Thinking Anglicans

More coverage of the Archbishop's statement on George Bell

Updated Friday evening

Continued from this earlier post… (Comment pieces are at the bottom of that article.)

Martin Sewell has written at Archbishop Cranmer The George Bell saga evidences a CofE legal culture which is not merely incompetent, but predisposed toward deception and injustice.

This is a very long and detailed article but is well worth the time to study. Here’s a teaser excerpt:

…The problem may be succinctly put: Archbishop Justin has a handful of advisors to guide him in these matters – not one of whom has a credible claim to expertise in this increasingly complex specialism. What is especially ironic is that, in the person of the President of Clergy Discipline Tribunals, Lord Andrew McFarlane QC, the Church of England has the country’s leading expert on Safeguarding Law. The legal tome Hershman and McFarlane’s Children Law and Practice is every child practitioner’s bible: it runs to four volumes and is updated every three months with interchangeable loose-leaf inserts. This is a fast evolving field for the specialist: what major institutions do not need is people from other disciplines doing their incompetent best…

And a second one:

…The Church of England needs to found its Safeguarding on the well-established principles of English Law. It has been off on a frolic of its own, and it has not ended well. Speaking to a very senior figure at Synod I was gently chided: “You want to create a system in accordance with the Law – we are creating one suitable for the Church of England.” Well, just look where that has got us.

Even if it were right for the Established Church to attempt to develop a jurisprudence divergent from that of English and Welsh Law, on what basis do we suggest that we have the knowledge and basic competence to undertake such a project?

There is also a letter from Martin Sewell in the Telegraph (h/t AC)

Christian Today has Bishop of Peterborough breaks ranks over Church’s handling of George Bell case (for full parliamentary text see here).

…Explaining his remarks to Christian Today, Allister said the name of the accused should only be disclosed ‘when there was a substantial body of evidence suggesting guilt’.

‘I suggest that if a complainant is allowed to be anonymous, there should be a presumption that the respondent should normally be afforded the same right,’ he told Christian Today.

‘I am simply asking for a public debate and for the government to review this matter. I’m not suggesting that I have all the answers, merely that I believe such a review is necessary.’

Updates

Church Times has a leader Saint, tarnished which concludes this way:

…It is because innocence is harder to prove than guilt that the UK legal system insists on assuming innocence until guilt has been proved. It is this assumption that Bishop Bell is being denied, and it is for this reason that Lord Carlile and others have advocated anonymity for those accused of abuse. Sir Cliff Richard, at the end of a successful fight to clear his name, re­­­marked: “It hurt me so much I don’t think I can ever recover personally.” Of course, Bishop Bell knows nothing of the accusation. Instead, it is the Church of England’s own history and reputation that is being harmed, despite this talk of heroes.

It is clear that the Lambeth psyche has been seriously bruised by the Peter Ball affair. Archbishop Welby named the disgraced former Bishop of Gloucester three times in his short statement about Bishop Bell on Monday. Possibly, too, there are personal scars from the John Smyth cover-up. But an unwinnable wrangle over an unprovable case undermines the Church’s efforts to construct a credible response to present-day instances of abuse.

Andrew Brown in the Church Times press column covers the subject: Newspapers circle as Archbishop Welby digs in

…When you have The Economist, The Times, the Telegraph, The Guardian, and The Mail on Sunday all attacking you, it is safe to say that you have lost the press. And it is really hard to see what is gained as a result.

Economist The case of Bishop George Bell

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Simon SarmientoDavid LammingJanet FifeJeremyMichael Mulhern Recent comment authors
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Jeremy
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Jeremy

From the Archbishop’s self-justification:

“The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic.”

Yet another red herring….

And I’m going to say it: The George Bell case has absolutely nothing to do with the Archbishop’s parentage.

Is the Church of England now to conclude that the Archbishop is making safeguarding-policy decisions based on his own family history?

His words, not mine. He opened this door.

Father David
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Father David

Seems to me that with all this reaction to Justin Welby’s most recent ill-advised statement the “significant cloud” now hangs over Lambeth and not over the undoubtedly innocent George Bell.

