Comments: Bishop Peter Ball: An Abuse of Faith

"We believe that the Church’s attitude to homosexuality at the time played a part in the failure to act appropriately. Ball’s abusive behaviour was trivialised and its consequences were set aside. The age of many of the victims was also significant – most were not children and the safeguarding of vulnerable adults nationally was in its infancy. There was little understanding that men might be vulnerable precisely because they were seeking spiritual fulfilment."

Memo to parents: the Church of England was not a safe place for your children twenty years ago,.

Memo to parents: it's up to you if you think that a few reports have made it a safe place for your children today.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 22 June 2017 at 12:24pm BST

I'm not sure that's fair Interested Observer. As we are increasingly discovering, 20 years ago the BBC, Parliament, hospitals, schools, churches (yes, including the CofE) and the list could go on, were none of them safe places for children. The safeguarding culture in all of them has changed immeasurably since then. And yet, I still fully expect that instances of abuse from the present day will emerge again in the future in all of these places. Abusers are clever, convincing, manipulative people. They specialise in getting round the most stringent safeguards. Also, procedures are only as strong as the people who implement them. Human falliblity is always lurking.

Posted by NJ at Thursday, 22 June 2017 at 1:06pm BST

It is so often said that abusers are clever, convincing and manipulative people. And it is true - but only for some! Peter Ball included.
But all too often they are regular, ordinary folk and WE are blind to their progression towards and acts of abuse. In homes (where we know most abuse takes place), in schools, churches, sport, and other youth serving organisations, we are just not looking or noticing.
The church (and wider faith communities) need to improve on so many fronts, including in how they respond when allegations are made or concerns are raised. But in all contexts we need to raise adults' awareness of the realities of abuse and of the signs to look for. We must also ensure children and young people know about privacy, respect, and the features of a good relationship. About secrets and surprises. About good and bad touch.About who is a trusted adult.
We can all play our part in preventing sexual abuse.
This Report tells the Church of England how it must improve. There can be no excuse for any failure to deliver. But as the Church does its part, let the rest of us do ours. Children and others who are vulnerable deserve nothing less.

Posted by Parent Visitor at Thursday, 22 June 2017 at 6:32pm BST

Vulnerable young men also implies those with learning disabilities. In 1994 my son - then aged 24 (now 48) - a committed member of his local church, was befriended ny a 'flower-arranger' at the church. He also suffers from cerebral palsy; autism; and language difficulties.

The so called 'friend' took our son to his flat, and over the course of two days raped him, failed to feed him, made him watch pornographic videos. All oof which has left him with permanent scars, beyond belief.

The suspicion is that the vicar knew what was happening, but when we reported this to the local bishop - he merely dismissed the issues as being 'all sinners have a right to be protected'.

The subsequent trial was a farce; and if one was cynical, it could be said that this was a cover-up. For God's sake give our son some closure!

Posted by Betty Fisher Mrs at Thursday, 22 June 2017 at 6:48pm BST

What an appalling catalogue of crime, cover up, ineptitude, temporising, failure and deception is recorded in this report. Yet is not the first and it is to be feared that it wont be the last. In particular the culpability of the Diocese of Chichester is yet again laid bare.

For me two important aspects stand out: homosexuality and episcopal authority.

On the first the report says:- 'We would simply emphasise that the Church must promote an open and accepting culture in which everyone, regardless of their sexuality or their views about homosexuality, is clear about their responsibilities towards those who might be abused or who might want to raise concerns about abuse.'

The proscription of homosexual relationships both in the church and society before 1967 coupled with the niche mentality of anglo Catholicism in the Diocese of Chichester and elsewhere led to a sort of enjoyment of 'naughtiness' which clearly allowed the abusive behaviour of Bishop Ball and others to go unrecognised and unchallenged. Times have changed indeed, but there is still an element of this in the Diocese and the Church's inability to come to terms with the facts on the ground mean that its warped theology of sex, same sex relationships and the body generally continues to do untold harm.

The second aspect refers to the authority of Bishops

'We were struck during this review by a manifest culture of deference both to authority figures in the Church, particularly bishops, and to individuals with distinctive religious reputations – or both. This deference had two negative consequences. Firstly it discouraged people from “speaking truth to power”. Then, on the few occasions where people did speak out and were rebuffed by a bishop – the summit of the hierarchy – there was nowhere else to go. That reinforced the barriers to stepping up in the first place'.

