Tag Archives: Professor Maden

May 13 2019 – The George Bell Group Statement – May 2019 – “The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal” ~ Dr Andrew Chandler

George Bell House - 4 Canon Lane - Chichester Cathedral

George Bell House – 4 Canon Lane – Chichester Cathedral – before the name change [Picture: Alamy]

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The George Bell Group

We are an independent group whose members represent a concentration of experience in public life, in the fields of law, policing, politics, journalism, academic research and church affairs. This group began to meet in response to the 22 October 2015 statement issued by the Church of England about Bishop George Bell. See this BBC report for the original story. On 15 December 2017 the Church of England published the independent review of Lord Carlile and issued three statements made in response by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Chichester and the Bishop of Bath & Wells.

We warmly welcome the Report written by Timothy Briden and congratulate him on his thorough examination of the evidence which led him to the explicit conclusion that the new allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded. There are no other allegations.

It is time to conclude a matter which has lasted altogether three and a half years. The investigative activities and processes of the church authorities themselves have been devastated by independent legal judgement. The assurances with which these authorities have justified themselves and effectively promoted a case against Bishop Bell in public have been discredited. Bishop Bell’s reputation is today vindicated and affirmed by authoritative opinion. What remains of the story is only a matter of contemporary church politics.

Read the full response of the George Bell Group (May 2019)

Statement May 2019

Since October 2015 when the Archbishops’ Council announced that they had paid compensation to the woman given the pseudonym ‘Carol’, who alleged that she had been abused by Bishop George Bell, his defenders have criticised the Church authorities for never once affording the Bishop the presumption of innocence.  Now, after the inquiries of Lord Carlile and Timothy Briden, it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.

THE CARLILE REVIEW

The Carlile report, whose conclusions (save as to publicity) the Church accepted, criticised the investigation of Carol’s allegations as a rush to judgment predicated on Bell’s guilt. It concluded that the decision to settle with Carol was indefensibly wrong and that the process completely ignored the Bishop’s reputation and the interests of his surviving family, including his very elderly niece.

The original statement by the Archbishops’ Council in October 2015 claimed that none of the expert independent reports had found reason to doubt Carol’s veracity. But Lord Carlile discovered that the only expert consulted by the Church thought it very likely that Carol’s experience of abuse in her first marriage had affected her recall, and that the possibility of false memories was a real one.

Regrettably Archbishop Welby added his authority to the destruction of Bell’s reputation: on Good Friday 2016, before the Carlile report was completed, he told BBC Radio that the investigation of Carol’s claim had been ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse correct on the balance of probabilities. We now know how far from the truth that was.

The Archbishop told Lord Carlile during his inquiry that if there had not been a proper investigation of Carol’s story, the Church would have to apologise. But sadly, when the Carlile report was published in December 2017, he chose not to do so. To the disappointment of Bell’s defenders, he appeared to reject the presumption of innocence; instead he commented that there was still ‘a significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell’s name without giving any explanation of why he continued to hold that view in the face of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.

THE ‘FRESH INFORMATION’ AND THE BRIDEN PROCESS

The publicity given to the Carlile report appears to have triggered a copy-cat claim by the woman given the name Alison. The Core Safeguarding Group which had been responsible for the shambolic investigation of Carol’s claim now set about trying to substantiate that by Alison. They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol. But within weeks the police, to whom the Core Group had reported the matter, closed their enquiries.  Next an investigation by a senior retired police officer commissioned by the Church quickly showed that Alison’s evidence was unreliable and incapable of supporting any adverse finding against the Bishop.

Mr Briden reported that her account not only had internal inconsistencies but was also contaminated by her having read Carol’s story, a contamination revealed by her repeating verbatim some of Carol’s words which had been reported in the press. He ended his report by saying that all the allegations against George Bell remitted to him were unfounded.

Many will have hoped that on reading Mr Briden’s report Archbishop Welby would have publicly acknowledged that the cloud of which he had previously spoken had been dissipated. He did not do so.

THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH NOW

The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal.

It is now the plain duty of the Church of England, nationally and in the Diocese of Chichester, to make amends by working to restore Bishop Bell’s reputation, not least in institutions which were once proud to adopt his name.

