Tag Archives: The Guardian

March 2 2018 – “Church of England faces ‘deep shame’ at child abuse inquiry” – Guardian – Harriet Sherwood


Church of England faces ‘deep shame’ at child abuse inquiry

Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent
The Guardian
The former bishop Peter Ball, who was jailed for sexual abuse in 2015.
The former bishop Peter Ball, who was jailed for sexual abuse in 2015. Photograph: David Jones/PA

The Church of England is braced for two years of “deep shame” over its handling of child sex abuse cases, with allegations of cover-ups, collusion and callous treatment of survivors under scrutiny from Monday at the UK’s biggest public inquiry.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will be cross-examined in person during three weeks of hearings this month. Two former archbishops, serving bishops and other senior church figures are also to give evidence or submit witness statements to the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA). Further hearings will follow in July and next year.

Survivors of sexual abuse are expected to accuse the church of failing to act on disclosures and failing to treat them with compassion. Their lawyers are likely to call for independent oversight of the C of E’s safeguarding processes, claiming that the church has shown itself incapable of dealing properly with allegations and disclosures.

Welby himself has said the church must acknowledge where it went wrong. “[We] failed really badly around the issues of the care of children and vulnerable adults. We have to face the consequences of that and learn … to be transparent and honest – and genuinely repentant,” he recently told reporters.

Peter Hancock, the bishop of Bath and Wells and the C of E’s lead bishop on safeguarding, who will also give evidence, told the Guardian he expected to feel “a deep, deep sense of shame” during the hearings.

The church had cooperated fully with the IICSA, but the inquiry would ask “challenging questions and I don’t run from that”, Hancock said. The church needed to learn and that meant “not just new policies, but new courage and resolve” to change.

As well as Welby and Hancock, among those expected to give evidence, either in person or by written statement, are former archbishops of Canterbury Rowan Williams and George Carey, and the current bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner.

In preparation for the hearings, the church has submitted more than 25,000 documents and 36 witness statements.

This month’s hearings will focus on abuse in the diocese of Chichester, where there have been multiple allegations of sexual abuse, some dating back many years. The church’s handling of a controversial abuse allegation made against George Bell, the former bishop of Chichester who died 60 years ago, will be examined. But the issue is far from historical: in 2016, the C of E was dealing with more than 2,600 reports of sexual abuse within its parishes, with more than 700 relating to church officers.

As well as hearing accounts of abuse from survivors, the inquiry is also expect to be told of the “secondary abuse” experienced by many at the hands of church figures who allegedly ignored, disparaged or covered up their disclosures.

“The church is guilty of two distinct crimes: cover-up and its treatment of survivors,” said the Rev Graham Sawyer, a survivor who gave evidence against Peter Ball, the former bishop of Gloucester jailed in October 2015 for sexual abuse. “The corporate narcissism and hubris of the C of E’s leadership has meant they’ve made horrendous mistakes.

“The [IICSA] hearings are going to be immensely uncomfortable for the church, but the key question is whether they will bring about change.”

Gilo, another survivor, said the C of E hierarchy was “likely to go into meltdown” in the coming weeks and months.

“The damage is self-inflicted and centres around denial and dishonesty across the top of the church. The public imagines that cover-up is a thing of the past; I’m not so sure. I suspect we’ll see senior figures in difficulty. There are likely to be resignations. The C of E will need a reboot at the end of all this.”

He hoped the hearings would “shine a spotlight on a broken culture” and usher in a legal requirement to report abuse disclosures to the police. “I do not expect the C of E will look the same in a year’s time. If it does, then IICSA will not have achieved much.”

Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said the hearings were likely to be “highly damaging” for the church.

“They will expose the mistreatment and denigration of victims which happened over many years, and the culture of abuse which was prevalent in the Chichester diocese and the church generally. They will expose the cover-up of abuse allegations, in relation to Peter Ball and many other cases.”

The fundamental problem for the C of E in dealing with abuse was that bishops were not accountable, he said. “A bishop is king in his diocese. If a bishop is resistant to safeguarding there is no real way to overcome this.

“We need external oversight of safeguarding and external handling of complaints, and mandatory reporting of all allegations to police and social services. Until these are put in place the church will continue to have a serious problem. Unfortunately the church is currently unwilling to face up to this reality.”

The church says it has professionalised its safeguarding processes and acknowledges it needs to strengthen its response to survivors. Safeguarding officials see the IICSA hearings as an opportunity to learn from past mistakes with humility and courage.

