Thinking Anglicans

Briden report on the Bishop Bell case is published

Updated Friday morning with media coverage (scroll down) and again Saturday

The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has today issued this:

National Safeguarding Team statement on Bishop Bell

A ruling by Timothy Briden, a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, relating to fresh information received about the late Bishop George Bell, has been published today. Mr Briden was appointed by the Bishop of Chichester to make an independent assessment of the evidence that had been brought before the core group, the Church’s response to any safeguarding situation…

…The core group took the view that there were no safeguarding issues arising out of the fresh information and Mr Briden concluded that the allegations presented to him were unfounded.

Lessons have already been learnt from this case and we have apologised for mistakes made in our processes. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Chichester have released their own statements.

The full text of the Briden report is available here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has today issued this:

Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

I apologise unreservedly for the mistakes made in the process surrounding the handling of the original allegation against Bishop George Bell. The reputation of Bishop Bell is significant, and I am clear that his memory and the work he did is of as much importance to the Church today as it was in the past. I recognise this has been an extremely difficult period for all concerned and I apologise equally to all those who have come forward and shared stories of abuse where we have not responded well.

An allegation against the late Bishop George Bell, originally brought in 1995, was made again in 2013 in the context of a growing awareness of how institutions respond to safeguarding cases. A review carried out by Lord Carlile into how the Church of England handled the case concerning Bishop Bell made a significant number of recommendations, and the Church of England accepted almost all of these.

At the end of 2017 several people came forward with further, fresh information following the Carlile review, and after a thorough, independent investigation, nothing of substance has been added to what has previously been alleged. A statement from the National Safeguarding Team explains the processes involved in reaching this latest decision more fully…

The Bishop of Chichester has released this:

RULING ON GEORGE BELL INVESTIGATION – A RESPONSE

…The Carlile report, and this subsequent investigation, have however shown how much we have had to learn about dealing with cases from the distant past. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has already questioned the Church over its response to the Bishop Bell case and the review by Lord Carlile. We expect that their report on our two hearings – to be published later this year – will address further the complex issues that have been raised and will result in a more informed, confident and sensitive handling of allegations of abuse in the future. We have learned much about what makes for better process and continue to do so.

In particular, we have learned that the boundaries of doubt and certainty have to be stated with great care, that the dead and those who are related to them have a right to be represented, and that there must be a balanced assessment of the extent to which it would be in the public interest to announce the details of any allegation.

It became obvious that a more thorough investigation must be made before any public announcement can be considered and that the level of investigation typically undertaken for settlement of a civil claim is not adequate to justify an announcement. It is now clear that if an announcement about any other person is to be made, it must not imply certainty when we cannot be certain. We have also now understood much more besides, in particular about the trust that people place in us and their legitimate expectations of us as guardians of the inheritance of faith.

We recognise the hurt that has been done to all who have been directly involved, including the family of George Bell and those who continue to respect his achievements, as a result of the areas where we have fallen short. We apologise profoundly and sincerely for our shortcomings in this regard. The responsibility for this is a shared one, as are the lessons learnt from it…

Updates – Media coverage

Church Times Archbishop Welby apologises for ‘mistakes’ in case of George Bell. This includes a report of a press briefing held yesterday with extensive quotes from “a Church House spokesman”. There are also quotes from Professor Andrew Chandler, Bell’s biographer. Strongly recommended to read in full.

Times (£) Sex-claims bishop George Bell will get a statue (this refers to a planned statue at Canterbury Cathedral)

Telegraph Archbishop of Canterbury apologises ‘unreservedly’ for CoE’s ‘mistakes’ in handling Bishop Bell allegations

Guardian C of E apologises for its handling of George Bell abuse allegations

Daily Mail Archbishop of Canterbury apologises over ‘mistakes’ in how Church of England handled allegations against Bishop George Bell as it emerges they were ‘unfounded’

BBC Bishop George Bell abuse allegations ‘unfounded’

Anglican Communion News Service Abuse allegations against the late Bishop George Bell are “unfounded”, inquiry finds

Archbishop Cranmer Martin Sewell and David Lamming How far is Bishop George Bell’s reputation restored? When is a cloud not a cloud? This detailed analysis is also strongly recommended reading.