We welcome the decision of Canterbury Cathedral to revive a commission to create a statue of Bell and note the expression of ‘delight’ with which the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded. We acknowledge with gratitude the firmness with which the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford have maintained and cherished the chapel there dedicated to Bell’s memory throughout the controversy. We note that the meeting room dedicated to Bishop Bell remains, as before, at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

It is only in Chichester itself, the place in which Bishop Bell lived and worked for almost thirty years and where his ashes are interred in the cathedral, that any public adoption of his name is now suppressed.

We find the public stance of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, incomprehensible and indefensible. The Bishop’s ‘Response’ to the Briden Report, published on 24 January 2019 and now promoted on the websites of the diocese and cathedral, only went as far as to acknowledge that ‘Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty’. He added that it could not be ‘safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited’. This is a most regrettable insinuation that there was, or likely was, substance to Carol’s allegation and hence that Bell was to be suspected of abuse.

The Bishop emphasised the defamatory innuendo by asking ‘those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognise the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’ There is, regrettably, no evidence in this response of the Bishop’s commitment to justice or of any compassion towards those who are wrongly accused. His words have been repeated verbatim by the Bishop at Lambeth in response to a Question at the recent session of the General Synod of the church. Indeed, the Bishop even invoked the authority of the House of Bishops in support of this view. So far as we are aware the House has never even discussed the matter.

Such words simply preserve the impression that there was, and remains, a case against Bell. A not dissimilar state of mind was revealed by the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Officer when he told the Child Abuse Inquiry in March 2018 that ‘all the indications we have would suggest that the simplest explanation for why someone comes forward to report abuse – because they were abused – is likely to be the correct one’.

As the High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques has pointed out in his report to the Metropolitan Police on allegations against prominent individuals, such an assumption results in an investigation which does not challenge the complainant, tends to disbelieve the suspect and shifts onto the suspect the burden of proof, ignoring any presumption of innocence. It becomes a premise for a miscarriage of justice such as can now be seen to have been inflicted on the reputation of George Bell.

It should be sufficient to observe that like Professor Anthony Maden, Lord Carlile did interview this first complainant. We note Lord Carlile’s statement of 1 February 2019, made to the local campaigner Mr Richard Symonds: ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.’

We are more than conscious that this saga represents a wider pattern in the Church and across society where many other such miscarriages of justice have become notorious. Now it is surely essential that if all the many safeguarding bodies, national and diocesan, are to be retained by the Church of England their work must be placed under real legal discipline and in the hands of officers who observe fully the expectations and rule of law and act without fear or prejudice.

There must never again be any repetition of such a discreditable, indeed disgraceful, performance.

Andrew Chandler, Convenor of George Bell Group, 9 May 2019

December 28 2017 – “Bishop George Bell: the saga continues (2)” – ‘Bats in the Belfry’ – Christopher Hill

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Christopher Hill

https://rothercottage.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/bishop-george-bell-the-saga-continues-2/

Bishop George Bell: the saga continues (2)

I wrote to The #Bishop of Chichester, @DrMartinWarner, on 14th November 2015, asking some basic questions about the Church’s handling of the allegations against @BishopGeorgeBell. Dr Warner sent a prompt and courteous reply, dated 19th November.

At that time it was not even known that the complainant, later known as ‘Carol’, was a woman, and no detail had been published of where the alleged molestation had taken place. Nor was anyone allowed to know who had seen the evidence in the case, though there is no legal requirement for such secrecy. Even the #DeanofChichester had no direct knowledge of the facts, but relied on an assurance that he had been given that the evidence was incontrovertible.

Dr Warner’s letter to me contained some difficult passages. To start with, having said that the allegation against Bell was indeed disturbing, he asserted “We are all diminished by this.”

I do not know what this flourish means. It is plainly false to say that we are ALL diminished, but perhaps the Bishop meant that he and other church people were diminished in the public estimation by the way in which they had handled the case.

Dr Warner went on: “All facts that were capable of independent corroboration were corroborated.” Again, I do not know what this means. @LordCarlile’s review of the Church’s procedures yields little evidence of anyone trying to corroborate any facts.

Dr Warner went on to say that “evidence was exchanged.” This is uninformative, without any details being given of the parties to the exchange.

With regard to the conduct of the investigation he said “independent advice from all the professional disciplines which are usually involved in such claims was obtained, including of course independent legal advice, and the survivor ( this is what Church insists on calling her) was questioned in person about their (sic) evidence.”

