Tag Archives: Harriet Sherwood

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

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/church-england-faces-apos-deep-114904515.html

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.”

January 23 2018 – “Archbishop refuses to retract George Bell statement” – The Guardian – Harriet Sherwood

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/22/archbishop-canterbury-refuses-to-retract-george-bell-statement

Archbishop refuses to retract George Bell statement

Justin Welby said child abuse claims had left ‘significant cloud’ over ex-bishop’s name

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

 

The Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to retract a statement saying that a leading church figure of the 20th century had a “significant cloud” over his name because of allegations of child abuse, despite mounting pressure from historians who believe the claims are untrue.

Reinforcing comments he made last month about the former bishop of Chichester George Bell that the historians described as “irresponsible and dangerous”, Justin Welby described Bell as “one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century” but added: “I cannot with integrity rescind my statement.”

Welby pointed out that the Church of England had covered up or denied the abuse of children and vulnerable adults for decades.

In December an independent inquirycriticised the church for its handling of an accusation of child sexual abuse made against Bell, who died in 1958. The inquiry said the church had “rushed to judgment” and accepted claims against the bishop “without sufficient investigations”.

The church accepted nearly all the inquiry’s recommendations about its processes, but Welby said a “significant cloud” was left over Bell’s name.

Bell was once tipped as a possible archbishop of Canterbury, although his vocal opposition to the bombing of German civilians by the RAF during the second world war was thought to have counted against him.

Following the inquiry’s findings, the archbishop said: “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 good.”

Last week seven leading historians wrote to Lambeth Palace saying Welby’s comments were irresponsible and dangerous and “offend the most basic values and principles of historic understanding”.

The letter said the allegation against Bell was “not only wholly uncorroborated but is contradicted by all the considerable, and available, circumstantial material which any historian would consider credible.”

It added: “We urge you, in all sincerity, to repudiate what you have said before more damage is done.”

Among the letter’s signatories were Ian Kershaw, a leading authority on the Third Reich, and two biographers of former archbishops of Canterbury.

Responding to the letter, Welby said: “I cannot with integrity rescind my statement. Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the church has covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions … As a result, the church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny” in the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA).”

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Welby pointed out that a settlement made in 2015 to “Carol”, who first made an allegation of abuse against Bell in 1995, was based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability, rather than the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt.

He said the church disagreed with the Bell inquiry’s suggestion that the settlement should have been made on condition of confidentiality.

“The confidentiality would have been exposed through the IICSA process, and the first question we would have faced, both about Bishop Bell and more widely, would have been: so what else are you concealing? The letter from the historians does not take into account any of these realities, nor the past failures of the church.”

Welby referred to the case of Peter Ball, the former bishop of Lewes and later of Gloucester, who is serving a prison sentence for sexual abuse. An independent inquiry into the Ball case concluded there had been collusion at the highest levels in the church to protect the bishop.

Welby’s statement on Monday said: “The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic. But … the complaint about Bishop Bell does not diminish the importance of his great achievements and he is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century.”

IICSA is to hear evidence into child sexual abuse in the Church of England in March.

December 18 2017 – “Former Archbishop of Canterbury lashes out at Justin Welby in letter / Carey lambasts Welby over church sexual abuse case – [Welby’s] decision is unjust and eventually will be judged as such” – The Guardian – Harriet Sherwood

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/dec/17/former-archbishop-of-canterbury-george-carey-justin-welby-letter

Former archbishop of Canterbury lashes out at Justin Welby in letter

George Carey says it is ‘shocking’ that his successor asked him to quit honorary post over role in sexual abuse case

George Carey
 George Carey said the decision was ‘quite unjust and eventually will be judged as such’. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

The former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has launched an extraordinary broadside against his successor, Justin Welby, in a Christmas letter to friends.

In a letter headed “Greetings from the Careys 2017”, Lord Carey, 82, lashes out at the “shocking” and “quite unjust” demand by Welby that he resign an honorary post because of his involvement in a high-profile sexual abuse case.

In recounting key events of his year, Carey tells friends of the “shocking insistence by the archbishop that I should stand down from ministry ‘for a season’ for mistakes he believes were made 24 years ago when bishop Peter Ball abused young potential priests. His decision is quite unjust and eventually will be judged as such.”

He adds: “Just as well, then, that we are surrounded by a large and wonderful family who give us great support and pleasure.”