Alan Wilson, the bishop of Buckingham, who has pressed for cultural change within the church on abuse, said the IICSA hearings would only “examine the tip of a large iceberg”.

He added: “[The inquiry] has promised to go beyond individual failures and the processes by which they were handled and examine habits, attitudes and beliefs that made them so possible and pervasive. An ounce of culture is worth a ton of policy.”

February 17 2018 – “With piety and steel, Justin Welby has the church in his firmest grip” – The Guardian – Andrew Brown


With piety and steel, Justin Welby has the church in his firmest grip

The Archbishop of Canterbury has shaped the CofE to his will with a skill of a politician – and made it all the better


Last Saturday in central London, two archbishops joined a small group of people protesting about sexual abuse. Though you might expect – or at least hope – to find archbishops on the side of the angels, what was remarkable was that they were protesting against their own church. The building in question was Church House, in Westminster, where the Church of England’s General Synod was meeting, due later that day to discuss the problem of sexual abuse, with the church facing more than 3,000 historical claims. By standing with the protesters, the Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu were making a loud statement about where their sympathies lay. You had to listen very carefully under the noise to notice that the synod debate was in fact a presentation of a report and there were no survivors speaking in it.

The day before, there had been two other announcements on the subject: the church passed over its papers on the diocese of Chichester, where most of the scandals have come from, to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – 75,000 documents in all. What needles might be concealed in this haystack will be for the commission to discover. More sensationally, it announced that a second allegation against the late, and almost sainted, Bishop George Bell of Chichester had been passed to the police.

This came in the wake of unprecedented public criticism of Welby by heavyweight legal figures for his apparent assumption of Bell’s guilt on the word of one pseudonymous accuser. He has refused to back down despite Lord Carlile QC’s scathing verdict of the church’s inquiry. Welby has refused to say either that Bell was guilty or that his name can be cleared. So you might say that this is a typical Anglican fudge, but it is very much more hard-edged than most of those.

The whole show was typical of Welby’s style as Archbishop of Canterbury: he combines energy, ruthlessness and a determination to get the church moving, through a mixture of public theatricality and arm-twisting behind the scenes. He has been archbishop for five years and next month will publish a fat state-of-the-nation book that covers almost all the current areas of political and cultural dispute in the church. The early coverage of him concentrated first on the unashamed poshness of his background – an Etonian whose mother had been one of Churchill’s secretaries and who had worked for 10 years in the oil industry – and then on his attacks on payday lending. The church, he promised, would outcompete Wonga in helping the poor. This was a successful piece of outrageous bluff. The church did no such thing, but in pledging to do so Welby captured the public imagination.

Since then he has proved more effective than any of his immediate predecessors in pushing the church in the direction he wants, despite the lack of formal power in the role. He told the Church Times: “Don’t waste time looking for levers to pull [in this role], because there aren’t any. It’s a process of persuasion, of example, of blessing and withholding blessing for particular things.”

On the other hand, he loves the work of nudging and manipulation. When he was trying to get the bishops of the worldwide Anglican communion to agree to meet again after decades of wrangling over gay sex and female bishops, he spent much of his annual holiday ringing the heads of the member churches for 20 minutes each – not how most people would choose to spend their holidays. And though he disclaims the ability to select bishops, ever since he drove through the legislation to make women bishops in 2013, the holy spirit has somehow ensured that half of the bishops appointed have been women, among them Sarah Mullally to the prominent see of London, and Jo Bailey Wells, his former chaplain, to be bishop of Dorking.

His manner is austere, somewhere between oil industry executive and crisp infantry officer. His temper is widely feared (“I haven’t been spoken to like that since I was at school,” said one victim), but at the same time it’s difficult to talk to him seriously without glimpsing beneath the armour of success, self-discipline and charming self-deprecation, the clever and miserable boy he must once have been. His critics say he is trying to turn the church towards soulless managerialism, devoid of mystery or imagination – and this stings him deeply. He is immensely proud of the small monastic community he has established inside Lambeth Palace, where young people spend a year doing nothing much but praying and thinking.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby during the Eucharist at York Minster in York.
‘Justin Welby has done an enormous amount to centralise the church’s institutions and make it more of an organisation.’ Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Behind the scenes, Welby has done an enormous amount to centralise the church’s institutions and make it more of an organisation, although it will never in fact become one. He has hired high-profile PR advisers from Buckingham Palace and the City of London and given them substantial budgets. He works enormously long hours and is unsparing of failure in others. His treatment of one of his predecessors, Lord Carey, was startlingly ruthless. Carey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1990s, had much the same diagnosis of the church’s ills as Welby and many of the same answers, but entirely lacked the political and presentational skills to carry them out. He also had a much greater respect for the establishment than the Etonian Welby, who sometimes burns with an insider’s scorn and anger at the fools he went to school with.