I do not know what professional disciplines Dr Warner had in mind. Lord Carlile does record that two psychiatrists were instructed, with different terms of reference. @ProfessorAnthonyMaden, the one who was asked to comment on Carol’s credibility, said that the truth of her allegations could not be established without corroborative evidence, and that false memory could not be excluded.

An illustration of the unusual procedures of the Core Group, the investigative and decision-making body set up by the Church, is that Professor Maden’s report was circulated to some members in full, and to others only in summary.

Apart from the psychiatrists, there was contact with the police. Are these the “usual disciplines”?

As for legal advice, It was indeed available from a solicitor who advised the Group,but Carlile comments several times on its failure to instruct any criminal lawyer to advise it on the strength of the evidence.

Finally, in response to my question about the removal of Bell’s name from #GeorgeBellHouse, the Bishop answered that this was a matter for the Dean and Chapter. Yet they seem to have been almost as much in the dark as everyone else.

From these remarks by Dr Warner it does seem that he was not well informed about the proceedings of the Core Group, which appears to have been unable to investigate systematically, or to make decisions based on rational assessments. His relative ignorance is in a way understandable, as his attendance at the Group had been sporadic,and he was apparently not even invited to its fifth and final meeting.

But surely he must have been aware of the consensus to which the Group found its way, first that Bell was probably guilty, then that he probably had abused other children, and in the end that his name must be published, a public apology made and compensation paid? After all,in the end it was he who had to accept responsibility and sign thx letter.

One cannot tell what was going through Dr Warner’s mind, but he does seem to have been the victim of lax procedures and muddled thinking, which somehow affected his own assessment of the case.

In a day or two I shall continue the exegesis of pronouncements on the Bell matter by Dr Warner, @DrJustinWelby (the #ArchbishopofCanterbury) and perhaps other prelates.

Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3

Bishop George Bell: the saga continues (2)

I wrote to The #Bishop of Chichester, @DrMartinWarner, on 14th November 2015, asking some basic questions about the Church’s handling of the allegations against @BishopGeorgeBell. Dr Warner sent a prompt and courteous reply, dated 19th November.

At that time it was not even known that the complainant, later known as ‘Carol’, was a woman, and no detail had been published of where the alleged molestation had taken place. Nor was anyone allowed to know who had seen the evidence in the case, though there is no legal requirement for such secrecy. Even the #DeanofChichester had no direct knowledge of the facts, but relied on an assurance that he had been given that the evidence was incontrovertible.

Dr Warner’s letter to me contained some difficult passages. To start with, having said that the allegation against Bell was indeed disturbing, he asserted “We are all diminished by this.”

I do not know what this flourish means. It is plainly false to say that we are ALL diminished, but perhaps the Bishop meant that he and other church people were diminished in the public estimation by the way in which they had handled the case.

Dr Warner went on: “All facts that were capable of independent corroboration were corroborated.” Again, I do not know what this means. @LordCarlile’s review of the Church’s procedures yields little evidence of anyone trying to corroborate any facts.

Dr Warner went on to say that “evidence was exchanged.” This is uninformative, without any details being given of the parties to the exchange.

With regard to the conduct of the investigation he said “independent advice from all the professional disciplines which are usually involved in such claims was obtained, including of course independent legal advice, and the survivor ( this is what Church insists on calling her) was questioned in person about their (sic) evidence.”

I do not know what professional disciplines Dr Warner had in mind. Lord Carlile does record that two psychiatrists were instructed, with different terms of reference. @ProfessorAnthonyMaden, the one who was asked to comment on Carol’s credibility, said that the truth of her allegations could not be established without corroborative evidence, and that false memory could not be excluded.

An illustration of the unusual procedures of the Core Group, the investigative and decision-making body set up by the Church, is that Professor Maden’s report was circulated to some members in full, and to others only in summary.

Apart from the psychiatrists, there was contact with the police. Are these the “usual disciplines”?

As for legal advice, It was indeed available from a solicitor who advised the Group, but Carlile comments several times on its failure to instruct any criminal lawyer to advise it on the strength of the evidence.

Finally, in response to my question about the removal of Bell’s name from #GeorgeBellHouse, the Bishop answered that this was a matter for the Dean and Chapter. Yet they seem to have been almost as much in the dark as everyone else.

From these remarks by Dr Warner it does seem that he was not well informed about the proceedings of the Core Group, which appears to have been unable to investigate systematically, or to make decisions based on rational assessments. His relative ignorance is in a way understandable, as his attendance at the Group had been sporadic,and he was apparently not even invited to its fifth and final meeting.