The former archbishop, who retired from the post in 2002, resigned as honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of Oxford in June after a damning independent inquiry criticised the Church of England’s handling of the Ball case.

He quit after Welby made an unprecedented request for him to “carefully consider his position”. The inquiry found the church had “colluded” with Ball, the former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, “rather than seeking to help those he had harmed”.

Ball was released from prison in February after serving 16 months for the grooming, sexual exploitation and abuse of 18 vulnerable young men who had sought spiritual guidance from him between 1977 and 1992.

The inquiry found that Ball’s case was dealt with at the highest level of the C of E. “The church appears to have been most interested in protecting itself,” its report said.

Carey “set the tone for the church’s response to Ball’s crimes and gave the steer which allowed Ball’s assertions that he was innocent to gain credence”. Carey had failed to pass six letters raising concerns about Ball to police and in 1993 wrote to Ball’s identical twin brother, Bishop Michael Ball, saying: “I believe him to be basically innocent.”

After the inquiry made its findings public, Carey apologised to Ball’s victims, saying: “I believed Peter Ball’s protestations and gave too little credence to the vulnerable young men and boys behind those allegations.”

Carey, who sits in the House of Lords as a crossbencher, has now hit back against Welby in a Christmas missive from him and his wife, Eileen, to “our dear friends”.

The letter, seen by the Guardian, says “two things have happened to us of consequence” over the past year. One was a move to a new home in a retirement community and the “less desirable” one was Welby’s intervention in June.

Last year, the former archbishop waded into another sexual abuse case, criticising the C of E’s handling of an allegation against the late George Bell, who was bishop of Chichester until his death in 1958. The church was heavily criticised in an independent report on Friday for traducing Bell without rigorous investigation of the claim.

In a letter to Bell’s niece, Carey said he was “frankly appalled by the way the church authorities have treated his memory”.

He added: “The church has effectively delivered a ‘guilty’ verdict without anything resembling a fair and open trial.” His reputation had been left “in tatters”.

A spokesperson said Carey did not comment on private correspondence intended for friends.

A spokesperson for Welby also declined to comment on private correspondence but said the independent review on the Ball case spoke for itself.

December 15 2017 – “‘An example of human goodness’: how child abuse claims shredded George Bell’s reputation” – The Guardian – Harriet Sherwood

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/15/child-abuse-claims-george-bell-reputation

‘An example of human goodness’: how child abuse claims shredded George Bell’s reputation

The former bishop of Chichester was the closest thing to an Anglican saint, until in 2015 the church apologised to a woman who claimed she had been raped as a child

George Bell, right, chats with the bishop G Bromley Oxnam during the World Council of Churches in Illinois, US, in 1954.
 George Bell, right, chats with the bishop G Bromley Oxnam during the World Council of Churches in Illinois, US, in 1954. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

When the Church of England issued a statement in October 2015 expressing “deep sorrow” over the sexual abuse of a child by one of its most revered 20th-century figures, it caused shockwaves.

Many of those who admired and respected George Bell, who was bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in 1958, simply could not believe that a man described as “a rare example of self-sacrificing human goodness” had committed such a deed. At the very least, they said, the church had “condemned as a paedophile” someone who could not refute the claims against him.

In the two years that followed the C of E’s apology, Bell’s supporters fought to salvage his reputation while the church quietly insisted that, “on the balance of probabilities”, it believed the woman who claimed to have been abused. Now the findings of an independent inquiry undertaken by Lord Carlile have been made public.

Bell was seen as a champion of the underdog. He helped organise the kindertransport rescue of Jewish children from the Nazis, and later controversially criticised the RAF bombing of German civilians during the second world war. He described the killing of women and children as “barbarian” and a crime against humanity, asking: “How can the war cabinet fail to see that this progressive devastation of cities is threatening the roots of civilisation?”

His comments – deeply unpopular in a country at war – were widely thought to have cost him the job of archbishop of Canterbury when it twice became vacant in the 1940s. But in some quarters, his outspokenness made him a hero.

George Bell, left, at the World Council of Churches in 1954.
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 George Bell, left, at the World Council of Churches in 1954. Photograph: John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The George Bell Institute was founded in 1996 in honour of the former bishop, whom it described as “a friend of the oppressed … [and] a generous advocate for humanity at large”. He had an Anglican holy day named after him – the nearest thing in the C of E to beatification. In 2013, a BBC Great Lives radio documentary hailed him as a man of moral courage.