Telegraph Letter from Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson (scroll down)

Tablet Archbishop apologises for shortcomings over Bell

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Revd Dean Henley
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Revd Dean Henley

It says so much about the hubris of the bishops involved that it takes two eminent lawyers to tell them what common sense ought to have communicated from the start. Those institutions that changed their name from Bishop Bell are unlikely to go back to their previous nomenclature. Bishop Bell’s poor family must be heartbroken at this state of affairs.

Simon Butler
Guest
Simon Butler

Except that lawyers had much input in the decision to settle with Carol. This was a core group decision not an episcopal one.

Revd Dean Henley
Guest
Revd Dean Henley

Simon, it’s a bit much to ask us to allow senior bishops to hide behind the skirts of on the payroll lawyers, who I seem to remember had no particular expertise in safeguarding law. It is surely for Archbishop Welby to take responsibility for his precipitous and unfortunate comments about Bishop Bell. Given Lord Carlile’s excoriating criticism of the core group’s process and its decisions; would it not have been better for the Archbishop to have made a fulsome and gracious apology to Bishop Bell’s family and supporters for the Church’s failings over the dead man’s reputation?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Archbishop Justin Welby states: “However, it is still the case that there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation relating to an historic case of abuse and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet”

So, Archbishop, are you saying your “significant cloud” no longer hangs over Bishop George Bell?

If so, would you please apologise for that monstrous remark.

Kate
Guest
Kate

He cannot apologise because that was based, at least in part, on Carol’s evidence and since that was excluded there should be no change in the conclusions.

Jill Armstead
Guest
Jill Armstead

Carol’s memory was found to be flawed to the extent that it is unlikely her abuser was Bishop Bell. She offered no evidence or witnesses. Evidence in his defence was never sought nor examined and the last witness who could testify on his behalf has since died. What a terrible, terrible mess. The dean and chapter must restore George Bell House and no 4 Canon Lane assigned to shameful history. The schools and college must do likewise.

Kate
Guest
Kate

What a total disaster for survivors. This really tilts the system against them being believed. That any similarities with Carol’s recollections were excluded in grounds of cost is a travesty and also makes it impossible to suggest that Bell is in any way exonerated since this process was entirely unconvincing.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I don’t think this tilts ‘the system’ against survivors being believed. It highlights the disastrous ineptitude of the original investigation which resulted in injustice to both parties, that is, as much to Carol as to Bishop Bell. What we must all hope is that lessons have been learned and that a competent and balanced procedure will be followed in future cases so that justice is done. Lord Carlile’s report provides a model.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I don’t agree that Lord Carlile’s report provides a model. Isn’t the whole point of safeguarding that preventative measures are put in place when there are grounds for concern which do not yet rise to the level at which they can be proven in court? So, if the Church’s investigations now demand the same standards of evidence and proof as courts, hasn’t preventative safeguarding been abandoned? Moreover the Christian aspect of the Church seems to have been sacrificed to legalism. If someone who has been raped goes to a support organisation, they won’t be expected to prove they were raped… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

No. There is a distinction to be drawn between preventative safeguarding and publicly naming someone as having been accused by a “victim.” The first does not necessarily require the second. And in doubtful cases the second may simply compound the private hurt, the public damage to the Church, and the financial liability.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Who’s tried to deny complainants support? From the start, I’ve said that “Carol” deserves understanding and support, alongside compensation for the botched handling of her complaint in the ’90s. There’s no contradiction between supporting complainants, and due process: just the opposite, due process protects them as much as anyone. “Carol’s” been subjected to much scrutiny that, absent the botched denunciation, she’d have been spared.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

It is a distortion of Timothy Briden’s report to say it is “a travesty” that “any similarities with Carol’s recollections were excluded on grounds of cost.” Mr Briden’s terms of reference made clear that his decision “should not relate to ‘Carol’ or any assessment of the allegation made by her or decision-making in connection with her allegation or claim.” (ToR para 15, report page 18). Although Mr Briden says (para 23) that “the effective re-opening of Carol’s case in the guise of (contested) similar fact evidence would seriously unbalance the inquiry and give rise to additional prejudice by way of… Read more »

Martin Sewell
Guest
Martin Sewell

I think you overlook an important dimension. The interests of survivors are not served by poor process. A structure that can be biased against a long dead Bishop can be biased against a current complainant to protect living clergy. The reports of both Carlile and Briden follow the advice of the expert Prof Maden who was absolutely correct in saying that the only safe approach where the incidents are ancient and the accused dead is to look for something that corroborates the accusation. This is clear and standard practice in the civil courts. We cannot pretend that every allegation is… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

