Tag Archives: Peter Hitchens

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

http://oxfordstudent.com/2018/02/25/church-england-stand-bishop-bell/

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.

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February 18 2018 – Hitchens on Bell – Mail on Sunday

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2018/02/return-to-times-tables-not-when-we-can-ask-poles-to-do-our-sums.html

What would you think of a country or a company which  publicly claimed that someone was a wicked paedophile, was found to be mistaken – and then refused to apologise and did it again? Hang on, I haven’t finished. What would you think if that country or company then refused to allow the accused person’s 93-year-old niece to have the lawyer of her choice at the hearing? You’d think you were dealing with arrogant, tyrannical  fat cats. But actually, the culprits in this are the Church of England, still unable to admit a grave error in besmirching the name of the late Bishop George Bell. Why and how does Archbishop Justin Welby permit this behaviour?

January 22 2018 – “What does the Archbishop think he is doing?” – Peter Hitchens – Mail Online

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2018/01/what-does-the-archbishop-think-he-is-doing-.html

22 January 2018 5:23 PM

What Does the Archbishop Think He is Doing?

I cannot say that I care much who occupies the throne of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Church of England, for me, has a ghostly existence in poetry, music, arches and stained glass, quite independent of the banal persons who tend to hold this post. It’s not for me to go round calling for resignations or such things. My only concern with the man who currently holds this office is the pointless, easily cured injustice he has done to the great George Bell, to those who rightly revere him for Christian self-sacrifice and true moral and civil courage over great issues,, and to his surviving niece, Mrs Barbara Whitley. I know this is an unpopular preoccupation, obscure to many of my readers. But it is based on a universal, simple desire for justice to be done and truth told, wherever possible.

But those who do care about the C of E’s temporal structures and authority  must surely be worried about the behaviour of the current Archbishop, the Most Revd Justin Welby. Mr Welby will not climb down from his assertion that a ‘significant cloud’ still hangs over the name of George Bell. Why not? What good does this stance do him or the Christian faith? What, in short, is he on about?

On Monday afternoon, after being the target of powerful criticism by a group of eminent historians, and then by a group of eminent theologians, he issued an astonishingly unyielding statement on the subject.

https://www.christiantoday.com/article/achbishop.of.canterbury.stands.by.statement.saying.there.is.a.significant.cloud.over.bishop.george.bells.name/124313.htm

Yet I can find nothing in this text to justify his position. He refers repeatedly to the wholly different case of a living Bishop, Peter Ball, convicted beyond doubt, in an open court of law, of sexual offences.

In an astonishing passage, he responds to the concerns of the historians, who are urging him to reconsider, by ludicrously comparing them to emotional defenders of Ball. He says ‘As in the case of Peter Ball, and others, it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged. As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit but because abuse is often kept very secret. The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic.’

What sort of non-logic is this? It may *have been* suggested, before Ball was convicted and sent to prison, that what was alleged could not have been true. But is there any serious person (as serious as, for instance, Sir Ian Kershaw) who is suggesting it now? Who? How can Mr Welby possibly compare opinions held mistakenly before a fair trial and conviction showed them to be wrong, and opinions held where there has not been and cannot be any such trial, and where the evidence against the accused is solitary and weak?

The police arrested Ball, the CPS charged him, and Ball, who was able to ensure that he was professionally defended throughout, and was able to avail himself of the presumption of innocence, eventually pleaded guilty in court to serious charges and was sent to prison.  I have not since heard it suggested by any of his former defenders that he is innocent of the charges he himself admitted. So those who may have found it difficult to believe that Peter Ball was a wicked abuser were shown to have been wrong in a fair and due process.

How on earth can Mr Welby equate this case with that of George Bell, who faced one uncorroborated accusation made years after his death, and was then condemned without any defence by what Lord Carlile found to be a sloppy and inadequate process in which key evidence undermining the accusation was not even seen by some of those involved, and in which key witnesses were neither found nor interviewed.

 

Mr Welby, in his very thin responses to the Carlile report, has never really addressed this. He has said that the report didn’t rule on Bell’s guilt or innocence, an almost childishly absurd response,  since Mr Welby had told Lord Carlile in his terms of reference that he could not rule on this. In any case, Lord Carlile has repeatedly said since, in response to media questions, that no court would have convicted George Bell on the evidence which has been produced against him. It is clear that had Lord Carlile been asked to rule on George Bell’s guilt or innocence, he would have pronounced him ‘not guilty’.  So what, precisely is the evidence on which the Archbishop of Canterbury, supposedly spiritual leader of millions, guardian of the foundations of truth and justice, maintains that there is still a ‘cloud’over George Bell’s name? Does he have second sight?   Does he know something he is not telling us? If so (though I cannot see how this can be so) , why will he not say what it is? If not, why is he of all people exempted from the good rule, surely Biblical in origin, that if you cannot prove that a man is guilty, he is innocent and you shouldn’t go round saying that he is guilty just because in some way it suits you to say so. Some miserable rumour-monger in a pub might be entitled to drone that there is ‘no smoke without fire’, but not the inheritor of the See of Saint Augustine, I think. I doubt Mr Welby is familiar with the catechism in his own Church’s Book of Common Prayer, it having fallen rather out of use since that Church became happy and clappy. But I am sure the Lambeth library can find him a copy, and point him to the passage in which the candidate for confirmation is asked ‘What is thy duty towards thy neighbour’? I commend it to him.

He has rejected one of the report’s conclusions on how the case should have been handled. But I have never seen him acknowledge the Carlile report’s clear demonstration that the secret trial of George Bell was what it was, a badly-run, one-sided mess which failed to find key evidence or witnesses, and even failed to tell some of its members about key evidence which greatly undermined the accusation.

Yet Mr Welby continues to describe this marsupial outfit as if it was serious, saying ‘The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused.’

Indeed they should not, and it was the Chichester diocese which deliberately confused them when it claimed (wrongly) that Bishop Bell would have been arrested if alive, so unsurprisingly poisoning many trusting and naive minds against George Bell.  But in fact, as was discussed at length when this subject was raised in a House of Lords debate attended by some of the country’s most eminent lawyers, the civil standard of proof requires that both sides are properly considered. In civil cases, plaintiff and defendant have lawyers and the chance to plead and the secret trial of George Bell did not even contain anyone arguing for his side. The idea that this farce met even the civil standard of proof is unsustainable, and I am amazed that anyone who has read the Carlile report could persist with this nonsense. It was one of the Church’s very early attempts to defend itself, back in 2016. It didn’t work then, when we still didn’t know how bad the secret trial had been. It certainly doesn’t work now.

We have all done wrong things. Some of them are irrevocable, and we can make no restitution to those whom we have hurt, in which case we shall just have to hope for mercy.

But where we *can* put right what we have done, things are different. I am haunted and much influenced by this passage of scripture. I commend it to the Archbishop. It begins with the 25th verse of the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to St Matthew. The words are those of Our Lord himself, and I take them to mean that when we have been found to be wrong, we do all we can to put that wrong right while we can, for if we do not we condemn ourselves to a long and needless grief which can only be expiated and assuaged at a far greater cost. He knows who the judge is in this reference, I think.

‘Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.’

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I see Mr Hitchens has exceeded the 500-word limit (smiley). I’ll try not to!

I’d like to make several points, but first let me assure Mr Hitchens a) that I do not want to draw attention to myself, b) that I did not mention the “significant cloud”, and c) that in my opinion, if I had to express one, I would say that I think it most likely that Bishop Bell is innocent. Just to make that quite clear.

My second point is that Mr Hitchens apparently fails to understand that I am trying to help – with constructive criticism. I’m pointing out a flawed argument which I think Mr Hitchens would do well to discard since false arguments can be counter-productive.

Now to Mr Hitchens’ response. I realize he may have written and compiled in haste since he probably has more important things to do. And I have read it with some care. But I must admit to having difficulty in sorting out what the Archbishop stated, what Mr Hitchens comments are and what the historians are saying. There are various single and multiple asterisks and one or two inverted commas, but – please – is it possible that Mr Hitchens could make this a little clearer for anyone as dim as myself? – My thanks in advance.

Now to the substance of Mr Hitchens’ response: Nowhere has he shown that I am wrong to point out that the Archbishop has made a clear and correct statement about the way some people think a person may be “too good” to be guilty of a crime, and that in some cases they may be right, but, for example, in the case of Bishop Ball they were wrong. The Archbishop is stating a fact, and there is nothing “non-logical” about it. He is not comparing the case of Bishop Ball to that of Bishop Bell, nor comparing the two Bishops to each other. even if some people would like to believe so. — Otherwise I agree in essence with what Mr HItchens says.

I cannot comment fully on the response of the historians since I’m not familiar with all the details. They may intimate that they know better than the Archbishop, but whether they do or not is a matter of opinion. They appear to me to be saying that the Church is upholding the allegation – but is that really so? Or is the church – is the Archbishop – rather refraining from making any judgement, (in the spirit of Christ on the Mount and as any historian should do if there is no evidence) but pointing out instead that allegations may be true – or false. (At the time they were made, it seems some people did actually believe them.)

As to the “significant cloud” – if all that is meant by that is that “mud sticks” and there will always be someone who says “Ah, yes, another priest” and see a blot on the Bishope reputation, then that is in order. If however the Archbishop means something going beyond that, then he is wrong. Whatever, it is a very unfortunate choice of words.

I’ve written this in haste, so please excuse errors – and I haven’t counted the words.

Well done Mr Hitchens on your valiant quest to clear the name of a great man. I wouldn’t like to pass judgement on Justin Welby but will only say his attitude on this matter and others strikes me as not being particulary christian.

@Mr Bunker 23rd January at 12:24PM

“I think that some contributors to the blog “know” or at least think they know that Bishop Bell cannot be guilty – “because he was a good man”.

That is far too vague and insubstantial a suggestion, Mr Bunker. Please name these contributors, identify their posts, by date and time, and give the verbatim quotes, which lead you to such a conclusion.

