Tag Archives: Simon Sarmiento

July 24 2019 – “Professional Bullies” and the Church of England

2000px-Logo_of_the_Church_of_England.svg

“The sex abuse that was perpetrated upon me by Peter Ball pales into insignificance when compared to the entirely cruel and sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by officials, both lay and ordained. I know from the testimony of other people who have got in touch with me over the last five or 10 years that what I have experienced is not dissimilar to the experience of so many others and I use these words cruel and sadistic because I think that is how they behave. It is an ecclesiastical protection racket and [the attitude is that] anyone who seeks to in any way threaten the reputation of the church as an institution has to be destroyed”
~ Revd Graham Sawyer – IICSA Inquiry – July 2018

1. “An ethically challenged Church? Bullying and threats” – ‘Surviving Church’ – Stephen Parsons

Among the many documents attached to the recent IICSA hearings was an email correspondence dating back to 2015 between a survivors’ group and the Archbishop of Canterbury.  I would not have picked up on this exchange but for an alarming article last Friday in the Church of England Newspaper by Sheik Muhammad Al-Husseini.  Al-Husseini has core status in the IICSA hearings and although he is not directly involved in the Anglican side of the hearings, he seems remarkably well-informed about the detail of what is going on in our church.  He has also spoken to several survivors and their lawyers.

The correspondence, to which Al-Husseini refers, mentions that in 2015 one of the things that survivors were complaining about to the Archbishop was the use by some dioceses of a particular company to protect their interests, Luther Pendragon, a specialist in crisis management.  Without knowing anything further about this firm, one is immediately concerned to discover that at least two dioceses are spending considerable sums of money on this kind of advice.  If any institution brings in professional help to protect its interests then it means that this institution has decided that it needs to ‘circle the wagons’ to protect itself against a perceived enemy.  Who is this enemy?  The enemy is evidently none other than the survivors themselves.  These are the same people, whose interests the Archbishop of Canterbury has promised to put right at the centre of the Church’s concerns.

The letter addressed to the Archbishop on the 12 June 2015 claims that ‘scandal management companies like Luther Pendragon Limited  .. are known to have acted to obstruct, apply pressure and threaten survivors, whistleblowers and others who have spoken out about Anglican clergy abuse’.  Even without reading the letter detailing the techniques used by this firm, we seem to be entering a very dark place. A diocese of the Church of England (two are mentioned, London and Winchester) has felt it right to use the services of what can only be described as professional bullies to protect its reputation.  The victims of this bullying are among the most vulnerable group in society – the sexually and spiritually abused.  How can this be ethical, let alone Christian?  One survivor I know was informed that it was normal practice for the Church or its agents to collect personal information about complainants to assist in the potential legal defence processes which might lessen the potential liability of the Church.  A particularly nasty attack that survivors have had to face is the suggestion that, before their abuse, they were in some way already mentally fragile.  Thus, any symptoms of post-traumatic stress they may now be suffering, were already present.

Al-Husseini’s article also mentions the fact that the Church of England nationally employs one particularly aggressive law firm to protect its interests.  A particular lawyer in this firm has acquired from survivors the nickname the Pitbull on account of her techniques of intimidation and merciless interrogation of survivors.   The article overall gives us some insight into a thoroughly unpleasant culture.  On the outside there are pleasing soft words, tears of remorse and apology.  Inside we find a ruthless machine full of hard-headed professional reputation people aligned to aggressive lawyers desperate to defend, at all costs, the institution.