The exaltation of bishops (their office if not the person) is another manifestation of the anglo Catholic reverence for the ordained which contributes to the niche mentality referred to above. It also gives bishops a sense of self importance which they do not usually merit. Canonical obedience to the bishop is taken to mean no opposition and no questioning, and certainly not in public. It is not surprising that in such isolation bishops fail to see what is going on before their eyes, believe what they say and brook no dissension. The Bishops' report on sexuality is just one such example where they completely ignored the two years of shared conversations and went their own way. And they were surprised and hurt when Synod declined to 'take note'.

Things have to change. Only openness, clarity, honesty and the truth will do.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 22 June 2017 at 6:55pm BST

Welby has written to Carey urging him to consider his position vis-a-vis his position as honorary assistant bishop in the Oxford diocese.

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Thursday, 22 June 2017 at 8:26pm BST

I encourage all interested in this subject and how victims are currently treated by today's Church of England hierarchy to listen to this interview of Eddie Mair with a serving priest, abused in childhood.

It is towards the end of the hour.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08tvjk7

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Thursday, 22 June 2017 at 8:28pm BST

I've long been sad that so many good Catholic priests, especially in Ireland, should have been so vilified as a result of the crimes of relatively few of them, so in a strange way I'm glad that this report begins to lift the lid on the reprehensible behaviour of the Church of England. Shameful. A priest-victim of Ball on Radio 4 this afternoon excoriates Welby for continuing to ignore victims.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse (Fr William) at Thursday, 22 June 2017 at 9:52pm BST

The Reverend Graham Sawyer, a survivor of Ball’s abuse, was interviewed today on radio 4 by Eddie Mair (see my post above earlier).


https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/22/church-of-england-colluded-with-bishop-peter-ball-who-abused-boys-says-justin-welby


The Reverend Graham Sawyer, a survivor of Ball’s abuse, said he and others were treated with contempt by the C of E. “The church continues to use highly aggressive legal firms to bully, frighten and discredit victims ... In my own case, I continue to endure cruel and sadistic treatment by the very highest levels of the church,” he said.

He called for a police investigation into Carey’s role in the Ball case.

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Thursday, 22 June 2017 at 11:33pm BST

Pray for Peter Ball, and pray for George Carey too.

Posted by rjb at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 3:22am BST

"Pray for Peter Ball, and pray for George Carey too"

And not the victims? How caring of you.

Not that you're more concerned with the perpetrator than the victims, of course. The CofE: sympathy for abusers, indifference towards victims.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 7:51am BST

Given the immensity of what is contained in this report, this may seem like a very trifling point. But will someone - PLEASE - tell Justin Welby that he has no authority to ask George Carey to stand down as an honorary assistant bishop in the Oxford Diocese. I am no fan of Lord Carey, and the evidence in the report leaves me in little doubt that there is justification in his standing down. But only the Bishop of Oxford can do that. Welby is no longer the CEO of an oil company. Neither is he the Pope. He is merely the Archbishop of Canterbury, and his authority extends no further than his own Diocese. Again, we see him intervening in the running of another Bishop's Diocese.

As the report affirms (7.51) "The Church of England is not a single monolithic institution structured around hierarchical managerial arrangements. Rather, it might be seen as a family of essentially autonomous office holders and charitable institutions, from ancient
ecclesiastical corporations to modern statutory bodies."

This may be our fundamental weakness when seen in relation to current safeguarding concerns. But this where we are; and if the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot get this, no wonder our distinctive identity is being squeezed from all directions.

Posted by Will Richards at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 8:25am BST

Was it absolutely essential for the video cameraman to so rudely interrupt the serious video statement delivered by the Bishop of Bath & Wells?

Posted by Michael Ardern Mason at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 9:09am BST

"He is merely the Archbishop of Canterbury, and his authority extends no further than his own Diocese."

That was my reaction to +Carey being drawn into this as well. It wasn't his diocese and he might well have said 'you deal with Ball.'

Posted by cseitz at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 11:44am BST

Regarding Will's comment about the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, my reading is that Welby did not "ask George Carey to stand down as an honorary assistant bishop in the Oxford Diocese."

According to the statement of the Bp of Oxford, Welby asked Carey to “carefully consider his position”. Apparently, Carey is being asked to "consider his position" in conversation with the Bp of Oxford.

Given that the Diocese of Oxford is in the Province of Canterbury, for which the ABC is the senior ordained person, one would think that Welby has a certain authority in the Diocese of Oxford, and that he is exercising it in these requests.

But the particular character of that authority is revealed in this language of suggestion rather than in the language of action. What Welby said may have the net effect of asking Carey to resign, but that's not what Welby said.

Or so thinks an American who spends a good bit of time trying to understand British English.

