Thinking Anglicans

opinion

Peter Hitchens The Spectator The Church of England’s shameful betrayal of bishop George Bell
Church of England Newspaper editorial The rule of the lynch mob
His Honour Alan Pardoe QC Church Times The Church of England media statement about Bishop George Bell

Jeff K Clarke 2 Reasons NOT to Keep Christ in Christmas

Andrew Lightbown A focus of unity? Really?

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Simon SarmientoFather DavidFrogholeAlastair NewmanEric MacDonald Recent comment authors
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James Byron
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James Byron

George Bell may well have been guilty, but I have to agree with Peter Hitchens: I can’t believe anonymous, unspecific hearsay, however sympathetic I am to the reasons for the person who accused Bell wishing to remain unidentified. The only way to believe the accusation is to take the judgment of the Church of England wholly on trust, and I’m not prepared to do that. I’m not diminishing the impact of child abuse, nor the ability of abusers to hide their crimes. I’m not disputing the struggle survivors have to be believed. It’s a question of evidence, and evidential standards… Read more »

Pam
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Pam

Peter Hitchens’ article was discomforting to read. The accusation has evidently been believed by the police and by the Church of England. George Bell evidently was an outstanding churchman. It was not possible to take the matter to court, due to the prior death of the accused person, not due to lack of evidence. There does not have to be many accusers for someone to be guilty of a crime, there only needs to be one person with credible evidence. The Church must never diminish the impact of child abuse and it must never diminish its capacity for forgiveness. What… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Pam, applying standards of evidence to accusations of child abuse does nothing to diminish the impact of the crime, anymore than applying them to accusations of murder diminishes the impact of murder. Since we know nothing of the specifics, we can’t assess the credibility of the accusation for ourselves — we can only accept it on trust, and no organization is so perfect as to deserve that, least of all one that spent years concealing the very abuse it now condemns. As for the police, all they said was that there would’ve been reasonable cause to justify an arrest, a… Read more »

Pam
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Pam

Yes, James, I understand what you are saying. I think Hitchens’ article took one side of a very complex situation and ran with it. So many victims are unable to prove sexual abuse because it is such a ‘hidden’ crime. Police having grounds to make an arrest does say something even if it can’t be tested in a court of law.

One thing: a very sad situation for the complainant, Bell, the Church and the police.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Peter Hitchens article provides a valid perspective on the Bishop Bell matter. However, as he himself notes, Bell is now an historical figure. I think we can make a distinction between the presumption of innocence in a criminal context for a living person facing allegations, and an historical judgement of someone who has died and part of history. The problem of course is that protecting the identity of the alleged victim is important. Such is usually the case even in court cases with publication bans. It would be foolish to comment in a definitive way on this issue given the… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Rod, due to the trauma and stigma, there’s certainly an argument that survivors of abuse should have the right to remain anonymous (although when there’s a prosecution, since the defendant’s liberty is at stake, I believe the right to a public trial must supersede it), but anonymity makes it harder to assess their testimony. When we don’t even have the testimony itself, assessment’s impossible, even to the lower standards of historiography. All we can say for sure is that an accusation’s been made, and after a secret investigation, senior figures in the Church of England have decided that it’s probably… Read more »

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

I was baptised by Bishop George Bell in October 1949, just the period when these abusive incidents are supposed to have happened. Bell was visiting New Zealand to promote the recently created World Council of Churches. My father had been ordained by him 8 and 9 years before, and held Bell in very high esteem. The knowledge that I was baptised by such a great and saintly man (my father certainly used that word of him) has been an important part of my spiritual pilgrimage, so I share what the current Bishop of Chichester called a “bewildering mix of deep… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
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This is a scandal of historic proportions, and will, I think, be remembered as such. Should we be content to leave to history the judgement of Bishop Bell? It is hard to think of any 20th century Church of England bishop with much better credentials for humanity and courage. Of course, it may have been right of the Church (because of the evident guilt of the bishop) to apologise to the alleged victim, and even to pay restitution; but, if so, it was incumbent upon the Archbishop of Canterbury (not only of Chichester) to make known the evidence upon which… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re: James Byron, Edward Pebble, and Eric MacDonald, their posts present engaging perspectives on the conversation at hand. We should be appreciative to Peter Hitchens for demanding that the church have a conversation. Parsing the difference between judgement in a court of law and the judgement of history aside, this comment from James Byron caught my eye, “The priority is, of course, the wellbeing of a person who’s been abused, so that’s not necessarily wrong. But until the evidence is released (if it ever is), the church shouldn’t consider the book closed on Bell’s guilt.” Agreed. It states with concision… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