It seems that the Archbishop is, or has been battling on several fronts, with regard to the C of Es involvement, or non involvement in matters of sexual impropriety. A recent New York Times article entitled “Doubts Grow Over Archbishop’s Account of When He Knew of Abuse”, and another article in the Guardian, concerning the Jimmy Savile affair seem to add to the feeling that all is not as it should be.

I’m just re-reading our host’s ‘Abolition of Britain’, Chapter 10, on Mrs White’s Bill, of 1951, which allowed for divorce after 7 years separation. Attacked for its own criticism of the Bill, the C of E responded with the following question:

‘Whoever succeeded in raising the moral tone of any society without causing the frustration of some natural desires, and the hardship of having to forgo them?’

Who, in the C of E, would have the courage to pose such a question now?

Re: Mr Bunker | 23 January 2018 at 12:24 PM

‘… I think some contributors to the blog “know” (or at least think they know) that Bishop Bell cannot be guilty – “because he was a good man”.’

What you think is interesting, Mr Bunker, and why you think it a mystery. It seems to me that most contributors here know that Bishop Bell is not guilty because there is no, none, nil, nichts, nix, nought, nothing, zero, zilch, nada, zip, diddly-squat by way of corroborating or other evidence to suggest that an event or events alleged to have occurred in the middle of the last century actually did occur. Case dismissed, as they say in the movies.

The good name of the alleged perpetrator has no relevance to his guilt or otherwise; he simply has not been shown to have been guilty of anything. His good name has likely rallied more to his defence than would have been the case for someone more obscure, but the principle is the same and is worth defending for its own sake.

We can pity poor Archbishop Justin Welby in his “personal tragedy” of having been an inaccurate judge of character. I hope it is not due to similar disappointing experience, Mr Bunker, that your thinking is on the same lines as his. In your considered opinion, does a cloud, significant or otherwise, still hang over the name of Bishop George Bell?

Sirin,

I agree. The statement seems suffused with a sense of Bell’s guilt. This seems to motivate the sheer belligerence and inability to consider properly the objections made. I can only put it down to Welby succumbing to a contemporary, ideological position on abuse and assault claims.

You have to understand the cultural context here. The archbishop is just being as trendy and right-on as one would expect from an Anglican prelate. We live in a cultural climate where sexual abuse and assault accusations are increasingly treated as convictions, where we’re told alleged victims (especially women) must be believed. This is the case even when, as in some of the recent allegations, they don’t seem to amount to actual assault or even harassment, even on the worst interpretation. And it is even the case when the allegation seems dubious.

Still, for me, the issue is not so much the term cloud as the term significant. There was this accusation, which could be true or could be false – it is impossible for us now to say either way. I think it would be inaccurate to say there was specific evidence or reason to distrust this allegation, anymore than there is to think it true. It is really a matter of suspending judgment in this case (and many others). Any historian looking into Bell’s life in later ages would have to consider it in just this way. You could call that a cloud, although I wouldn’t say it was significant, given that it is a single, uncorroborated account. The problem with the Archbishop’s response is he does think it was significant and clearly, and belligerently, seems to come down not for a just and careful balance between accusers and accused but as more keen to consider the needs and desires of accusers over proper protections for the accused.

No need to re-read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement to know that he did not “compare opinions held mistakenly before a fair trial and conviction showed them to be wrong” with current opinions on the Bishop Bell case. Far from it.

The Archbishop merely pointed out the following: That what is “alleged could not have been true” (because someone is “absolutely certain that it was impossible”) “sometimes turns out to be untrue” as it did, for example, in the case of Bishop Ball.

And that is a simple statement of fact. Not a comparison. – I can’t put it more plainly than that.

PH responds: here is the Archbishop’s statement in full : ‘

‘Following a letter sent to Lambeth Palace and also to the Telegraph newspaper by a group of academics, I felt it important to send a considered, personal response and this statement reflects the essence of my reply.

I cannot with integrity rescind my statement made after the publication of Lord Carlile’s review into how the Church handled the Bishop Bell case. I affirmed the extraordinary courage and achievement of Bishop Bell both before the war and during its course, while noting the Church has a duty to take seriously the allegation made against him.

Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the Church covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions. I need only refer to the issues relating to Peter Ball to show an example. As a result, the Church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny (focussed in part on the Diocese of Chichester) through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Our first hearing is in March.

The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused. It should be remembered that Carol, who brought the allegation, was sent away in 1995, and we have since apologised for this lamentable failure; a failure highlighted by Lord Carlile.

I wrote my response with the support of both Bishop Peter Hancock, the lead bishop for safeguarding, and Bishop Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester. We are clear that we accept all but part of one of the recommendations Lord Carlile makes and we are extremely grateful to him for what he has done and the help he has given the Church.

He indicates that in his judgement, a better way to have handled the allegation would have been for the Church to offer money on condition of confidentiality. We disagree with this suggestion. 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. But we will go on considering how we can make our processes better and more robust, as pointed out by Lord Carlile.

*As in the case of Peter Ball, and others, it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged*. As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit but because abuse is often kept very secret. The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic. But as I said strongly in my original statement 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.’

He will note the operative section ‘As in the case of Peter Ball, and others, it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged. As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit but because abuse is often kept very secret.’

This is a direct response to the historians’ saying:
First : ‘We regard George Bell as a significant historical figure and *our assessment of his life and career has been an important aspect of our academic work. On this basis we suggest that our collective view on these matters constitutes a genuine and very pertinent authority.*

In this matter they are saying, with astonishing bluntness just this side of scorn that they know better than the Archbishop, and are better qualified to judge the matter than the Archbishop.

They continue : ‘In your public statement of 15 December 2017, the authority of your position was used to perpetuate a single allegation made against Bishop Bell, and you did so in face of the independent review which the Church itself commissioned. We believe that your statement offends the most basic values and principles of historical understanding, ones which should be maintained firmly by those in positions of public authority across society. They must never be ignored or abused.’

**This elaborates the same point***

‘In the past you have insisted that the Church’s view was based on an investigation that was ‘very thorough’. But Lord Carlile has plainly, and utterly, devastated this claim. Historians and lawyers both attach great importance to the presumption of innocence. Your comment seems to imply that a case against Bell has actually been established. It has not.

History cannot be made out of allegations. It is the study of sources. Lord Carlile’s review sets out the material of the allegation for everyone to assess for themselves, and he invites them to do so. There is nothing in it that connects in any way with what is firmly known about Bishop Bell. The allegation is not only wholly uncorroborated but is contradicted by all the considerable, and available, circumstantial material which any historian would consider credible. Furthermore, even on its own terms we find it to depend wholly on scenarios which simply could not have occurred, given what is firmly known and authoritatively established.

*There is no credible representation of personalities, relationships, patterns or locations which is remotely recognisable*. Far from enhancing the allegation, the insistence on vivid quotations undermines critically a testimony in which the experiences of infancy are ‘recollected’, not immediately but at a distance of many decades. Even a modest historical sensitivity would have established the basic implausibility of such a testimony.

The material supporting this allegation does not in our view constitute a credible basis for the writing of history and it flies in the face of our customary critical method. It represents something quite different, an unhistorical, indeed anti-historical, testimony, explicable, perhaps, but in different terms. We cannot understand how such an unsupported, indeed insupportable, allegation can be upheld by a responsible public authority. Quite simply, it is indefensible.’

The reference to the Ball case is clearly a riposte to this, though as I have explained it is a pathetically, pitiably inadequate and misplaced one.

As it happens, nobody in the Bell campaign, to my knowledge , has said that he or she *knows* him to be innocent. I certainly have not. In fact, from the very start, I have conceded explicitly that the allegations against him *might* be true. I specifically said so in my original article on the subject in the Spectator. No honest inquiry could proceed unless our minds were open to this possibility. I several times said privately to my allies in this that we must not be afraid of the truth. If persuasive evidence emerged that Bell was indeed a child molester, then we must concede it immediately, and withdraw. This was the explicit price of engaging in such a campaign, and if we lacked the courage to face it, we should keep quiet. As it happens, in the years of this campaign, not one solitary further accusation of this kind has emerged, despite local, national and now international publicity given to the accusation. On the contrary, two persuasive witnesses have emerged, who recall the time and place at which the crimes are supposed to have taken place and who(from very different perspectives) offer evidcence which fails to confirm, and casts doubt upon, the accusation.

Without knowing the answer to my question, I contacted both Sussex police and the NSPCC (who set up a helpline after the allegation was publicised) to ask if there had been any further complaints against George Bell. For the same reason, I sought (and was not permitted) a meeting with the accuser, though she had been willing to speak to other media and i was willing to abide by all necessary conditions to preserve her anonymity.

If Mr ‘Bunker’ has actually read the Carlile report, he will know the great cloud of circumstantial evidence undermining Carol’s claim, and the total lack of hard corroboration of it, , just as he will know that Professor Maden, engaged by the Church to examine the accusation, warned specifically and voluntarily of the possibility of false memory (though not all members of the investigating team were not told of this) . No court, civil or criminal, would have found against George Bell on the basis of what we actually know. Thus, by any civilised measure, he remains innocence of the charge made (just as Peter Ball, by comparison a trivial figure, remains by any civilised measure guilty of the crimes of which he was accused) , and those who insist there is a ‘cloud’ over George Bell’s reputation are no better than gossipers, rumour-mongers and purveyors of tittle tattle. I really do not know why Mr Bunker clings to his position, except to draw attention to himself.

What I find extraordinary, is that Mr Welby was told by his legal advisers to make a settlement to ‘Carol’ based on the ‘Civil’ standard of proof which is ‘the balance of probability’. How on earth could these people have possibly come to this decision since it is precisely, on ‘the balance of probability’ that there was no case to answer? The circumstantial evidence pointed firmly towards innocence and therefore, the balance was completely in Bishop Bells favour.
There must have been something else that was going on, at the time they all came to this ludicrous decision. Otherwise, I think these ‘legal advisers’ should let us all know who exactly, they are and publicly justify their conclusions, for on the face of it, it seems very odd advice.