It is to be hoped that this inclusion by IICSA of the 2015 document naming, and hopefully shaming, the underhand methods of Luther Pendragon, shows that the Inquiry is fully aware of hypocritical goings-on in the Church.  A further area of injustice remains to be resolved.  This is the way that the Church has tried, through its professionals, to discredit a highly respected international expert on safeguarding, Ian Elliott.  In 2015 Ian produced a comprehensive report about the treatment of one particular survivor, known to IICSA as A4.  In his report which has not been published in full, Ian criticised the advice given to the Church by lawyers and others to withdraw pastoral and other support from A4.  The Church, after initially enthusiastically receiving the report and promising to implement its findings in full, started to draw back from this support.  We do not know of course what was said behind closed doors at meetings of strategists and advisers but evidently senior people desperately wanted to discredit the report’s recommendations.  Within six to nine months it became just another report to be shelved and forgotten.  By that time the bishop who had been asked by the House of Bishops to oversee its implementation, Sarah Mullally, had been promoted from Crediton to London.  Here her new responsibilities made the task of overseeing the implementation of the Elliott report impossible to fulfil.  The criticism that Elliott had made in his report about the withdrawal of pastoral care for A4 was not picked up by the Church or responded to.  Nevertheless, there were enough denials and rumours around to suggest that this was not a true record of what had happened and this allowed the Church to wriggle out of any obligation to implement any part of the report.  No one in the leadership of the Church attacked Elliott, but neither did they, in the end, do anything to support him or put his recommendations into practice.

The doubts which had been cast over the Elliott report were finally confronted as the result of detective work presented to the IICSA enquiry.  Documents were uncovered which showed that there was, as he had claimed, written advice in circulation which gave clear advice to dioceses that A4 and other survivors were to be cut off from all communication with the Church if they made civil claims against it.  This included the withdrawal of pastoral support just as Ian Elliott had accurately reported.  This whole story was explored in the BBC Sunday programme on July 21st.

When we take an overall view of the way the Church has been behaving in regard to the survivors of sexual abuse it is hard not to use a series of adjectives which would include the words murky, disreputable and dishonest.  The gall needed to spend the Churches’ money on a company such as Luther Pendragon, which has made its name on defending tobacco companies and the nuclear waste industry, suggests that there are a considerable number of senior clergy who are in danger of losing their moral compass.

Every time a lie is told to a survivor, or a committee listens to ethically doubtful advice from an expensive lawyer, corruption enters in.  Individuals may have arrived at a meeting decent and honourable.  By the end of a meeting when they may have colluded in a blatant piece of expedient management of a survivor, there has been a slippage into colluding with evil activity.  This makes them participants in the evil themselves.

The saga of Jonathan Fletcher rumbles on.  Many people are asking how an individual with a history of doubtful behaviour and no PTO was able to access many pulpits in Britain and abroad over the past 2 ½ years.  Every such invitation involved another person in authority defying the rules of the Church.   Were these invitations made in conscious defiance of church rules or is it a case of information not being shared?  Then there is the deliberate ‘cleansing’ of mentions of Fletcher on various websites.  Who had the authority to perform such an act?  One author of a piece which had mentioned Fletcher in his original piece, only to see the name disappear, protested to me personally about this underhand and unauthorised editing.  The censorship shows every sign of being coordinated.  Thankfully no one has access to my blog posts so that my, no doubt provocative, posts on the topic remain up for anyone to read.

The Church at the institutional level and through its non-official manifestations seems to be going through a crisis of morality.  In spite of thousands of sermons preached each Sunday, the response to abuse survivors is apparently sometimes mired in shady, often shameful activity.  At the heart of this activity, as we have said many times before, is the need to preserve the good name of the structure.  How long will it be before this reputation polishing exercise collapses in total failure and the questionably ethical behaviour of so many church people becomes manifest?  That will be possibly the beginning of the end for our national Church.

COMMENTS

  1. Rowland Wateridge

Quoting what you say about survivors’ pre-existing conditions (if any) “A particularly nasty attack that survivors have had to face is the suggestion that, before their abuse, they were in some way already mentally fragile. Thus, any symptoms of post-traumatic stress they may now be suffering, were already present.”

That goes entirely against the long-standing legal concept that “you take your victim as you find him” (the word ‘victim’ may seem unfortunate in this context) also known as the “Egg-shell Skull Rule . This is a legal principle that the frailty, weakness, sensitivity, or feebleness of a victim cannot be used as a defence to a civil claim by the victim. In other words, put as simply as possible, it doesn’t avail an assailant, an abuser or a negligent car driver that they have injured someone who might be pre-disposed to injury due an existing condition. If someone has brittle bones, the law treats a broken leg as a broken leg regardless of the existing condition.