Posted by jnwall at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 11:58am BST

Will Richards,
He is the Archbishop of the Province in which Oxford Diocese is situated. I know TA readers are nervous of Justin claiming authority he doesn't actually have over the worldwide Communion and churches in other provinces, but what's the point of having provinces if the Archbishop has no authority within his own province?

Posted by NJ at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 12:22pm BST

Part of the problem, it seems, was undue deference to bishops. Recommendation 1 suggests the bishops reaffirm their own accountability for the safety and protection of everyone "within the Church". Yet I can't see any suggestion they should actually be made accountable, at least to anyone but themselves.

Recommendation 7 suggests bringing other organisations, hitherto independent of the dioceses in which they sit, under the control of diocesan arrangements. The solution to failings In the episcopacy is: more power to the bishops. Perhaps there are strong reasons why, for centuries, some institutions have resisted episcopal control. Any recommendation to change this should not be accepted immediately, but weighed very carefully. Dame Moira does not seem to have considered whether a Presbyterian organisation would be safer than an Episcopal one, due to less concentration of power. If she had, would we immediately abolish bishops?

Recommendation 5 suggests safeguarding be organised in the dioceses. Why not by police area? Why should bishops, as opposed to Chief Constables, be the focus of protection of those "within the Church" and without it, whatever is meant by that. What happened to "the Church of England is the people of England".

This all suits the Simplicity agenda, basically it would be simpler if everyone just did what Pope Justin says. Already bishops have secured the right to suspend PCC members, the thin end of a wedge to choosing them. And if disobeying guidance can be a disciplinary offence, why bother with law or canons?

What is needed is some way of making the bishops genuinely accountable, and not to themselves.

Posted by T Pott at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 12:42pm BST

Re Welby's authority ... if he had not made any comment, don't you think the anti-church press would have had a field day pointing out that he was tacitly condoning Carey's involvement?

Posted by Latecomer at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 1:07pm BST

"What's the point of having provinces if the Archbishop has no authority within his own province?" asks NJ. The Archbishop does have authority (e.g. serving diocesan bishops are accountable to him for their personal ministry). But he does not have the authority to intervene in the internal policy decisions of other dioceses about matters such the licensing of clergy (unless they are under some form of prohibition - which George Carey is not). That is a matter for the diocesan bishop. For Welby to have written to Carey on this matter in the first place, let alone to have made the letter public before the Bishop of Oxford had opportunity to consider the matter with George Carey, and make his decision public, Welby has exceeded his authority. Again.

It's a straightforward ecclesiological matter. The reasons for Carey's removal from ministry are complex and devastating for the victims of Bishop Ball's abuse of authority. Justin Welby exceeding his does not make a bad situation any better.

Posted by David Gibson at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 1:14pm BST

I lived in Ireland (republic) 1988-2003 and 2011-2014. I saw the change in which Irish clergy were treated as a result of clerical abuse scandals and the way in which the institution covered them up. As a clergyman in England for 11 years, I have been verbally abused in the street on several occasions, but not yet spat at, or worse, as some of the Irish clergy have been. As a representative of a deeply corrupt and hypocritical institution, I expect things to get worse, and I understand completely why they might. And look at the fawning that goes on when a bishop hoves into view. Yes, your grace, no your grace. While I’m on a roll, it really is time that we abandoned the utterly ridiculous titles of Most Reverend, Right Reverend, Very Reverend, Venerable. I intensely dislike Reverend, certainly when it is applied to me. Vanity of vanities.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse (Fr William) at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 1:29pm BST

My understanding of the private letter from Welby to Carey is that it was leaked, and not by Welby. I am happy to be corrected on this.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 2:09pm BST

Am I the only person to see the similarity between the George Bell group and George Carey? In both cases we see 'the church' protecting its own.

Posted by Anne at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 2:28pm BST

Given that the report documents Carey's withholding of evidence, does this open him to legal action, either criminal prosecution or civil suits?

According to English law?

Posted by jnwall at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 3:34pm BST

How very sad - it would be helpful if as Christians within this Church of England we simply repented for the terrible harm our brothers in the faith have caused these vulnerable young men. I regret that this discussion thread has descended to a debate over the relative powers of archbishops and bishops. We should choose for ourselves the lowest place, be on our knees and confess our own failures, and the way in which these failures impact on our ability to bring people to Christ. Father, forgive us.

