Thinking Anglicans

Lord Carey speaks at Rebuilding Bridges conference

The Bell Society, which seeks to restore the reputation of Bishop George Bell, held a second Rebuilding Bridges conference on 5 October.  See here for more information about the first conference, held in February. Note that this organisation is distinct from the George Bell Group.

One of the speakers on 5 October was Lord Carey. The full text of his remarks has been published by Archbishop Cranmer.  He also discusses the separate case of Bishop Peter Ball.

Lord Carey challenges Bishops to break their silence on the ‘significant cloud’ hanging over the name of Bishop George Bell

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Kate
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Kate

I find this totally disgusting. Lord Carey is worried what people might think of him long after his death. How is that not the sin of pride? On the basis of pride, he argues that another dead bishop was treated badly.

The correct Christian response is that the reputation of the dead is irrelevant. Doing otherwise is highly damaging.

All his talk of process is irrelevant to Christians. We believe that the Lord judges those who die – to suggest their earthly reputation matters undermines part of the central Christian message. Lord Carey should know better.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“The correct Christian response is that the reputation of the dead is irrelevant.” Leaving aside Lord Carey’s statement, and the sin of pride, I must register very strong disagreement with the quoted sentence. The reputations of the dead are irrelevant in law, but are highly relevant to many, including to people of faith. The reputations of the dead matter very much to the living–especially the deceased’s friends and relatives. The reputations of the prominent dead also matter very much to historians, including historians of the church. For how and whom we choose to honor or condemn will both reflect and… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

That’s a fine secular view but not, I suggest, a Christian one. So what if it was shown that St George was a child molester? We know he was a sinner: nobody is righteous. If we name churches only for those who didn’t sin, they would all be called Christ Church or something similar. You have also picked a very poor example with St George as the history of his life is so obscure it is almost mythological. If we accept that he was martyred we know almost nothing about how he lived his life before then – although he… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Kate there are power dynamics at work in the Bishop Bell case. But let us also consider the fact that how we treat the defenceless dead, and how we treat the defenceless living, are connected. If the Bishop Bell case can deter or prevent the Church from rushing without sufficient cause to blame the living, including the living who may be innocent, then the conference is worth every penny and every minute. This is, after all, why we study history, including very recent history, as well as the lives of the saints. We hope to learn lessons, and we hope… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

If they close the group and reform it for a living individual without clerical status my comments will obviously be different.

David Lamming
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David Lamming

Hebrews chapter 11 surely provides the answer to the argument that the reputation of the dead is irrelevant.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I don’t see how.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Kate, Unless you actually have experienced abuse your self – at the hands of those who have judged you without proof – you cannot know what shame this pre-judgement of Bishop Bell has caused his family, all without substantive proof.

There are false allegations made against people every day. It is much harder to proved innocence than guilt. The general rule must be right that: a person is innocent until proven guilty.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

Archbishop David Hope retired and became a humble parish priest. He later resigned because of historical safe-guarding issues and has maintained a dignified silence ever since. George Carey is now publicly worried that people will think ill of him in 50 years time. Perhaps he can be assured that most people will have forgotten him by then.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

I have little opinion on the Bell case beyond (a) assuming that Martyn Percy is quite likely to be on the right side on this as in so much else and he has looked at the case much more closely than most other people and (b) observing that the evidence, such as it is, is limited and thin and weighs against a massive pile of reasons to believe the accusations are not true. This is not the Peter Ball case, where once the lid was lifted there was endless, detailed and convincing evidence. It is hard to escape the conclusion… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

I find the comments above deeply misinformed. Seeking the truth and speaking the truth is important. Lord Carey was not the only speaker last Friday at Church House, as you will see here: http://rebuildingbridges.org.uk/voices/ It is also important to think about the context in which things are said. This was a Conference about Bishop Bell and a gross miscarriage of justice which is taking place in front of our noses – perpetuated, tragically, by Archbishop Welby’s disgraceful “significant cloud” remark against this venerated, wartime Bishop – his 60th Anniversary which fell last week on Oct 3. This miscarriage of justice… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

There cannot be a miscarriage of justice against someone who is dead, both in a Christian sense in terms of our beliefs, and also in secular sense for the same reason that the deceased cannot be libelled. The energy this group is putting into Bishop Bell would be much better directed at identifying and dealing with miscarriages of justice against the living. Why can’t their energy be directed instead towards creating a program equivalent to the American Justice Project? Or is a dead bishop’s reputation really worth more than a random drug user falsely convicted of murder? That’s how it… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“There cannot be a miscarriage of justice against someone who is dead…”

I don’t think Christ’s disciples held that view just after He was crucified.

