“…I do so hope that you will find a way to finish off that statement that ‘George Bell cannot be proven guilty’ with the corresponding conclusion, ‘therefore he must be considered entirely innocent'”
Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey to the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner – at the end of a Letter dated March 13 2019.
“Was this not the process that created the Bishop George Bell debacle? The Church of England leadership will still not follow the plain and increasingly irritated advice of its independent investigator Lord Carlile, who said: “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….
“If witnesses accounts and denials of knowledge (if appropriate) are not captured in a timely way, may not their reputations be placed “under a cloud” of complicity in the cover-up by some future archbishop without evidence, just as Justin Welby has tainted the memory of Bishop George Bell? Justice requires due process to victims and those under suspicion alike. We are woefully failing many in this case”
“The church in trying to preserve its reputation has all but lost it. Kicking allegations ‘into the long grass’ and then throwing long dead Bishops ‘under the bus’ has all added to the loss of credibility of the church and its hierarchy…“
“The only ‘significant cloud’ existing in the Bishop Bell case is the one inside, and over, the head of Archbishop Welby. If heads are not seen to apologise, they must be seen to roll”
Richard W. Symonds
George Bell ‘should not have been named’ in Church’s settlement of sex abuse allegation
08 FEBRUARY 2019
A confidentiality clause should have governed the payment made to “Carol”, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, has said
The house at 4 Canon Lane, Chichester, once called Bishop Bell House
THE blackening of George Bell’s name would not have happened had there been a confidentiality clause governing the payment made to “Carol”, who accused him of sexual abuse, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said on Monday.
Dr Warner was addressing supporters of Bishop Bell at the Rebuilding Bridges conference, held at 4 Canon Lane, Chichester, to which supporters wish to see the name “George Bell House” restored.
The naming was up to the Dean and Chapter, the Bishop reiterated (News, 1 February), but he indicated that the cathedral should make more of the Sisters of the Cross, who had donated the house.
“I don’t think simply renaming it ‘George Bell House’ will just do the job. We cannot rewrite history, but we must do better.”
More generally, he suggested that the Church of England must “speak of the achievements, the good things that Bishop Bell did” to restore his reputation. It was “report that makes a person famous for their good deeds. . . So, it seems that for us in the diocese and the Church of England at large, it is important that we are able to speak of the achievements, the good things that Bishop Bell did.”
This had been done on “a number of occasions”, he said, one of which had been his address at a commemoration of the Reformation, in Coburg in 2017. “I believe history will tell the good deeds of Bishop Bell, and I believe they will stand the test of time.”
Dr Warner resisted calls to pronounce Bishop Bell innocent, prompting one speaker to explain that “most here are troubled because the idea of innocence until proven guilty touches everyone.”
He did, though, indicate his acceptance of a key recommendation by Lord Carlile of Berwick, who conducted a review of the Church’s handling of the accusation against Bishop Bell, that the dealings with Carol should have been confidential. “The fault lies with us as the institution, and it is clearly identified in Lord Carlile’s report, as having gone public. We have to own up to that and face it. I’m very clear about that. I take part of the responsibility.
“If you want to know about justice, it’s not about guilty or innocent, but what is made public. Had we said nothing about a settlement with Carol, had there been a confidentiality clause, none of this would have reached the public domain. . .
“We are clear on how wrong we were on publicising the process.”
A statement by Lord Carlile was read at the conference: “The Church should accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and Bishop Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.”
His review had not been asked to determine whether Bishop Bell was innocent, but he had concluded that the case was not strong enough even to be brought to court (News, 22 December 2017).
Among the resolutions carried at the conference was one calling for an apology by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and another asking for a debate in the General Synod.
Welby welcomes plan for George Bell statue hours after apologising for Church’s handling of the case
01 FEBRUARY 2019
The commission was halted in 2015, after an allegation of sexual abuse against Bell
A sketch of George Bell by David Goodman
THE Archbishop of Canterbury has welcomed plans for a statue of the late Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, to be completed and installed in Canterbury Cathedral, hours after apologising for the Church’s botched handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against the Bishop.
Plans for the statue were halted in 2015, after a woman known as “Carol” alleged that Bishop Bell, a former Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, had sexually abused her in the 1940s, when she was nine. The diocese of Chichester apologised and reached a settlement with Carol within the year (News, 23 October 2015).
An independent investigation by Lord Carlile later concluded, however, that the Church had rushed to judgement in the case, which, Lord Carlile said, should not have been made public (News, 22 December 2017). He wrote that, had the Church seen the evidence that his review had managed to uncover without great difficulty, the case would not have been thought strong enough even to be tested in court.
The news sparked fresh allegations against Bell, which were dismissed in a report on Thursday of last week by an ecclesiastical lawyer, Chancellor Timothy Briden, Vicar-General of the Province of Canterbury.
The report was the conclusion of a second investigation, commissioned and made public by the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, in January of last year. Both Dr Warner and the Archbishop issued statements apologising.
The next day, the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral, which was founded by Bell when he was the Dean of Canterbury (1924 to 1929), announced that a statue of him which had first been commissioned in 2015, would be completed and installed at the cathedral, paid for by the Friends.
“To commemorate his work whilst in Canterbury, the statue will be placed in one of the exterior niches at the west end of the cathedral, joining those of other influential figures.”
The Friends have declined to comment further or provide pictures of the statue, but a newsletter sent to the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral in the United States, in February 2014, gives details of three new commissions for the west front of the cathedral: one of Dean Bell, and two others of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
It reads: “The statue of Dean Bell has been commissioned and carving has begun out at Broad Oak [in Kent].
“The maquettes for the royal statues of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have been approved by Chapter and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission and work will begin on their manufacture later in the year. Some of our own masons are involved helping the sculptor, Miss Nina Bilbey, and it is hoped that all the statues will be ready for installation towards the end of the year.”
The statues of the Queen and Prince Philip were unveiled on the west front in March 2015. When approached this week, Ms Bilbey said that she was unable to comment at present.
Archbishop Welby posted a link to the announcement on Twitter, last Friday. He wrote: “I warmly welcome the announcement today that the statue of Bishop George Bell will in due course be completed and installed at Canterbury Cathedral, as a permanent reminder of his unique contribution to international peace and to the Church of England.”
His comment echoed his apology for the “mistakes” made in handling the original allegation, which he previously said had left a “significant cloud” over the name of Bishop Bell, despite protests from historians that Bell’s name should never have been implicated (News, 22 January 2018).
Bishop Bell’s biographer, Professor Andrew Chandler, has been campaigning with the Bell Society to clear Bell’s name. “To invest the authority of high public office, and the name and the resources of the Church itself, in a sustained denigration of an innocent, dead man, is profoundly disturbing,” he said this week.
“To maintain that denigration in public, even in the face of the most authoritative, experienced, and principled criticism, for over three years, is something very serious indeed. It does represent, in a fundamental way, an abuse of moral power.”
A spokesman for Church House suggested last week that Chichester Cathedral might “review” its decision to remove Bishop Bell’s name from its grant scheme. It was up to individual institutions, however, to decide whether to reinstate his name on buildings, he said.
Several buildings dedicated to Bell have been renamed in the past three years, including George Bell House, a conference centre in Chichester Cathedral close, which was dedicated in October 2008, on the 50th anniversary of his death (Features, 3 October 2008). The building was renamed 4 Canon Lane in 2016.
An event — “Rebuilding Bridges” — is being hosted there next week by the Bell Society. It will ask whether the Dean and Chapter will restore the name of Bell to the building, and whether Bishop Bell be “cleared of abuse” by the Archbishop.