Posted by Fr Frank Nichols at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 3:52pm BST

"I saw the change in which Irish clergy were treated as a result of clerical abuse scandals"

Irish clergy will, on current trends, essentially cease to exist within a couple of decades, along with the Irish Catholic Church. More than 40% drop in numbers of priests over the last twenty years, average age 65, 2/3rds 55 or over, very few in training, even fewer retained after they train. A vocation that was respected a generation ago is now regarded, outside the faithful (who themselves are, of course, collapsing in a roughly similar way) as at best a bunch of peculiar eccentrics and at worse, self-protecting abusive nonces. Irish priests have been on the wrong side of history on every issue you might like to think of, and still behave as though the social changes of the last thirty years are a brief aberration and things will be back to "business as usual" in a few years' time.

The Church of England has managed to escape the justifiable contempt in which the Catholic Church in Ireland is held, by managing to be not quite so wrong, not quite so arrogant and not quite so hateful. But no institution has a right to exist, and if the CofE does not want to follow the Irish Catholic church into the history books, it needs to learn the lesson that in Ireland, the church went from being a parallel government to a strange cult held in contempt by most people under fifty and, in twenty years, a relic only of interesting to a shrinking pool of elderly country folk.

Decision time, Justin.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 5:29pm BST

Of course ++Justin is entitled to ask former ++George to consider his position and, of course +Steven Croft, should meet with him to help clarify his position vis a vis acting as an Assistant Bishop in the Oxford Diocese. Surely this in occasion for the provincial and diocesan to act in concert?

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 6:36pm BST

To IO. I can only comment on what I saw, most recently 2011-14 when I was Church of Ireland Rector of Portlaoise. This sizeable county town and Dublin dormitory, at the end of a good suburban rail service, has one large Catholic church. Daily mass attendance is 150 to 200, by no means all elderly. I attended from time to time. Three Sunday masses with the church full. The annual Lenten Novena with visiting speakers filled the church. I guess it’s the biggest church in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, the cathedral in Carlow being smaller. The social centre next to the church was home to all sorts of activities for the whole community. Priests numbered two under the age of 60, and three or four over 60, and one from overseas. They had two other churches to look after, three in all.

Much of what IO says is true for Dublin where the huge catholic churches built in the triumphalist reign of John Charles McQuaid are empty. But I’m not sure how true it is outside Dublin in what is still an extraordinarily socially conservative setting, despite the new Taoiseach’s gayness and immigrant background being trumpeted as a sign of new Ireland. Maybe things have changed even in the last 3 years. There are interesting observations on the future of Irish Catholicism on the website of the (Irish) Association of Catholic Priests, who know exactly what the score is. It’s the bishops rather than the priests who refuse to see reality.

When I was Rector of Portlaoise I emailed the ACP to say what a good website they had, and how willing I would be to join if I could. Tony Flannery emailed back and said that since he’d been banned by the Vatican, he would be delighted to welcome me as a member. And he did.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse (Fr William) at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 6:39pm BST

Great report, but how sad that it was necessary. Completely shocking in all respects. Lots of learning points for the Church. Try this for starters:

"But it would be a mistake to think that Ball had a combination of talents, virtues and perversity unlikely to recur with therefore fewer lessons to learn. The Church will of its nature produce charismatic and inspiring leaders who are able to hold significant sway over the behaviour of individuals. One priest who had been abused by Ball and gave evidence to this review stressed that there is still a powerful “cult of personality” among priests, including some “high profile” priests, while bishops still have a degree of “absolute power”. The Church’s safeguarding arrangements need to take account of such a possibility." (4.2.10)

I hope those (many) who misguidedly tried to shield and protect Ball will now unreservedly accept that their motives and judgements were deeply flawed.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 7:19pm BST

Some come out of this well, but that cannot be much solace. This reference, which I take to be regarding the now Bishop of Dorchester, is an example:

"Lord Carey was not without advice. His chaplain wrote to him in June 1994, concerned about the “storm of questions and criticisms” they could anticipate if Ball returned to ministry. The chaplain pointed out that they would be asked “Is this the kind of length of punishment that other clergy who have admitted to illegal acts of this nature normally receive? Why has a Bishop who has admitted so grave an offence been treated so leniently? What are the signals the Church is sending to society as a whole about how it views betrayal of trust and child abuse?” "(4.4.8)

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 7:32pm BST

Interested Observer,

I do not disagree with your assessment generally--especially as it might apply to the upcoming teaching document.

But at the same time I also hope that the Church of England's desire to improve its own reputation--say, for safeguarding--will not cause it to sacrifice the reputations of people who themselves are innocent.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 8:16pm BST

"But at the same time I also hope that the Church of England's desire to improve its own reputation--say, for safeguarding--will not cause it to sacrifice the reputations of people who themselves are innocent."