Mr Welby said he agreed with all but part one of Lord Carlisle’s recommendations, the part about confidentiality as you mention, possibly leading to future accusations of a cover up. But he fails to acknowledge that this is a unique case with a tiny chance if any, of there ever being another like it. And refuses to grant any mercy or good will to Bishop Bell despite commending him on all the good deeds the man did throughout his life nor considered the awful impact it has had on his very elderly surviving relative. And he should.

In truth Mr Welby *must* know that not only would this case have been dismissed in a *criminal* court, but rather, it would never have come to court. So the mystery of why he continues to cloud the dead Bishop’s name and refuses to back down, remains.

@ Sirin: What astonishes me about the Archbishop’s statement is that he seems to have entirely failed to grasp the point of the criticism he’s been faced with.

Sorry, Welby isn’t that dull. This is “strategic muddle”, “accidentally on purpose”, “selective deafness”, as a cover for deliberate evasion. Which is what makes it so infuriating. He issues flannel as a cover for his real purposes, which are an attempt (increasingly pathetic) to “move on” from the actually proven instances of clergy sexual abuse. George Bell’s reputation ? Expendable material, in his eyes. Far easier to bundle him with the proven rogues. Distinguishing the guilty from the innocent is way too complicated.

@Mr Jackson: … the more I try and engage others who are members of CofE congregations about what is going on, the more I realise that they are generally ignorant of what is happening here.

I concur. Long-standing and committed friends to whom I brandished my copy of the Carlile report over the holidays had not heard about it, were aware only vaguely as another example of “paedomania” accusations against high-profile names which subsequently came to nothing. Welby manages to “bury bad news” quite skilfully.

Nothing in my experience of the CoE upsets me more than this case. I attend Anglican churches quite frequently, have many times considered confirmation, but the Church’s antics are an increasingly difficult obstacle. If there is no moral leadership from its senior Archbishop, what on earth is it for ?

Peter. At some point you will have to acknowledge facts.
1) Welby is a globalist and serves the elites as the Anglican Church did at its inception. That said, it later included many great Christian thinkers like CS Lewis and, from your information, clergymen like Bishop Bell.
2) Welby started out as a CEO and intended to pursue the globalist progressive liberal agenda in all his actions and words.
3) He wants to get rid of tradition.
4) He will undermine and belittle people who want to maintain tradition even if that means obviating justice and smearing Bishop Bell’s good name.

I support your actions and your words on this issue but call him what he is, a progressive liberal globalist who even wants to endorse the worst aspects of this and then have it inflicted on to Anglican schools. His actions are those of an ideologue and not an honourable man. He’s been presented with irrefutable evidence but is terrified that the traditional wing of the Church is galvanised so he, cruelly refuses to give the justified comfort and closure to Bishop Bell’s relatives. We should pray for people like him and the late Peter Sutherland because they are unwittingly or not, honouring and promoting pure evil. How’s that for truth?

What astonishes me about the Archbishop’s statement is that he seems to have entirely failed to grasp the point of the criticism he’s been faced with. It is implied throughout that he seems to consider it a matter of obvious fact that George Bell really was guilty, and that those who have written to him with their concerns are pedantically insisting on some obscure and wholly irrelevant point of law. He seems incapable of believing it possible that a man can be accused of such a crime and yet be innocent of it.

Let the Bell be sounded for Ball, and let the Ball be kicked for Bell.

Carey was undone (by Welby) for errors based upon his erroneous belief in the innocence of Ball. Let Welby be equally undone for errors based upon his erroneous belief in the guilt of Bell.

Sympathy for Welby should be tempered by his intolerance of Carey mentioned above, and his intolerance of his mother, whom he recently publicly identified as an adulteress.

Mr. Hitchens,

One writer above has suggested that there may some momentum growing among grass-roots Anglicans regarding this issue. I too would hope there would be such a thing, but the more I try and engage others who are members of CofE congregations about what is going on, the more I realise that they are generally ignorant of what is happening here. One can only pray that momentum really does grow and demands are made to correct this injustice and end the farce.

What an appalling lack of moral courage from the Archbishop. He is doing wrong purely for purposes to suit himself. The absurdity of casting doubt over Bishop Bell because others in the C of E have been proved to have been child abusers. What does this mean? Does one person’s guilt mean another person is guilty? Are people and situations not different? How can you hold this logic and rise to such a position of authority?

If someone made a claim against Archbishop Welby, however absurd and easily disprovable it was, by his own logic and reasoning he should have a ‘significant cloud’ over his name, be fired from his job, and by civil authorities would be proven guilty (and arrested?) just because there was an accusation, even if it had no credibility to it.

Please keep going. I can see why this raises the temperature of the blood.

The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote: “… it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged.”

Indeed, and I think some contributors to the blog “know” (or at least think they know) that Bishop Bell cannot be guilty – “because he was a good man”. But as the Archbishop quite rightly points out, some people thought the same about Bishop Ball – and they were later proved wrong. – So far, so good.

But apparently not for Mr Hitchens who asks: “How can Mr Welby possibly compare opinions held mistakenly before a fair trial and conviction showed them to be wrong, and opinions held where there has not been and cannot be any such trial …?” And: How on earth can Mr Welby equate this case with that of George Bell…?”

Well, for a start, that is NOT what the Archbishop is comparing.

PH writes: He most certainly is. This is his direct retort to the historians. Read his statement. **** In fact, I doubt whether he is comparing (or equating) anything at all. He is merely stating a fact – that naive beliefs of this kind may turn out to be right, but they may equally possibly be completely unfounded. I see no lack of logic in that.

To argue as Mr Hitchens does over this point is, in my opinion, counter-productive for his struggle to right the wrongs done to Bishop Bell (for which he has my full support).
PS – Yes, I have actually read the Archbishop’s statement.
***PH: Then read it again****

Now I am getting use to the method of conflating the two different things, which Archbishop Welby and his supporters in the Church are adopting, possibly in order to manipulate the readers of their statements.

This time he writes the case of Peter Ball and the case of George Bell side by side, as Mr Hitchens points out;

”How on earth can Mr Welby equate this case with that of George Bell, who faced one uncorroborated accusation made years after his death, and was then condemned without any defence by what Lord Carlile found to be a sloppy and inadequate process in which key evidence undermining the accusation was not even seen by some of those involved, and in which key witnesses were neither found nor interviewed.”

Mr Welby talks about his personal tragic experience without articulating in whom he discovered ’feet of clay’ more than Mr Ball. But he *happened* to put this sentence between the names of Mr Ball and Mr Bell.

”As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit but because abuse is often kept very secret.

The experience of discovering feet of clay in *more than one person* I held in profound respect has been personally tragic.

*But* as I said strongly in my original statement 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.”
By using a linking word *But* in the last sentence, Mr Welby seemingly implies Bishop Bell is also included among the people in whom he has discovered ’feet of clay’. If not, why does he write their names side by side?

I think this comment about his personally tragic experience has nothing to do with the actual case of Bishop Bell that has been objectively and throughly investigated by Lord Carlile who has not found any feet of clay in Bell.

Does Mr Welby deny the Review de facto without explicitly stating so?

Weasel-Words Welby has really done it this time. Only media-management matters, so he dredges up the Ball case as distraction. Who knows how many people will be confused by a one-letter difference – whatever, they’re all useful to him. Keep it off-topic, evade the question, side-step somewhere else, fire up the irrelevances of a totally different person in totally different circumstances, anything, anything at all to avoid addressing the issues.

He must surely realise he is digging himself a deeper and deeper hole for people like readers here, following this case, aghast – but does not care, so long as big numbers of people do not come to know, and, slowly, understand what has been going on.

Only one thing for it: do not, please, let this drop, and in so doing, let him off the hook.

“Moving on” is one of the guiding principles of the modern politics of dissembling, and I am sure Welby knows just how it works. The Carlile report exists because of the pressures brought by Peter Hitchens and others like the Bell group. Now he’s trying to “move on” and pretend it doesn’t say anything important.

We need to hear a loud chorus of Oh Yes It Does.

This case seems to be part of some sort of civil war in the C of E.The one conservative Archbishop of Canterbury in recent history George Carey was foisted on the C of E by Mrs Thatcher.This caused a lot of resentment and Welby was able to use the Peter Ball case to remove George Carey from any position within the Church.despite the fact that he continues in holy orders and sits in the House Of Lords. Having treated one of his predecessors in such a fashion basically having accused him of collusion with Peter Ball he obviously feels powerful enough to ignore any protest about Bishop Bell. There is now basically a war between Left and Right now in Western Culture with issues like this weaponized to take out opponents.As Brexit and Trump have shown the Left are not good losers and fight dirty.If you are against them it is wise to remember this.

Mr Hitchens, God bless you, you are doing a splendid job defending the good name of Bishop Bell and exposing Welby for the not so bright person that many think he is.

However, all is not lost. Welby, by his actions, has also exposed himself and cannot possibly escape the natural justice that will oust him from the position for which he is so thoroughly unsuited and from the Church that agonises in confusion from the worldly influences inflicted upon it by him and many of his kind that surround him.

He and they have had their day and will shortly reap their reward!

“I cannot say that I care much who occupies the throne of the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

I’ve heard Catholics saying similar things these days regarding their current, loose-cannon pontiff.

The response that Welby issued yesterday is laughable. He’s appears to be saying that Bell is guilty by association – the association in this case being the C of E. Because others there did it then Bell could have done it too. Brilliant.

You do well to pursue this, Mr Hitchens. And who knows, there seems to be some momentum, so maybe grass-roots Anglicans – who surely know a miscarriage of justice in their church when they see it – will make the Archbishop eventually see sense.

The Archbishop also said the following:

‘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.’