But that same year, a woman known as Carol wrote to Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, claiming Bell had sexually abused her when she was a child in the 1940s and 50s. It was not the first time Carol had come forward: in 1995 she told the then bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp, and in 2012 she wrote to Lambeth Palace. No action was taken.

According to Carol’s account, the abuse began when she was five years old, when she was taken regularly to the bishop’s palace in Chichester by a relative who worked there. Bell, then in his 60s, would offer to read to the child while the relative worked.

“Then he’d start wriggling about with me on his lap. He started wriggling and then he started touching me, between my legs,” Carol told the Brighton Argus in February 2016. The bishop pulled her knickers aside to interfere with her. He told her not to tell anyone what happened. “He said it was our little secret, because God loved me.”

In a police statement, she said sometimes he made her touch his genitals; on other occasions he attempted to penetrate her with his penis after pulling her underwear aside. He ejaculated, telling her she was being anointed by God.

The alleged abuse continued until she was nine, when her family moved away, she said. Now in her 70s, she added: “It’s something that lives with you for the rest of your life. It never goes away.”

Two years ago, the C of E issued a formal apology to Carol and paid her £16,800 compensation. The current bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, spoke of a “devastating betrayal of trust” and the church cited a police statement that said Bell would have been arrested if he had still been alive.

Bell’s supporters were staggered. The swiftly established George Bell Group, which included academics, lawyers, politicians and church groups, accused the church of failing to properly investigate Carol’s claims and of not consulting Bell’s papers and diaries. “The valuable reputation of a great man, a rare example of self-sacrificing human goodness, has been carelessly destroyed on the basis of slender evidence sloppily investigated,” it said.

The former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said he was “frankly appalled” at the way the church had handled the allegations of abuse. Bell “was without question one of the greatest church leaders of the 20th century. The church has effectively delivered a guilty verdict without anything resembling a fair and open trial,” he wrote in a letter to Bell’s niece.

Carol, meanwhile, acknowledged that Bell “did some good”. But, she added, “to me he did harm. And sometimes I think the church likes to sweep those kinds of things under the table.”

All too mindful of that sentiment, the church commissioned Carlile to conduct an independent review into the case. “There are always lessons to be learned,” it said at the time.

December 15 2017 – “Anglican church ‘rushed to judgement’ in George Bell child abuse case” – The Guardian – Harriet Sherwood

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/15/george-bell-anglican-church-rushed-to-judgment-child-abuse-carlile-report

Anglican church ‘rushed to judgment’ in George Bell child abuse case

Lord Carlile report says Church of England was wrong to accept claims of alleged victim against former bishop ‘without sufficient investigations’

George Bell was the bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in 1958.
 George Bell was the bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in 1958. Photograph: PA

The Church of England has been criticised for a “rush to judgment” in its handling of allegations of sexual abuse against one its most revered figures of the 20th century in a highly damaging independent inquiry.

The report by Lord Carlile, released on Friday, 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.

The findings, which the church has made public two months after receiving them, concerned claims made against George Bell, the former bishop of Chichester, who died in 1958. A woman now in her 70s alleged that Bell had abused her in the bishop’s palace over a period of four years, starting when she was five years old.

In 2015, the church issued a formal public apology and paid £16,800 to the woman, known as Carol. Its statement triggered furious protests among Bell’s supporters, who said his reputation had been trashed, the evidence against him was thin and that he could not defend himself from beyond the grave.

The church commissioned Carlile last year to review its processes in the case. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, he said Bell had been “hung out to dry” and there were “many errors” in the church process. There were preconceptions about the outcome of the process and “therefore obvious lines of inquiry were not followed”.

The case bore “some of the hallmarks of the unacceptable way accusations against Lord Bramall and the late Lord Brittan were dealt with”, he added.

His report concluded that the “core group” established by the church to consider the claims “failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides”.

“The church, understandably concerned not to repeat the mistakes of the past, when it had been too slow to recognise that abuse had been perpetrated by clergy and to recognise the pain and damage caused to victims, has in effect oversteered in this case.

“In other words, there was a rush to judgment: the church, feeling it should be both supportive of the complainant and transparent in its dealings, failed to engage in a process which would also give proper consideration to the rights of the bishop. Such rights should not be treated as having been extinguished on death.”