David Rowett
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David Rowett

Two names from the past. Craig Bentley. Alan Turing. In both cases, and in different ways, it was felt appropriate to rehabilitate them for posterity, both to ease the distress of surviving friends and relatives and to ensure that – insofar as it’s possible – the historical record is accurate. Why offer posthumous pardons for miscarriages of justice if it’s not important? Why – in this centenary of the Armistice – was it so vital to descendants of those shot for cowardice that they should be exonerated? Kate, would you be entirely sanguine about the irrelevance of the reputation of… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Actually I would say exactly the same were Bishop Bell my relative.

Kate
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Kate

Christ isn’t dead.

Richard W. Symonds
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I said “just after He was crucified”. Please do not trivialise or try to ‘score points’ on such a crucially-important subject

Jo B
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Jo B

The miscarriage of justice took place before Christ was crucified. The point is that one cannot suffer a miscarriage of justice when there is no trial and no sentence. The presumption of innocence is a legal concept applying to how the courts behave (i.e. it is necessary for the prosecution to prove guilt) in criminal cases. It doesn’t mean that, absent a trial, everyone should act as if an alleged perpetrator is innocent. There has been no trial in the Saville case, for instance, but I don’t think anyone is suggesting he should be presumed innocent. It’s quite legitimate for… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Jo B, the presumption of innocence is not a red herring. If members of the original C. of E. Core Group had followed this very basic ‘golden thread’ of British justice, they would not have become tangled up in a mess of their own making by presuming Bishop Bell guilty.

Jo B
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Jo B

Well sure. If you assume everyone accused of abuse is innocent unless incontrovertible proof emerges then you will prevent a great deal of suffering among those inaccurately accused. And you will cause even greater suffering to those who have been abused and who will be abused because of that presumption. You believe that we should protect the reputations of the powerful from the possibility of inaccurate accusations. That’s eminently laudable. You have to acknowledge that this is not cost-free in terms of the message it sends to survivors and the culture it perpetuates.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“You believe that we should protect the reputations of the powerful from the possibility of inaccurate accusations”

I believe that we should protect the reputations of ANYONE from the possibility of inaccurate accusations – especially the powerless who cannot protect or defend themselves.

True survivors and victims are seriously diminished if the innocent fall prey to being falsely or wrongfully accused.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

In legal terms, the burden of persuasion is being confused with the burden of proof.
Even in civil courts the burden of persuasion is on the plaintiff, on the party who seeks relief and wants to change the status quo.
The burden of proof is the standard that has to be met. This varies. Either the balance of probabilities (many civil contexts), or beyond a reasonable doubt (criminal).
The concepts are different. Let’s not confuse them.

David Lamming
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David Lamming

Jeremy, May I, as a lawyer, correct you. You are conflating the burden of proof with the standard of proof: they are different. The burden of proof is not the ‘standard that has to be met.’ The burden of proof is the same as the burden of persuasion: it identifies the party who has to prove something: the guilt of the defendant in a criminal case, or the liability of the party sued in a civil case (eg that it was his/her negligence that caused a road traffic collision.) As you identify, it is the standard of proof that varies:… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

No, the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion are distinct concepts. There’s also the burden of production! But I think you and I agree that the burden of persuasion should be on whoever alleges, civilly or criminally, that someone else, alive or dead, is or was an abuser. In part for the reasons that Father Ron Smith indicated. And you and I would agree that the standard of proof varies, and that in civil cases it is often balance of probabilities or 51/49. The larger point is that “innocent until proven guilty” comes from the criminal law and… Read more »

Bernard Randall
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Bernard Randall

Kate, I see where you’re coming from, but I’m afraid you’re dead wrong (a-ha, ha, ha … ha…Sorry). The reputation of the dead may be irrelevant to the dead, but it is not irrelevant to the living. The memory of the departed can inspire the living (Heb 11 as already pointed out, or Sirach 44). The relatives of the dead have a proper interest in their loved one’s reputation (Sir 44.12-13 especially). Alongside this, if we are in the habit of having no regard for the reputation of the departed who cannot answer for themselves, we risk the habit of… Read more »

Mother Hubbard
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Mother Hubbard

The reputation of the dead does matter. Hence we have a calendar of Saints, commemorate the dead, write biographies, erect monuments, name streets and dedicate churches – or tear them down. However, George Carey was a spectacularly unwise choice of speaker in the context. A spectacular own goal as Gilo says in another thread elsewhere. The old boys’ network seems incapable of learning.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“George Carey was a spectacularly unwise choice of speaker in the context. A spectacular own goal as Gilo says in another thread elsewhere. The old boys’ network seems incapable of learning” As the person responsible for organising both ‘Rebuilding’ events at Church House Westminster (Feb 1 & Oct 5) and its speakers – and have no connection with (or interest in) “the old boys’ network” – may I respond: The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey was invited to attend and speak, along with a considerable number of others – including the present Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the present… Read more »

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Kate, the reply to your final question is provided (partly) by Lord Carlile in his para 46 of his Independent Review, published on 15 December 2017: “First, the reputations of the dead are not without value. This applies as much to those who have lived ordinary lives as to those who have been famous. A moment’s thought makes it plain that none of us would wish to be vilified after our deaths when we could no longer defend ourselves. Further, the pain caused to those who have loved and respected the alleged perpetrator, on hearing that a shocking allegation has… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I don’t use my full name as I am not out publicly in terms of my LGBTI status.