But surely he must have been aware of the consensus to which the Group found its way, first that Bell was probably guilty, then that he probably had abused other children, and in the end that his name must be published, a public apology made and compensation paid? After all,in the end it was he who had to accept responsibility and sign thx letter.

One cannot tell what was going through Dr Warner’s mind, but he does seem to have been the victim of lax procedures and muddled thinking, which somehow affected his own assessment of the case.

In a day or two I shall continue the exegesis of pronouncements on the Bell matter by Dr Warner, @DrJustinWelby (the #ArchbishopofCanterbury) and perhaps other prelates.

Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3

December 20 2017 – “Why the Church’s response to the George Bell inquiry is so shocking” – The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy – Dean of Christ Church, Oxford [Christian Today]

https://www.christiantoday.com/article/martyn-percy-why-the-churchs-response-to-the-george-bell-inquiry-is-so-shocking/121818.htm

Martyn Percy: Why the Church’s response to the George Bell inquiry is so shocking

‘If one imagines for a moment that Bishop Bell were one’s own father, the point is clearly made. If a system is not good enough for our own fathers, then it is not good enough for anyone.’ (paragraph 46, p. 12, Bishop George Bell Independent Review).

The long-awaited Independent Review of the Bishop George Bell Case, conducted by Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE, QC was published on December 15. As one of the campaigners for transparency in this case – namely for the Church of England to disclose exactly how it reached its decisions in relation to a single complaint of sexual abuse made against Bell, decades after his death – Alex Carlile’s Review is a fulsome vindication of the need for a complete overhaul of the practice of the Church. The report shows that justice was not served – either to Bishop Bell, or to the woman known as ‘Carol’. The report shows – damningly, alas – that the entire process by the Church of England was conducted through the lens of reputational management. Appropriate legal expertise was not used. Assumptions were made: guilty unless proven innocent. Dreadful and egregious errors of procedure were made, revealing a culture of shoddy amateurism. When challenged on this, the evolving debacle was further compounded by assertions that a ‘proper’ process and ‘robust’ investigation had been undertaken. They hadn’t. Not remotely.

Bishop George Bell
Courtesy of Jimmy James Bishop George Bell was the former Bishop of Chichester and considered a hero for his opposition to indiscriminate Allied bombing of Germany

It is crystal clear from reading the report that the accusations were badly handled from the beginning, and that once the accusations were in the hands of the ‘Core Group’, members not only lacked commitment to prioritise their participation but lamentably failed in their duty to determine the facts. The whole process administered by the Church of England then descended into a tragic, incompetent farce. In all this, some are continuing to insist that Bishop Bell was, in all probability, guilty – when in the end, there is still only the testimony of one person, with no corroboration.

Yet it is clear, reading between the lines of Lord Carlile’s report, that in investigating how the Church handled the allegations they discovered enough to challenge their veracity. In what follows, therefore, I highlight ten key findings from Lord Carlile’s Independent Review, and suggest that the Church of England resolves to address these as a matter of urgency. [Martin Sewell also analyses the Independent Review here – Ed]

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy is the Dean of Christ Church Oxford and a respected theologian in the Church of England.

‘It follows that, even when the alleged perpetrators have died, there should be methodical and sufficient investigations into accusations levelled against them….I have concluded that the Church of England failed to institute or follow a procedure which respected the rights of both sides. The Church…has in effect oversteered in this case. In other words, there was a rush to judgement…’ (para. 17-18, p.5). The Church of England acted rashly and hastily, and it needs to correct this knee-jerk reaction in future, if justice is to be served. In the case of Bell, injustice has been manifestly perpetrated.