While in office, Carey connived at the partial rehabilitation of the paedophile bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball; he gave him money, and tried to get him a job in South Africa under Desmond Tutu. When this came to light last year, Welby promptly sacked Carey from his retirement job as an unpaid priest.

Whether any or all of this will be enough to stem the long-term decline of churchgoing remains to be seen. The problem facing the Church of England is that it hardly ever makes converts of adults, while those born into it are not very concerned with passing the faith on to their children. In fact, for many congregants the church seems to be a place of refuge from the modern world: in a recent case where parishioners objected to their priest’s attempts to install toilets in a medieval church, one reason given was “toilets attract children”.

Changing that is beyond the power of any archbishop; it will require a profound cultural revolution that starts in the parishes. But what he can justifiably claim after five years is that he has done nothing to make the task more difficult and much to make it seem more urgent. That may not seem much but it’s more than any other archbishop has managed for a long time.

Andrew Brown is a Guardian columnist

January 23 2018 – “Archbishop refuses to retract George Bell statement” – The Guardian – Harriet Sherwood


Archbishop refuses to retract George Bell statement

Justin Welby said child abuse claims had left ‘significant cloud’ over ex-bishop’s name

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby


The Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to retract a statement saying that a leading church figure of the 20th century had a “significant cloud” over his name because of allegations of child abuse, despite mounting pressure from historians who believe the claims are untrue.

Reinforcing comments he made last month about the former bishop of Chichester George Bell that the historians described as “irresponsible and dangerous”, Justin Welby described Bell as “one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century” but added: “I cannot with integrity rescind my statement.”

Welby pointed out that the Church of England had covered up or denied the abuse of children and vulnerable adults for decades.

In December an independent inquirycriticised the church for its handling of an accusation of child sexual abuse made against Bell, who died in 1958. The inquiry said the church had “rushed to judgment” and accepted claims against the bishop “without sufficient investigations”.

The church accepted nearly all the inquiry’s recommendations about its processes, but Welby said a “significant cloud” was left over Bell’s name.

Bell was once tipped as a possible archbishop of Canterbury, although his vocal opposition to the bombing of German civilians by the RAF during the second world war was thought to have counted against him.

Following the inquiry’s findings, the archbishop said: “No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget good.”

Last week seven leading historians wrote to Lambeth Palace saying Welby’s comments were irresponsible and dangerous and “offend the most basic values and principles of historic understanding”.

The letter said the allegation against Bell was “not only wholly uncorroborated but is contradicted by all the considerable, and available, circumstantial material which any historian would consider credible.”

It added: “We urge you, in all sincerity, to repudiate what you have said before more damage is done.”

Among the letter’s signatories were Ian Kershaw, a leading authority on the Third Reich, and two biographers of former archbishops of Canterbury.

Responding to the letter, Welby said: “I cannot with integrity rescind my statement. Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the church has covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions … As a result, the church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny” in the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA).”


Welby pointed out that a settlement made in 2015 to “Carol”, who first made an allegation of abuse against Bell in 1995, was based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability, rather than the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt.

He said the church disagreed with the Bell inquiry’s suggestion that the settlement should have been made on condition of confidentiality.

“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.”

Welby referred to the case of Peter Ball, the former bishop of Lewes and later of Gloucester, who is serving a prison sentence for sexual abuse. An independent inquiry into the Ball case concluded there had been collusion at the highest levels in the church to protect the bishop.

Welby’s statement on Monday said: “The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic. But … 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.”

IICSA is to hear evidence into child sexual abuse in the Church of England in March.

December 20 2017 – A Call for the Archbishop of Canterbury to “carefully consider his position” – Letter Submission – The Guardian – Richard W. Symonds [The Bell Society] – Dec 18 2017

Dear Editor

So, a representative of the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says: “the independent review of the (Bishop) Ball case spoke for itself” (‘Carey lambasts Welby over church sexual abuse case’, Guardian. Dec 18).

