carlile report bishop george bell
Church of England

Carlile Report: Bishop George Bell has been traduced, and the blame lies squarely with Church House and Lambeth Palace

“The George Bell case represents the perfect storm from which injustice emerges. We had a church fearful and sensitive to allegations that it might be covering up abuse, a plausible complainant, a long dead Bishop with no living heirs, and a church culture which had abandoned the presumption of innocence in favour of asserting that all complainants are entitled to be believed.”

During the campaign to secure a review of the case of Bishop George Bell, I summarised the origins of the latest sorry story to hit the Church of England in the above terms, but there was one other factor that I did not include because I needed the endorsement of a report before I made it. Now that we have the Report from Lord Carlile, it clearly confirms that there was a fundamental failure of the church as it went about investigating and evaluating the facts before it. The investigation was so poor that it not only did not do justice – it could not do justice.

The Core Group

The problem centres round the assembly of a ‘Core Group’ which, as a former Child Protection Lawyer, is very familiar to me. Such a body is regularly brought together to manage the cases of children suspected of having suffered or being likely to have suffered significant harm, and they routinely gather and evaluate the evidence of whether a child has been abused, and then consider what should be done about it. The real experts in Core Group management are local authority Children’s Services lawyers, who can attend several such meetings every month.

When the Bell story first broke, his defenders asked about the processes by which the Core Group had reached its conclusions. The Church of England instantly covered its processes in a cloak of secrecy. Now we know why.

Ideally such a group, set up to determine whether a set of historic allegations are true, would include those with the knowledge or skills to shape and evaluate of the type of problems which such cases routinely present. At para. 148 of his report, Lord Carlile sets out what might be expected of the group.

But in the case of George Bell, the church appointed a group of people set out in para. 149 to undertake the work. They include four bishops, a communications officer, a solicitor “with particular experience in the areas of alternative uses for church sites, telecommunications installations in churches and acquisition and disposal of ecclesiastical property”, another solicitor “specialising in eccelesiastical educational and charity law”, and a finance director. Significant expertise in historic abuse cases was provided by a solicitor who frequently advises the church’s insurers EIG. Though she was a key player, curiously she was not formally a member of the group. If there was a reason for this anomaly, it has not been disclosed and should be. A diocesan registrar (substituted) and two Safeguarding officers brought experience to the table.

There is nothing wrong with non-specialists determining facts: juries do this every day of the week. They do it, however, within a highly structured context, with expert adversarial lawyers presenting the rival cases, and a judge to maintain balance and help explain complexities.

Whatever expertise was present in this Core Group, it did not save the process from error, partly because not everybody attended all the meetings, but more importantly because not everybody received all the material under consideration. It did not help that nobody asked key questions.

Para. 155 records that the priority was protecting the church: no method for ensuring fairness to the deceased accused was discussed; they accepted ‘Carol’ told the truth, referring to her as ‘victim’ throughout (though determining that status was the very point of their meeting). There was no discussion of investigating the truth, or of the purpose of the Statute of Limitations – “It operates to prevent unfairness, especially in cases where the opportunity to defend has been completely dissipated by the passage of time, and where the Claimant was long aware of the potential for a claim for compensation,” explains Lord Carlile.

No consideration was ever given to appointing somebody charged with representing the interests of the long dead Bishop.

During the course of the Core Group meetings, there was inadequate continuity. By the second meeting recorded at para. 159, “There was no discussion whatsoever of the need to ensure the justice of the case by examining the facts from Bishop Bell’s standpoint. This issue seems to have been totally abandoned”, and “In reality, any notion of a balanced investigation had been abandoned. Certainly no steps to that end were taken, other than the decision to approach a forensic psychiatrist.”

The Psychiatric Reports 

The Claimant’s lawyer submitted such a report, and the Core Group commissioned a separate one. Why the common practice of a jointly commissioned report on an agreed letter of instruction was not adopted is not addressed by Lord Carlile, which is a shame. The hammering out of such a letter with agreed questions to an expert is, in my experience, one of the most useful stages in any investigation. It forces one to look at the entire body of evidence; to consider ‘What don’t we know?’, and then to find the experts who can help to answer the begging questions. Fortunately, that expert was Professor Maden.