Eh? As Mr Hitchens said in a previous blog, it’s either/or. If a ‘significant cloud’ – a cumulonimbus, say – hangs over the Bishop’s name, it surely diminishes (at least obscures) his importance and achievements – and broods rather portentously over the mountain path to heroism.

Quite apart from the travesty of justice here, consider the banality of the Archbishop’s language. A ‘significant cloud’ hangs over George Bell. A significant cloud? When was the last time you saw a cloud signifying, let alone a significant cloud? As Orwell says, ‘the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts’.

-“Yet Mr Welby continues to describe this marsupial outfit as if it was serious, saying ‘The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused.’”-

A civil standard of proof of a serious crime?

The CofE is again, as it has done from its first, conflating not just two separate things but three.

Rather than it being for the CofE to determine the probable guilt or innocence of someone accused of very serious criminality, it was merely to decide whether or not the Church was going to settle a civil claim made against it.

The Law being such as to make the living Church and Congregation financially liable for alleged individual criminal behaviour over which they could have neither knowledge or control.

The limited action undertaken by the CofE panel was explicitly orientated to that purpose – NOT to establish the truth or otherwise of the allegation itself:

Annexes of the Carlile Review [separately also on the web] state:

“Annex E Advice given by Paula Jefferson, Solicitor, to Core Group on the 24 October 2014 [DAC Beachcroft Claims Ltd]

“I have asked for some independent evidence of the family relationship but none has been provided. Her solicitors say that her younger siblings did not know her [relative] and are not able to provide evidence of the relationship. They point out that when the Claimant wrote in 1995 she did not identify her [relative] by name, but the response she received did and the name stated was correct. I am surprised that a statement has not been provided by the Claimant’s brother [ ] to whom she says she is close and to whom she also says she revealed the abuse. I would have thought he would have been able to confirm the family relationship.

“Ultimately whether or not she is believed will depend upon her oral evidence in court and whether she is a plausible witness. However all of the current information suggests that she is likely to be believed and to therefore establish on the balance of probabilities that assaults did occur.

“Annex H Minutes from ACC [Carlile] meeting with George Bell Core Group, Lambeth Palace – 11/05/2017: 14. […] GT also added that the focus of the core group was on the settlement, but he now thinks that investigations may well be needed in some cases.”

As detailed in Lord Carlile’s review, the Church Core Group particularly failed to find the two other still living witnesses who were there as young girls in the era of the alleged events who have since spoken on behalf of the late Bishop Bell and who could establish their bona fide relationships with the Bishop and his household.

January 24 2018 – “Mr Bunker is back in his Bunker

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2018/01/mr-bunker-is-back-in-his-bunker-.html

24 January 2018 11:39 AM

Mr Bunker is back in his bunker.

I felt this exchange from the latest George Bell thread deserved a post of its own, and some emphases that cannot be given in the text of comments:

Mr Bunker writes:’ No need to re-read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement to know that he did not “compare opinions held mistakenly before a fair trial and conviction showed them to be wrong” with current opinions on the Bishop Bell case. Far from it.

The Archbishop merely pointed out the following: That what is “alleged could not have been true” (because someone is “absolutely certain that it was impossible”) “sometimes turns out to be untrue” as it did, for example, in the case of Bishop Ball.

And that is a simple statement of fact. Not a comparison. – I can’t put it more plainly than that.

****PH responds: here is the Archbishop’s statement in full :

‘Following a letter sent to Lambeth Palace and also to the Telegraph newspaper by a group of academics, I felt it important to send a considered, personal response and this statement reflects the essence of my reply.

I cannot with integrity rescind my statement made after the publication of Lord Carlile’s review into how the Church handled the Bishop Bell case. I affirmed the extraordinary courage and achievement of Bishop Bell both before the war and during its course, while noting the Church has a duty to take seriously the allegation made against him.

Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the Church covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions. I need only refer to the issues relating to Peter Ball to show an example. As a result, the Church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny (focussed in part on the Diocese of Chichester) through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Our first hearing is in March.

The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused. It should be remembered that Carol, who brought the allegation, was sent away in 1995, and we have since apologised for this lamentable failure; a failure highlighted by Lord Carlile.

I wrote my response with the support of both Bishop Peter Hancock, the lead bishop for safeguarding, and Bishop Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester. We are clear that we accept all but part of one of the recommendations Lord Carlile makes and we are extremely grateful to him for what he has done and the help he has given the Church.

He indicates that in his judgement, a better way to have handled the allegation would have been for the Church to offer money on condition of confidentiality. We disagree with this suggestion. 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. But we will go on considering how we can make our processes better and more robust, as pointed out by Lord Carlile.

As in the case of Peter Ball, and others, it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is allegedAs with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit but because abuse is often kept very secret. The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic. But as I said strongly in my original statement 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.’

 

** PH continues :He will note the operative section ‘As in the case of Peter Ball, and others, it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged. As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit but because abuse is often kept very secret.’

This is a direct response to the historians, when they said: (First) : ‘We regard George Bell as a significant historical figure and *our assessment of his life and career has been an important aspect of our academic work. On this basis we suggest that our collective view on these matters constitutes a genuine and very pertinent authority.*

In this matter they are saying, with astonishing bluntness just this side of scorn,  that they know better than the Archbishop, and are better qualified to judge the matter than the Archbishop.

They continue : ‘In your public statement of 15 December 2017, the authority of your position was used to perpetuate a single allegation made against Bishop Bell, and you did so in face of the independent review which the Church itself commissioned. We believe that your statement offends the most basic values and principles of historical understanding, ones which should be maintained firmly by those in positions of public authority across society. They must never be ignored or abused.’

**This further passage elaborates the same point***

‘In the past you have insisted that the Church’s view was based on an investigation that was ‘very thorough’. But Lord Carlile has plainly, and utterly, devastated this claim. Historians and lawyers both attach great importance to the presumption of innocence. Your comment seems to imply that a case against Bell has actually been established. It has not.

History cannot be made out of allegations. It is the study of sources. Lord Carlile’s review sets out the material of the allegation for everyone to assess for themselves, and he invites them to do so. There is nothing in it that connects in any way with what is firmly known about Bishop Bell. The allegation is not only wholly uncorroborated but is contradicted by all the considerable, and available, circumstantial material which any historian would consider credible. (****PH: This argument is what Mr Welby refers to, and seeks vainly to rebut,  when he says lots of people thought Peter Ball was innocent, before he pleaded guilty to his undoubted crimes****)

 

The historians continued: ‘ Furthermore, even on its own terms we find it to depend wholly on scenarios which simply could not have occurred, given what is firmly known and authoritatively establishend

There is no credible representation of personalities, relationships, patterns or locations which is remotely recognisable (***PH notes, this passage is also plainly the object of Mr Welby’s reference to those who doubted the guilt of Peter Ball)**. Far from enhancing the allegation, the insistence on vivid quotations undermines critically a testimony in which the experiences of infancy are ‘recollected’, not immediately but at a distance of many decades. Even a modest historical sensitivity would have established the basic implausibility of such a testimony.

The material supporting this allegation does not in our view constitute a credible basis for the writing of history and it flies in the face of our customary critical method. It represents something quite different, an unhistorical, indeed anti-historical, testimony, explicable, perhaps, but in different terms. We cannot understand how such an unsupported, indeed insupportable, allegation can be upheld by a responsible public authority. Quite simply, it is indefensible.’

***PH notes: The reference to the Ball case is clearly a riposte to this (Mr Welby’s statement is a direct response to the letter. To which parts of that letter could it possibly be a response, if not those I cite?), though as I have explained it is a pathetically, pitiably inadequate and misplaced one.

As it happens, nobody in the Bell campaign, to my knowledge , has said that he or she *knows* him to be innocent. I certainly have not. In fact, from the very start, I have conceded explicitly that the allegations against him *might* be true. I specifically said so in my original article on the subject in the Spectator. No honest inquiry or trial could proceed unless our minds were open to this possibility. (You might say that the Church could not have honestly inquired into the matter unless their minds were open to the possibility that George Bell was innocent. And you could reasonably say that they did nothing which suggests that their minds were open to this – not least, the appalling fact that Bishop Bell had no advocate or defender during this procedure, let alone a presumption of innocence).

 

I several times said privately to my allies in this that we must not be afraid of the truth. If persuasive evidence emerged that Bell was indeed a child molester, then we must concede it immediately, and withdraw.  This was the explicit price of engaging in such a campaign, and if we lacked the courage to face it, we should keep quiet. As it happens, in the two years of this campaign, not one solitary further accusation of this kind has emerged, despite local, national and now international publicity given to the accusation. On the contrary, two persuasive witnesses have emerged, who recall the time and place at which the crimes are supposed to have taken place and who (from very different perspectives) offer evidence which fails to confirm, and casts doubt upon, the accusation.

I acted accordingly. Without knowing the answer to my question, I contacted both Sussex police and the NSPCC (who set up a helpline freephone after the allegation was publicised) to ask if there had been any further complaints against George Bell. I waited some months to do so. There were precisely none.  For the same reason, I sought a meeting with the accuser, so that I could hear her side. This request was denied,  though she had been willing to speak to other media and i was willing to abide by all necessary conditions to preserve her anonymity.

If Mr ‘Bunker’ has actually read the Carlile report and its annexes, he will know the great cloud of circumstantial evidence undermining Carol’s claim, and the total lack of hard corroboration of it, just as he will know that Professor Maden, engaged by the Church to examine the accusation, warned specifically and voluntarily of the possibility of false memory (though not all members of the investigating team were told of this) . No court, civil or criminal, would have found against George Bell on the basis of what we actually know. Thus, by any civilised measure, as well as in law,  he remains innocent of the charge made (just as Peter Ball, by comparison a trivial figure, remains by any civilised measure guilty of the crimes of which he was accused). Those who insist there is a ‘cloud’ over George Bell’s reputation are no better than gossipers, rumour-mongers and purveyors of tittle tattle. I really do not know why Mr Bunker clings to his position, except to draw attention to himself.