It fell to my lot in the final decades of my working life to deal on a daily basis with cases of historical abuse including claims where the alleged abuser was long deceased. I stress that none involved the Church. Some claims were genuine. Some involved the most heart-rending facts. All had to be investigated dispassionately and thoroughly involving a detailed chronology taking on board facts, people involved, locations and any contemporary records. Where the evidence was clear, the claim was settled promptly. But there were ‘problem’ cases where the allegations did not marry the factual evidence. In one case… Read more »

Martin Sewell
Guest
Martin Sewell

I also think it worth noting that upon receipt of the investigators findings, the Core Group decided to effectively concede “ no contest” and did not seek to defend these latest allegations. The complainants did not seek to fortify their evidence by giving it orally and submitting to cross examination.

That was absolutely their right but it suggests that everyone knew the “ writing was on the wall” on these matters. They were plainly very “ thin” allegations.

Sam Jones
Guest
Sam Jones

‘However, it is still the case that there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation relating to an historic case of abuse and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet. We need to care for her and listen to her voice.’

So is +Welby saying he was guilty?

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

No Sam. totally separate from any finding of guilt or not, a woman exists who is suffering, and ++Welby says “we need to care for her and listen to her voice”. What about that statement is difficult to understand? Whilst I can understand the motivations of those who have spoken out in support of Bishop Bell, many of his suppporters lost my sympathy and support years ago in the way that, in their eagerness to support Bell, they displayed no sign of care or compassion for anybody else involved in this difficult process – especially Carol. She exists. You cannot… Read more »

Sam Jones
Guest
Sam Jones

Either +Bell is guilty or he isn’t. Under English law he is innocent until proven guilty. I do not see how the guilt of someone who is not around to defend himself based on an accusation made decades after the event can be established. It is appropriate to provide pastoral support to ‘Carol’ but trashing +Bell’s reputation on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations is utterly outrageous. I hope that procedures are put in place to ensure this does not happen again.

peterpi -- Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi -- Peter Gross

I think Archbishop Welby is putting Bishop Bell in a sort of stasis or limbo. Archbishop Welby acknowledges the shortcomings of the process of the time, but because a woman came forward and made allegations, then Bishop Bell cannot be entirely exonerated despite the shortcomings (such as lack of due process?) in the case. I don’t know if “damn with faint praise” is the appropriate description, because Archbishop Welby’s praise isn’t faint. But he does appear to be trying to satisfy everyone, which means it’s possible few will be entirely satisfied. It sounds like the process at the time was… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I remember watching the movie Spotlight when it came out a couple of years ago and being appalled that the Catholic Church did nothing about abuser priests (other than shuffle then to new posts) until the Boston Globe stacked up so much proof that it became impossible to ignore. I fear that the Church of England is now acting in the same way and establishing procedures which will ensure it does nothing until the proof is overwhelming. The problem seems to be epitomised by “So is +Welby saying he was guilty?’ If the focus becomes the issue of guilt to… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Surely, if the Civil Court requires actual proof of guilt, this should also be the requirement of the Church. Justice is common justice. No-one is immune to due process of the law.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“Listen to her voice” does not mean “believe what is said.” Look what the Archbishop has brought himself to say about Bishop Bell: “Finally, I want to make it very clear that Bishop George Bell is one of the most important figures in the history of the Church of England in the 20th century and his legacy is undoubted and must be upheld. His prophetic work for peace and his relationship with Dietrich Bonhoeffer are only two of the many ways in which his legacy is of great significance to us in the Church and we must go on learning… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

I truly hope some sharp questions are asked next month at Synod about this case and others like it.
There was very competent legal advice available in 2013 and in the years since. The Church could have sought and received better guidance. Will it now?
Will the Church apply this learning to other instances where it has rushed to very public judgment?