As a result, a former Archbishop George Carey was forced to resign after the current Archbishop requested he should “carefully consider his position”.

An independent review of the Bishop Bell case also spoke for itself last week, through Lord Alex Carlile QC, severely criticising the Church for destroying the reputation of the respected wartime Bishop of Chichester.

Perhaps the current Archbishop himself should now “carefully consider his position”, after failing to apologise for the Church’s unjust trashing of Bishop Bell’s reputation.

Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds
The Bell Society

2 Lychgate Cottages
Ifield Street, Ifield Village
Crawley, West Sussex RH11 0NN

Tel: 07540 309592 (Text only – Very deaf)
Email: richardsy5@aol.com





December 18 2017 – “Former Archbishop of Canterbury lashes out at Justin Welby in letter / Carey lambasts Welby over church sexual abuse case – [Welby’s] decision is unjust and eventually will be judged as such” – The Guardian – Harriet Sherwood


Former archbishop of Canterbury lashes out at Justin Welby in letter

George Carey says it is ‘shocking’ that his successor asked him to quit honorary post over role in sexual abuse case

George Carey
 George Carey said the decision was ‘quite unjust and eventually will be judged as such’. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

The former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has launched an extraordinary broadside against his successor, Justin Welby, in a Christmas letter to friends.

In a letter headed “Greetings from the Careys 2017”, Lord Carey, 82, lashes out at the “shocking” and “quite unjust” demand by Welby that he resign an honorary post because of his involvement in a high-profile sexual abuse case.

In recounting key events of his year, Carey tells friends of the “shocking insistence by the archbishop that I should stand down from ministry ‘for a season’ for mistakes he believes were made 24 years ago when bishop Peter Ball abused young potential priests. His decision is quite unjust and eventually will be judged as such.”

He adds: “Just as well, then, that we are surrounded by a large and wonderful family who give us great support and pleasure.”

The former archbishop, who retired from the post in 2002, resigned as honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of Oxford in June after a damning independent inquiry criticised the Church of England’s handling of the Ball case.

He quit after Welby made an unprecedented request for him to “carefully consider his position”. The inquiry found the church had “colluded” with Ball, the former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, “rather than seeking to help those he had harmed”.

Ball was released from prison in February after serving 16 months for the grooming, sexual exploitation and abuse of 18 vulnerable young men who had sought spiritual guidance from him between 1977 and 1992.

The inquiry found that Ball’s case was dealt with at the highest level of the C of E. “The church appears to have been most interested in protecting itself,” its report said.

Carey “set the tone for the church’s response to Ball’s crimes and gave the steer which allowed Ball’s assertions that he was innocent to gain credence”. Carey had failed to pass six letters raising concerns about Ball to police and in 1993 wrote to Ball’s identical twin brother, Bishop Michael Ball, saying: “I believe him to be basically innocent.”

After the inquiry made its findings public, Carey apologised to Ball’s victims, saying: “I believed Peter Ball’s protestations and gave too little credence to the vulnerable young men and boys behind those allegations.”

Carey, who sits in the House of Lords as a crossbencher, has now hit back against Welby in a Christmas missive from him and his wife, Eileen, to “our dear friends”.

The letter, seen by the Guardian, says “two things have happened to us of consequence” over the past year. One was a move to a new home in a retirement community and the “less desirable” one was Welby’s intervention in June.

Last year, the former archbishop waded into another sexual abuse case, criticising the C of E’s handling of an allegation against the late George Bell, who was bishop of Chichester until his death in 1958. The church was heavily criticised in an independent report on Friday for traducing Bell without rigorous investigation of the claim.

In a letter to Bell’s niece, Carey said he was “frankly appalled by the way the church authorities have treated his memory”.

He added: “The church has effectively delivered a ‘guilty’ verdict without anything resembling a fair and open trial.” His reputation had been left “in tatters”.

A spokesperson said Carey did not comment on private correspondence intended for friends.

A spokesperson for Welby also declined to comment on private correspondence but said the independent review on the Ball case spoke for itself.

December 15 2017 – “‘An example of human goodness’: how child abuse claims shredded George Bell’s reputation” – The Guardian – Harriet Sherwood


‘An example of human goodness’: how child abuse claims shredded George Bell’s reputation

The former bishop of Chichester was the closest thing to an Anglican saint, until in 2015 the church apologised to a woman who claimed she had been raped as a child

George Bell, right, chats with the bishop G Bromley Oxnam during the World Council of Churches in Illinois, US, in 1954.
 George Bell, right, chats with the bishop G Bromley Oxnam during the World Council of Churches in Illinois, US, in 1954. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

When the Church of England issued a statement in October 2015 expressing “deep sorrow” over the sexual abuse of a child by one of its most revered 20th-century figures, it caused shockwaves.