 

 

Comments

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I do not think whether ’to suspend judgement or not’ is the heart of the matter in this case now.

The restoration of the good name of George Bell is the most crucial issue, especially after the Review.

The C of E had failed to respond to the claimant properly earlier and apologized her about it and paid for a certain sum of money. This part of the case is completed and closed.

The C of E had wronged the good name of Bishop Bell on 22 Oct. 2015 through the statement they had made.

The consequences of the statements were/are among others:

Many (or the majority) of journalists of news media *believed* and wrote the allegation as the proven fact. None of them has, as far as I know, retracted their articles (most of them were published on 22 Oct. 2015 and still available on the Internet) or apologized Bishop Bell’s relatives. I have not heard that the C of E has protested to the media who described the Bishop as a pedophile then.

The name of Bishop Bell has been swiftly and unfairly removed from many places. It was reported that the portrait of Bell was put back to the former place in the city hall of Chichester, if my memory serves well. But otherwise we have not seen that his good name has been restored concretely and thoroughly.

What the Archbishop Welby is doing is that he is saying ’Yes’ in practice to all the negative consequences upon the good name of George Bell and therewith hurting Mrs Whitley. Why is it *Bishop Bell* who continuously has to pay the price now and even in future for the allegation no one can sufficiently prove?

 

I wonder if Mr Hitchens noticed an apparent contradiction in the Carlile report?

I mean, “without a calculated intention to damage Bishop Bell’s reputation.” vs. “apparently deliberate destruction of the reputation”

Surely it can’t be both? Full quotes…

“I consider that what happened resulted from oversteer in the direction of what was believed to be the best interests of Carol and of the Church, and without a calculated intention to damage Bishop Bell’s reputation.”

“There is an innate contradiction between a settlement without admission of liability, as at least technically happened here, and the knowing and apparently deliberate destruction of the reputation of the alleged perpetrator, as plainly happened here.”

 

> ***PH writes. This is simply not true. No judgement is implied on ‘Carol’. The only thing that is judged is the case against George Bell, which is inadequate to justify a prosecution, let alone to secure a conviction( or compel him to give restitution for tort in a civil case). If this were not so, we would have to prosecute for perjury the advocates and witnesses in any failed prosecution, or nay failed defence, for that matter. Why do people refuse to understand the operation of the law? ****

What law? There was not a legal or civil trial. It was a “process”, internal to the Church.

Surely it is a judgement of some kind on “Carol” when you refer to “the great cloud of circumstantial evidence undermining Carol’s claim, and the total lack of hard corroboration of it”?

The George Bell Group refers to inconsistencies in the account of ‘Carol’ and asserts that it, “contributes to any assessment of Carol as a witness”.

Plainly, Mr Hitchens and other people believe her account is untrue (this does not mean she is deliberately lying, as I made clear). Logically, they must disbelieve Carol. Even if they don’t claim to *know* her account is untrue.

I am interested to know, what would satisfy Mr Hitchens? Would he be satisfied if the Archbishop said that George Bell should be “considered (or presumed?) innocent” in a probatory sense? I mean based on the something like the civil concept of the “balance of probabilities”.

Or would Mr Hitchens only be satisfied if the Archbishop declared that George Bell is, simply, innocent? I still maintain that at least in this latter sense, that would reflect badly on ‘Carol’.

For the avoidance of doubt, Mr Hitchens, I support and commend your efforts throughout this affair.

 

Contributor Mike B, whom I thank for kindly replying, wrote:

“I think that you will find, Mr Preston, that the defence of Bishop Bell’s good name is all that is concerning those on Peter Hitchens’s side of the argument, who have contributed to this, and other threads, regarding this matter.”

Well, I am not sure who exactly you may mean by “those on Peter Hitchens’s side of the argument”, sir. Any decent person will naturally support a defender of another’s good name and especially the good name of a deceased person, for such a person is unable to defend himself or his reputation.
Yet I wonder if you may be exaggerating a little the disinterestedness of some of those supporters by your expression “all that is concerning” them.
I may be wrong, of course, but I seem to detect here and there in their writings a certain readiness to criticize the Archbishop himself and the Church along with him, a readiness which seems to me hardly to become people solely concerned with putting right an alleged defamation of a man’s character.
In defending one man’s good name shouldn’t people be careful to avoid any righteous exuberance in which they might be tempted to defame another?
You conclude, sir “..given that the Archbishop went public with his comments, it has become a public matter, hence the public’s business.”

How so, sir? I had never even heard of the good Archbishop’s comments nor indeed of the good bishop himself, until I happened to read Mr Hitchens’ robust defence of his reputation. Nor do I imagine that I was alone in that ignorance of events. If it is anyone’s “business” at all, it is surely the business only of those who manage and apply or withhold our laws, their advocates, plaintiffs and any summoned witnesses and jurors.
For the rest of the population it is, I maintain, none of their business, though some may be so susceptible to what Mr Hitchens himself has aptly called ‘gossip, rumour and tittle tattle’ that they are inclined to make it their ‘business’.

 

Peter Preston, “What I simply cannot make out is why anyone should interest himself at all – except to defend, as Mr Hitchens has done in the matter of the bishop’ good name – in whether a person with whom he or she has no connection whatever is to be held guilty or innocent of this or that offence. Why cannot people simply mind their own business?”

I’m not sure to whom you are referring?! Are you perplexed over the considerable comments and interest found here over a number of threads on the subject? If so, I wonder why. I do take your point that probably none of those posting knew the Bishop, (I don’t think) but even so, is it not the case, possibly, that firstly, we are responding to the numerous articles PH has provided us about the continuing issue and his part in it, to which many of us would want to show our support? Also there is the interest which all of us should be concerned with and that is the presumption of innocence which was wrongly denied the Bishop. And perhaps, since all of the discussion concerns the Church of England, we also ought to be concerned about its own behaviour throughout this most unedifying case.
All of which, regardless of whether we should really be concerned as to the guilt of a man we never met and don’t know, rather tips the balance in favour of sustained interest in all that Peter is kindly providing us for our information. And it is promoting a general discussion about several aspects of the case which could come up in other cases of both well known and anonymous people in future and things we need to try to guard against too.

 

@Peter Preston 27th January at 11:06AM

“What I simply cannot make out is why anyone should interest himself at all – except to defend, as Mr Hitchens has done in the matter of the bishop (sic) good name – in whether a person with whom he or she has no connection whatever is to be held guilty or innocent of this or that offence.”

I think that you will find, Mr Preston, that the defence of Bishop Bell’s good name is all that is concerning those on Peter Hitchens’s side of the argument, who have contributed to this, and other threads, regarding this matter.

Unfortunately, that good name has been wantonly discarded by Justin Welby and the Church of England, and Justin Welby has done so through statements which not merely hint at, but strongly suggest that Bishop Bell was guilty of prolonged child sex abuse. (I shan’t use the word paedophilia for reasons which you, as a Greek scholar, will doubtless understand.) Moreover, the Archbishop has done so, when there is nothing but the flimsiest of evidence to suggest Bishop Bell’s guilt. Hence, the discussion of legal principles and of the guilt or innocence of Bishop Bell. What is more, given that the Archbishop went public with his comments, it has become a public matter, hence the public’s business, so that people who care about the wanton discardment of someone’s good reputation are quite right to voice their concern and even anger, at what has occurred..

 

-“I’m not trying to justify Welby’s actions, just to point out that from his perspective, there may be other issues to consider than the strictly legal ones.”-
Posted by: Persephone | 27 January 2018 at 11:02 AM:

Self-interest..?

 

What I simply cannot make out is why anyone should interest himself at all – except to defend, as Mr Hitchens has done in the matter of the bishop’ good name – in whether a person with whom he or she has no connection whatever is to be held guilty or innocent of this or that offence. Why cannot people simply mind their own business?
If I read in the newspaper that Mr Fred Whatshisname of Somewhere or other Street has been charged with riding a bicycle without lights after dark, I may be momentarily shocked by the depths of depravity to which unregenerate human nature can sink but, as I don’t know the fellow, I would quickly consign the news item to the ‘nowt-to-do-with-me’ file and get on with the rest of my life. To continue to interest myself in the matter to the extent of guessing at the man’s personal state of conscience would indicate, I think, an unhealthy state of mind in myself.
Would my state of mind be any healthier, if the fellow had faced a more serious charge?

 

It’s certainly true that many people don’t understand the law, but what’s more to the point is that many people aren’t very good at thinking logically. If the law was the only issue here it would be straightforward, but it’s not. Welby also has to consider the public response to a high-ranking CoE official speaking about child abuse – however irrational that response might be. So what can he do? He can direct people to look at the evidence, he can state that the Bishop would probably have not been found guilty, had the case gone to court. But he can’t make any public statement that would even imply that ‘Carol’ was speaking untruthfully (let’s not use the word ‘lying’, to avoid the matter of intention). Many people would interpret this as an attempt to cover up child abuse. That’s not a logical conclusion, but a lot of people aren’t logical thinkers. They won’t read the Carlie report, they won’t bother to look at the evidence and even if they do, they won’t be able to interpret it in a logical way. They won’t know how the police proceed in a criminal investigation, or how lawyers work. They won’t understand the difference between criminal and civil cases or what the different standards of proof are. No point in telling them that the evidence available would probably not even have led to the man being charged – their reply will be ‘there’s no smoke without fire’.They’ll just immediately jump to the conclusion it’s an attempt to cover up child abuse. And he can’t risk that.

I’m not trying to justify Welby’s actions, just to point out that from his perspective, there may be other issues to consider than the strictly legal ones.

 

Archbishop Welby subscribes to the contemporary progressive-liberal worldview, and one of its tenets is that all men accused of sexual assault are guilty until proved innocent. My hunch is that, despite all the legitimate criticism he’s faced from Lord Carlisle and others, he’s ideologically incapable of taking any stand other than the one he regrettably continues to. I think he maintains there’s still a cloud over Bishop Bell’s name because, if he didn’t, he would be forced to challenge many of his own deeply-held beliefs, and just for today he’s unwilling or unable to walk down that particularly difficult and painful road.