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Jeremy – the hope you express in your first sentence will almost certainly be realised. As for your two questions, I sincerely hope the answer is ‘yes’, but only time will tell.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

The Bishop of Chichester says this: “It became obvious that a more thorough investigation must be made before any public announcement can be considered and that the level of investigation typically undertaken for settlement of a civil claim is not adequate to justify an announcement. It is now clear that if an announcement about any other person is to be made, it must not imply certainty when we cannot be certain.“
If this is true of the dead, then all the more so for the living.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Timothy Briden’s report states that Alison’s evidence displayed “a disturbing degree of inconsistency” (para 18). Surely the same could be said of Carol’s evidence which was grossly inconsistent and contradictory. Any court in the land worthy of its salt would instantly dismiss the evidence of both Alison and Carol. In the fourth of the Terms of Reference it is suggested that “there may have been another member of clergy, other than Bishop George Bell, who could have perpetrated the abuse which “Carol” has alleged.” Timothy Briden draws this conclusion “while there may have been a perpetrator of abuse associated with… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I really think we should all refrain from offering any further judgement of Carol’s claim. She was ill-served, as was Bishop Bell, by the initial investigation. There the matter should rest. I don’t see this as any obstacle to Bishop Bell’s reputation being rightfully restored.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Restoring Bell’s reputation is telling Carol that she isn’t believed. To reverse position at this stage seems deeply unfair and cruel. I find it incomprehensible that Christians are prioritising the reputation of a long-dead guy over a living survivor

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Restoring Bishop Bell’s reputation is NOT telling ‘Carol’ she isn’t believed.

There is little doubt ‘Carol’ was abused as a child in Chichester – so she is believed.

But there is strong doubt – backed up by very persuasive evidence – it was Bishop Bell

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“Restoring Bell’s reputation is telling Carol that she isn’t believed.”
The quoted sentence is wrong as a matter of logic. That simply does not follow.
Generally, therapy for complainants does not require traducing the reputations of innocent people.
And in this particular case, remember how we came to this pass. Carol managed to get the Church of England to use its bullhorn and repeat her allegations against Bishop Bell. And yet we now know that that never should have occurred.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Au contraire, Kate. To defame a person when a charge cannot be proved against them is to perform a common injustice. If this were not the case, then anyone might expect to be believed – even on a false charge. It is not simply a matter of being ‘kind and compassionate to a complainant but simply common justice.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Also, in the interests of accuracy, these are the words used by Mr Briden at paragraph 41 of the Report:

“41. One such aspect is the possibility, canvassed in particular by witness A and witness D that while there may have been a perpetrator of abuse associated with Chichester Cathedral that person was not Bishop Bell. Mr Galloway was not able to obtain any convincing evidence to confirm that this was so. The question therefore remains unresolved.”

Nevertheless, as I suggest above, this need be no bar to restoration of Bishop Bell’s reputation.

Simon Butler
Guest
Simon Butler

Move on everyone. This sad affair is over.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

No, Mr Butler – this sad affair is far from over.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Credit where it’s due, this report remedies the flaws I raised at when Bell was first denounced: they hired a retired police detective, examined timelines, were careful not to contaminate evidence, looked for exculpation, and applied the presumption of innocence. No credit attaches to the continued refusal to apologize for the appalling overhanging cloud comments, and to restore the late bishop’s good name. Two senior lawyers have said that there’s no case to answer. Yes, Bell may be guilty regardless, but unless proof to that effect emerges, he’s entitled to be presumed innocent. Attempts by certain bishops to find a… Read more »

Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
Guest
Fr John Emlyn Harris-White

Maybe the only way to get the Archbishop Welby to move on this matter is for us on Thinking Anglicans to sign a petition to him, requesting the restatement of Bishop Bell to his rightful place in our church history.
I would very happily sign such a petition.

Fr John Emlyn

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Although Petitions have their place, they are of little use at this late stage in the case of Bishop Bell. There was a Petition delivered personally to Lambeth Palace on Oct 19 2016 – with over 2000 signatures – before the Carlile Report was published: https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/october-27-2016-petition-in-support-of-bishop-bell-is-delivered-chichester-observer-reporter-steve-pickthall/ What happened? Nothing. Although I personally don’t think Archbishop Welby should resign, I can fully understand why people (such as Revd Peter Mullen) strongly believe that he should. But the Archbishop should most definitely apologise – especially for making his monstrous “significant cloud” remark against Bishop Bell – and he should most definitely clear… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Did not Archbishop Welby suggest that George Carey refrain from public ministry because of the way in which he mishandled the Bishop Ball affair? So, what are the due consequences of the way in which Welby has mishandled the Bishop Bell affair? What’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. The outrageous “significant cloud” comment has not been lifted and George Bell has yet not been fully exonerated by the current powers that be.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

If Welby refuses to retract that disgraceful comment voluntarily, a motion from two of the three houses of General Synod demanding that he do so would have great weight, and could in itself serve to rehabilitate Bell’s memory.

