Thinking Anglicans

Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury following letter from historians regarding the Bishop George Bell case

We noted here more criticism of response to Carlile report, including a letter from seven academic historians criticising the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments in response to the Carlile report. The Archbishop has now released this statement in reply.

Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury following letter from historians regarding the Bishop George Bell case
Monday 22nd January 2018

Archbishop Justin Welby said today:

Following a letter sent to Lambeth Palace and also to the Telegraphnewspaper by a group of academics, I felt it important to send a considered, personal response and this statement reflects the essence of my reply.

“I cannot with integrity rescind my statement made after the publication of Lord Carlile’s review into how the Church handled the Bishop Bell case. I affirmed the extraordinary courage and achievement of Bishop Bell both before the war and during its course, while noting the Church has a duty to take seriously the allegation made against him.

“Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the Church covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions. I need only refer to the issues relating to Peter Ball to show an example. As a result, the Church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny (focussed in part on the Diocese of Chichester) through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Our first hearing is in March.

“The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused. It should be remembered that Carol, who brought the allegation, was sent away in 1995, and we have since apologised for this lamentable failure; a failure highlighted by Lord Carlile.

“I wrote my response with the support of both Bishop Peter Hancock, the lead bishop for safeguarding, and Bishop Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester. We are clear that we accept all but part of one of the recommendations Lord Carlile makes and we are extremely grateful to him for what he has done and the help he has given the Church.

“He indicates that in his judgement, a better way to have handled the allegation would have been for the Church to offer money on condition of confidentiality. We disagree with this suggestion. 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 historiansdoes not take into account any of these realities, nor the past failures of the Church. But we will go on considering how we can make our processes better and more robust, as pointed out by Lord Carlile.

“As in the case of Peter Ball, and others, it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged. As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit, but because abuse is often kept very secret. The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic. But as I said strongly in my original statement, 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.”

9
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
9 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
8 Comment authors
Rowland WateridgeInterested ObserverMariam BirchJanet FifeBill Broadhead Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

The Archbishop’s statement has been reported this afternoon in the Church Times online under the headline:”Welby declines to lift the cloud hanging over Bishop Bell”: https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2018/26-january/news/uk/welby-declines-to-lift-the-cloud-hanging-over-bishop-bell. The Archbishop’s statement today suggests that he has not understood the effect of Lord Carlile’s serious criticisms of the handling of the Bell case and Carol’s allegation by the Core Group deputed to investigate it by the C of E’s National Safeguarding Team. One cannot read the catalogue of errors and omissions set out in paragraph 254 of the Carlile report without drawing the conclusion that the process was so fundamentally flawed that any… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Exactly as predicted.

Welby’s made it abundantly clear that he won’t rehabilitate Bell, and it’s hard to conceive of any circumstance that’d change his mind. Even if he’d be willing to take the flack, he clearly sees restoration as a betrayal of “Carol.” He’s made his choice.

That being so, supporters of Bell must look for a way to go around the archbishop, perhaps by approaching the institutions directly, or by getting a motion through at least two houses of General Synod.

ExRevd
Guest
ExRevd

So he’s determined to keep digging? Or is this a promulgation of personal and corporate Infallibility?

Either way, nice of him even now to conflate the feet of clay of a convicted criminal with those of a person whose culpability even at the standard set in Civil Law is exactly the matter being called into question.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

One of the failings of using the civil standard of proof as a back-door route to “convict” people of criminal offences is that it’s a very, very weak standard. Balance of probabilities means just that: if you take “beyond reasonable doubt” as meaning a certainty of 100% minus epsilon, where epsilon is a small number, balance of probabilities means a certainty of 50% plus epsilon, for a similarly small epsilon. I think when people see the civil standard of proof talked about, they are thinking “oh, it’s true aside from some technicalities” or “it’s almost certainly true” – 90%? 95%?… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Guest
Bill Broadhead

This confirms what many of us suspected about Welby’s style of leadership. I think it was Paddy Ashdown who once said that when someone’s leadership becomes a matter of always proving yourself right, you have lost it.

Now, will the General Synod show some moral courage for once and do the decent thing?

The reference to the IICSA in his statement tells me that, far from a commitment to transparency, Welby knows something he’s not telling the rest of us – and is getting very twitchy.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

This is very worrying. Welby seems to be saying that because a number of people he had thought well of turned out to be paedophiles, anyone accused of abuse must be guilty. If Welby, Warner & Hancock believe all accusations of abuse must be true, no one now accused can be confident of a fair hearing. And anyone wishing to make trouble for a member of clergy knows what to do.

But what happens if Welby, or Warner, or Hancock should themselves face such an accusation?

Mariam Birch
Guest
Mariam Birch

It feels as though the Archbishop is using the one area where the Church maintains it was right to disagree with Lord Carlile viz the confidentiality clause as a stick to prop himself up. He does not seem to acknowledge that Lord Carlile has both said publicly (and by inference in the report) that he believed that not even the civil standard of proof was met… and that the process that led to the suggestion that it was was muddled and flawed. I have read somewhere that Bell’s diaries prove that he was not in Chichester on some of the… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Welby seems to be saying that because a number of people he had thought well of turned out to be paedophiles, anyone accused of abuse must be guilty.” Or, alternatively, that it’s OK to balance a wrongful acquittal with a wrongful conviction, provided the greater good is served. Referees in football matches do this (awarding dubious penalties to one side to balance a dubious penalty for the other side or a dubious play-on against this side) and sometimes players get wrongfully red-carded as collateral damage. But in the case of criminal charges, the trial has to be of the person… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I believe that Interested Observer in his first post (23.1.18, 3.19 am) has hit the nail squarely on the head.
Whatever conclusions the Core Group might or might not have drawn from Professor Maden’s report, it was unpardonable that it was not properly considered, or even read, by every member of the Group. And this was the expert’s report commissioned by the Church itself.
This does not alter my view that justice was not served for ‘Carol’ or for Bishop Bell.