I’m aware I’m talking about things I can’t know, but I’ve yet to see anything to suggest I’m not making reasonable assumptions.

 

Jeremiah Jones 26 January at 03:31PM

I agree with you, Mr Jones, that it is simply ignorance of the law (which isn’t that difficult to understand) which is causing confusion.

All that matters is whether the burden of proof has been met in the case of Bishop Bell. It clearly has not been, even on the less onerous civil standard.

That is all. ‘Carol’s’ character would not have been impugned simply because it was decided that the case she had brought had not met this requirement.

 

I must say, rare as it is, I’m in more or less complete agreement with Bunker’s last paragraph to Robert Duncan. I think that the presumption of innocence is a legal principle and not strictly relevant for how we judge even living individuals outside the legal system. Rather, what’s important is we err on the side of suspending judgement – the evidence must be very strong before we conclude someone is likely guilty of some accused offence. But there doesn’t have to be a trial, and it is even possible to disagree with the verdict of a trial.

In this case, the evidence isn’t strong. We have one accuser without corroborating evidence. On the other hand, there is little that casts definite suspicion or doubt on Carol’s claim. Somewhere should suspend judgement, neither suggesting Bell guilty nor Carol is lying or mistaken.

 

Persephone replying to Peter Preston,26th Jan @11.02am, about what Justin Welby can do regarding his “significant cloud” remark.

“This is where Justin Welby’s problem lies, I suspect, whatever he may personally think. He can’t risk publicly saying anything that would even imply that ‘Carol’ is lying. Apart from the fact that this cannot be proved, the papers could spin it as saying that all victims of child abuse are lying…”

He doesn’t need to make any further comment about whether ‘Carol’ is lying, mistaken or suffers faulty memory. That is something people can decide for themselves. As PH has repeatedly pointed out, in law, there is no legal recourse to a witness in any criminal case, otherwise courts would be full prosecuting them, and they would not be so willing to give evidence. People can be found not guilty regardless of the truth of a witness’s evidence for any number of reasons. That is why they are not pursued in law.
Mr Welby could still say he has reconsidered the situation and retract this statement and leave it to people to draw their own conclusions as to what may or may not be the truth in ‘Carol’s’ accusation.
The only query I have, is why he specifically told Lord Carlisle not to decide if Bishop Bell was guilty or not in his enquiry into the church’s handling of the case? That seems odd to me. Why leave that out of the enquiry?
One final point, I don’t quite understand how it follows that if ‘Carol’ is lying, the press could say, “all victims of child abuse are lying.”? Why would that be?

 

Posted by: Persephone | 26 January 2018 at 11:02 AM:

-“This is where Justin Welby’s problem lies, I suspect, whatever he may personally think. … He risks being accused of wanting to cover up child abuse. Basically, he’s in an impossible position. What’s the answer?”-

The Archbishop’s statement reads:

“The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused.”

Its meaning is open to interpretation.

The CofE made an out-of-court settlement of the civil claim precisely so that it would not be decided in court based on the civil standard of proof.

The allegation made was never examined in court and so never the subject of a legal finding.

Therefore, not only was it “not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt” – more precisely, in terms, Bishop Bell was “not found to have abused” – there was no legal finding AT ALL.

 

***PH writes. (re Mr Phil W) This is simply not true. No judgement is implied on ‘Carol’. The only thing that is judged is the case against George Bell, which is inadequate to justify a prosecution, let alone to secure a conviction … Why do people refuse to understand the operation of the law? ****

I don’t think they are *refusing* to understand, I believe they genuinely *don’t* understand. Either the facts as to how English law works, or, far less, the reasons *why* it operates like that. The proximate reasons for what we have are buried in the accidents of our history, and what we have we now analyse at our (complacent) leisure. One could drone on about the failure of our school system to educate people in the most elementary facts of our history, constitution, law, presumption of innocence (isn’t that what we’re talking about ?) etc – but PH has done that better, many times. I comment only in surprise that he doesn’t answer his own rhetorical question.

Mr Robt Duncan’s contribution is pertinent:

“Perhaps, then, you will see the importance of this issue. It is not enough to suspend judgement. It is not enough to talk cloudily of clouds. In such cases, where knowledge is impossible, one has a duty, formally, to ASSUME innocence.”

Some people here seem to be getting stuck on a merely logical quandary of ‘Carol’ vs Bell, one or the other. This may be good mathematics (though only if you have your abstraction right), even useful for detective analysis, but it is completely useless for justice and morality. It is the stuff of continental “inquisitorial” justice systems (which, like Justin Welby, would be stuck forever on this case because the detailed truth is now irrevocably lost), but alien to the English justice system, which could easily have decided any case brought against Bell, and on all the public facts now known, would have acquitted – had there not been an early ruling that there was no case to answer.

***PH notes (re Persephone, and “survivors’ memories are false” etc) If any newspaper did this, it would certainly be open to condemnation under the IPSO code for inaccuracy, and so forced to print a prominent retraction, and probably also for a suit at libel from the Archbishop. The person who *has* suggested that the complainant’s memories *may* be false (not that they are which is unknowable) is the professional psychiatrist employed by the C of E to examine the claim.***)

Quite so. So even if Persephone is right as to Welby’s fears, he can easily (if he bothers to think it out properly) face down not only his own fears, but any ignorant flak that might fly as a result. The question is, does he have the basic moral courage required? Sadly I don’t think so.

 

I thank Phil W for his reply, in which he says: “Like I said, imagine the headlines? My point is that the explanation for [the Archbishop’s] behaviour is obvious.”

Not to me it’s not. Is the suggestion that the Archbishop is afraid of personal criticism in the newspapers, or negative headlines aimed at the complainant?

If the former, are we not entitled to expect a religious leader to do what he believes to be morally right irrespective of whatever criticism his actions may attract? George Bell certainly lived up to that.

If avoiding criticism is his motivation, the untenable stance he is taking is hardly helping his cause as he is on the receiving end of lots of it – and from people with a lot more standing than the editor of a tabloid newspaper.

If the latter, I cannot see the problem.

Phil writes: “…if we assume that she was confused or suffering from false memories then still her account cannot be believed by someone who believes George Bell to be innocent.”

Indeed. I do not believe her account. Does Phil? If so, on what basis given that there is no corroborating evidence but several inconsistencies in it?

Every legal case has a winner and a loser. Losers do not normally come in for criticism unless they have deliberately lied, and I stress I am not suggesting that applies here. Who among us has a clear recollection of events that took place in our childhood? Why therefore would Carol be likely to receive unpleasant press coverage? Even if she were, that is still no reason to avoid doing the right thing.

This should be a rare case with two winners: George Bell emerges with his reputation intact and Carol keeps the financial compensation she received for abuse she may well have endured at the hands of an unknown perpetrator.

I also thank Mr. Bunker for his reply but wonder if perhaps the legal system in Germany is different from that in England and Wales. I am not a legal expert either. I believe “not proven” is a possible outcome in Scotland but my understanding is that south of the border the onus is on the complainant to prove their case; the defendant remains innocent until such time that the case is proven beyond reasonable doubt. If there is doubt – and how can there not be in this case? – then George Bell is innocent.

I am not sure why Mr. Bunker feels the need to mention that he does not judge Carol to be guilty. George Bell’s innocence does not imply Carol’s guilt. Carol is not on trial.

 

@Phil W

“‘SURVIVOR’S MEMORIES OF ABUSE ARE “FALSE” CLAIMS ARCHBISHOP'”

Actually, this might not be the headline in the papers. They might take the apostrophe out, and make the word ‘survivor’ plural – with all that implies.

***PH notes: If any newspaper did this, it would certainly be open to condemnation under the IPSO code for inaccuracy, and so forced to print a prominent retraction, and probably also for a suit at libel from the Archbishop. The person who *has* suggested that the complainant’s memories *may* be false (not that they are which is unknowable) is the professional psychiatrist employed by the C of E to examine the claim.***)

 

@ Peter Preston

“But what need is there that “we” should decide such things at all, ma’am, when we have law courts whose precise function that is? Isn’t that a bit like keeping a dog and barking yourself?”

Well, this is the problem isn’t it? If an accusation is made against someone who died decades ago, there is no possibility of taking the case to court, and establishing guilt or innocence in the usual way. “We” – I use the term impersonally, to mean anyone who considers the case – may think it is extremely unlikely that the accusation is true, and indeed the “balance of probabilities” would indicate that it is not true – but this can’t be established with certainty. This is where Justin Welby’s problem lies, I suspect, whatever he may personally think. He can’t risk publicly saying anything that would even imply that ‘Carol’ is lying. Apart from the fact that this cannot be proved, the papers could spin it as saying that all victims of child abuse are lying. He can’t even say that false memory may be involved, even though this is a likely enough scenario, as there is also no way this can be conclusively proved. He risks being accused of wanting to cover up child abuse. Basically, he’s in an impossible position. What’s the answer? I don’t know. Perhaps the Scottish verdict of ‘not proven’. But what can he say that won’t be spun as saying the accuser if lying?

 

Contributor Mr Bunker wrote:

“In a way, I feel more comfortable if, instead of “assuming innocence”, I simply do “not assume guilt”. I think this must be because assuming innocence is “active” (and could easily be false) whereas not assuming guilt is “passive” (and cannot be false).”

Now that’s what I call plain good sense. The law-courts themselves sensibly concentrate on the charge brought against the defendant and so they do not “find innocent” but rather “not guilty as charged”, when they acquit.
Unless and until any charge is brought, the law, as I understand it, presumes innocency of life – a courtesy of the law to the citizen and a right thereto, should it fail to be accorded.

 

Peter Preston – 25 January 2018 at 11:47 AM – understandably cannot make out how what is called “the civil standard of proof” comes into the matter at all.

It’s a good question.

