Jan 24 2019 – “Archbishop admits Bishop Bell investigation has been ‘very painful process’, ahead of report into case” – The Daily Telegraph – Hayley Dixon
The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted that investigating abuse allegations made against Bishop George Bell has been a “very, very painful process” as the church prepares to publish its findings in the case.
Ahead of what it is hoped will be the end to a long and bitter battle between the Church of England and the family and supporters of one of its most revered bishops, Justin Welby said that the tackling of sex abuse cases has been the churches “greatest failure” since the second world war.
The Archbishop has personally been accused of attempting to smear the former Bishop of Chichester’s name by accusing him of being a paedophile when there was “no credible evidence” against him.
An independent review of the handling of the case by Lord Carlile, which was released in 2017, found that Bishop Bell had been besmirched by the church two years earlier when officials released a statement formally apologising over allegations of abuse made by a woman who is now in her seventies.
On Thursday the church will release the findings of their National Safeguarding Team into “fresh information” which came to light after review was published.
The Archbishop has written to Bishop Bell’s surviving relative ahead of the release of the report, the Telegraph understands.
Sussex Police dropped an investigation into the “fresh information” in March last year, three months after it came to light.
The findings of the review have remained a closely guarded secret, but supporters have said that they are hopeful that it will restore the good name of Bishop Bell, who died in 1958.
Talking about the case to the Spectator ahead of the publication of the report, the Archbishop said: “It has been a very, very painful process. Not least because Bishop Bell was — is — one of my great heroes. Probably the greatest failure of the C of E since the second world war has been our failure to deal adequately with disclosures of abuse. When I came into this role, I didn’t have any idea how bad it was.”
He admitted that “we have not found a way of caring for those who have been accused or complained against — or their families.”
Frank Field, the Labour MP who has been part of the fight to clear the bishop’s name, said: “I hope that the report brings the whole sorry affair to a good-ish end.
“I would hope that they have now decided it is totally proper to restore the man’s great name and I would hope that a statement from the Archbishop will be followed by the reversal of a series of other changes which were made on the basis that the allegations could be true.”
In the wake of the church naming Bishop Bell as an abuser a school in Chichester and rooms in the cathedral were among the places to be stripped of his name.
A statue celebrating his work in helping rescue Jewish children from Germany during the Second World War which has been planned for Canterbury Cathedral was also scrapped.
Anne Dawson on “Bishop Bell – Mistaken Identity?”
Rebuilding a bridge is a delicate, and at times hazardous, undertaking. Repairing a bridge over troubled waters is not a task for the faint-hearted. The issues around Bishop Bell are complex, but the intention of the Church Authorities is straightforward: to come out appearing in the best possible light.
On a trajectory intending to reverse the decades of harm the C of E inflicted by indifference and denial concerning sexual abuse, the result is that the balance is tilted too far towards favouring claimants. The policy of the NST [National Safeguarding Team], that allegations will be believed and accepted without evidence, has had catastrophic consequences.
The sequence of decisions leading to settling ‘Carol’s’ claim has entrenched the NST into a position from which it is difficult to back track. It is tragic to have reached this point, which could have been avoided, by a more fair–minded approach from the NST.
Memories of a child, reported after a time lapse of over four decades. are NOT facts. However, I think that ‘Carol’s’ uncorroborated memories have a kernel of truth in them. Believing her account in its entirety is unsafe, as there is too great margin of error to uphold such a serious matter as destroying the reputation of Bishop Bell.
Reconstruction of childhood events over a long passage of time are viewed through the lens of subsequent life experiences. ‘Carol’ – or anyone looking back on their childhood many decades ago – has ‘anchor points’ for memory reconstruction that are highly subjective. Working with children for many years, I have seen children easily get confused about the hierarchy of who is in charge. It is common error to ascribe the lead person associated with a place, or institution, with other adults. What I mean is, ‘Carol’ may have thought a man was a Bishop because she came across him in the Bishop’s house. With this hypothesis, a random cleric would not even have deliberately feigned to be Bishop Bell, but have assumed that character in the mind of Carol. This theory maintains ‘Carol’s’ credibility, and her personal truth as she understands it.
Having raised this hypothesis with Richard Symonds, he put me in touch with Geoffrey Boys, whose account is compelling concerning mistaken identity. Mr Boys has given evidence to the Core Group which I understand is in the Briden report…
The NST maintain they place a high priority on transparency but do not conduct themselves with transparency. The following statement by Colin Perkins demonstrates this.
“From my point of view, from the perspective you just described, that would have
effectively been saying, ‘We are not accepting your claim. We are not going to apologise. We are going to perhaps provide some monetary settlement and we are
going to require you to sign a non-disclosure agreement’. That is exactly the opposite of where I think the church should be on this issue” [ IICSA Transcript – March 16 – Page 30]
There was a simple solution by stating, ‘We have heard the claimant’s story and believe she has suffered abuse. We admit admission of liability and apologise, but we cannot determine the identity of the abuser. We have made a settlement on this basis and wish to maintain the reputation of Bishop Bell.We have nothing to hide.’ The NST just needed to come clean about saying as it is; there are no facts, but they compensated Carol because they believe she was abused, albeit without proof of by whom.
The historian Herodotus, 2500 years ago, observed that of all rites performed by humans, those concerning the dead are most sacrosanct. This holds true for all people throughout all ages. I was shocked that Archbishop Welby, as head of our national church, has it within him to hurt Bishop Bell’s legacy so grievously (statement dated 22.1.2018.) A person’s worth does not diminish by death, unless you are the Archbishop of Canterbury and you feel empowered to say what you like about the dead. Defaming George Bell, without evidence, reverses the universal value in all cultures and faiths of honouring forefathers – which is one of the defining features of humanity
Archbishop 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” [IICSA Transcript – Wednesday March 21]
The Archbishop is entitled to his opinion, even if it is controversial and incongruent with many within the church. But his words are not backed by investigating the facts. IF the Archbishop had invited he historian, Andrew Chandler, (author of Bell’s biography 2016) to the Core Group and IF there was legal representation of Bishop Bell’s family (whom the Core Group failed to trace), then the Archbishop could claim some validity to his statement. However, the lack of representation on behalf of George Bell and his niece Mrs Barbara Whitley, demonstrates that Archbishop Welby has no authentic understanding of the man he demolishes. His rigorous dismissal of the collective wisdom of the scholars and theologians who have written open letters to the Archbishop (letters 16/17/24.1.2018) suggest reckless defamation. I am reluctant to criticise the Archbishop, but he has side-stepped fully examining George Bell’s life.
In conclusion, I do not want to be angry or sad, but to celebrate the life of Bishop Bell, despite the efforts of Archbishop Welby and the NST to destroy his legacy. The case of Cliff Richard displays how disproportionally empowering claimants has caused deep trauma. Thankfully Sir Cliff has been fully cleared of abuse, but the toll on his physical and mental health has been very high. The Archbishop’s statements about George Bell are spoken with the authority of his role, but entitlement does not equate with truth and justice.
Anne Dawson, 19th January 2019
“The Church lawyers in the Bishop Bell case would make even Machiavelli blush”
~ Richard W. Symonds ~
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.