“I know absolutely nothing of the detail of the accusations against George Bell” Edward Prebble “I think Bishop Bell at least deserved that the evidence upon which he had be found guilty be made public.” Eric MacDonald I thought that in matters such as these that there was to be a new spirit of openness and clarity? Recently the Bishop of Horsham was criticised by a victim of abuse over the comments that he made on television concerning previous ill-judged attempts to “cover up” complaints of this nature. Well, it seems to me that a lot is being covered up… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
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Oh, please, Fr David, when I make such a mistake please correct it, thus: “I think Bishop Bell at least deserved that the evidence upon which he had be[en] found guilty be made public”! As to James Byron’s remark: “The priority is, of course, the wellbeing of a person who’s been abused, so that’s not necessarily wrong. But until the evidence is released (if it ever is), the church shouldn’t consider the book closed on Bell’s guilt.” That should read: “If a person has been abused, his or her wellbeing is a priority. But before a great man’s name is… Read more »

David Lamming
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David Lamming

None of the comments posted so far has mentioned the article in the Church of England Newspaper, “The rule of the lynch mob” which, like Peter Hitchens, challenges the decision of the Church of England to “traduce the reputation of one if its greatest wartime spiritual leaders on the basis of recent allegations about the events of 65 years ago”, adding that Bishop Bell “is effectively being tried and convicted by the Church of England with little thought for proper justice and process” and that “The Bishop, and the independent assessors, have missed out a vital part of the process… Read more »

John Scrivener
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John Scrivener

Peter Hitchens now has a link on his blog to the very interesting Church Times letter from Judge Pardoe, which is well worth reading. The Church Times has lowered its pay wall to allow this so TA might be able to link too. The letter is well worth reading.

Eric MacDonald
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David, I am in complete accord with what you say. The Church of England Newspaper has a very trenchant article on the Bishop Bell business. Here is the point that stood out for me in particular, beginning with a quote from +Cicestr: “We face with shame a story of abuse of a child; we also know that the burden of not being heard has made the experience so much worse. We apologise for the failures of the past.” And here much of the problem lies. The starting point must be justice, not just a concern for the ‘survivor’, because that… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Bishop Bell “is effectively being tried and convicted by the Church of England with little thought for proper justice and process”

No, his memory is being tried and convicted. History routinely does that to people and, in this case, shouldn’t the priority be in supporting the living rather than concern for someone who has passed from this earthly life?

Peter Owen
Guest

I have added a link to Judge Pardoe’s letter.

Eric MacDonald
Guest

I am glad to have had the opportunity to read Judge Pardoe’s letter, and agree entirely with his summing up: “It is understandable that the Church has very properly now fully investigated this matter and that it has apologised for the inadequacy of its investigation in 1995 and has paid compensation for that failure. It is incomprehensible why the Church in its Media Centre’s statement has almost casually lent its authority to the utter destruction of the reputation of George Bell, arguably one of the greatest bishops of the Church of England.” Notice that, according to the judge, the compensation… Read more »

Alastair Newman
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Two observations… The first is that on threads where accusations (and trials and convictions) have been published on Thinking Anglicans of Bishops who are alive, comments have been disabled. But not on this thread. The second is that the accusations made against Bishop Bell date to the late 1940s and 1950s. That would make Bishop Bell in his late 60s and early 70s at the time of the accusations. It seems amazing (to me) that if Bishop Bell had struggled with temptations towards child abuse for a significant proportion of his life (which I’m not saying he had), that he… Read more »

Froghole
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Froghole

When I was a schoolboy at Canterbury I met several people who had known George Bell – in the 1920s, when he was dean, and in the year between his retirement from Chichester and his death (when he lived at Starrs House by the Oaks and Burgate). They spoke of his remarkable character, and his quite astonishing impact upon the life of the cathedral (which he had hitherto known as chaplain to Randall Davidson) after the rather moribund regime of the aged, infirm, scholarly, evangelical Henry Wace. That there are ‘friends’ organisations for all cathedrals and a good many churches… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

At the beginning of our Eucharist this morning we sang George Bell’s great hymn “Christ is the King, O friends rejoice” with great gusto as we processed around St. Peter’s.
I am deeply saddened that the reputation of a great man and an outstanding bishop has been thrown to the wolves by the Church of England. I believe that the Arundel Screen in Chichester cathedral was re-erected as his memorial, are we to expect that it is to be dismantled once more as he continues to be air-brushed from 20th century ecclesiastical history?

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

I’m very pleased to say that we also sang Bell’s hymn, and had a sermon about him as well.