I’m sure others will have views on the wider topic here.

  1. But if the vicar/Archdeacon/bishop thinks it is a defence, it will work. And the survivor will still recognise they have been reabused. And I’ve been lied to and lied about. Corruption is not an unreasonable word. Brilliant post Stephen.

  1. No vicar, archdeacon or bishop may disregard the law of the land (the ‘Eggshell-skull Rule’ is equally the law in some other jurisdictions), and if they ‘think’ differently, that is immaterial. I have to say there is a question mark in my mind whether the Church itself has adequate legal advice sometimes, or if it is even sought, when matters of this kind arise.

    The point you make really goes to the question of proper and adequate representation and assistance to the survivor. If he or she had automatic access to legal advice, this spurious talk about pre-existing conditions would be knocked on the head very quickly.

    Luther Pendragon are not solicitors, although it is possible that they might have staff lawyers. If so, they, in turn, will know the Eggshell-skull Rule.

2. 02/03/2018 – Church of England faces ‘deep shame’ at child abuse inquiry” – The Guardian – Harriet Sherwood

 

3. 13/07/2019 Ecclesiastical Insurance – The Church of England and the IICSA

Photo John Titchener (left) – Ecclesiastical Insurance Office [EIO]. David Bonehill (right) – Ecclesiastical Insurance Group [EIG]

InquiryCSA – Friday – 12/07/2019 – Page 29 & 30

Q. = Nikiti McNeill [IICSA]
A.1 = John Titchener [Group Compliance Director for the Ecclesiastical Insurance Office]
A.2 = David Bonehill [UK Claims Director for the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group]

MS McNEILL: Do you think…A4, as the victim, should have had to wait or fight as long as he has in order for this to be clarified on the record?

MR BONEHILL: No.

MS McNEILL: Finally, I want to read directly…the guiding principles that you told us about last week from Ecclesiastical. The first of those guiding principles is that policyholders…should respond to victims and survivors in such a way that it is not experienced or seen as negative, resistant or unhelpful, because this can create relationship difficulties and may worsen their well-being. Do you think that in managing this entire issue, Ecclesiastical has lived up to that guiding principle?

MR BONEHILL: Could we have done it better? Yes, I accept that point.

MS McNEILL: …as a statement of principle, it is a good one, isn’t it?

MR BONEHILL: Yes, it is. I agree entirely.

MS McNEILL: Do you think that you lived up to that principle?

MR BONEHILL: I think we could have done better 

MS McNEILL: Thank you.

 

Above in summary form by #AnglicanHearing

Q. – Do you think that as the victim, should have had to wait or fight as long as he has in order for this to be clarified on the record?

A. – No
Q. – Ms McNeill reads from the guiding principles of Ecclesiastical, focusing on the fact that treatment of survivors should not be negative or worsen their well being. She asks, in their handling of the A4 issue, does he consider Ecclesiastical to have lived up to these principles?
A. – The witness acknowledges that they have not

 

 

@InquiryCSA – Friday – 12/07/2019

Mr. Rory Philips QC [Counsel for the Ecclesiastical Insurance Office – EIO] 

“Where the Inquiry has not sought a specific answer to criticisms made, then as a matter of basic fairness, it is not possible for you to arrive at a conclusion as to whether these criticisms are well founded….
“Because that would offend the guiding principle if I can use that phrase again, which must inform all of the work of this, as of any inquiry, namely fairness….

