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.
March 22 2018 – IICSA Transcript – Wednesday March 21
Archbishop Justin Welby
Page 119-120 [Paras 21-25]
and at the heart of this has to be justice, and justice is a very, very difficult thing to find, as you know much better than I do, but we have to have a system that delivers justice. That is so important. And if it doesn’t, it’s not good enough.
Fiona Scolding QC
Page 123 [Paras 14-25] Page 124 [Paras 1-8]
One of the points that Lord Carlile makes is that the church didn’t take a good enough account of…George Bell’s reputation. Now, we have heard from several individuals about their views about that. But what he seems to suggest is, you have to start — you know, this was such a Titanic figure that one must assume that his reputation is unblemished and, therefore, that has to be weighed very heavily in the balance. Do you have any response to that?
Archbishop Justin Welby
I think the greatest tragedy of all these cases is that people have trusted, very often, those who were locally, in diocesan terms, or nationally Titanic figures, and have then found that they were not worthy of their trust. The fact that someone is a titanic figure doesn’t tell you anything at all, except that they have done remarkable things in one area. It doesn’t tell you about the rest of their lives. And it is not something that we can take into account.
March 22 2018 – From The Archives [1988 – “Rumpole of the Bailey” with Leo McKern – Episode: ‘Rumpole and the Age of Miracles’ [Series 5 Disc 2) – Filmed on location at Chichester Cathedral [‘The Diocese of Lawnchester’ – Ecclesiastical Court]
Rumpole: “I happen to have a good deal of faith”
Ballard: “Yes, in what precisely?”
Rumpole: “The health-giving properties of Claret. The presumption of innocence…that golden thread running through British justice”
‘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.
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.
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.”