  1. ‘…in this case the Church adopted a procedure more akin to the second extreme: that is to say, when faced with a serious and apparently credible allegation, the truth of what Carol was saying was implicitly accepted without serious investigation or enquiry. I have concluded that this was an inappropriate and impermissible approach and one which should not be followed in the future…in my view, the Church concluded that the needs of a living complainant who, if truthful, was a victim of very serious criminal offences were of considerably more importance than the damage done by a possibly false allegation to a person who was no longer alive…’ (para. 43-44, p. 12). The Church of England essentially assumed Bishop George Bell was ‘guilty until proven innocent’. The Church of England needs to ask how it protects those who are the victims of false allegations.
  2. ‘Importantly, the Church should not put its own reputation before that of the dead…the complainant is not a “survivor”…’ (para. 52, p. 13/14). The ‘Core Group’ made dreadful assumptions. Namely, that no-one who had worked with Bell was still alive. They did not contact Bell’s relatives (even though George and Henrietta had no children of their own). The ‘Core Group’ put the reputational risk to the Church as a higher priority than serving justice, and getting to the truth of the matter. The complainant is repeatedly referred to by the Church as a ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ – but no facts or testimony have come to light, other than the claims made by the complainant – that would corroborate the appropriate use of such pejorative labels.
  3. In paragraph 138, p. 32 we are told there was no real police enquiry into the case. Yet the Church of England had tried to ‘spin’ this, to suggest that any enquiry would have found Bell guilty.
  4. ‘…despite mention of the importance of ensuring that the deceased accused person received a fair hearing, absolutely nothing was done to ensure that his living relatives were informed of the allegations, let alone asked for or offered guidance. Nor were any steps taken to ensure that Bishop Bell’s interests were considered actively by an individual nominated for the purpose. I regret that Bishop Bell’s reputation, and the need for a rigorous factual analysis of the case against him, were swept up by a tide focused on settling Carol’s claim[s] and the perceived imperative of public [reputation]…’ (para. 142, p.33). The Church of England, in other words, only listened to the complainant, and took those accusations at face value. No system of justice in the entire world could ever regard this as fair, decent or true. The process run by the Church of England has more in common with a trial scene from Alice in Wonderland. No system of defence or justice for Bell was designed or enacted (para. 155).
  5. Paragraph 178, pages 46-48. Professor Maden, an expert on ‘false memory syndrome’, comments extensively on the case. He closes his remarks by stating that ‘I have no doubt that [the complainant] is sincere in her beliefs. Nevertheless it remains my view that the possibility of false memories in this case cannot be excluded. The facts are for the Court to determine. I do not believe that psychiatric or other expert evidence is likely to be of further assistance in establishing whether or not these allegations are true…’. Some members of the ‘Core Group’ did not read the whole of Professor Maden’s report, so ‘a fuller evidential investigation’ that might have been called for to test the complainant’s claim never occurred. The ‘Core Group’ even failed to contact the complainant’s wider family (whom ‘Carol’ said she was close to), and who could have perhaps provided corroborating or dissenting testimony.
  6. Two completely credible witnesses came forward. A woman identified as ‘Pauline’ and Canon Adrian Carey (paras. 214-228, pages 54-56). Neither corroborates Carol’s testimony. Neither can recall such a young girl being present with the regularity and frequency ‘Carol’ claims. Carey, Bell’s Chaplain, lived in the Bishop’s Palace with Henrietta and George Bell. Pauline, a child who lived in the palace and played in the gardens during the same years that ‘Carol’ claims that her abuse took place, does not recall any child like ‘Carol’: ‘Pauline and her mother lived in the palace itself. They shared a bedroom on an upper floor, and they had a sitting room of their own. Pauline went to school locally, to an Infants’ School then a Primary School. She passed the 11 Plus. At that point her mother obtained a job in another household and they left the palace. She remembers and named correctly other staff working in the palace and living there or in the grounds. She remembered the name of [the person Carol visited]. However, she did not recall Carol. This does not mean that Carol was not there from time to time: however, if Pauline is correct it would suggest that [Carol’s] visits were not so frequent as to have made her a significant presence…’.
  7. Despite the lack of evidence against Bell – remember, still just one complainant, and the ‘Core Team’ having failed to take account of relevant expertise (i.e., legal, psychiatric, historians, Bell’s biographer, etc.), or contacted living witnesses to test the claims made by ‘Carol’ see paras. 248-252, p. 64) – nonetheless, ‘Carol, and the wider public, were left in no doubt whatsoever that it was accepted that Bishop Bell was guilty of what was alleged against him. The statement provided the following conclusions: (i) The allegations had been investigated, and a proper process followed. (ii) The allegations had been proved; therefore (iii) There was no doubt that Bishop Bell had abused Carol…’. (para. 237, page 61). Lord Carlile later adds: ‘I regret that the Core Group failed to carry out sufficient investigation into the facts’ (para. 244, p.63).
  8. The ‘Core Group’ that investigated the case against Bishop Bell was found to have been ‘set up in an unmethodical and unplanned way, with neither terms of reference nor any clear direction as to how it would operate. As a result, it became a confused and unstructured process, as several members confirmed. Some members explicitly made it clear to me that they had no coherent notion of their roles or what was expected of them. There was no consideration of the need for consistency of attendance or membership. The members did not all see the same documents, nor all the documents relevant to their task. There was no organised or valuable inquiry or investigation into the merits of the allegations, and the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or proportionality. Indeed, the clear impression left is that the process was predicated on his guilt of what Carol alleged…’. (para. 254, p. 65). You can only read this as a vote of total ‘non-confidence’ in the Core Group. It is not so much a case of what few things they got wrong, as discovering that they got almost nothing right. This was a complete failure of process.
  9. So Lord Carlile concludes: ‘in my judgement the decision to settle the case in the form and manner followed was indefensibly wrong’ (para. 258, p. 66).
    Bishop George Bell
    Pic courtesy of Jimmy James Bishop George Bell