“EIO is an insurer. It is a commercial organisation. And perhaps some of the difficulties for claimants here arise because they expect EIO to behave towards them rather more as if it was the church”

 

“IICSA reprimands Ecclesiastical over earlier advice to C of E and evidence to Inquiry” – Church Times – 12/07/2019 – Hattie Williams

 

“The sex abuse that was perpetrated upon me by Peter Ball pales into insignificance when compared to the entirely cruel and sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by officials, both lay and ordained. I know from the testimony of other people who have got in touch with me over the last five or 10 years that what I have experienced is not dissimilar to the experience of so many others and I use these words cruel and sadistic because I think that is how they behave. It is an ecclesiastical protection racket and [the attitude is that] anyone who seeks to in any way threaten the reputation of the church as an institution has to be destroyed”

~ Revd Graham Sawyer – IICSA – July 2018

 

IICSA Anglican Church hearing day 10

Today, the final Friday,  was originally intended to be used only for closing statements from the lawyers representing the various parties. However, it was announced at the end of Thursday that an additional witness would be called first on Friday morning. This turned out to be David Bonehill, Claims Director of EIG and and John Titchener, Group Compliance Director of EIO.

The Church Times has a report of what happened: IICSA reprimands Ecclesiastical over earlier advice to C of E and evidence to Inquiry

Transcript of day 10 hearing.

List of documents adduced on day 10 (but none have as yet been published)

 

July 13 2019 – “The Matt Ineson Story – Archbishops challenged” – ‘Surviving Church’ – Stephen Parsons

“The truths about Matt’s ‘shabby and shambolic’ treatment by the church after his original assault thirty + years ago will probably never be completely known.  What we have seen is at best incompetent treatment but at worst dangerously cruel”
The words of Revd Graham Sawyer are not to be forgotten – said at the IICSA Inquiry last year – July 2018:
“The sex abuse that was perpetrated upon me by Peter Ball pales into insignificance when compared to the entirely cruel and sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by officials, both lay and ordained. I know from the testimony of other people who have got in touch with me over the last five or 10 years that what I have experienced is not dissimilar to the experience of so many others and I use these words cruel and sadistic because I think that is how they behave. It is an ecclesiastical protection racket and [the attitude is that] anyone who seeks to in any way threaten the reputation of the church as an institution has to be destroyed”

July 28 2018 – IICSA Transcript – Final Day – July 27 2018

Mr William Chapman, counsel for complainants, victims and survivors represented by Switalskis and also who represents MACSAS:

Page 135-136: “He [George Carey], in the words of Andrew Nunn, did try to sweep it under the carpet. If George Carey thought by doing so he served the reputation of the church, it was a gross misjudgment. The tactics deployed by the church were at the very edge of lawfulness. We heard how Bishop Kemp attempted to compromise Mr Murdock. We heard how several bishops telephoned Ros Hunt to ask her to tell the young men who had made complaints not to speak to the police or the press. We heard how Michael Ball, Bishop of Truro, had been contacting witnesses and, in Mr Murdock’s view, trying to influence them. We do encourage the police to review whether any of these matters, in particular the actions of the bishops who contacted Ros Hunt, disclose offences of perverting the course of justice”

Mrs Kate Wood

Page 89-92

Q. How would you characterise the emails you received from Neil Todd? You received a number I think at this time?

A. I did. He, I think, was surprised this was being raised again. He was very calm about it, I felt. He wanted information, and why wouldn’t he? I wanted to give him as much information as I could, but, for the reasons you have outlined, I had to be a bit careful. I didn’t have any emails from him that showed any great distress at that point. He was obviously anxious, and he wanted information. But he was very calm and composed with his emails. I could tell he was also very angry at the church, and, again, why wouldn’t he be? So I tried to support him through that.

Q. In your witness statement at paragraph 149 you refer to the fact that in his later emails in particular he was clearly angry with the church —

A. Yes.

Q. — and was feeling anxious. You refer to an email — I think the reference is wrong, but the correct reference is ACE001870. This is an email to Jeremy Pryor. Why is it that you have this email, Mrs Wood?

A. I can only think that Jez, Jeremy, copied me in on it, I think.

Q. You think Jeremy copied you in or did Neil Todd copy you in? The reason I say that is in your summary you seem to think that Neil copied you in when he wrote this to Jeremy?

A. I don’t know, sorry.

Q. That’s all right. Don’t worry about that. If we can go down to the fifth paragraph of the long email that begins, “So the difficulty”. I think this is the email you are referring to in your witness statement:

Neil Todd’s Email to Mrs Kate Wood/Jeremy Pryor

“So the difficulty of the black-and-white events of Peter Ball’s behaviour are not in the acts themselves — but the fact that he corrupted my genuine search for something good with acts which were obviously intentional for his own sexual gratification in the guise of a wise teacher nurturing and caring of a young seeker, aspiring to good intentions.