He added: “In my view, the church concluded that the needs of a living complainant who, if truthful, was a victim of very serious criminal offences were of considerably more importance than the damage done by a possibly false allegation to a person who was no longer alive.”

Carlile said the purpose of his review was not to determine the truthfulness of Carol’s claims, nor Bell’s guilt or innocence. Rather his remit was to examine the church’s processes and determine whether it was right to make a public statement of apology and pay damages.

The church was “motivated by a desire to do what it perceived to be the right thing by the complainant” and “its actions were informed by history in which the church has been, at best, slow to acknowledge abuse by its clergy and, at worst, believed to have turned a blind eye”, he said.

But, he went on, “even when the alleged perpetrators have died, there should be methodical and sufficient investigations into accusations levelled against them”.

In this case, “the truth of what Carol was saying was implicitly accepted without serious investigation or inquiry. I have concluded this was an inappropriate and impermissible approach.”

His report was seen as vindication by high-profile figures who have fought to salvage Bell’s reputation for the past two years.

The George Bell Group welcomed the review’s findings. Carlile’s “devastating criticism of the church’s process shows that Archbishop [Justin] Welby was wrong in 2016 when he described the investigation as ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse as clearly correct on the balance of probabilities”, it said. The report “thoroughly vindicated the reputation of a man revered for his integrity across the Christian church”.

The journalist Peter Hitchens, who has vigorously campaigned on Bell’s behalf, said the church had “convicted Bishop Bell in a kangaroo court of chaotic incompetence” and demanded it withdraw its 2015 statement.

Responding to the report on behalf of the church, Peter Hancock, its lead safeguarding bishop, said: “It is clear from the report … that our processes were deficient in a number of respects, in particular the process for seeking to establish what may have happened. For that we apologise. Lessons can and have been learned about how we could have managed the process better.”

He added: “We recognise that Carol has suffered pain, as have surviving relatives of Bishop Bell. We are sorry that the church has added to that pain through its handling of this case.”

In a statement notable for its lack of apology to Bell’s family, Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said Bell was “one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century”.

Saying a “significant cloud is left over his name”, Welby added: “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 good.”

Martin Warner, the bishop of Chichester, in whose name the 2015 statement was issued, apologised for the church’s failures. He said: “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.”

Among Carlile’s recommendations is that alleged perpetrators, living or dead, should not be identified publicly without adverse finding of facts or a decision that identification is in the public interest.

If a settlement is made without admission of liability, as in the Bell case, there should be a confidentiality provision.

In response, Hancock said that while the church accepted the main thrust of his recommendations, “respectfully, we differ from [the] judgment” on confidentiality clauses. “The church is committed to transparency. We would look at each case on its merits but generally would seek to avoid confidentiality clauses.”

October 15 2017 – “Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologises to sexual abuse survivor ‘Gilo’ for C of E failings”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/15/archbishop-of-canterbury-justin-welby-apologises-to-sexual-abuse-survivor-gilo-for-c-of-e-failings

Justin Welby apologises to sexual abuse survivor for C of E failings

Archbishop of Canterbury writes personal letter to survivor known as Gilo for his office’s failure to respond to 17 letters

Justin Welby
 Justin Welby’s letter of apology came after a mediation session between Gilo and two senior bishops. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has personally apologised to a sexual abuse survivor for his office’s failure to respond to 17 letters seeking help and redress.

Three bishops have also urged the Church of England’s insurance company to review its settlement with the survivor, saying they are “very concerned about the way in which the claim was handled at the time”.

In a letter to the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG), the bishops expressed disquiet that “horse-trading” between lawyers over settlements has had “little concern for the impact” on survivors.

The two letters are the latest developments in a long struggle by Gilo – who is also known as Joe, and whose surname is withheld at his request – to force the C of E to acknowledge both the abuse he experienced as a teenager at the hands of a senior church figure and its failure to respond properly to his disclosures.

Gilo told dozens of C of E figures, including three bishops and a senior clergyman later ordained as a bishop, of his abuse over a period of almost four decades. A highly critical independent report commissioned by the C of E into Gilo’s case said last year that the failure of those in senior positions to record or take action on his disclosures was “deeply disturbing”.

Welby’s letter to Gilo says: “I am writing to say how profoundly sorry I am for all the abuse you have suffered … I am shocked to hear of what has happened to you and the impact over so many years.”

The archbishop wrote that he was aware that Gilo had been “in communication with me here at Lambeth Palace over a period of time. I am sorry that the way your correspondence was handled has not been helpful to you, and has not been to the standard you would expect”.

