of Bishop Bell” – F.A.C.T. [Falsely Accused Carers & Teachers]


The importance of Bishop George Bell

January 25, 2018

Bishop George Bell (1883 – 1958) is famed for being one of the first to speak out against the dangers Hitler posed in the 1930s and for saving many lives during these years by guaranteeing refugees from Germany. He was one of the few to condemn our government’s obliteration bombing of German cities during the Second World War. He has been, and is, a revered and respected figure.

In 1995 (37 years after he had died) a complaint was made that Bell had abused a child in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The complaint was not passed to the police at the time but was passed to them when the complaint was repeated in 2013. The Church paid compensation to the complainant in 2015 and in 2016 the Church of England commissioned Lord Carlile to review their procedures concerning the investigation into the case. The resulting review was scathing in its criticism of the Church’s handling of the allegations against Bell. Lord Carlile concludes “The Core Group was set up in an unmethodical and unplanned way, with neither terms of reference nor any clear direction as to how it would operate. As a result, it became a confused and unstructured process, as several members confirmed” and “There was no organised or valuable inquiry or investigation into the merits of the allegations, and the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or proportionality.”

In spite of Carlile’s criticisms the Church remains undeterred in holding Bell responsible. Bell’s name stays removed from buildings, colleges and institutions and his reputation traduced. The problems inherent in a system, like the Church, concerning safeguarding and issues of justice affect all who work or are involved in a church. The case concerning Bishop George Bell has highlighted the flaws and gives no assurance that justice will be done for the accused as well as for the complainant.

As the George Bell Group writes, “Lord Carlile’s report has now left the Church with many searching questions, including how best to remedy the many defects in the current Practice Guidance so as to ensure that such an injustice can never recur.”

Unfortunately this injustice is already happening to innocent people in the Church.


Powered by WordPress | Sitemap | Log in


February 26 2018 – “The Church of England should stand up for Bishop Bell” – OXSTU [Oxford Student]


The Church of England should stand up for Bishop Bell

A short biography of George Bell, who had been Bishop of Chichester for 27 years when he died in 1958, begins by acknowledging a recurring pattern regarding the reputation of notable people. It points out that after such people die, their reputations are often reshaped and defamed by harsh criticism not voiced during their lifetimes – but that the Bishop had managed to be an exception to this rule.

This claim, published in 1971, would no longer be written today. Whilst the memory of George Bell has been cherished over the past 60 years due to his significant support of the Protestant opposition to Hitler, his work in bringing over many non-Aryan refugees from Germany and his emphatic opposition to the bombing of civilians during the Second World War, Bell’s reputation is now at risk of being utterly decimated. A complaint made to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013 accused Bell of having committed grotesque acts of child abuse in the 1940s and 50s. In response, the Church apologised and paid the accuser £16,800 in compensation. Various memorials, such as one proclaiming him a ‘champion of the oppressed’ in Chichester Cathedral, faced removal. An Eastbourne school, formerly known as the Bishop Bell Church of England School, has changed its name altogether.

Most would agree that this sort of action would be justified in the face of conclusive evidence against Bell. But it has since transpired that the church acted far too hastily. Following their acceptance of the abuse claims, a robust movement was sparked to defend Bell’s reputation, involving major journalists such as Charles Moore and Peter Hitchens. The Church then initiated an independent inquiry, led by Lord Carlile (one of the country’s top legal experts), which concluded that they had “rushed to judgement” and that the damage to Bell’s reputation was “just wrong”. Lord Carlile even went so far as to say that had he been prosecuting a case against Bell in court, Bell would have won. Nevertheless, this report was withheld by the Church for two months. After its eventual release, Justin Welby insisted that a “significant cloud” still hangs over Bell’s name in spite of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.

We should be equally concerned for protecting Bell’s reputation against false accusations as we are for spoiling his reputation over true accusations

This strange outcome highlights an element of mystery that has surrounded the Bell case. The initial claim against Bell was anonymous and the church revealed no details about the accusation when making their apology. As mentioned, it took two months for the Church to release the Carlile report after having received it. Once it was released, Justin Welby did not follow the logical implications of the report, but refused to retract his statements because of a vague belief in a “cloud”. On the 31st January, the enigmatic plot thickened when the Church announced that a further anonymous and unspecified accusation had been made and was being investigated. Some felt the timing of this was suspicious, given that a motion to debate the restoration of Bell’s reputation was due to be voted on at the Church’s General Synod the following week. Lord Carlile, who knew nothing of this accusation during his investigation, described the announcement as ‘unwise, unnecessary and foolish’. At the very least, we can all recognise the strange and stark asymmetry between the previous withholding of the completed Carlile investigation report and the eagerness of the recent announcement of an incomplete investigation. Things got worse when it emerged that the Church of England had refused to allow Mrs Barbara Whitley, Bell’s 93-year-old niece, to have the lawyer of her choice represent her side in the proceedings – instead choosing on her behalf someone who is neither a lawyer nor known to Mrs Whitley.