The letter of instruction was prepared by the external solicitor who had experience, but who was not formally a member of the Core Group.

The opening question to the Psychiatrist betrays the lameness of the process: “Do you in your opinion believe that the abuse occurred?” Had I proposed such a question to my former colleagues, I would have been laughed out of the robing room of the court where so many of such letters are negotiated. That was the fundamental question for the Core Group to determine, not an expert. There is no expert on whether someone is telling the truth. A psychiatrist can help with mental health considerations which might impact on credibility, but his or her expertise cannot meaningfully contribute to the question of whether a person is truthful or not. Persons with perfect mental health can still not tell the truth – you don’t need a psychiatrist to tell you that.

The Psychiatrist felt the embarrassing need to remind them: “The facts are for the Court to determine. I do not believe that psychiatric or other expert evidence is likely to be of further assistance in establishing whether or not these allegations are true.”

Worse, although not specifically asked (?!), he addresses the issue of false memory. Para. 178 states: “The Claimant strikes me as a sympathetic and in many ways admirable woman. She does not suffer from a personality disorder. I have no doubt that she is sincere in her beliefs. Nevertheless it remains my view that the possibility of false memories in this case cannot be excluded.”

To summarise, the letter of instruction began with a question that did not need to be asked, and did not ask the question which did (being ‘Is false memory an issue?’). It is a decidedly sub-par document, and it was the key to the case.

The Press Release 

At this point it is appropriate to digress and take a brief look at the Church of England’s Press Release of 2016, which stated: “The settlement followed a thorough pre-litigation process during which further investigations into the claim took place including the commissioning of expert independent reports. None of those reports found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim.”

If you read that Statement in juxtaposition to what Professor Maden wrote in his report, it is hard to reconcile them. The Press Release seems to be either thoroughly incompetent or an institutionally PR-driven lie. It was probably the former.

When Maden’s report arrived, not everyone was present at the next meeting, and so not everyone saw it. Most only received a summary, and that summary was not accurate. Those who knew the truth never saw fit to correct the grossly misleading picture presented to the public.

The wording of the Press Release implies overwhelming certainty; you would never have guessed from that document that the Core Group was divided in its opinion. We now know that the acceptance of the claim by the Core Group was not unanimous (para. 188).

Further, Lord Carlile reports at para. 172 of “an unacceptable change in membership of the Group, given their responsibility and the requirement for consistency. Factual as well as tactical and procedural decisions were required of the Group, and attendance should have been a priority.”

And para. 181: “Given the comments of Professor Maden cited above, had there been full knowledge of them in the Group, my expectation would have been that the majority would have steered back towards a fuller evidential investigation of the claim. This is an important example of what, earlier in this review, I called ‘oversteer’.”

Thereafter, the Core Group, having resolved by majority decision that the accusations were true, managed the quantification of damages which need not concern us.

But para 205 is even more concerning. Knowing that journalist Peter Hitchens held a special interest in the case, it was suggested that some academic research should be sought: “they needed a report or academic journal article supporting the position that ‘an offender like GB’ was very likely to reoffend.” That is just appalling. They wanted to create a smokescreen of propensity in the absence of evidence. Is this really how Church House operates?

The Church of England’s response to the Carlile Report 

The Archbishop of Canterbury and two of his colleagues have issued statements which implicitly reaffirm the conclusion that the complainant ‘Carol’ is to be believed despite the majority belief having being founded on very poor process; despite the expert expressing doubts, and despite not everyone charged with making the decision being convinced.

Archbishop Justin writes: “Lord Carlile does not seek to say whether George Bell was in fact responsible for the acts about which the complaint was made.” That is factually correct. What it does not make sufficiently clear, however, is that Lord Carlile does not do so because the church specifically did not permit him to do so under the terms of reference which it defined at the outset of his investigation. Lord Carlile writes at para. 10 of the report: “I was asked to look at the way in which the Church of England treated these allegations. As a result, I have considered the process; it was not part of my task to consider the truth of the allegations and I have not done so.”

