Thinking Anglicans

Peter Ball: letters of support released

The Crown Prosecution Service has released a number of letters written years ago in support of Bishop Peter Ball. This is because of a Freedom of Information request by the Telegraph newspaper.

The released documents are here.

The Telegraph news report is here: Establishment figures who helped disgraced bishop avoid prosecution for sex abuse revealed

Another news report by the BBC is here: Letters of support for sex offender ex-bishop Peter Ball released

And the Guardian has this: Archbishop and MPs wrote in support of bishop later convicted of sexual offences

Daily Mail Abuse bishop escaped prosecution after being backed by two Archbishops, a judge and Tory MPs including David Cameron’s godfather

There is a press release from the Church of England which is available here: Statement on Peter Ball letters released under FOI

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Neil PattersonAnneVictorianaInterested ObserverMark Bennet Recent comment authors
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Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

It’s a rather strange press release, in that it makes no mention at all of the topic in its own subject. That senior bishops and archbishops attempted to intervene in the CPS’s handling of the prosecution of a sexual abuser is pretty damning, one would have thought, to the point it at least deserves some mention. But no. And the letter from the headmaster of Lancing College is beyond bizarre, with its talk of young people “misunderstanding” “penitential exercises”. That sounds awfully like the headmaster of Lancing College knew full well that Ball was up to no good, but was… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

How interesting that these letters appear to have been released on New Year’s Eve–a time when few would notice and fewer still would remember.

Father David
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Father David

At long last after several decades, with the publication of these letters, the cover on the alleged “cover up” has been blown and an unappealing can of worms has been revealed with regard to Bishop Peter Ball’s ministerial misdemeanours. A spirit of honesty and openness now seems to be the correct order of the day. Should there not also be a similar honest and open response to the allegations made against Bishop George Bell even more decades ago, whose posthumous reputation has now been ruined? The cloak of secrecy surrounding what Bishop Bell is alleged to have done must surely… Read more »

clairejxx
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clairejxx

After Ball retired as a bishop, he was permitted to continue officiating in the C of E by Carey.

Canon Jeremy Davies, the retired precentor of Salisbury Cathedral has been denied Permission to Officiate in the Diocese of Winchester.

?????????????

Jeremy Pemberton
Guest
Jeremy Pemberton

The C of E comment does sound rather self-defensive in tone. I am sure that all that they claim to have done they have indeed done, and the results of the various investigations will be important, especially to the victims and their families, but also to all of us. Nevertheless, I do think it is extraordinary that there is no comment at all about the reason for this latest comment, which is the enormous number of prominent people who all wrote or telephoned in support of Peter Ball, and the particular letters that have been released. One wonders if there… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“How interesting that these letters appear to have been released on New Year’s Eve”

From a West Wing summary site:

“Donna brings Josh his takeout, and asks him about “Take out the trash day”. He explains that it is the day when the White House releases as many stories it does not like as it can, hoping they will be buried under the flood, and it is always a Friday since no one reads the paper on Saturday.”

Kate
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Kate

If a vicar delivers a sermon it might be heard by a score or less of parishioners. In very few churches, a sermon will be heard by a hundred people or more.

This press release will probably read by thousands. Still a small number, but many more than a typical sermon; it was a mission opportunity. Was that mission opportunity taken? I think not – and I doubt the question of witness and mission was even considered. That is so sad.

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

The publication of these letters is a depressing sign of the culture of the time in which they were written. No author had any idea about the context in which they were writing. Worse, it is self-evident that the prosecuting authorities placed emphasis on the letters (we have only seen a handful – there appears to have been a campaign involving far more people, establishment or not) and their actions were influenced as a result. There is no place for such support today, save in the context of character references when sentencing is being considered. The Church still seems unable… Read more »

Cassandra
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Cassandra

When I was doing my safeguarding training a couple of years ago, we were told that churches are precisely the sort of places where paedophiles will go, in search of a rather naive community where it’s easy for someone to be accepted and gradually to work their way in towards the contact with children that they crave. We were told paedophiles have very long time frames – they’re not going to offer to ‘help’ as soon as they arrive. Those on the course were noticeably shocked by this information, and found they were scanning their congregations in a different way,… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“No author had any idea about the context in which they were writing”

I disagree. Several of them clearly knew exactly what Ball was up to: they just thought that the religious clothes his abuse was wearing made it acceptable. We know they knew because of the euphemistic references to “penitential activities” and “misunderstandings” and so on: the writers knew about the deeds, but just thought that the intentions justified them.

And as you say, they show an institution that has no idea of zero tolerance, and still doesn’t.

Father David
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Father David

Did Archbishop Carey’s expressly stated high opinion of Peter Ball assist in him becoming the Diocesan Bishop of Gloucester when clearly this was a most inappropriate step to take in the light of what was known at the time of allegations of misconduct during his time as Bishop of Lewes?

Victoriana
Guest
Victoriana

Here’s one way the establishment could start to get its act together: laicise Peter Ball. Why has it not yet been done?

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

A part of the Church of England’s investigation into this will need to be what the Crown Appointments Commission (as then was) knew about Ball when it nominated him for Gloucester. However, we needn’t hold our breaths; no Secretary from that period is alive and there are probably few records. There will however be some members of the Gloucester CAC alive, except, they are of course bound by confidentiality!