    Since the publication of the Carlile Report, the Archbishop, Church of England National Safeguarding Team and the Bishop of Chichester have all been defensive. They recognise that there are criticisms. But they continue to speak and behave as though they got the right result – merely via a flawed methodology. I am reminded of the quote from Alan Partridge: ‘You know, a lot of people forget that for the first three days, the cruise on The Titanic was a really enjoyable experience.’

On the October 21, 2015, I had been rung by the then Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council and of the General Synod of the Church of England, Sir William Fittall. It was Fittall who told me, over the phone, that a ‘thorough investigation’ had implicated Bishop George Bell in an historic sex-abuse case, and that the Church had ‘paid compensation to the victim’. Fittall added that he was tipping me off, as he knew we had an altar in the Cathedral dedicated to Bell, and that Bell was a distinguished former member of Christ Church.

Fittall asked what we would do, in the light of the forthcoming media announcements. I explained that Christ Church is an academic institution, and we tend to make decisions based on evidence, having first weighed and considered its quality. Fittall replied that the evidence was ‘compelling and convincing’, and that the investigation into George Bell has been ‘lengthy, professional and robust’. I asked for details, as I said I could not possibly make a judgement without sight of such evidence. I was told that such evidence could not be released. So, Christ Church kept faith with Bell, and the altar, named after him, remains in exactly the same spot it has occupied for over fifteen years, when it was first carved.

What we now learn from Independent Review of the Bishop George Bell Case is that evidence against Bell is, at best, flimsy. Charles Moore, writing in the Daily Telegraph, (December 16, 2017) notes that the Church of England:

…would only be reverting to the principle upon which justice is based – that a person is innocent unless proved guilty. It says it accepts the report’s finding that its procedures were wrong. In morality and logic, it must concede that its decision to destroy Bell was wrong too. This, I had expected, was what Archbishop Welby would now do. He is a brave man and I know, from conversations with him, that he is deeply anguished both by child abuse and by false accusations of child abuse. He tries harder than most princes of the Church to get alongside those who suffer.

Yet this is what he said on Friday. After acknowledging the failure of Church procedures, the Archbishop spoke of Bell’s ‘great achievement’ as a defender of the persecuted and added: ‘We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name … He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good. Whatever is thought about the accusations, the whole person and the whole life should be kept in mind.’

I’m afraid this is a shocking answer. The Archbishop must know that what people now think about the accusations depends very much on him. His own report tells him they were believed on grossly inadequate grounds. Does he cling to that belief or not? He invites us to balance the good and evil deeds of men; but there is no balance here. The good Bell did is proved. The evil is an uncorroborated accusation believed by the religious authorities because it makes their life easier. We have been here before – in the life of Jesus, and in the reason for his unjust death.

Bishop George Bell was one of the towering figures of twentieth century Anglicanism. He was a saintly man, of prodigious theological calibre. He befriended the Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemöller other leaders of the German Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer’s last letter, before he was executed by the Nazis in 1945, was to Bell. Niemöller sought out Bell as soon as the Second World War ended. And it was Niemöller, you may recall, who is remembered for this quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

But many of us did speak out for Bell – because of the pitiable processes and procedures he has been subjected to. This must now be fully overturned by the Church of England, and Bell’s name and reputation fully restored. No member of the ‘Core Team’ investigating Bell would ever allow their own deceased father to be treated like this. For a Father in God such as Bishop George Bell to be subjected to such reputational traducing, long after his death, requires an unambiguous capitulation on the part those who bear responsibility for this.

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, is Dean of Christ Church, Oxford.