Many of those who admired and respected George Bell, who was bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in 1958, simply could not believe that a man described as “a rare example of self-sacrificing human goodness” had committed such a deed. At the very least, they said, the church had “condemned as a paedophile” someone who could not refute the claims against him.

In the two years that followed the C of E’s apology, Bell’s supporters fought to salvage his reputation while the church quietly insisted that, “on the balance of probabilities”, it believed the woman who claimed to have been abused. Now the findings of an independent inquiry undertaken by Lord Carlile have been made public.

Bell was seen as a champion of the underdog. He helped organise the kindertransport rescue of Jewish children from the Nazis, and later controversially criticised the RAF bombing of German civilians during the second world war. He described the killing of women and children as “barbarian” and a crime against humanity, asking: “How can the war cabinet fail to see that this progressive devastation of cities is threatening the roots of civilisation?”

His comments – deeply unpopular in a country at war – were widely thought to have cost him the job of archbishop of Canterbury when it twice became vacant in the 1940s. But in some quarters, his outspokenness made him a hero.

George Bell, left, at the World Council of Churches in 1954.
 George Bell, left, at the World Council of Churches in 1954. Photograph: John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The George Bell Institute was founded in 1996 in honour of the former bishop, whom it described as “a friend of the oppressed … [and] a generous advocate for humanity at large”. He had an Anglican holy day named after him – the nearest thing in the C of E to beatification. In 2013, a BBC Great Lives radio documentary hailed him as a man of moral courage.

But that same year, a woman known as Carol wrote to Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, claiming Bell had sexually abused her when she was a child in the 1940s and 50s. It was not the first time Carol had come forward: in 1995 she told the then bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp, and in 2012 she wrote to Lambeth Palace. No action was taken.

According to Carol’s account, the abuse began when she was five years old, when she was taken regularly to the bishop’s palace in Chichester by a relative who worked there. Bell, then in his 60s, would offer to read to the child while the relative worked.

“Then he’d start wriggling about with me on his lap. He started wriggling and then he started touching me, between my legs,” Carol told the Brighton Argus in February 2016. The bishop pulled her knickers aside to interfere with her. He told her not to tell anyone what happened. “He said it was our little secret, because God loved me.”

In a police statement, she said sometimes he made her touch his genitals; on other occasions he attempted to penetrate her with his penis after pulling her underwear aside. He ejaculated, telling her she was being anointed by God.

The alleged abuse continued until she was nine, when her family moved away, she said. Now in her 70s, she added: “It’s something that lives with you for the rest of your life. It never goes away.”

Two years ago, the C of E issued a formal apology to Carol and paid her £16,800 compensation. The current bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, spoke of a “devastating betrayal of trust” and the church cited a police statement that said Bell would have been arrested if he had still been alive.

Bell’s supporters were staggered. The swiftly established George Bell Group, which included academics, lawyers, politicians and church groups, accused the church of failing to properly investigate Carol’s claims and of not consulting Bell’s papers and diaries. “The valuable reputation of a great man, a rare example of self-sacrificing human goodness, has been carelessly destroyed on the basis of slender evidence sloppily investigated,” it said.

The former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said he was “frankly appalled” at the way the church had handled the allegations of abuse. Bell “was without question one of the greatest church leaders of the 20th century. The church has effectively delivered a guilty verdict without anything resembling a fair and open trial,” he wrote in a letter to Bell’s niece.

Carol, meanwhile, acknowledged that Bell “did some good”. But, she added, “to me he did harm. And sometimes I think the church likes to sweep those kinds of things under the table.”

All too mindful of that sentiment, the church commissioned Carlile to conduct an independent review into the case. “There are always lessons to be learned,” it said at the time.

December 15 2017 – “Anglican church ‘rushed to judgement’ in George Bell child abuse case” – The Guardian – Harriet Sherwood


Anglican church ‘rushed to judgment’ in George Bell child abuse case

Lord Carlile report says Church of England was wrong to accept claims of alleged victim against former bishop ‘without sufficient investigations’

George Bell was the bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in 1958.
 George Bell was the bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in 1958. Photograph: PA

The Church of England has been criticised for a “rush to judgment” in its handling of allegations of sexual abuse against one its most revered figures of the 20th century in a highly damaging independent inquiry.