“When he denied his behaviour, this struck at my deepest conscience — it was then that the reality of what I allowed him to do — was not moral. The reality that his behaviour was not for my good or inspirational guidance.

“He only had to admit that what he did — actually occurred — this would then have made some sense to me. If he could admit that lying on top of me naked, his ejaculations, the naked showers under his instruction, the threat of physical beatings was all part of his unique path to spiritual guidance, was normal, then maybe we could have accepted that his intentions were good, just unusual. But his denial of all that occurred resulted in deep disillusionment. I personally felt ashamed for allowing this behaviour to occur, for allowing myself to be so gullible and not question or seek guidance earlier. This could have redirected my path. I could have joined a true community and been guided appropriately. The church should also have showed a greater deal of support but to dismiss me after the incident with no due care, simply resulted in full disillusionment with the institution as a whole. I genuinely felt the church was covering up, but at the worst it affected my personal relationship with God and my genuine search in faith. When Peter accepted a caution, he stated with penitence and sorrow he was accepting the police caution, but, again, the church was saddened by his resignation.

“All I want is the truth to be known without suspicion. I want Peter to admit in black and white that the events that took place did take place — that none of this was my imagination — nor my fault. I want the black-and-white questions to be answered.

“I would also request that the church take responsibility for not acknowledging nor supporting nor investigating my concerns.

“I heard that Peter had a new candidate when I was based in London — I wonder if he too experienced similar behaviour.

“I have survived all this, led a normal life — I changed direction after a few years of rebellion, to say the least, and commenced training as a registered nurse. I have been qualified since 1999 and have been working as director of nursing for indigenous communities in Australia. I have a loving and supportive partner of 18 years and am generally considered normal.

“Unfortunately, I never had counselling to deal with nor work through the emotions that occur after such a personal incident — but, yes, I can accept that Peter Ball’s behaviour has left its mark. I am not a vindictive person — I only wish for an acknowledgement that my experience was a reality and that all Church of England hierarchical parties take a share in the responsibility of their inaction.

“Regards, Neil.”

Closing remarks by Fiona Scolding QC

Page 175-176

Chair and panel, obviously it is not the role of counsel to the inquiry to sum up. I just have a very few brief remarks. I would like to thank everybody — in particular the legal teams and all the witnesses who have attended — for their patience and cooperation. I would also like to thank everyone for the courteous and respectful way in which this hearing has been conducted and in their approach and role towards us as counsel to the inquiry.
Just a few statistics, so that everyone can feel that they have earned their fees: 108,000 pages of documents were received by the inquiry during this investigation, and 53,244 pages were disclosed; 118 witness statements were obtained from 23 97 individuals; we have heard 14 live witnesses and three read witnesses.
Last, but by no means least, we want to hold and remember Neil Todd and his family and hope that they are able to find peace and solace after what must have been a painful reawakening of their memories.
We also wish to thank all the other victims and survivors, whose courage in speaking to us and whose insight, wisdom and understanding is both central and essential to the work of this inquiry. We apologise for any distress and upset that this week may have caused to them. Thank you very much

 

bonehillsmiling-20190712120653085_web

John Titchener (left) – Ecclesiastical Insurance Office [EIO]. David Bonehill (right) – Ecclesiastical Insurance Group [EIG]

InquiryCSA – Friday – 12/07/2019 – Page 29 & 30

Q. = Nikiti McNeill [IICSA]
A.1 = John Titchener [Group Compliance Director for the Ecclesiastical Insurance Office]
A.2 = David Bonehill [UK Claims Director for the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group]

MS McNEILL: Do you think…A4, as the victim, should have had to wait or fight as long as he has in order for this to be clarified on the record?

MR BONEHILL: No.