T Pott
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T Pott

Clergy are almost the worst people to take part in these sort of investigations because they are people of faith, unswayed by evidence and able to stick dogmatically and persuasively to their beliefs, without doubts or questions, at least publically. Having asserted that “victims” must be believed this may be internalised alongside the other articles of faith which must be believed. Welby is no more able to accept the evidence for Bishop Bell’s innocence than to question the evidence for the other articles of his faith. What is a great strength for an archbishop in his day job may be… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I hadn’t connected Welby’s discovery about his real father with his discovering feet of clay in people he respected. I assumed he meant John Smyth.. There are probably others too, with the amount of uncovering of old crimes now being made. It’s tough to find that people you liked and respected are not what they seem, and many of us have been through that. However, that does not make Welby’s gross misjudgments in this case any less damaging. When I read his latest statement I wondered about his state of mind: perhaps he should take a sabbatical. Martin Sewell’s being… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

The sad thing, and I say this without clear ways to move forward morally, is that coverups have longer-term consequences than frank acceptance. We’ve known this since Watergate; Nixon would have served out his term had he just immediately condemned what he would have painted as over-enthusiastic supporters. Suppose that Peter Ball, or in another sphere Larry Vassar, had been dealt with as soon as credible suspicions arose. The burden of proof for sacking someone is a great deal lower than convicting them of a crime, but in both cases there was at the time of their offences clear evidence… Read more »

Graham Hardy
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Graham Hardy

When I first offered myself for ordination, over 30 years ago, a wise Franciscan told me that, unless I had a robust and realistic doctrine of human frailty and corruptability, I wouldn’t survive. Reading Justin Welby’s statements, and his recourse to Peter Ball and John Smyth (or his own father?), makes me wonder whether his approach is an inevitable symptom both of having too idealised a picture of human life and a lack of episcopal experience. Any bishop with sustained experience as a suffragan and diocesan will know that many clergy cannot be the impressive people we expect them to… Read more »

Ken Powell
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Ken Powell

Welby has diminished his office over this affair. And he seems altogether too keen to comment on any issue of the day without proper forethought. I fear the CoE has a more serious leadership crisis than ever.

CRS
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CRS

“The real villain of the Bell affair is George Carey” — what utter nonsense.

For God’s sake, leave Carey out of it. There is sufficient scope for evaluating this very difficult issue without dragging +GC into it.

Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

Thank you @Graham Hardy for this perspective. I also wonder if what you are suggesting is rooted in a particularly myopic reading of scripture and the Christian tradition – not least the way that a particular strand of Reformed theology has appropriated Anselm and Augustine of Hippo’s theologies of atonement and the human person. Then it becomes easy to uncritically divide people into categories of ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ When the O’Donovan report identified the need for more ‘intellectual liveliness’ in the House of Bishops, it wasn’t kidding, was it? And it is precisely these kind of situations, that require an… Read more »

David Lamming
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David Lamming

In reply to Janet (9.19 am this morning): Unless the current IICSA chairman reverses the ruling of Dame Lowell Goddard on 21 March 2016 (when she was chairman of the inquiry) refusing the application of Martyn Percy (Dean of Christ Church, Oxford) to be a core participant on the basis that “Bishop Bell’s guilt or innocence is not a critical aspect of this Inquiry, or of the Anglican investigation, or of the investigation’s case studies” it seems unlikely that the inquiry will “consider the ramifications of the Bell case in its upcoming investigation into Chichester Diocese.” Perhaps, though, Alexis Jay… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Janet, what then are we to make of these words: “more than one person” and “personally tragic.” More than one = it cannot be Smyth alone. And personally tragic? However much sympathy we might have for personal tragedies, rhetorically and logically they are a red herring, irrelevant in terms of the Church’s safeguarding policy. I agree with you that shaming innocent people does the survivor community no favours. As for IO’s point about the Church’s lack of credibility when it finds that someone is innocent, well, which way does that cut? It does not mean that no one is innocent.… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

David Lamming, thank you for that. I hope Goddard’s ruling will be reversed, in light of recent events and what they reveal of C of E. culture. If not, I hope Parliament will step in and require action – but Parliament has more than enough on its hands at present. Jeremy, I did say there were probably others too. And I wouldn’t describe personal tragedies as a red herring, if they materially affect the judgement of a leader. If Welby’s personal tragedies render him unable to make sound decisions re. safeguarding and abuse cases, he ought to hand over to… Read more »

David Lamming
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David Lamming

George Bell and the Carlile report were referred to by Fiona Scolding QC (counsel to the inquiry for the Anglican church investigation) at this morning’s preliminary IICSA hearing into the inquiry’s investigation into child sexual abuse in the Anglican church and, specifically, the Diocese of Chichester (evidence hearings in March) and Bishop Peter Ball (evidence hearing in July). The transcript of today’s hearing is available already on the IICSA website (together with that of the earlier preliminary hearing on 4 October 2017 which, helpfully, sets out in some detail the scope of the investigation.) So far as George Bell and… Read more »