David Runcorn
Guest

Interested observer You write ‘Several of them clearly knew exactly what Ball was up to’. Can I ask how you know?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Can I ask how you know?” Because I’ve read their letters. For example, turn to page eight of the bundle and read the letter from the head of Lancing College. “I understand he has used acts of penitence and contrition…I can see these could have been open to misunderstanding and misrepresentation, especially be any who have not grasped the “absolute” nature of the bishop’s commitment”. If the activities of which the writer knew were above board, why would he write of their potential to be misunderstood, and what does “absolute commitment” mean? The intent behind that is obvious: I’ve seen… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

It’s also worth reading this nasty tale:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-34670570

Richard
Guest
Richard

Perhaps Lord Carey might reflect on his intervention in this case and consider whether, from this point onwards, a period of silence on his part would be most welcome?

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Sad to say, I expect this from the church hierarchy, but it’s disturbing to read a senior judge so glibly go to bat for Peter Ball. If anyone could be expected to know better, it’d be him.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

I fear Interested Observer has it completely right. Paedophiles, ordained or lay, have the most devious personalities and live lives of total denial. They have no concept of the fact that their actions ruin the lives of their victims. When abuse occurs in the context of what should be trusted relationships, the crime is even more heinous. We have this week witnessed in our village the funeral of a twice convicted paedophile whose crimes led to a most unfortunate relationship in prison, leading to an attempted burglary and a neighbour whose Good Samaritan intentions led to his murder. I am… Read more »

Anne
Guest
Anne

Victoriana: I’m not sure that the C of E has any way of “laicising” clergy. Perhaps it should have, but I don’t think it does, any more than the RC church does. Ordination, like Baptism, is an indelible sacrament. However, in order to function as a priest you have to have a licence from the bishop of the Diocese in which you live, and clearly Peter Ball will never receive one of those again.

Neil Patterson
Guest
Neil Patterson

In response to Victoriana – unfortunately laicisation (formally ‘deposition from Holy Orders’, popularly ‘defrocking’) was dropped from the penalties available when the present Clergy Discipline Measure came in. The strongest possible action now is prohibition for life, which I assume has been applied to Peter Ball. I have been involved some discussion on restoring deposition, which is much needed for precisely this reason, but it will require a fresh Measure in General Synod.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

What nobody has yet explained is how it was that Peter Ball had a Permission to Officiate from 1997 until 2009/2010. See this statement from the Diocese of Bath & Wells:
https://www.bathandwells.org.uk/2015/10/retired-bishop-peter-ball-receives-custodial-sentence/ when the current bishop wrote:

“It is now clear that the PTO should never have been granted in 1997.”

But we do not know *who* it was that granted that PtO.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“But we do not know *who* it was that granted that PtO.” The shocking thing is that Bath and Wells still have child protection policies that are a joke. “This restricted his ministry and stated he could have no unsupervised contact with children”. That’s just completely unacceptable: he was able to officiate, and through that could still form relationships with children. The “unsupervised” is just nonsense: he wasn’t going to assault children at the altar, was he? But by using the authority and respectability of his office, he would be able to groom potential victims. In 2009 (not ancient history)… Read more »

Neil Patterson
Guest
Neil Patterson

Simon, I thought to check your last statement, and amazingly found Peter Ball is still listed in Crockford’s online (as ‘Non-Diocesan Appointment’??!), the detail in fact shows simply retired, but gives his Bath & Wells PTO dates as 2001-2010. In any case, the Bishop of B&W in both 1997 and 2001 was Jim Thompson.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

Interested Observer – Peter Ball’s PTO in Bath and Wells was several years ago, and says nothing about current policy. “still have” is not shown by the evidence you cite. Of course practice may not reflect policy, even if the policy is good, and both may be inadequate if there are high levels of collusion such as may be indicated by your “nasty tale” link (though this is not definitive). Accountants have a concept “segregation of duties”, to minimise the risks of collusion compromising systems (NB minimise, not eliminate). Theologically, thinking of Jesus as prophet, priest and king, and imagining… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Peter Ball’s PTO in Bath and Wells was several years ago” It takes insight and reflection to determine where things went wrong, so that you can do things better next time. All the church appears to be saying here is “it was an awfully long time ago and things are different now”.. But the same people are making the decisions, and the decision taken in 2009 to respond to concerns by restricting access to children was simply wrong, and there is no admission of this. There should be zero tolerance of child abuse in the church, as in all other… Read more »

Victoriana
Guest
Victoriana

Thanks for your response, Neil. I hope your effort to put deposition back into the CDM works out in a way that it can be workable for cases like this. Anne — Rome can and does laicise its clergy. It has a process, and a set of conditions in which it occurs latae sententiae. This happens quite cheerfully and with remarkable haste, in the case of honest priests getting married, or coming out publicly about their SS relationships. They seem to have been notably hesitant about laicising priests convicted of sex crimes against minors. If you’ve been following the progress… Read more »

Anne
Guest
Anne

Victoriana: Although RCs talk about “laicising” priests, that’s not really accurate. I know because I am married to a “laicised” RC priest. All it consists of is freeing the priest from their vow of celibacy so that they can then marry. My husband is still, technically, a priest, and was clearly told when he was “laicised” that, in extremis he not only could but should celebrate mass if, for example, he had found himself in a concentration camp, with Catholics in need of sacraments and no other priest to offer them. Like the Anglican church, priests need the permission of… Read more »

Neil Patterson
Guest
Neil Patterson

With apologies to those uninterested in the technicalities of English ecclesiastical law, I reply to Victoriana: No, there has been no mechanism of excommunication since 1963 in the CofE. In response to both her and Anne, it must be noted that both Rome and the CofE (in the Canons) recognise something called ‘the character of holy orders’ which is not removed by deposition/laicisation, although what that actually means is more a theological than a legal question. It is referred to in the ARCIC documents somewhere as the sense that God’s action in ordination is irreversible. It is still entirely possible… Read more »