MS McNEILL: Finally, I want to read directly…the guiding principles that you told us about last week from Ecclesiastical. The first of those guiding principles is that policyholders…should respond to victims and survivors in such a way that it is not experienced or seen as negative, resistant or unhelpful, because this can create relationship difficulties and may worsen their well-being. Do you think that in managing this entire issue, Ecclesiastical has lived up to that guiding principle?

MR BONEHILL: Could we have done it better? Yes, I accept that point.

MS McNEILL: …as a statement of principle, it is a good one, isn’t it?

MR BONEHILL: Yes, it is. I agree entirely.

MS McNEILL: Do you think that you lived up to that principle?

MR BONEHILL: I think we could have done better 

MS McNEILL: Thank you.

 

Above in summary form by #AnglicanHearing

Q. – Do you think that as the victim, should have had to wait or fight as long as he has in order for this to be clarified on the record?

A. – No
Q. – Ms McNeill reads from the guiding principles of Ecclesiastical, focusing on the fact that treatment of survivors should not be negative or worsen their well being. She asks, in their handling of the A4 issue, does he consider Ecclesiastical to have lived up to these principles?
A. – The witness acknowledges that they have not

 

@InquiryCSA – Friday – 12/07/2019

Mr. Rory Philips QC [Counsel for the Ecclesiastical Insurance Office – EIO] 

“Where the Inquiry has not sought a specific answer to criticisms made, then as a matter of basic fairness, it is not possible for you to arrive at a conclusion as to whether these criticisms are well founded….
“Because that would offend the guiding principle if I can use that phrase again, which must inform all of the work of this, as of any inquiry, namely fairness….

“EIO is an insurer. It is a commercial organisation. And perhaps some of the difficulties for claimants here arise because they expect EIO to behave towards them rather more as if it was the church”

 

“IICSA reprimands Ecclesiastical over earlier advice to C of E and evidence to Inquiry” – Church Times – 12/07/2019 – Hattie Williams

 

“The sex abuse that was perpetrated upon me by Peter Ball pales into insignificance when compared to the entirely cruel and sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by officials, both lay and ordained. I know from the testimony of other people who have got in touch with me over the last five or 10 years that what I have experienced is not dissimilar to the experience of so many others and I use these words cruel and sadistic because I think that is how they behave. It is an ecclesiastical protection racket and [the attitude is that] anyone who seeks to in any way threaten the reputation of the church as an institution has to be destroyed”

~ Revd Graham Sawyer – IICSA – July 2018

 

IICSA Anglican Church hearing day 10

Today, the final Friday,  was originally intended to be used only for closing statements from the lawyers representing the various parties. However, it was announced at the end of Thursday that an additional witness would be called first on Friday morning. This turned out to be David Bonehill, Claims Director of EIG and and John Titchener, Group Compliance Director of EIO.

The Church Times has a report of what happened: IICSA reprimands Ecclesiastical over earlier advice to C of E and evidence to Inquiry

Transcript of day 10 hearing.

List of documents adduced on day 10 (but none have as yet been published)

 

July 13 2019 – “The Matt Ineson Story – Archbishops challenged” – ‘Surviving Church’ – Stephen Parsons

“The truths about Matt’s ‘shabby and shambolic’ treatment by the church after his original assault thirty + years ago will probably never be completely known.  What we have seen is at best incompetent treatment but at worst dangerously cruel”
The words of Revd Graham Sawyer are not to be forgotten – said at the IICSA Inquiry last year – July 2018:
“The sex abuse that was perpetrated upon me by Peter Ball pales into insignificance when compared to the entirely cruel and sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by officials, both lay and ordained. I know from the testimony of other people who have got in touch with me over the last five or 10 years that what I have experienced is not dissimilar to the experience of so many others and I use these words cruel and sadistic because I think that is how they behave. It is an ecclesiastical protection racket and [the attitude is that] anyone who seeks to in any way threaten the reputation of the church as an institution has to be destroyed”

May 14 2019 – “George Bell Group issues new statement” – ‘Thinking Anglicans’ – Simon Sarmiento

George Bell House - 4 Canon Lane - Chichester Cathedral

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

George Bell Group issues new statement

George Bell Group issues new statement

The George Bell Group has issued this: 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

COMMENTS
Susannah Clark

“it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.”