Honourable and understandable thought Jeremy, but not many innocents have been identified in this report, other than survivors and victims. The culture needs to shift massively, and it will be towards the zero tolerance end of the spectrum.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 10:27pm BST

A question that would come to mind here is that is Peter Ball still a Bishop and Priest or has he been laicised? or he still a Monk or has he been canonically released from his Vows as a Monk by the Instrument of Secularisation?

Posted by Jonathan Jamal at Friday, 23 June 2017 at 11:13pm BST

Re Fr. Frank Nichols, "I regret that this discussion thread has descended to a debate over the relative powers of archbishops and bishops." Exactly. It's a form of denial and misdirection.

How telling that the instituional church, C of E, R.C.,whatever form, is obsessed with policing and prohibiting the attempts of sexual minorities within its ranks who aspire to healthy sexual expression while all the while providing covering fire for sexual predators. It is the shadow side of an institution which no longer has any public credibility.

Perhaps it would help if everyone who offers himself/herself for ordination to any ministry in the church were required to be in extensive psychotherapy as a prerequiste?

Notwithstanding, I'm troubled by your concluding phrase, " Father, forgive us", which has the sense of something of a mantra for patriarchal religion. The phrasing seems an unfortuante, though likley unintended, irony under the circumstances, no? "We" do not require forgivenss from a "father". We require forgiveness from society for cowardly instituional self-interest which has resulted in the inflcition of life damaging harm on vulnerbale people. Isn't there something in the big holy book about millstones and being cast into the sea?

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 1:32am BST

"outside Dublin in what is still an extraordinarily socially conservative setting...Maybe things have changed even in the last 3 years."

In 2015, 46 of the Republic's 47 Parliamentary constituencies voted "Yes" for same-sex marriage. That doesn't sound like a Dublin/rural split to me. There was _one_ constituency in which the church managed to convince the population (or at least, 51% of it) to continue to oppress gay people: in the other 46, the church was told to mind its own business. And once emboldened by such judgement, most particularly by the non-arrival of the apocalypse that the "No" campaign promised voters would immediately happen, the church will increasingly be seen as the reactionary force, obsessed with sex, that it is.

Has the CofE managed to get into the media lately on any topic other than (a) what consenting adults do in bed and (b) what's it own employees do to non-consenting children? What proportion of the bible is concerned with sex? What proportion of Jesus's teaching is concerned with sex? What proportion of the Anglican communion's time is spent worrying about sex?

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 7:18am BST

It is incomprehensible that evidence in a case of possible sexual abuse should be withheld from the police.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 9:12am BST

"debate over the relative powers of archbishops and bishops" -- speaking only for myself, when I read through the 81 page report I kept wondering why +Carey allowed himself to get so tangled up in a crisis that should have been tackled more locally. I sometimes wonder if people in power think too highly of their abilities to 'solve' problems that need more hard and fast action at the scene itself. The Balls began to sound like some perverse version of the importuning widow. She succeeded where they should have failed.

Posted by cseitz at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 11:39am BST

@Jonathan Jamal: Ball is no longer listed in Crockford (as far as I can see). His Who's Who entry still has him styled as "Rt Rev.", and states that he is a governor of Lancing (which is no longer the case; there are now - unprecedentedly - no clergy on its governing body), so it may be out of date.

I assumed that he has not been unfrocked or has resigned his orders. Others might have better information.

@jnwall: I am not a criminal lawyer, but I would query whether it might be argued that Lord Carey committed the common law offence of misfeasance in public office. Ball's trial judge held that Ball had committed the offence (though I have not seen the judgement). The Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure 2014 includes an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 stating that "The office of diocesan or suffragan bishop is not a public office", but I would query whether a court would hold that in the 1990s the office of archbishop was deemed to be so. Incidentally, the clause in the 2014 Measure is a significant step towards disestablishment (presumably in the name of evading the full impact of the equality legislation...).

Two other things:

- Quite a bit of the grime of this sordid story indeed sticks to Carey, but I think that Kemp, as Ball's immediate superior for 15 years (the largest part of the time in which these offences were committed), has got off very lightly indeed, and merits a section of his own in the report. If anything, Kemp's reactions to the revelations were considerably more discreditable than Carey's.

- There was obviously a coterie of abusers in East Sussex (Ball's jurisdiction under Kemp's area scheme), and it seems evident that Ball participated in acts of abuse with some of the other culprits. I think that, as the report suggests, this warrants further investigation - as to whether the abuse was systematic/organised, with Ball as its ring-leader, and whether criminals were preferred to livings in East Sussex precisely because Ball knew about their proclivities.