John Swanson
Guest
John Swanson

So who is the “Church House Spokesman” in the Church Times account?

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

I understand that those present at the press briefing on 24th January were the Rt Revd Martin Warner (Bishop of Chichester), Graham Tilby (National Adviser, National Safeguarding Team) and Moira Murray (National Casework Manager), plus a member of the C of E Comms team.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Sunday headline…

Shock as Church of England tells abusers that they don’t need to confess their sins and will be presumed innocent by the Church (God’s representative on earth) unless someone proves they are guilty.

Can commentors really not see why “innocent until proven guilty” is incompatible with the true message of the Church? Innocent until proven guilty is right in criminal courts but not for a Church.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

I expect most would view an invitation to confess sins as being different in kind to making an accusation. Each to their own.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Please distinguish more carefully among (1) the Church’s private, pastoral responses to complainants, (2) the Church’s private, investigatory conclusions as to cases, and (3) the Church’s public pronouncements on those cases.
One of the lessons of the Bishop Bell affair is that these three things can and must be unbundled.
The Church may believe a complainant enough to support her pastorally and even to pay her a settlement. But in a close case, the Church may still think it unwise to make any public statement implicating anyone.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I think that’s an area of disagreement as I don’t believe they should be unbundled.

david Rowett
Guest
david Rowett

I’m finding the reasoning here difficult to follow. Is what is being required by Kate something like this, that an allegation against an office holder which fails to pass the CPS test should nevertheless be taken by the Church to be sufficiently well-founded as to be read as (at best) ‘case not proven’ and for the name of the individual to be made known? That’s a frightening place to go. I would have thought that the CDM options (including a ‘risk assessment’) and the entry of the allegation on the ‘blue file’ of the alleged offender were options quite sufficiently… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

It’s only frightening because people are exercising non-Christian judgementalism. We see it in this thread with all the talk about Bell’s reputation. That’s a very non-Christian standpoint. In a Christian context. Bell’s reputation is unaffected by the allegations and whatever anyone now says.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Yes, moral and legal discernment and wisdom was – and is – expected and required from the Christian Church. For the last four years – starting with the Church’s catastrophic Statement of Oct 22 2015 – that discernment and wisdom has been almost entirely lacking in the higher echelons of the Church of England. As HA Prichard has said: “You can approach the truth only through the ruins of what is false” The hope and prayer is that through the ruins of the Bishop Bell case, all concerned will be more wise and discerning – and a real healing and… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

I’m sure that those who’ve championed due process throughout have weak spots, which must of course be improved; but it’d be false equivalence to deny that those who rushed to judgment on the basis of anonymous hearsay have, by far, the most lessons to learn. Those who didn’t are, I’m sure, equally flawed in other areas. As ever, it’s about the principle, not the person.

Colin
Guest
Colin

I don’t see how this is the case in the Christian message. Indeed God Himself calls upon written evidence in books of record in a final judgement before condemning sinners to punishment (Read Rev chapter 20). God Himself holds an inquiry. He calls upon objective evidence. Only then the verdict and sentence. However as a number of commentators have said here, there is nothing to stop the church in providing comfort and pastoral care to claimants. They must be taken at their word with regard to their suffering unless there is evidence that it is a cooked-up case, and provided… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Agreed, but there has to be an earthly court of judgement, and in civil cases, i.e., essentially claims for compensation, we are fixed with the burden of proof being on ‘the balance of probabilities’, a far lower threshold than the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ required to secure a criminal conviction. In the case of abusers still living there is likely to be a criminal conviction which will establish liability in the civil courts without further enquiry. The identity of the abuser will be in the public domain. Matters become far more complicated when the abuser or, more correctly, alleged abuser is… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

We can’t know the truth; but we can presume innocence absent proof of guilt. This applies even on the balance of probabilities: Carlile ruled that, were Bell still alive, there wouldn’t even be sufficient evidence to press charges (nor, contra the church’s fantastical press release, to arrest him); and Briden didn’t even consider it necessary hear defense evidence before dismissing the latest allegations. Yes, he may have been guilty, but his innocence should be presumed innocence unless evidence is produced to overturn that vital shield.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Rehabilitation of Bishop Bell’s reputation is a matter for the Church and individual consciences.