In fact it only came into it as a civil action in prospect which was never in the event either properly investigated or examined in court.

The civil claim brought against the Church of England was settled out of court when the CofE was confronted with the prospect of denying liability and the case being decided in a public judgement “on the balance of probabilities”.

The point is not academic.

That an institution is faced with being held financially liable by association in civil law – as a collective punishment – for serious crimes allegedly perpetrated in secret by one individual, even sixty years dead, whether or not they actually occurred, is an incredible situation.

The resulting confusion has been so all pervading from the outset that anyone might be forgiven for thinking that it appears intentional.

As is stated in paragraph 52 of the Carlile review:

“There is an innate contradiction between a settlement without admission of liability, as at least technically happened here, and the knowing and apparently deliberate destruction of the reputation of the alleged perpetrator, as plainly happened here.”

 

@Phil W 25 January at 02:28PM

“That is a legal principle.”

So it is; and it was a legal case which ‘Carol’ brought, so she should have been required to comply with it. That she clearly was not, is what has brought about this whole debate.

 

I was thinking about this regarding the previous thread on this theme, and am glad that PH has once again stated in this one that fighting for the presumption of innocence is not the same thing as an absolute declaration that the Bishop could not have committed any abuse. Because PH and his allies have been clear about this, it makes it even harder to understand why the Archbishop, with this qualification in mind, cannot bring himself to rehabiliate the reputation of Bishop Bell until and unless any hard evidence comes to light to cast doubt on it.

What other clergy have done is not relevant to this particular case.

Oh identity politics, what crimes are committed in thy name !!

 

”Oddly enough though, the impression I get from this article and the current discussion in general is that it is no longer primarily a question of whether the Bishop is innocent or not. Instead it had degenerated into a question of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s role in this affair and how suited he is for his job. I won’t take part in that discussion.” (Mr Bunker 24 January 2018 at 10:52 PM)

I think it is not *odd* at all. Since the Carlile Review has been published, it becomes clear that Lord Carlile has found no *feet of clay* in George Bell but rather found the wrongful actions of the C o E regarding this case from the beginning. It had not * degenerated* but rather focused on the responsibility of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

As adeledicnander comments:

”This has been the actual point at issue from the very beginning.”

We should not forget what the C of E did on 22 Oct in 2015 to the good name of George Bell and how the media responded to it.

We should not forget that the name of George Bell has been *swiftly* removed from many places, especially around the C of E, from the schools, guidebooks and buildings etc.

His name has not yet been restored in many places because of the choice of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his supporters.

Mr Hitchens latest posts on this case are titled:

– What Does the Archbishop Think He is Doing? (22 Jan 2018)

– Historians and now Theologians are amazed by Welby’s refusal to admit that George Bell is not guilty of child abuse (18 Jan 2018)

-Justin Welby’s astonishing refusal to accept the outcome of a report he commissioned” (1 Jan 2018)

– Who’s really preaching fake news, Archbishop? (31 Dec. 2017)

– Acquitted and Vindicated – but his Reputation is Still in Prison.
The Church’s Duty to George Bell” (20 Dec. 2017)

 

I think this whole issue has been neatly summed up in Martin Sewell’s forum when he states

“If Bishop George Bell were alive today, and if he had children, they would have been removed from his care as soon as the allegations were made. Upon receipt of Prof. Maden’s report and the report of a judge of Lord Carlile’s expertise, these children would have been returned to his care. There would have been no lawful basis to do otherwise.”

In such a hypothetical situation one wonders if Archbishop Welby would stand by his statement that he believed there to be a ‘significant cloud’ hanging over Bell’s reputation.

 

Contributrix Persephone wrote:

“……it is naive to imagine that good people can’t do bad things. But there has to be evidence. And when an accusation is made decades after an event, where it comes down to one person’s word against another’s, how do you gather evidence? You can’t take forensics, you can’t interview witnesses if almost everyone involved is dead. So how do we decide?”

But what need is there that “we” should decide such things at all, ma’am, when we have law courts whose precise function that is? Isn’t that a bit like keeping a dog and barking yourself?
Why in any case need the condition of one person’s word against another be in any way a decisive consideration? Might not an individual still be innocent, even if several accusers should bring allegations of wrongdoing after the individual’s death, particularly if the latter had in his lifetime been wealthy and might therefore have been seen by unscrupulous persons as a potential source of compensation?
At all events, whether any of us is “guilty” or “not guilty” as charged is for the law courts to establish and not for others. In other words, since the adjective “forensic” actually means ” of or pertaining to the law courts”, we are in fact obliged to leave it to the “forensics”.

January 21 2018 – “Imagine…….” – Peter Hitchens – The Mail on Sunday

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-5293283/Peter-Hitchens-misses-town-clerks-men-peaked-caps.html

Imagine what would have happened if, after the Appeal Court had found (say) the Birmingham Six innocent, the Home Secretary had said: ‘I still think there’s a significant cloud over their names. I’m not letting them go.’

Well, this is how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is behaving over Bishop George Bell, wrongly accused of child abuse and cleared last month by a devastating report.

Lord Carlile QC, who reviewed the case, says that had Bishop Bell been alive when the accusations were made, ‘there would have been absolutely no chance… of him being convicted’.

This is how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (pictured), is behaving over Bishop George Bell, wrongly accused of child abuse and cleared last month by a devastating report

This is how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (pictured), is behaving over Bishop George Bell, wrongly accused of child abuse and cleared last month by a devastating report

 

But the Archbishop refuses to accept that his Church was mistaken when it publicly condemned Bishop Bell.

Now a group of powerful historians and another group of international church leaders have written sternly to Mr Welby, telling him to accept the verdict.

Is he big enough to climb down? We shall see. But if not, is he big enough for his throne?

 

December 31 2017 – “Who’s really preaching fake news, Archbishop?” – Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday

peter-hitchens_877_1871668c

Peter Hitchens

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2017/12/peter-hitchens-brexit-can-work-all-it-needs-is-a-proper-british-compromise.html

Who’s really preaching fake news, Archbishop?

I see the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been complaining about ‘fake news’. As well he might, since ‘fake news’ is a good description of the statement which Archbishop Welby’s church put out to the media, insinuating incorrectly that the late George Bell was a child molester.
Lord Carlile has now produced a devastating report which shows that statement was full of false claims. It said Bishop Bell would have been arrested if he’d still been alive, when he wouldn’t have been. It said there had been a thorough investigation, when there hadn’t been.
It said experts had found no reason to doubt the charges, when one expert most definitely had found such a reason and clearly said so.
Yet despite this total demolition of a case that any court would have thrown out, Archbishop Welby continues to claim (more fake news?) that there is a ‘cloud’ over George Bell’s name, like some dim wiseacre in a pub, utterly defeated in an argument by facts and logic, intoning doggedly that ‘there’s no smoke without fire’.
The only cloud over Bishop Bell’s name hangs there because Justin Welby’s pride prevents him from admitting he got it wrong. He knows what he needs to do.

 

December 23 2017 – “Acquitted and Vindicated – but his Reputation is Still in Prison. The Church’s Duty to George Bell” – Peter Hitchens’s Blog – MailOnline

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2017/12/acquitted-and-vindicated-but-his-reputation-is-still-in-prison-the-churchs-duty-to-george-bell.html

20 December 2017 11:15 AM

Acquitted and Vindicated – but his Reputation is Still in Prison. The Church’s Duty to George Bell

Firstly may I thank contributors for their kind words about the George Bell issue, and the outcome (so far) of the campaign to clear this great man’s name of the unproven accusations so vigorously spread about him, as if they were proven facts,  by the Church of England.  I hope readers will forgive me for this further posting on the subject. As I said at the press conference at which George Bell’s name was cleared, matters are by no means finished. It is as if Captain Dreyfus’s wife had been summoned to a press conference given by the French Army, which had there admitted that it had condemned her husband on paltry evidence after an incompetent and prejudiced court martial, and that the case against him could not stand – but that he would have to remain indefinitely imprisoned on Devil’s Island because the Commander in Chief still felt there was a ‘cloud’ over his name.

George Bell’s reputation is still on Devil’s Island. No formal action has been taken to reverse the Stalinoid process by which his name was removed from buildings, institutions and guide books. These are: George Bell House, a guest house in Chichester cathedral close donated to the Cathedral in his memory by Anglican nuns who loved Bell greatly, and opened by Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury; a hall of residence at the University of Chichester;  the house named after Bishop Bell at Bishop Luffa School, Chichester; the school formerly named after him at Eastbourne, now renamed St Catherine’s College, to which he travelled shortly before his death to bless, though extremely frail, dying very soon afterwards; the Chichester cathedral souvenir guide book, from which many references to the Bishop have been removed in the latest edition. I still possess the former guide, is anyone should need to check it for purposes of comparison.  A statue of George Bell also sits unfinished in the stoneyard of Canterbury Cathedral, where he was a very distinguished Dean. The statue was abandoned when the claims against George Bell were first publicised.

These are in a way small matters – in themselves. But their restoration now become hugely important as a sign that the presumption of innocence once more prevails.  Yet no plaques or names have been restored. Work has not resumed on the statue. All the bodies involved mumble that they are ‘considering ‘ the matter, with the exception of the Eastbourne School which, for unconnected  reasons, has a strong desire to change its name which predated the accusations against George Bell, and says firmly it will not reverse the decision. If this is really so, perhaps Bishop Luffa school in Chichester could expiate its former action, in expunging George Bell’s name from one of its houses,  by naming itself after Bishop Bell, who one might think has more relevance to modern Christian education than the mediaeval Luffa.

But in any case, what is there to discuss. An injustice has been done, one of the most distinguished public lawyers in the country has said it is an injustice after a thorough investigation, and so it must be corrected. Imagine if, after the Appeal Court had ruled that (say) the convictions of the Birmingham Six could not stand, the governors of the prisons involved said they would be ‘considering’ the matter, and might or might not release them at some stage depending on what they felt about it. What would be the response to that? If those involved have yet to read the Carlile Report (it takes about 90 minutes), the link to it and the (fascinating) annexe are displayed below. Once they have done so, they will find there is nothing left to discuss.