Already the George Bell Group has issued a robust challenge to the statements put out on behalf of the Church of England, and in his media interviews Lord Carlile chose to highlight that the church was, from the outset and throughout its processes, guilty of “over-steer” in how it handled evidence. He also referred to “pre-conceptions – not necessarily in Bishop Bell’s favour”. This is an elegant way of putting a very ugly truth: there was endemic bias which led to sloppy process, insufficiently robust analysis, and weak case management.

The detailed mistakes

Lord Carlile is at pains to say that those acting on behalf of the church through its investigating Core Group acted in good faith, but that cannot hide the many weaknesses and prejudices that led to an unjust and unsupportable conclusion. The Report has two sections where those failures are listed. At para. 239, a senior lawyer made the following criticisms which Lord Carlile adopted:

The Church does not challenge Carol’s belief in her story. The question is whether others should have believed it.

Any subsequent attempts, post-announcement, by the Church to leave the impression that they were not convinced by Carol were unsustainable given the statement of the 22 October 2015.

The reference to potential arrest left the false impression that arrest could be equated with guilt.

The use of the term ‘survivor’ for Carol contained the clear inference that the case against Bishop Bell was proved.

In effect, the Church reversed the burden of proof without taking real steps for the case for Bishop Bell to be developed and investigated.

There was nothing that could really be described as any inquiry into or investigation of the facts.

The failure to find and interview Canon Carey was a serious deficiency, given that he had lived and worked in the Bishop’s Palace at the material time.

The fact that the post-statement publicity has flushed out no other complaints is significant.

At para. 254, Lord Carlile summarises his criticism of the work of the Core Group which the church assembled to handle the investigation:

The core group was set up in an unplanned way with neither terms of reference nor any clear direction as to how it would operate. As a result, it became a confused and unstructured process, as several members confirmed.

Some members explicitly made it clear to me that they had no coherent notion of their roles or what was expected of them.

There was no consideration of the need for consistency of attendance or membership.

The members did not all see the same documents, nor all the documents relevant to their task.

There was no organised or valuable inquiry or investigation into the merits of the allegations, and the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or proportionality.

Indeed, the clear impression left is that the process was predicated on his guilt of what Carol alleged.

Despite some reservations, the process largely assumed the eventual public release of Bishop Bell’s name, and a summary of the alleged circumstances.

There was no focus on any special issues arising from the fact that Bishop Bell died in 1958.

There was no real attempt to inform any surviving member of his family. No criminal law expert was instructed to be part of nor to advise the group. It was not fully clear that the psychiatrists respectively were instructed on a different basis.

The discussion and approval of the apology letter and media statement was poorly structured and based on a false premise that disclosure was inevitable.

There was inadequate consideration of matters arising in this particular case that might have justified denying liability altogether, including the issue of the time bar for a claim.

There was inadequate consideration of matters arising in this particular case that might have justified a settlement of Carol’s claim on the basis of litigation risk, with a confidentiality clause including repayment for breach.

There is one possibility that Lord Carlile does not consider: it seems to me that the Church of England could, with fairness and integrity, have formulated its compensation terms on the basis that its historic negligence had significantly deprived Carol of the possibility of receiving justice.

Be fair to the Diocese of Chichester 

This case is a failure of the Established Church, and specifically of Church House and Lambeth Palace, yet it will always be associated with the Diocese of Chichester. It would be unfair were we not to highlight para. 183:

Gabrielle Higgins (Diocesan Secretary)… pointed out that there had been no other allegations: Mr Tilby responded that there might be only a single victim. Ms. Higgins emphasised Carol’s very young age at the time complained of, the possibility of false memory, and the possible contradiction between Carol saying to Professor Maden that Bishop Bell told her to tell nobody, but that she had told (the person she had visited). In Ms. Higgins’s view, false memory could be an issue; and she reported that the Bishop of Chichester was uncomfortable about accepting the claim.

It is a pity that their concerns did not prevail. The vote was not unanimous. Nobody told us that.