None of my posts is intended to imply that Bishop Bell may have been guilty, nor do they say that. It was the conclusion drawn by the Church, on the balance of probabilities, based on a seriously deficient investigation which was unfair to both Carol and to Bishop Bell.

In fairness to Carol, she really ought to be left in peace without this continuing controversy.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

I’ve seen none of the critics of the church’s epic bungling seek to disturb “Carol’s” peace: she’s entitled to lifetime anonymity; and it’s agreed that she deserves to be compensated for the church’s failure to properly investigate.

The focus is on the leadership, and their own failures. The best way to lay this to rest is for them to leave Bell’s surviving friends and family in peace by withdrawing all the “significant cloud” comments and restoring him to good standing.

Father David
Guest
Father David

It still seems to me that Cantuar is less plausibly sorry than the Duke of Edinburgh is! We only had to wait just over a week for Prince Philip to apologise – it has taken slightly longer for the ABC to do the same and still he has not rescinded his “significant cloud” comment.

Father David
Guest
Father David

I’m delighted to learn that a statue of George Bell is to be completed and installed at Canterbury cathedral where he served as a distinguished dean and should have been enthroned as Archbishop. My question is – will the statue include a “significant cloud” over Bishop Bell’s head? I sincerely hope not as by the time of its unveiling surely it will be right and proper for Bell’s good name and reputation to be completely exonerated.

Marian Birch
Guest
Marian Birch

Actually I rather like the idea of a significant cloud over the head of the statue. The Evensong reading from Numbers 9 last Sunday speaks of the cloud that rested over the people and the tabernacle in the wilderness. The cloud of course was symbolising God’s presence. So … a cloud over the Bell statue could become a visible reminder of the presence of God with him throughout all his ministry and life.

Nick Flint
Guest
Nick Flint

I too have been reflecting of the positive cloud imagery – the possibility of transfiguration, and a line from Cowper: Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Father David
Guest
Father David

I don’t think the ABC had the Shekinah in mind when mentioning the “significant cloud”. However, every cloud has a silver lining, so they say, and that surely would be if George Bell were completely exonerated. In an excellent article in the Daily Telegraph (28th January MMXIX) “The Church still has not cleared Bishop Bell”, Charles Moore affirms that “New allegations have rightly been thrown out but a cloud has been left to hang over a great man.”

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

As Charles Moore points out: “In our law and culture, if guilt cannot be proved, innocence must be presumed. To do this is not to ‘discredit’ a complainant, who might not be lying, but might be mistaken about identity or confused in other ways. Memory plays strange tricks, especially about events alleged to have occurred 70 years ago” Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner is quoted as saying: “Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty, nor can it be safely claimed that the original complainant [‘Carol’] has been discredited”. ‘Carol’ has not been “discredited”, and Bishop Bell is now proved innocent in… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Sorry, and with respect to Charles Moore and to you, this is a misreading of paragraph 41 which I quoted verbatim in an earlier post 4 days ago: Mr Galloway was NOT able to obtain any convincing evidence to confirm that the perpetrator of abuse was NOT Bishop Bell. Hence the concluding sentence “The question therefore remains unresolved.” If Mr Briden intended the meaning Charles Moore and you have inferred he would surely have said it categorically. Yes, there is obviously a possibility of mistaken identity, but Mr Briden and, for that matter, Lord Carlile should not be misquoted or… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

If I have misunderstood or misquoted Charles Moore, I apologise to him. But paragraph 41 must be read with care. To a small extent it answers Father David’s question below. Mr Galloway enquired but did not find “convincing evidence”.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Paragraph 41 is ambiguous – and presumably intentionally so. It will be interesting to see how Geoffrey Boys – and Q&A discussion contributors – interpret it this Monday at the ‘Rebuilding; conference:

http://rebuildingbridges.org.uk/chichester-2019/draft-agenda/

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

It would be most surprising, and highly irregular, for the Bishop’s Commissary to be “intentionally” ambiguous in his report. I accept that people far more highly qualified than I have expressed different views. I don’t find paragraph 41 ambiguous, but I now propose to take a leaf out of the book of (The Revd) Stanley Monkhouse on an earlier (unrelated) TA thread and take a sabbatical from further comment on TA about Bishop Bell’s case – a very sad saga on all sides. I will watch with interest what people have to say.