I really couldn't care less whether Welby or Croft tells Carey to stand aside; it is symptomatic of the problems with the Church that anyone thinks this is an issue. The preposterous dancing between jurisdictions is one of the more striking things about this malignant saga.

Posted by Froghole at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 2:01pm BST

IO, your analysis sounds unassailable. Young voters flocked back for the referendum. Their grand/parents will be dead before long. The churches will empty, even if they are not now. To bring this back on thread, I was profoundly depressed yesterday to think that I had given up one career for an institution that has been demonstrated to be deeply corrupt and hypocritical. I thought universities were bad enough. The church can no longer be trusted to police itself. Sarah Mullally on R4 yesterday was dreadful: evasive, shifty and mealymouthed. No hope there.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse (Fr William) at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 2:51pm BST

Thanks Rod Gillis for your thoughtful response to my post. Perhaps it would help if I said that my thoughts in asking the Father to forgive were simply from the Cross of Our Lord. I know that you will agree that there is nothing patriarchal in following the example of Jesus in his plea to the Father to forgive us the harm we do others.

Posted by Fr Frank Nichols at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 4:28pm BST

"It is incomprehensible that evidence in a case of possible sexual abuse should be withheld from the police" - It is incomprehensible NOW. There is evidence in the report (including the decision to caution rather than prosecute when evidence was brought) that even only a few years ago the effect of bringing such evidence to the police might be quite limited. There is also some evidence I have seen (outside the report) that the culture of the church much more widely than individuals who get criticised in reports like this was for internal resolution of issues rather than referral to external agencies. The world and the church have changed in quite short order, more, it seems, than we can readily remember; for the past is shameful and the present is still not good enough.

I would suggest that if we want to leave the past behind in any meaningful way, we need to take those who have suffered the consequences of abuse (direct and indirect) with us as much as is possible - they, many of them, are still with us today, and if in denial we push them and their experiences into the past, or into the distance, or into the margins, we will never reach the point of repentance and amendment of life. Taking them with us could be costly in time, money and reputation. But there is a serious strategic issue here: when the Church is at the point of committing such resources to "Renewal & Reform" - where are we prepared to commit our best resources, our energies prayers, talents and money? Where should we? Why?

Posted by Mark Bennet at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 6:26pm BST

This is a very fine report, in the sense of the quality of the reporting, and a terrible report in the sense of its contents. Dame Moira deserves the deep thanks of the Church for the clarity of her analysis. Yes, the church may still try to practice denial (eg by fixating on the side issue of competing jurisdictions) but Dame Moira has made that much more difficult.

One particularly commendable aspect of her report is her emphasis on the behaviour and culpability of those still living. Froghole is quite correct in suggesting that Kemp's behaviour was reprehensible, but Dame Moira seems to have concluded that there is not much point in emphasising that, given that there is not much that can be done about it.

"Some come out of this well, but that cannot be much solace". I would record some credit to the representatives of the Diocese of Norwich for refusing to accept Peter Ball as their Bishop. Their actions in the late 1980s give evidence that Ball's behaviour was already notorious.

Posted by Edward Prebble at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 7:56pm BST

Ball has been prohibited for life, as stated in the report:

3.12.2 On 11th January 2016 Peter Ball was sent, from Lambeth Palace, the following notification of a penalty under the Clergy Disciplinary Measure 2003: “After consultation with the Bishops of Winchester and London, the Archbishop of Canterbury has imposed upon you a penalty of prohibition for life with effect from 23rd December 2015”. This is the most serious penalty that can be imposed under the CDM and permanently bars Ball from performing any of the functions of his Holy Orders.

Posted by Peter Owen at Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 8:18pm BST

"I really couldn't care less whether Welby or Croft tells Carey to stand aside; it is symptomatic of the problems with the Church that anyone thinks this is an issue...." @Froghole.

I think it's an issues (which is why I raised it in the first place). And this is why. The sustained abuse perpetrated by Peter Ball was undeniably rooted in the inappropriate exercise of authority and in Peter Ball exceeding his authority. You may come back to me with wails of protest saying that ecclesiological subtleties are not on the same scale. Really?

Justin Welby has appointed himself the Abbot of the St Anselm Community at Lambeth Palace. He has authority over a group of young people who are 'giving a year to God' in a monastic environment (just like Peter Ball's set up in the 1980s). The 1500 year-old Rule of St Benedict is absolutely clear that the community elects its Abbot, not that an Abbot imposes himself on the community. This is just one of the ways those in authority in religious communities are accountable to the rest of the community. This is how bullying and other forms of inappropriate misbehaviour are kept in check.