As you your last / penultimate point, the optics are terrible. With all the injustice in the world this group of Christians, including a former archbishop, have chosen to campaign for a long-dead bishop. Can you really not see how terrible that choice of priorities looks to anyone considering Christianity or the Church of England?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Kate, this is not just about a “long-dead bishop”. Do you not realise what is at stake here? The ‘golden thread’ of British justice, and international law, is now seriously under threat: the presumption of innocence. This is leading to gross miscarriages of justice not just for dead, but also for the living. And we are pitifully unaware of it. Why? How? Can we turn things around? We need to address these critical questions before it’s too late. For example: Has the collective ‘infantilization’ of our society (and we as individuals within it) made us unaware of what is going… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Then concentrate on the living. If what you say is true then there must be more deserving cases among the living?

Bishop Bell is dead. The campaign cannot help him.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

But it might help those living who revere this wartime Bishop and want to restore his seriously damaged reputation – and there are many (including his 94-year-old-niece Barbara Whitley who has called for Archbishop Welby’s resignation). And it might also help those who believe the ‘golden thread’ of British Justice and International Law – the Presumption of Innocence – should be preserved and protected and fought for ‘tooth & nail’.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“The ‘golden thread’ of British justice, and international law, is now seriously under threat: the presumption of innocence.” Presumption of innocence, as Kate says, refers to the operation of the criminal justice system. Court cases are not prosecuted against the dead; criminal cases not at all, civil cases only against their estates, which is rather different and only relates to financial matters. There is no practical presumption of innocence in civil cases, where the balance of probabilities standard only requires the evidence to provide 50% + epsilon certainty, for an arbitrarily small epsilon. The balance of probabilities is all that… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Those who have followed the Justice Kavanaugh confirmation will have seen that the inappropriate application of criminal concepts like “beyond reasonable doubt” and “presumption of innocence” causes a mess.

Quite apart from anything else, I think the conclusions Lord Carlile reached are very much open to debate. I think his approach was inappropriately legalistic. And unless we wish to accuse “Carol” of breaking the Ten Commandments and bearing false witness, we should believe the testimony of the only person still living. The Church should stop pussyfooting around and reaffirm that it believes Bishop Bell was guilty of sexual misconduct.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

I don’t go as far as Kate. I think it is perfectly possible for Carol to be telling the truth as she believes it to be and yet Bell to be innocent, and at this distance it is very, very hard to tell. As I say, de mortuis nil nisi bonum has much to commend it, and the evidence against Bell, such as it is, is nothing like as compelling as in the cases of Saville, Smith and Maxwell. But I don’t think the criticism of Bell is dubious because of some matter of principle like “innocent until proven guilty”.… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Kate, you are very seriously missing the point when you say: “And unless we wish to accuse ‘Carol’ of breaking the Ten Commandments and bearing false witness, we should believe the testimony of the only person still living” No one I know is accusing ‘Carol’ of lying or making things up. It is almost certainly the case she was abused by a ‘man of the cloth’ when she was a child. But it is almost certainly the case it wasn’t Bishop Bell. In other words, it was a case of mistaken identity. There is a ‘Bell 2’ hearing on Nov… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Even if this might be a case of mistaken identity that isn’t a reason why Bell’s name should be cleared. At present, he remains the most likely perpetrator and it is right that he should be identified as such.

Had less time passed, a case could be made that further investigation was necessary because the initial investigation might have failed to identify someone else who could be an ongoing danger. At this remove, even that reason for keeping this case open doesn’t apply.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“Even if this might be a case of mistaken identity that isn’t a reason why Bell’s name should be cleared”

Umm…I find that logic – or lack of it – very difficult to engage with politely. I better withdraw before writing something I might later regret.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“It is almost certainly the case she was abused by a ‘man of the cloth’ when she was a child. But it is almost certainly the case it wasn’t Bishop Bell” In the light of what I have discovered this evening, I might have to revise the first part of that sentence to: “It is almost certainly the case she [‘Carol’] was abused by a man whom she assumed, as a child, was a ‘man of the cloth’ [eg a Bishop] because of the way he was dressed. But it is almost certainly the case it wasn’t Bishop Bell” It… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Tim Briden’s 2-Day Hearing [Nov 1 & 2) should be most enlightening. Will the public be allowed in or will it be ‘behind closed doors’? The latter, I suspect.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