What does that precisely mean? If the group is saying that the case is ‘unproven’ then I’d agree, because it is impossible to prove one way or the other whether her allegations against the Bishop are true or untrue. If it is saying that ‘Carol’s allegations about George Bell can be proved to be untrue, then that is a slur on a woman whose narrative they have repeatedly said is false. To say that George Bell *is* innocent (except in legal terms) is a false claim.

What I read in this statement is the use of insinuation.

“The possibility of false memories was a real one.” Yes. But ‘possibility’ means just that. It’s also possible her recall of who abused her was not false. Possibility either way is not the same as fact.

“They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol.” Setting Alison aside, why is Carol described as “the discredited Carol”. That is offensive to a woman whose claims remain unproven one way or the other. It is slur.

As Dr Martin Warner correctly acknowledges: “Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty.” But he is also right to add that it could not be “safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited.” That is not insinuation. It is fact. The fact remains that Carol may or may not have been abused by George Bell.

Process was faulty, and reform in the Church’s safeguarding procedures is overdue, but at the same time, this campaign group has created an incredibly hostile and partisan environment for an abuse victim herself. ‘Carol’ in all likelihood has indeed suffered abuse. It may have been committed by George Bell. With the passage of time we shall probably never know. However, assertions that – as a matter of fact – Carol’s claims are false… that is a disgraceful shutting down of an abuse victim’s experience and allegation.

Yes, the accused need safeguarding protection too… few deny process needs improvement… but no, it CANNOT “be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.”

That is a falsehood, a false assertion. If we create a virulent and hostile environment for people with the courage to come forward to accuse abusers – and it takes incredible courage – then we should be ashamed, because what it will do is drive victims back into secrecy and silence.

In addition, we must never lionise powerful men, even good men of known courage, to the extent that hagiography silences those who – in some cases – are nevertheless victims of the very dark side of human character. Great men can be flawed. We cannot simply disbelieve women because of their abuser’s reputation. That cannot wash. What we need is process that is discreet, measured, and factually very precise with its language. And non-partisan.

We do not, factually, know if George Bell was innocent or guilty. I doubt we ever will. Carol may be right.

T Pott
“We do not know, factually, if George Bell was innocent or guilty.” If that were so, it would put him in exactly the same position as everybody else who has ever lived. So, perhaps, we should simply remember people for what we do know about them.
Susannah, if you make an allegation I raped you when you were 5-years-old, the onus is on you to provide evidence that I raped you. The onus is not on me to prove I am innocent.

If you cannot provide that evidence in a court of law, then however convinced you are that it was me who raped you, I am to be presumed innocent. That’s the law.

After two investigations (Carlile & Briden), ‘Carol’ – who has had the benefit of anonymity and been paid nearly £30,000 (?) in compensation – has provided zero evidence that it was Bishop Bell who abused her.

Therefore, Bishop Bell is to be presumed innocent. That’s the law.

But the Church seems to consider itself above the law by presuming Bishop Bell’s guilt and presuming the innocence of ‘Carol’.

May 3 2019 – “More fallout from the Panorama programme” [‘Scandal in the Church of England’] – ‘Thinking Anglicans’ – Simon Sarmiento

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More fallout from the Panorama programme

More fallout from the Panorama programme

An open letter has been published by Justin Humphreys, chief executive of the charity now known as thirtyone:eight (formerly Churches Child Protection Advisory Service):
An open letter to the leadership of the Church of England following BBC’s Panorama.

…It has been clear for some time that the past cases review conducted between 2007 and 2010 was flawed in a number of respects. For there to be any confusion or uncertainty about what happened to those cases that were identified, often referred to as the ‘Known Cases Lists’ is also inexcusable. The Panorama program did well to uncover what were clearly points of discomfort for the church hierarchy. For key representatives of the Church to either not be able to respond clearly to questions about the number of cases or be unprepared to do so, calls the management of these cases into serious question and makes one wonder who exactly is in control? The need for transparency and true accountability has never been as needed as it is today.