The misuse of confidentiality

Subsequently, Church House shrouded the process in secrecy, declaring that nothing could be said about how the decisions were made “for legal reasons”. At the outset, I identified the absurd fiction that because everything cannot be said, nothing can be said. Quite evidently, that was always nonsense on stilts: one only has to consider how much Lord Carlile has been able to tell us without in any way compromising Carol’s anonymity. Church House clearly thought (and treated us as though) we were stupid, and this kind of imperious contempt for the intelligence of others’ is deep-rooted within the higher echelons of the institution. It is constantly complained of by the victims who talk to me.

The need for transparency 

From the outset, the need for a review of the substance of the case was resisted, and then the process was dragged out. A comprehensive review was only finally conceded immediately before a debate was timetabled in the House of Lords, which confirmed that some heavyweight critics were stepping into the fray. A review was announced two days before the General Synod met, but only after the time for submitting questions had passed. The church is still not transparent, and resists accountability by playing games. Statements after reviews are not enough.

Time and again in the area of Safeguarding and victim care, the Church of England is shown to be incompetent, obstructive, evasive and slow. There is an elitist attitude, essentially that Church House knows best. The Carlile Report is important because it discloses that such confidence is utterly misconceived. Eyebrows were raised when, adapting the words of Irish playwright Brendan Behan, I expressed the frustration of the informed critics seeking details of the independent review, telling Synod: “Things are rarely so dire that they cannot be made worse by a Bishops’ cover-up.”

We asked for a meaningful review. It was strongly resisted, but now have it we should be gracious and welcoming. The church took the difficult but necessary first step, and now the hard work begins. General Synod needs to grapple with the full implications of the Carlile Report, which are substantial. The work may begin with this Report, but intervening failures and new stories tell us that the problems are deep-seated and not limited to this one case.

The need for meaningful accountability

What cannot happen is a meek acceptance of bland assurances that ‘lessons have been learnt and protocols adjusted’, which seems to be the initial anodyne response. Lord Carlile has lifted the veil on the poor practice at the heart of the Church of England’s Safeguarding culture. If you talk to living victims of institutional incompetence, many of whose abuses have been established in the criminal courts, you will hear that this case is far from unrepresentative of the church’s deficiencies and poor practice.

The Carlile Report is deeply troubling, yet things are getting worse. In July 2016, I raised a question seeking an assurance that we would discuss the Report at the February 2018 Synod. The reply was formal: “The House of Bishops is accountable for Safeguarding in the Church of England.”

The two keys questions which follow from this terse response are:

1) To whom are the Bishops accountable if not to the General Synod?

2) How can General Synod possibly do its job of holding the House of Bishops to account if a Safeguarding debate does not feature in any substantial form on the Synod’s agenda?

After immense pressure, we made some progress last week when the February Synod agenda included time to engage in a Q&A session. There is a deep irony in the idea that the church’s Safeguarding establishment will be offering ‘answers’. After the Carlile Report, it might be more appropriate for a little humility to be in evidence, and extensive time made available so that those members of Synod who have experience and knowledge in this field might offer their thoughts on the George Bell saga, which I fear is just the tip of the iceberg of inadequacy.

When you end up apologising to both the Accused and the Complainant for your institutional incompetence, it is time for a fundamental debate about what is wrong at the highest levels of the Church of England.

Yet now we see our Bishops picking a fight with Lord Carlile on the applicability of transparency in special cases. One is bound to suggest that he is not the one who needs lectures on the subject, and that our church leadership is not perhaps best placed to deliver them. I am all for the zeal of the convert, but there are many within Church House and Lambeth Palace who need such instruction more urgently than does one of the country’s leading lawyers, who is simply but patiently explaining why and where they are wrong. Victims of abuse will see these expressions of concern for transparency to be expedient rather than heartfelt. Turning that culture around is a significant burden of work, but one which each and every member of the General Synod of the Church of England must now shoulder in order to ensure greater truth and a better justice.

To adapt the words of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer: ‘Rend your hearts, not your policy documents.’

  • Anton


    If Bishop Bell were alive, the case went to court and he were found guilty, would he be likely to have to compensate Carol financially? And would the church?

    The answers to these hypothetical questions seem to me to be a guide on what might be done if a man is dead.