Father David
Guest
Father David

If it is a case of “mistaken identity” why can’t some investigation be carried out as to the identity of the alleged perpetrator instead of continuing to sully Bishop Bell’s fine and upstanding reputation?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

An investigation was carried out in 2004 – The CARMI Report – which pointed to the likely perpetrator.

https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/feb-20-2018-report-of-a-case-review-by-edina-carmi-commissioned-by-john-hind-bishop-of-chichester-in-2004-the-carmi-report/

If Timothy Briden’s terms of reference from the Church had included an investigation of the claims of’Carol’ as well as ‘Alison’, I’m sure the CARMI Report would have been the focus of attention.

Why did the Church’s terms of reference exclude investigating the claims of ‘Carol’?

Good question.

Marian Birch
Guest
Marian Birch

I agree with you. I don’t think Archbishop Welby had the Shekinah in mind in making his comment. But it would be a wonderful riposte to pick up something that he intended as a negative comment, and turn it into a positive affirmation of Bishop Bell!

Nick Flint
Guest
Nick Flint

Precisely!

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“A second inquiry by a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, Timothy Briden, was established at the beginning of 2018, after a further allegation had been made. His report, which was published on 24 January, stated that this allegation, and one other which also surfaced in 2018, were “ unfounded”. Here justice has been done. “The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed the Briden report and praised Bishop Bell as “ a remarkable role model”. He also “ apologised unreservedly for the mistakes” made during the investigation of the first allegation, but he nevertheless stood by the decision to accept the wholly uncorroborated complaint despite… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

What does ‘unfounded’ mean? Its plain meaning is that of having no basis in foundation or fact. While not a judicial word per se, it has judicial implications. And it’s black and white. Attempts to rely on unfounded evidence will necessarily fail, certainly in a court. The Briden Report, in its central conclusion, adopts this language. The allegations made by ‘Alison’ were unfounded. End of story?  Maybe not. I experienced a single act of sexual abuse as a boy in about 1965 (then aged 12), fleeting and not repeated.  I did not report it.  A well-respected barman at a well-known… Read more »

Rev Peter Milligan
Guest
Rev Peter Milligan

Thank you, Anthony, your painful story must have cost much to tell. And it is a rebuke to the unpleasant note of triumphalism in too many responses to this story. Clever legal conjuring with words has disguised the reality of abuse and abusers. In particular an impossible and irresponsible level of proof has been imposed to protect the guilty. I shall continue to respect Bishop Bell for the good he has done as a Christian leader, but it does not follow that his reputation is beyond criticism. He faces (has faced?) a greater judge than I, who sees all and… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

You really don’t get it do you, Mr Archer and Rev Milligan. If you took the trouble to understand what the Bishop Bell case was really about, you would not write such opinionated, judgemental nonsense. To my mind, there’s absolutely no point in arguing with such closed minds. As Lord Carlile QC said today (Fri): It is “for the Church to admit the awful mistakes it has made in dealing with unsubstantiated allegations against Bishop Bell. His name should never have been publicised before allegations were investigated. The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full,… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

There is no “unpleasant note of triumphalism” – just a catastrophic failure of due process which shames us all…or should do.

Father David
Guest
Father David

A most distressing account of a most unpleasant incident in your childhood. There is no doubt as to the identity of the Cornish barman in this particular case of childhood abuse. However, with regard to Carol’s contradictory and confused account – no real investigation has taken place with regard to possible mistaken identity. If it were another clergyman who perpetrated the alleged abuse – then Bishop Bell is innocent and his good name should be restored unreservedly by the hierarchy.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

There is very little doubt ‘Carol’ was abused as a child in the Chichester Diocese. So, she is to be believed and supported. But there is very serious doubt it was Bishop Bell. In other words, it was a case of ‘mistaken identity’. As Anne Dawson wisely says (who regrets she is unable to attend the ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ conference this Monday): “Reconstruction of childhood events over a long passage of time are viewed through the lens of subsequent life experiences. ‘Carol’ – or anyone looking back on their childhood many decades ago – has ‘anchor points’ for memory reconstruction that… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“There have been repeated investigations into suggestions – sometimes allegations – that Bishop Bell was guilty of sexual misconduct. Not a shred of evidence has been found to confirm this. Lord Carlile and other eminences have repeatedly exonerated him. Therefore, it is quite wrong to say that there is still a cloud over George Bell. There is no such cloud – except over the heads of those who still insist that there remains some doubt in this matter. These accusations are a vicious libel on the good man’s name”