At this point, while many will sympathise with the active supporters of George Bell, which now includes leading groups of historians, theologians and church leaders who have written public letters asking for Welby to retract his statement, others feel a sense of unease. After all, it is of course possible that the accusations are true. Justin Welby, in a recent interview with the Church Times, said that the alleged victims should be “treated equally importantly” as the reputation of George Bell. Some would say this does not go far enough: surely we must be more concerned for the alleged victims, who are still living, over the reputation of someone who died 60 years ago?

The general nervousness of the Church of England’s handling of the Bell case must be related to the fact that the Church currently faces over 3,000 complaints of sexual abuse

Perhaps a better way of framing this would be to say that we should be equally concerned for protecting Bell’s reputation against false accusations as we are for spoiling his reputation over true accusations. The trouble is that most people have an instinctive tendency to find the latter much easier than the former. When the Church of England apologised and paid the first alleged victim in 2015, The Guardian ran the story with the headline “Church of England Bishop George Bell abused young child”. At that stage, nothing was known about the identity of the accuser nor the accusations, and yet headlines announced the claims as fact. Once the Carlile report was made public, it would have been no less factual to run the headline ‘George Bell declared innocent of abuse claims’, yet nobody did so. In fact, most would consider this overstepping the mark.

The general nervousness of the Church of England’s handling of the Bell case must be related to the fact that the Church currently faces over 3,000 complaints of sexual abuse (including both long-standing and recent accusations). Other high-profile cases of clergy committing child abuse, such as that of former bishop Peter Ball, have highlighted the shocking failures of senior clerics to listen to victims and pass allegations on to the police. Taking into consideration the sharp spike in awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse in society more broadly, following Weinstein, Larry Nassar and the #MeToo movement, it is not hard to imagine why the Archbishop of Canterbury would not want to stick his head above the parapet and defend the innocence of an archetypal establishment figure: a dead, white, male clergyman.

Courage, after all, comes at a cost. George Bell discovered this himself when his opposition to the bombing of innocent civilians during the Second World War put him on the wrong side of Winston Churchill, probably the main reason why he was never appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. In the absence of substantial evidence in support of the accusations against him, Bell’s reputation deserves to be defended. This is not only in the interest of truth, but also in the interest of maintaining a legacy of courageous leadership which is desperately needed among Bell’s clerical successors today.




February 3 2018 – “Church of England accused of disclosing fresh Bell allegation to save Archbishop embarrassment” – Daily Telegraph – Olivia Rudgard


Church of England accused of disclosing fresh Bell allegation to save Archbishop embarassment

The motion, which is currently being assessed by Church of England lawyers, would not have been discussed at this month's meeting but would have been added to the agenda for later meetings had it received enough support.   
The motion, which is currently being assessed by Church of England lawyers, would not have been discussed at this month’s meeting but would have been added to the agenda for later meetings had it received enough support.    CREDIT: PA

The Church of England has been accused of disclosing evidence of a fresh allegation against Bishop George Bell in order to preserve the Archbishop of Canterbury from embarrassment at Synod.

The Church announced it had received “fresh information” about alleged sexual abuse by the highly-respected bishop, who died more than 70 years ago, on Wednesday, just over a week before the issue was due to be debated at a meeting of the Church of England’s governing body.

Synod members who had planned to propose a motion aimed at beginning the process of rehabilitating Bell’s reputation have decided to shelve it as a result.

The motion, which is currently being assessed by Church of England lawyers, would not have been discussed at this month’s meeting but would have been added to the agenda for later meetings had it received enough support.

But its proposer David Lamming, a lay member from the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich said he had decided to “put it on ice” following the disclosure of the new allegation.

Motions must receive 100 signatures in order to be added to the potential agenda for future events.

Mr Lamming told the Daily Telegraph: “I don’t think I can ask Synod to sign something that they are uncomfortable with in the light of this recent development.”

Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson, the daughter of Bishop Bell’s friend Franz Hildebrandt, said the development made her “question [Welby’s] leadership”.

“I’m quite sure it was to distract attention away from the pressure that was building on Justin Welby to apologise for his earlier statement,” she said. 

“An Archbishop has to be able to take a bit of embarrassment, he has got to be able to say that he’s got it wrong.”

Professor Andrew Chandler, Bell’s biographer, said: “People will assume that there is some manipulation at work in all this, and whether that is true or not I don’t know.

“In the intensely political context in which all of this has emerged, it’s natural for people to have these suspicions, but it’s the Church that has created this context.”

In a statement released on Wednesday, Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead Safeguarding bishop said the announcement was made “in light of General Synod questions that need to be responded to and the reference to the case in the IICSA hearing yesterday”.