The report by Lord Carlile, released on Friday, said that although the church acted in good faith, its processes were deficient and it failed to give proper consideration to the rights of the accused.

The findings, which the church has made public two months after receiving them, concerned claims made against George Bell, the former bishop of Chichester, who died in 1958. A woman now in her 70s alleged that Bell had abused her in the bishop’s palace over a period of four years, starting when she was five years old.

In 2015, the church issued a formal public apology and paid £16,800 to the woman, known as Carol. Its statement triggered furious protests among Bell’s supporters, who said his reputation had been trashed, the evidence against him was thin and that he could not defend himself from beyond the grave.

The church commissioned Carlile last year to review its processes in the case. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, he said Bell had been “hung out to dry” and there were “many errors” in the church process. There were preconceptions about the outcome of the process and “therefore obvious lines of inquiry were not followed”.

The case bore “some of the hallmarks of the unacceptable way accusations against Lord Bramall and the late Lord Brittan were dealt with”, he added.

His report concluded that the “core group” established by the church to consider the claims “failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides”.

“The church, understandably concerned not to repeat the mistakes of the past, when it had been too slow to recognise that abuse had been perpetrated by clergy and to recognise the pain and damage caused to victims, has in effect oversteered in this case.

“In other words, there was a rush to judgment: the church, feeling it should be both supportive of the complainant and transparent in its dealings, failed to engage in a process which would also give proper consideration to the rights of the bishop. Such rights should not be treated as having been extinguished on death.”

He added: “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.”

Carlile said the purpose of his review was not to determine the truthfulness of Carol’s claims, nor Bell’s guilt or innocence. Rather his remit was to examine the church’s processes and determine whether it was right to make a public statement of apology and pay damages.

The church was “motivated by a desire to do what it perceived to be the right thing by the complainant” and “its actions were informed by history in which the church has been, at best, slow to acknowledge abuse by its clergy and, at worst, believed to have turned a blind eye”, he said.

But, he went on, “even when the alleged perpetrators have died, there should be methodical and sufficient investigations into accusations levelled against them”.

In this case, “the truth of what Carol was saying was implicitly accepted without serious investigation or inquiry. I have concluded this was an inappropriate and impermissible approach.”

His report was seen as vindication by high-profile figures who have fought to salvage Bell’s reputation for the past two years.

The George Bell Group welcomed the review’s findings. Carlile’s “devastating criticism of the church’s process shows that Archbishop [Justin] Welby was wrong in 2016 when he described the investigation as ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse as clearly correct on the balance of probabilities”, it said. The report “thoroughly vindicated the reputation of a man revered for his integrity across the Christian church”.

The journalist Peter Hitchens, who has vigorously campaigned on Bell’s behalf, said the church had “convicted Bishop Bell in a kangaroo court of chaotic incompetence” and demanded it withdraw its 2015 statement.

Responding to the report on behalf of the church, Peter Hancock, its lead safeguarding bishop, said: “It is clear from the report … that our processes were deficient in a number of respects, in particular the process for seeking to establish what may have happened. For that we apologise. Lessons can and have been learned about how we could have managed the process better.”

He added: “We recognise that Carol has suffered pain, as have surviving relatives of Bishop Bell. We are sorry that the church has added to that pain through its handling of this case.”

In a statement notable for its lack of apology to Bell’s family, Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said Bell was “one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century”.

Saying a “significant cloud is left over his name”, Welby added: “No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget good.”

Martin Warner, the bishop of Chichester, in whose name the 2015 statement was issued, apologised for the church’s failures. He said: “The good deeds that Bishop George Bell did were recognised internationally. They will stand the test of time. In every other respect, we have all been diminished by the case that Lord Carlile has reviewed.”

Among Carlile’s recommendations is that alleged perpetrators, living or dead, should not be identified publicly without adverse finding of facts or a decision that identification is in the public interest.

If a settlement is made without admission of liability, as in the Bell case, there should be a confidentiality provision.

In response, Hancock said that while the church accepted the main thrust of his recommendations, “respectfully, we differ from [the] judgment” on confidentiality clauses. “The church is committed to transparency. We would look at each case on its merits but generally would seek to avoid confidentiality clauses.”