It would appear certain people who want to speak out truthfully are effectively being silenced. Metaphorically-speaking, they have had, or are having, their tongues cut out. Quite who are the ‘silencers’ is not clear…yet.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Kate, I cannot agree. Lord Carlile’s Review shows that the ‘investigation’ by the ‘core group’ into the claim by ‘Carol’ that she was sexually abused by Bishop Bell over 65 years ago was so fundamentally flawed that its findings cannot stand, even though Carlile’s terms of reference did not include asking him to opine on Bell’s guilt or innocence: just read the summary of his conclusions at para 254. Anyone “considering Christianity or the Church of England” and reading the Carlile report would be appalled and would ask how a Church enjoined to ‘act justly’ could let the matter rest.… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Kate, unbelievably you said this: “There cannot be a miscarriage of justice against someone who is dead”
What on earth gave you this idea? Remember also, there always is a contingent family involved in any ongoing injustice towards their departed member.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

If she means that no one prosecutes criminally someone who is dead, she is right.
She is also right in that when the Church of England reaches judgments about people, alive or dead, it is usually acting as an employer, not as the Crown Prosecution Service.
It’s when someone considers whether to sue for defamation that concepts of justice enter the picture.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Well, Barbara Whitley [Bishop Bell’s 94-year-old niece] has already called for Archbishop Welby’s resignation, especially regarding his “significant cloud” remark (If Bishop Bell was alive he could sue for libel). She also now has a QC of her choosing representing her. Roll on Nov 1 & 2.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Does anyone know where the 2-day Briden Hearing is taking place on Nov 1 & 2? The public might not be allowed in, but there’s nothing to stop people being outside.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Bishop Bell’s niece – 94-year-old Barbara Whitley – called for Archbishop Welby’s resignation last December. She is deeply hurt and angry:

https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2017/12/22/december-22-2017-bishop-bells-niece-welby-should-resign-daily-telegraph-olivia-rudgard/

Leonel
Guest
Leonel

O I am sorry George.
You’d have to admit that the names Peter Ball and George Bell can get mixed up, would you not.

Christina Beardsley
Guest
Christina Beardsley

I thought Lord Carey made two very important points. 1. That safeguarding in the Church of England should now be outsourced, acknowledging that it is hard for senior clergy to be impartial and to avoid protecting the institution. 2. He asked why members of the House of Bishops do not seem to speak out and break ranks, in the interests of justice and truth, as some of his colleagues were prepared to do when he was archbishop. (His critique of collegiality is essentially the same as that of those of us who ask why some bishops broke ranks in the… Read more »

april
Guest
april

I have read through the whole of this thread and all I can think is how very sad it is. I know little about George Bell – before my time as they say but I do think some comments are rather harsh. So , just random comments from me as I think the debate has been had fully here. Firstly, I have met several of those now in high places in the C of E as they were on their way up. George Carey was one. He struck me as a decent bloke. I cannot say the same for many… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Following on from april, here is a contribution from ‘P’ who attended the ‘Rebuilding’ event on Oct 5: “There was an invited visitor at the recent Rebuilding Bridges conference at Church House, Westminster. She was from a charity which supports those wrongfully and falsely accused. This Charity began some years ago and recently, regrettably, has seen a marked increase in clergy approaching them for help. “We know that the attention of the Anglican Church today is rightly focusing on their lamentable neglect to bring to justice clergy guilty of inflicting abuse, and a raft of safeguarding structures are now in… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“The problem is both the above have become victims of these accusations and those who claim there is no smoke without fire” “No Smoke, No Fire” by Dave Jones. It is a disturbing, but necessary, read of a football manager who was falsely accused of child sexual abuse. Archbishop Welby’s “significant cloud” remark against Bishop Bell is a very good example of someone who believes “there is no smoke without fire”. Tragically, this disgraceful remark was not said in a pub with a few of his mates, it was said as Head of the Church of England – the Supreme… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

The Church Times covered the Oct 5 ‘Rebuilding’ event at Church House thus:

“Lord Carey comes to defence of George Bell” – Oct 12 2018

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2018/12-october/news/uk/lord-carey-comes-to-defence-of-george-bell

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

A serving Bishop finally breaks his silence and publicly questions Archbishop Welby’s position on Bishop Bell…more to follow.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“Just how the Archbishop of Canterbury can accept Carlile’s report but still maintain his stated views is a mystery to me” – The Bishop of Chester Peter Forster