What is needed within the Church of England (and frankly elsewhere across the wider Church and beyond) is authentic leadership. Leadership that is prepared to lead by example in a proactive exercise of self-reflection that leads to open and honest dialogue (particularly with survivors). Leadership that is not governed, coerced or muzzled by either insurers, lawyers or any other stakeholder that may stand to lose from just exposure and open remorse and repentance. This would be the right thing to do!

We may ask, what (or who) is being served by this ongoing catalogue of failures, missed opportunities and resistance to effective change concerning past, present and future safeguarding matters? It certainly cannot be said that survivors are being well-served. It is also of great concern that the Church itself is being further damaged by a continual denial of the truth and avoidance of any tangible reparation.

If the public at large is ever again to say of the Church that it is a safe place, a haven or even a sanctuary for those who are suffering, the Church must be prepared to be laid bare and be held accountable for those things it has failed to do well. This humility would be the greatest strength of the Church in seeking to deal with this sad catalogue of shame. The time has come for those that stand in the way of what Jesus would so clearly have done to be challenged, held accountable and where needed placed elsewhere – where they have less opportunity to exert their negative influence and to stand in the way of the restoration that is desperately needed…

Do read the whole letter.

Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church has written a second blog, this one is titled: Panorama on C/E. Further reflections. Again it’s worth reading in full, but the concluding paragraph says:

…Panorama indicated to us that control of information is a tactic of power still actively employed by the central Church authorities.  The originators of this tactic do not appear to be the bishops themselves but the highly paid Church House officials at the centre of things.   Unfortunately for them, their control of the levers of power was all too easy to spot in both the recent television interviews.    The interview of Archbishop Welby on Channel 4 was, like that of Bishop Hancock, unconvincing and somewhat contrived.  The bishops themselves both had personal integrity and human warmth but nothing could not disguise the fact that they were speaking for someone other than themselves.  The Church cannot continue to go down a path of fielding individuals to act as spokesmen for the institution.  The public want, as far as possible, to encounter real human beings who can speak for the church.  The people of England relate to real people, people who, like them, are living lives of joy mixed with pain.  They will never want to identify with a group when they suspect that the information put out is being manipulated and managed before it is shared with them.  In short, let bishops be bishops, shepherds of the flock, not puppets being controlled by forces that are invisible and are not necessarily working for the good of all.

The Church Times has published a letter from Andrew Graystone which can be found here (scroll down)

Panorama programme won’t be the last scandal

Sir, — Church leaders, from the Archbishops up, acknowledge that the Church is failing in its care of victims of clergy abuse. But ask them who is responsible for sorting out the mess, and nobody knows. Is it the job of the Archbishops’ Council? or the General Synod? or the National Safeguarding Steering Group? or Lambeth Palace? or the House of Bishops? Or is it, perhaps, a matter for each individual diocese?

Everybody points to someone else. Nobody steps forward. After a decade or more of crisis, which continues to eat away at the Church’s standing in society, there has been a complete failure from those in authority to grasp the issue. One reason that some survivors of church abuse are so painfully vocal is that they are filling a vacuum of leadership on this most crucial of issues for the Church.

Monday’s Panorama, with its focus on the shameful mismanagement of abuse in Lincoln diocese, was entitled Scandal in the Church of England. It could have been made at any point in the past decade, and it could have focused on almost any diocese. Stories will continue to emerge, and the scandal of abuse past and present will continue to undermine the Church’s wider mission, until some individual or body takes responsibility and institutes decisive action.

In the mean time, it is victims of abuse, past and present, who bear the cruelty and pain of the Church’s failure.

COMMENTS

Andrew Graystone says in the Church Times: “Church leaders, from the Archbishops up, acknowledge that the Church is failing in its care of victims of clergy abuse. But ask them who is responsible for sorting out the mess, and nobody knows…”

If that is the case, intervention is required by The Supreme Governor of the Church of England Her Majesty The Queen – just as the Pope was required to intervene in the Catholic Church.