~ Statement by Revd Peter Mullen [3/2/2019]

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

In an unexpected turn of events, Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester, refused to unequivocally exonerate Bishop George Bell of allegations of child abuse, while addressing the Rebuilding Bridges Conference in Chichester. “We are not able to speak with any certainty in any direction,” Bishop Warner told a shocked audience on Monday. The audience responded by heckling Warner and shouting: “That’s not right, that’s unacceptable.” Voices from the audience reminded Warner that the Briden report did not deal with the original allegations against Bell made by an unidentified woman, known only as “Carol”, only because the Church of England had set… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Dear Bishop Martin Warner My apologies for not sending the Draft Transcript earlier (spelling errors not yet corrected). I had only sent it out to those who expressly requested the script at the earliest opportunity There were aspects of your talk at the Rebuilding Bridges conference which did concern us yesterday – not least [the lack of] an explicit statement of Bishop Bell’s innocence in law by the guiding principle of justice – the Presumption of Innocence. Also, the Cathedral was given the substantial asset, George Bell House, as a memorial to the man. Despite being effectively exonerated by rigorous… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“The church needs to say that they jumped to conclusions and made a compensatory payment in undue haste with inadequate evidence. They are sorry to have maligned the good name of an innocent man. However, they are unable to take the normal legal steps to reverse their verdict due to pastoral concerns for the accuser, whose words were true except that she identified the wrong man. If the original investigation had been thorough this state of affairs would never have happened. They apologise unreservedly to Bishop Bell, his family and to Carol. Bishop Bell was and is innocent”

~ Reverend K

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Thank you Father David. There is no doubt that my abuser’s lawyers would have played the mistaken identity card, and who can blame them? Unequal bargaining or not, that what lawyers are paid to do. As it happens, again from distant memory, he used to employ some rather dubious characters, including students invited down to Sennen Cove for the vacation, to work in the bar. No doubt one of them was the abuser. In an identity parade at the time, I would have had no difficulty picking him out. Decades later, assuming he was still alive, it would have been… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

At Monday’s Restoring George Bell’s reputation conference in Chichester was there much discussion on mistaken identity?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Indeed there was Father David. If you – or anyone else – would like a transcript of the proceedings last Monday, just email: richardsy5@aol.com

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“It is to the credit of Martin Warner Bishop of Chichester that he briefly attended the well-attended ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ conference in the Cathedral City last Monday. “As the title suggests, the conference was reaching out to Bishop Bell’s would-be destroyers, hoping for an apology and restoration of at least some of Bishop Bell’s ‘airbrushed’ and obliterated memorabilia. “There was to be bitter disappointment. The Bishop, who presided over the original discredited investigation, claimed he was unable to speak with any certainty owing to the “passage of time”. He expressed regret, not at condemning an innocent man but, despite previous trumpeting… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

On the Sunday programme (3rd February MMXIX) the Bishop of Chichester told us that members of the Dean and Chapter were currently reviewing the former decision to airbrush Bishop Bell’s name from the cathedral. It would be a mark of Christian humility and respect were his good name to reappear with honour at the mother church of the diocese of Chichester where George Bell served for so many years with great distinction. As for the change of name at Bishop Bell School, Eastbourne – alas, I cannot foresee a restoration of its former name; however, it would be good if… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

The Church threw Bishop Bell under the bus and threw the Principle of the Presumption of Innocence into the bin. Who is responsible for such a moral and legal disgrace? The buck stops where?”

Archbishop Welby and Bishop Warner need to apologise for this monstrous injustice – fast.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Headlines in the Church Times this week – “Bell payment ‘should have been secret'” [Feb 8] – does a further injustice to the continuing injustice being done to the wartime Bishop of Chichester. Why? Because secrecy is not the issue at stake here. What is at stake is the Presumption of Innocence. Both Lord Carlile QC and Timothy Briden have, independently, declared Bishop Bell innocent in law by upholding the moral and legal principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner continue to defy this sacred principle by refusing to… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“George Bell cannot be proven guilty” [Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner].

“If he cannot be proven guilty he is ‘de facto’ innocent” [Bishop X].