I might add that, the last time I checked with her, no formal apology form the Bishop of Chichester or the Archbishop of Canterbury had been received by Mrs Barbara Whitley, George Bell’s surviving niece, who woke one morning to find, without any warning, that her beloved uncle’s name had been smeared all over the media by the ‘strident voices’ of the Church of England. These prelates unceasingly proclaim their concern for the complainant, similarly an elderly woman deserving courtesy and consideration. But the complainant has always been (and will always remain) anonymous. Mrs Whitley has had to endure this in the blazing light of total publicity.

The Church’s statements, the review and the fascinating annexe can all be found here :   

 

https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/publication-bishop-george-bell-independent-review

As my contribution to the continuing campaign for justice to be done in full, I sent the letter below to the Bishop of Chichester, the Right Reverend Dr Martin Warner, on Monday, saying I intended to publish it here as an open letter. Now that he has had time to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest its contents, I commend it to you to:

Dear Bishop,

I wonder if I could resume our correspondence (terminated by you on 19th January 2017), now that the Carlile Report has been published and considered by you. In this case, however, I propose to publish this letter on my Mail on Sunday blog, so that my readers are aware of the questions I have long raised with you, and the new ones I must now raise with you following the Carlile review.

I am still mainly concerned with your attack on supposedly ‘strident voices’ raised in defence of Bishop Bell, which you suggested had distressed the anonymous complainant. May I draw your attention to my article on the subject in the Spectator of 17th November 2015? It can be read with ease here: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/11/the-church-of-englands-shameful-betrayal-of-bishop-george-bell/ .

In it I was extremely careful to accept the possibility of Bishop Bell’s guilt, and to say specifically ‘By all means comfort and assuage the accuser, and compensate him or her’. This was a conscious act of charity towards the accuser, whom I have never blamed for the mistreatment of George Bell’s memory. I understood from the start that any examination of this case should not become an attack upon the accuser, nor (except in the minds of the Church) has it ever been such an attack. Please contrast the Church’s treatment of Bishop Bell’s surviving niece, Mrs Barbara Whitley (see p.33 of the Carlile review, para 142). She had to endure the ‘strident voices’ of the Church of England publicly parading deeply painful allegations against her beloved uncle, presented as fact, and quite without the shield of anonymity rightly given to Carol. You had not even bothered to find out if Mrs Whitley existed. Matthew VII, 3-5 comes to mind.

I suspect that the Bishop of Chelmsford’s false accusation that George Bell’s supporters had made ‘hurtful remarks’ about Carol, made in the House of Lords when the poor man was expected to respond to the long-planned debate there after an inadequate briefing, resulted from this original accusation by you. The false accusation has still not been formally retracted in the Lords, though the Bishop of Chelmsford did after some hesitation eventually apologise to me personally, allowing me to forgive him as Our Lord urges us to do in Luke XVII, 3-4.

I’d add to this attempt to use the complainant as a shield against accusations of wrongdoing in the Church’s part your needless call for all to respect the ‘right to privacy’ of Carol made at the Church House press conference on Friday. What was the purpose of this call? When was any attempt ever made to invade her privacy? I still think you need to regret this accusation.

You have also asserted that the original statement issued on 22nd October 2015 did not state George Bell’s guilt, and you blame the media involved for presuming this.  In response to this I raise several points. The first is that all media given the statement concluded that you were asserting Bishop Bell’s guilt. How did this happen? Partly to blame must be the unwarranted use of the prejudicial word ‘survivor’ and a generally incautious use of language which (had Bishop Bell been alive and a court case pending or in progress) would have put those involved at risk of action for contempt of court. We must also wonder what confidential briefings may have been given to the media by persons speaking for the Church, to the journalists involved, who those persons were, what instructions and advice they had been given by the Church and what they said. I cannot know this, though as a journalist of many years’ experience I find it hard to believe that no such briefings took place. Did they? What was said by whom and to whom?

Also at fault is the claim in the statement that the Bishop, had he been alive, would have been arrested (Annex to the Carlile report, Page 36, paragraph 23; see also the main report, paras 132 and 133 on page 31, and para 167 on page 44). There was in fact no real police inquiry (see para 139 on p.32).We now know from the Sussex police that this statement was solicited by the Diocese from them, and not made on their own initiative. Please see the words of Det Supt J.D. Graves, in his response to my complaint to them on behalf of Mrs Whitley ‘My understanding….’, wrote Detective Superintendent Graves:

‘….is that the Diocese of Chichester notified Sussex Police that they planned to release a statement to the media. It was never our intention to be proactive (my emphasis); in other words, there was no intention to release a police statement about the alleged criminality of Bishop Bell (my emphasis). However, we were asked by the Diocese to make a statement (my emphasis) as they had decided to make this information public and so we provided them with a statement for inclusion in their press release on the basis that once the Diocese published their statement a natural consequence would be a media request to the police for comment’.

Did you not expect this misleading detail in the statement, which had been actively sought by you, to impute guilt to George Bell? In dozens of conversations with fellow-journalists and others about this matter, every single one of them has pointed (unprompted by me)  to the claim that George Bell would have been arrested as being the thing which persuaded him or her that the case against him was serious. If it was not intended to insinuate this, what is it doing there at all?

You said on Friday, and yet again in your Radio 4 interview on Sunday that you had never proclaimed George Bell’s guilt. On Radio 4, you said ‘What we did not do and have not ever done is to make a clear statement which says “We have found George Bell guilty”. We have never done that’.

I must ask, in that case, why you did not write to The Times, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the BBC, the Argus of Brighton or the Chichester Observer, correcting their reports of your statement, reports which proclaimed that George Bell was guilty?  Is it possible that you did so and they ignored your letters?  Or did you choose to leave the impression of guilt which your statement had created, which you now insist you had not intended to create? Had you written to complain, it would have been very helpful to my own unending efforts to get these media to change their tune. Only one, the BBC, which had inaccurately used the specific term ‘proven abuse’ in a TV report and so gone further than the others, ever admitted that it had wrongly stated Bishop Bell’s guilt. All the others used your statement, and above all the claim that Bishop Bell would have been arrested, to argue that they were right to treat the statement as a declaration of guilt.  The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) took the same view when I and others took the matter to them. I should also remind you of what happened when I drew attention to the Bishop of Durham’s statement in the House of Lords on 28thJanuary 2016, in which he said ‘that there has been no declaration that we are convinced that this [alleged abuse by Bishop Bell] took place’. As the Bishop was then in charge of ‘safeguarding’, this seemed to me to be a highly significant development and perhaps a retreat from the original claim of 22nd October. I thought it might be the basis of a revision of the Church’s original position.

However, after Charles Moore and I had both drawn attention to it in early February 2016, Church House issued this statement on behalf of the Bishop of Durham http://cofecomms.tumblr.com/post/138915810902/statement-from-bishop-of-durham-on-george-bell . It contained these unequivocal words. ‘The church therefore, having evaluated the evidence before them, accepted the veracity of the claims before them.’  In case there was any doubt, it added:

‘But in this case, as in others, the overriding goal was to search out the truth and issues of reputation cannot take priority over that.’ (both emphases are mine).

I am unable to square the words ‘The church therefore, having evaluated the evidence before them, accepted the veracity of the claims before them.’ with your statements exemplified by the one you made on Sunday 17th December ‘What we did not do and have not ever done is to make a clear statement which says “We have found George Bell guilty”. We have never done that’.

Since it is clear that the Church *has* stated that it ‘accepted the veracity’ of the claims made against George Bell’; since it publicised inaccurate claims that he would have been arrested, now shown to be wrong; since (para 17, p.5) Lord Carlile states that the CPS evidential charging standard would not have been met and stated at the press conference that, on this evidence, he would have lost the case had he prosecuted it;  since the claim made in the October 2015 statement that there had been a ‘thorough pre-litigation process’ has been shown in detail to be a nonsense; likewise the Bishop of Chelmsford’s assertion in the House of Lords (30th June 2106) that this had been a ‘prayerful, careful, sensitive and serious investigation’ now looks embarrassing, though it should be said there is at least no reason to dispute his characterisation of it as ‘prayerful’

And peerhsa most shocking of all, since the publication of Professor Maden’s report shows that the October 2015 statement’s assertion that ‘none of these reports found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim’ is simply, straightforwardly untrue….

…In the light of all these matters, it seems to me that the issue is very far from closed. A great deal of restitution still needs to be done, and it was not even attempted on Friday. It would help if the Church admitted in detail just how wrong it had in fact been, instead of trying to change the subject or to pretend that it has not done things that it has done.

By the way, you also stated in your Sunday BBC interview that ‘no plaques that I am aware of have been blanked out’. This is most odd. During a visit to Chichester in November 2015, my wife and I walked down Canon Lane and there saw that the plaque saying ‘George Bell House’ was covered by some sort of industrial plastic material, similar to that used in bin bags. I am pleased to learn that this Stalinist action was done without your knowledge or consent. But I must assure you that it was done. The plaque itself, as you must know, was later entirely removed, as was the one inside George Bell House commemorating the fact that Archbishop Rowan Williams had opened George Bell House. The interior plaque has now been replaced by one which pretends that the Archbishop opened ‘4 Canon Lane’, which is not true. Likewise (as you were not asked about in the interview) many mentions of George Bell have been excised from the Cathedral guide book, his name has been removed from the House which used to bear it at Bishop Luffa school where I should think you might have some influence, and also from a hall of residence at the University of Chichester. I pointed out to you last Friday that even the Soviet Union had eventually rehabilitated those whom it had unjustly condemned in unfair show trials (whose memories, names and pictures were likewise removed from buildings, streets, photographs, encyclopaedias and so forth).  The Church of England is surely judged by (and should regulate itself by) a higher standard than an atheist secret police state.

Sincerely,

Peter Hitchens