Gilo received only one response to his letters to Welby, from a correspondence clerk offering prayers.

Welby wrote that he had asked for a review of processes. “There are lessons to learn and I am keen that we learn them and make any changes necessary.”

The archbishop’s letter of apology arose from a mediation session between Gilo and two bishops: Tim Thornton, to whom Gilo says he disclosed details of his abuse in 2003 and who is now bishop at Lambeth; and Paul Butler, the bishop of Durham and the C of E’s lead bishop on safeguarding at the time of the independent review of the case.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the two bishops said they “recognise that the church continues to face serious challenges through its response to survivors” and “these matters need to be faced honestly and squarely”.

Butler and Thornton, along with Alan Wilson, the bishop of Buckingham, also wrote to the EIG to raise concerns. They called on the insurance company to revisit cases “where past practice may have reached a settlement that did not truly match the significance of the impact of the abuse”.

They wrote: “In particular we have been very concerned to hear how ‘horse trading’ around the level of settlements has occurred between lawyers with little concern for the impact such an approach has had on the survivor.”

The bishops suggest the EIG should review the settlement it reached with Gilo. He received £35,000 after the church agreed it was at fault, but pastoral care was cut off following the agreement.

The bishops’ letter said they were “very concerned about the way in which [the case] was handled at the time”. The impact of abuse on Gilo “has been lifelong and continues. It has seriously impacted his health and wellbeing. This in turn has affected his work and finances.”

Gilo has repeatedly criticised the C of E’s close relationship with the EIG and the presence of senior clergy on its board of directors. He has claimed the insurers advised the church to cut off emotional and psychological support in a move that “directly conflicted” with the church’s pastoral and compassionate responsibilities.

He told the Guardian: “It’s a courageous and bold move by these bishops to finally grasp a powerful corporate nettle in such a clear way.

“They are right. The settlement process is a degrading, demeaning horse trade in which the insurer holds all the cards, and can effectively hold a gun against the heads of survivors and our own lawyers. It is a skewered and broken system that doesn’t serve justice.

“The church is finally recognising the cost of impact. And cost, too, for many survivors who have campaigned for change against a silent and discrediting church, and both former and current bishops who have covered up. All those survivors, and the ones who’ve fallen away bitter and angry and left unhealed, need recognition of the cost in their lives and real justice.”

In its reply to the bishops’ letter, the EIG said there was no basis to revisit the settlement agreed with Gilo. It had responded to his complaints about EIG’s handling of his case “with patience and sensitivity”, it said.

The company sought to “see all survivors treated with sensitivity, fairness, compassion and respect, and to achieve reconciliation”.

In a statement, the EIG said: “As independent insurers, we are not responsible for the abuse perpetrated by those for whom the church is accountable. Our role is to handle insured claims for financial compensation fairly for these acts of abuse.

“We and other insurers are bound by comprehensive, industry-wide regulation that oversees the way we operate and handle claims, and by the civil justice system.

“It is not in our gift to change civil law, which defines the claims process. Negotiations between lawyers – characterised in the bishops’ letter as ‘horse trading’ – are a normal part of that process. So are full and final settlements, which bring certainty to all parties within the civil justice system.

“It is, however, in the Church of England’s gift to provide further compensation as well as ongoing pastoral care to victims and survivors of clergy abuse if it so wishes.”

 This article was amended on 22 October 2017 because an earlier version said Gilo had disclosed details to Tim Thornton. This has been corrected to say Gilo says he disclosed details to Thornton.

 

October 18 2017 – “Former Bishop of Chester Hubert Whitsey investigated over abuse allegations” – The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/17/former-bishop-of-chester-hubert-whitsey-investigated-over-abuse-allegations

Former bishop of Chester investigated over abuse allegations

Victor Whitsey, who died in 1987, would have been interviewed over allegations if he were alive, police say

Chester Cathedral. The allegations date from when Whitsey was bishop of Chester and from when he had retired.
 Chester Cathedral. The allegations date from when Whitsey was bishop of Chester and after his retirement. Photograph: Alamy

The former bishop of Chester, Victor Whitsey, is being investigated 30 years after his death over allegations of sexual abuse in the latest scandal involving high-profile figures in the Church of England.

A lawyer representing four of the alleged victims has claimed the abuse was covered up by the C of E and has called for a independent review.