Earlier this year, Lambeth Social Services were advised of a safeguarding concern in this community. That is a matter of fact on record. It concerned a vulnerable adult in the community (a gay man from the Middle East in a same-sex relationship) who was being put under severe duress because he was being denied any contact whatsoever with his partner.

In my experience, those who exercise authority inappropriately in one sphere tend to do so in other spheres. In Justin Welby's cae, it is because he doesn't get Anglican eccelsiology. More worryingly, he doesn't get monasticism, either. Perhaps @Froghole now understands my concern and why it does matter who tells Lord Carey to stand aside - and Welby is reminded where his authority does and does not extend.

Posted by Will Richards at Sunday, 25 June 2017 at 7:05pm BST

@Will Richards. I take your point, and thank you for expressing it as usefully as you have. I apologise for my intemperate remarks.

Absent the right to conduct visitations (as per Chichester) I have never been quite sure what it means to be primate, and what metropolitical authority entails, and have struggled, as yet, to find much of use.

However, I note Canon C14(1): "Every person whose election to any bishopric is to be confirmed, or who is to be consecrated bishop or translated to any bishopric or suffragan bishopric, or who is to be licensed as an assistant bishop, shall first take the oath of due obedience to the archbishop and to the metropolitical Church of the province wherein he is to exercise the episcopal office in the form and manner prescribed in and by the Ordinal."

On that basis, perhaps it could be argued that as obedience is owed by Carey to Welby as metropolitan in Carey's capacity as an assistant (even, presumably, an honorary assistant) bishop, Welby can provide for, and dispense with, Carey as he pleases, however problematic that may (or may not) be to the sensibilities of the Oxford diocese.

Posted by Froghole at Sunday, 25 June 2017 at 11:58pm BST

++Justin's background in the Big Bad World at least makes him a little media-savvy - or perhaps (in a more refined tone) 'aware of the importance of perceptions of justice'. Lord C - who, I note, has just resigned - is a former ABC, and wouldn't it seem scandalous to the wider community if the present incumbent of the post appeared passive or buck-passing. 'You can have as high an ecclesiology as you like, as long as your theology of the Kingdom is higher'.

There's a lot in the report about abuse of power and so on, but I wonder whether, were it to be written this week, there'd have been mention of the People Like Us/People Not Like Us dimension which is appearing over the Grenfell Tower disaster.

A bit of me is worrying that this is a poison which drives all sorts of abuses and scandals, the idea that those who are Not Like Us may be given a shoddy deal or ignored because - for some reason - they're intrinsically of lower worth. Not an earth-shattering or profound observation, I know, but understanding where all the roots of this abuse might lie seems important.

Posted by David Rowett at Monday, 26 June 2017 at 2:03pm BST

I have very little sympathy for George Carey. It seems to me that in several ways he was blinded by his prejudices.

That said, I also have little sympathy for the present Archbishop's efforts to corporatise the Church of England.

I doubt the archbishops have any authority to sack bishops. After all, if Canterbury had the ability to sack bishops throughout the province, then why would an oath of obedience be necessary? The greater would include the lesser.

As for the so-called Community of St. Anselm: As Will Richards shows, it is not a monastic community. It rather resembles a year-long religious retreat or camp. With a charismatic element. I doubt it will long survive this archbishop.

What Will Richards says about a "safeguarding concern" is news to me. Has it been publicly reported?

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 26 June 2017 at 2:15pm BST

Why is Carey still in the Lords? He should resign his seat there. How can a man who appears to have colluded in a cover-up of abuse be a fit and proper person to be a legislator?

Posted by Gordon at Monday, 26 June 2017 at 4:54pm BST

Interested Observer asks whether the C of E has been in the media recently for anything other than (sex). There were several reports on Maundy Thursday of Archbishop Carey speaking out about the UK government discriminating against Christian refugees from Syria, and doing less than it could to protect Christians across the Middle East from persecution and extinction.

It will be a pity if his voice on that matter is silenced.

Posted by T Pott at Monday, 26 June 2017 at 6:50pm BST

I am afraid the Bishop of Oxford's statement (or that of his legal advisers) sticks in my throat. In particular the phrase "the abuse ... which remained hidden for so long.."; was there really no agency, somehow it just "remained hidden" did it? And then at once to hurry us on, hoping that "the focus of attention will continue to be on the survivors"; even ellipses have two foci, and I think most of us are capable of focussing not just on the survivors but also on how to minimise the chances of anything similar happening in the future, even though that will no doubt lead to some curtailment of episcopal and archiepiscopal freedoms.

