PRIVATE EYE – CHURCH NEWS – “CORE BLIMEY”
FOLLOWING our report in Eye 1527 that there are currently 27 national “core groups” investigating safeguarding concerns about bishops and deans in the Church of England, the church’s lead bishop on safeguarding, Rt. Revd Jonathan Gibbs, quickly put out a correction.
There are in fact 30 such groups, three more having been created since the last count in mid-July. He added that “about three-quarters of current national cases are about senior clergy failing to act appropriately rather than a direct allegation of abuse.”
This isn’t as reassuring as he seems to think: it implies that seven or eight of the most senior figures in the Church of England are being investigated over allegations of first-order abuse.
Some of these may be retired, but as far as we know only two – former Archbishop George Carey and current Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson – are currently barred from acting as bishops, and their cases don’t involve any “direct allegation of abuse”.
Lord Carlile QC said two weeks ago that the C of E’s core group system is “the most incompetent and unjust form of investigation I have ever seen.”
Carlile led the 2017 review of how the church mishandled claims against the late Bishop George Bell. He concluded that its George Bell core group had been “unmethodical, confused and unstructured”, with the membership and chair changing from meeting to meeting. The whole process was predicated on Bell’s guilt and resulted in “catastrophic damage” to his posthumous reputation. (The mistaken allegation that Bell was a paedophile was reported as fact in the Daily Telegraph by religious-affairs editor John Bingham – who was subsequently punished for his error by being appointed the C of E’s head of media.)
Carlile is among 65 lawyers, clerics and abuse survivors who signed a letter to the Charity Commission this month, asking it to challenge the C of E over “the continuing flow of cases of injustice”. The signatories accuse core groups of acting “in ways reminiscent of the Star Chamber, synonymous with the selective use of arbitrary unaccountable power”.
Last month, for example, a victim of John Smyth QC made a formal complaint against Archbishop Justin Welby for failing to act on information about his old friend’s violently abusive behaviour, and was duly told that an investigation would be held. But he now learns that Welby has already been the subject of a secret investigation into the claim in 2017 – in which the complainant was not even consulted. The new inquiry is nothing more than an internal review of that process – which could be tricky since no-one will say who conducted the investigation or what it discovered.
Ultimately, the judgement on whether Welby should be disciplined rests with the new Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, who has himself been recently investigated by a core group; and the judgement on whether Archbishop Cottrell should be disciplined for his safeguarding failure rests with Archbishop Welby.
What could be fairer than that?