The allegations date from the late 1970s when Whitsey was bishop of Chester, and in the 1980s after he had retired and was living in the diocese of Blackburn.

The C of E said it had supported a police investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults. The police told the church that, had Whitsey still been alive, he would have been interviewed in relation to 10 allegations. Whitsey died in 1987.

In a statement, the archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, and the bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, said: “We are deeply sorry and apologise to those individuals who have come forward to share their account of abuse by a bishop in the Church of England who was in a position of power and authority. We appreciate that it is very difficult for individuals to come forward and to give their account.

“Sexual abuse is a heinous crime – and is an absolute and shameful breach of trust. We acknowledge that for survivors the effects of sexual abuse are lifelong. We are offering pastoral support to all those who have come forward and continue to hold them all in our prayers.”

It added: “The church will consider what lessons can be learned from this case and whether any action needs to be taken as a result of what these inquiries have shown.”

Cheshire police said the allegations related to 13 people, five males and eight females. “The abuse is alleged to have taken place whilst the bishop was living and working in Chester and one incident is reported to have taken place outside the county,” a statement said. The police investigation had spanned 13 months, it added.

Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which represents four of Whitsey’s victims, said: “The abhorrent and disgusting abuse perpetrated by Bishop Whitsey destroyed many lives, driving some to attempt suicide. What is equally abhorrent is that the Church of England knew of his abuse, did nothing to stop it and covered it up. It is crucial that there is now an independent review into Whitsey abuse and who failed to act when they learnt of his heinous behaviour.”

The law firm understands that a complaint was made to the C of E while Whitsey was still serving as bishop of Chester, but it was not passed to police. The church was believed to have been made aware of further allegations following Whitsey’s retirement, but no action was taken.

Slater and Gordon released a statement from one of Whitsey’s alleged victims. It said: “When I met Victor Whitsey I was young, innocent, and naive. I longed for his blessing to achieve my wish of a future as a vicar, serving God and the community. He told me he agreed I had a calling from God. He also told me he had the power to give me everything I wanted in life and the power to take it all away. He then proceeded to abuse me sexually and psychologically. I was powerless to stop him.

“I blamed myself, though I was the only victim and rationalised that it was my fault … I told no one; who would believe a teenage boy’s word against a bishop of the Church of England? I became reclusive and came to the ultimate conclusion. The prospect of ever seeing Victor Whitsey again was so abhorrent to me that I turned my back on my beloved church and my calling to serve God. I self-harmed and have spent a lifetime focusing on resentment and bitterness.

“Twenty years after my abuse, I suffered a complete mental nervous breakdown which included attempted suicide. Because of the sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of Victor Whitsey I lost my faith, my chosen life as a vicar, my self-belief, my freedom from worry and my dignity. Child sex abuse is a crime which stays with you for a lifetime. As a child you don’t understand why or what is happening, but as you grow older you realise the enormity of the abuse and it hurts you all over again – you blame yourself for allowing it – you hate yourself for being weak.

“Since my abuse, not a day has gone by that I have not thought about what happened to me.”

The author of the statement said he hoped there would be a public inquiry “to understand not only what Whitsey did to his victims but to also learn who knew what he was doing, to what extent his actions were intentionally covered up, and who else was complicit in the crimes that he committed, and for which, I continue to suffer every day of my life”.

The church has faced a number of high-profile cases of sexual abuse.

Peter Ball, a former bishop of both Gloucester and Lewes, was jailed in October 2015 for the grooming, sexual exploitation and abuse of 18 vulnerable young men aged 17-25 who had sought spiritual guidance from him between 1977 and 1992. He was released from prison in February after serving 16 months.

A damning independent report, published in June, found that senior figures in the C of E had colluded over a 20-year period with the disgraced former bishop.

The report made harrowing reading, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said. “The church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward. This is inexcusable and shocking behaviour,” he said.

George Carey, a former archbishop of Canterbury who was criticised in the report, resigned as honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of Oxford.

Two years ago, the church issued a formal apology for alleged sexual abuse committed by one of its most senior figures, George Bell, the late bishop of Chichester, who died 57 years ago. It also settled a civil claim brought against Ball by a survivor.

However, critics accused the church of acting improperly and without sufficient evidence, saying Bell’s “condemnation as a paedophile” had irreparably damaged his reputation.

An independent report into the church’s handling of the case is expected to be published next month.