Posted by american piskie at Monday, 26 June 2017 at 7:14pm BST

If I may be permitted a further supplementary: the shocking Ball case raises myriad issues. One area of concern is how it was that he was even raised to the episcopate in the first place. That was primarily the responsibility of the late Bishop Kemp. Having become Bishop of Lewes we now know (and the records would have shown at the time) that he showed absurd leniency to abusive priests in his area (Abuse of Faith para 5.5.4). That raises the more fundamental question (which I have posed on TA before) of how it was that he was translated to Gloucester. What did the Crown Appointments Commission (CAC) know about him when it met in 1991/92 before he was appointed in April 1992? Lord Carey would have chaired it, with Lord Habgood having been a member. There would have been four diocesan representatives and six central members, who would have been elected for the period 1987-1992. It would need a look at the archives to know who they were. The then Archbishops are both alive today, unlike the secretaries. Hector Maclean was the Archbishops’ Appointments Secretary and Sir Robin Catford served as Prime Minister’s Secretary for Appointments at the time. Of course we will never know, as all deliberations of the Crown Nominations Commission (then CAC) are secret. The conclusion one is tempted to draw, based on Dame Moira Gibb’s detailed factual analysis, is that the net of people who protected Ball, whether knowingly or unwittingly, was very wide.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Monday, 26 June 2017 at 9:04pm BST

@Anthony Archer: Thank you for your useful remarks. Between 2009 and 2013 I attended services at almost every parish in the Chichester diocese. On the occasions that the subject matter of Kemp came up, the general conclusion was that, although he was scholarly and 'spiritual', he had absolutely no leadership or expository skills, he was somewhat drab, had stayed in post for far too long and was an inept administrator; at the same time he was reluctant to admit mistakes, was congenitally stubborn and dogmatic, and had relatively limited pastoral skills.

His two main claims to fame were the institution of an area scheme (of a kind typical in the 1970s), but one in which he arrogated to himself responsibility for Brighton and Hove, Worthing and Chichester itself. The second was his pastoral reorganisation in Brighton, which resulted in a rationalisation of the stock of churches, an exercise repeated in Chichester, although not in Worthing.

The area scheme was only ever destined to work if exceptionally strong/robust suffragans were preferred, since they would be de facto diocesans with a wide geographical jurisdiction. Although Sussex is long and narrow it is comparatively difficult to get from east to west (the history/topography has ensured that most roads run from approximately north to south), which has tended to increase the relative isolation of some areas, particularly places like Brede/Udimore (Cotton), nearby Sedlescombe (Pritchard) and the Cuckmere valley where Ball and House committed their abuse.

Ball, however, was seen as a robust figure. When I was undertaking my tour/pilgrimage morale was a rock bottom in East Sussex; much local animus was directed at the then suffragan (Benn). Ball, by contrast, seemed to have been well liked. At Litlington, where Ball served as incumbent whilst bishop, there seemed to be considerable sorrow at the legal difficulties in which he found himself. I encountered the same regret elsewhere.

One other point about the uselessness of Kemp and the failure of his area scheme. I attended a service at a well-supported church on the outskirts of Hastings (a borough where the Church was otherwise suffering) and the then incumbent held up a picture of the then diocesan, asking who it was. No one answered. When Martin Warner was appointed he undertook a tour of each deanery; this was the first time most people in East Sussex had seen their diocesan in nearly forty years.

Posted by Froghole at Monday, 26 June 2017 at 11:36pm BST

George Carey has never been very high on my list of Great Saints of the 20th Century. Anthony Archer is clearly correct in suggesting that the net of those protecting Ball was pretty wide; all the more credit to those from Norwich who refused to become part of the net. But the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury of the time was crucial to holding that net together. It is appropriate that he should be singled out for sanction now.

+Croft's statement covers Carey's resignation as Assistant Bishop. It does not state whether he will retain any sort of PTO. As Dame Moira's report outlines, that provision, or otherwise can be pretty significant in these cases. Does anybody know if he has a PTO?

Hopefully there are other eloquent advocates for Christian refugees on Syria and the rest of the Middle East, which I agree is an important cause.

The George Carey Primary School in Barking must be a bit embarrassed right now.

Posted by Edward Prebble at Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 12:15am BST

"The culture needs to shift massively, and it will be towards the zero tolerance end of the spectrum."

This may be correct. I am no expert.

But in response to Dame Moira Gibb's report, now published, about Bishop Peter Ball, let us not rush to conclusions that we may later wish to revise, depending on what Lord Carlile's report, yet to be written, may say about Bishop George Bell.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 7:14pm BST
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