    • Dodgy Geezer

      Er.. no. They would be a guide to what might be done should a man be FOUND GUILTY. Whether he is dead or not is, or ought to be, irrelevant to the truth of the matter…

      • Anton

        We are not disagreeing. The church should look at the consequences of the two possible outcomes – that if alive and tried he would be found guilty or not guilty – as a guide to what to do given that he is dead. The consequences of a not guilty verdict are obvious: no compensation. But I don’t know if the church would be liable as well as Bell if he had been tried and found guilty, so I am asking Martin Sewell, who is a lawyer.

        • There are criminal processes and their are civil processes with different standards of proof. A not guilty finding in criminal proceedings does not rule out a successful civil claim. Any organisation has a duty of care towards those coming into contact with it and its employees. The test of whether it failed in this duty is not dependent on a finding of guilt or, indeed, innocence in a criminal court.

    • dannybhoy

      Dead’s better.
      They can’t argue
      Can’t defend
      Can’t admit guilt.
      Frankly whether the man was guilty or not, it wasn’t the truth that mattered.
      It was the reputation of the Church of England..

      • Jilly

        Hi Danny! I was looking thro old news. When the statement about Bishop Bell was put out, Archbishop Carey (retired) sent a letter to +Bell’s niece about his horror at how the procedures had vilified +Bell and cast a less than beatific light on ++Welby. Then when the report came out about the coverup on Peter Ball, implicating Carey, Welby demanded Carey’s resignation from a little post- retirement job he had in Oxford.
        Seeing that loss of job is a punishment for senior clergy mistakes and misdemeanours, is there a chance Welby will consider his position?
        Was Welby being properly managerial or just a bit ass-covering or even vindictive when he insisted Carey step down? Whatever, it’s all pretty unedifying!

        • dannybhoy

          Hello Jilly.
          I hope you are well. Nice to see you’re still posting!
          I only have limited experience as a Diocesan and Deanery rep to draw on, and frankly that was a labour of endurance rather than enlightenment..
          I find all this stuff so pointless, the machinations, the politics etc.
          It’s why I struggle with the Established Church and look forward to returning to a nonconformist evangelical congregation.
          Yes there are problems there too, but easier to deal with or endure.
          I don’t know if you’ve heard of Gavin Ashenden, or if you’ve heard what you think of him, but I think he’s a godly, thoughtful and learned ex Anglican clergyman. I recommend his podcasts and vids onYouTube..

          • Jilly

            Gavin Ashenden…. I took a quick glance at Google and find a lot to like.
            He was at Southwark around the time I was involved there, (+Mervin Stockwood) then Sussex Uni … close to where I live, interest in the Orthodox Church (I’ve been v interested in the Orthodox – Greek and Russian – iconography and long remember a sermon by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom). Of course the headline resignation over the invited Islamic insult at Glasgow. I see him as a peregrinus – a pilgrim soul – and that can only be good. A true seeker….
            Thank you for the introduction.
            I pretty much gave up on the Established church many years ago – long story – and I can think of little that resonates in me these days but occasionally I wonder whether being an outsider is altogether a good thing. So I dip a toe in and find the waters as murky and cold as before. I value the Sacraments but wonder if the church really does or how it can behave with such impunity if it does. The Bishop Bell fiasco really makes me angry: his name was familiar as I grew up as he was much loved by many adults around me and I find this latest insult to his memory a grossest insult. As I said when joining this blog, I doubt I am a peacemaker as I rage against the dying of the Light ( Dylan Thomas used a lower case L but I use upper case) . I see the Light disappearing (hopefully not extinguished) from England.
            So I look around to find a gleam worthy of investigation..
            I will check out more of Gavin Ashenden.
            Anyway, this being a public forum, I’ll shut up for now!

          • dannybhoy

            Great post Jilly.
            My wife and I’s frustration with the CofE has been compounded by seven years involvement at local church level working in the diocese and deanery.
            It’s an antediluvian bureaucratic hierarchical mess, In its present form well past its sell by date .
            I’m frustrated because it is the leading church, to society it represents the body of Christ in the UK – and it fails desperately in its role. That’s why I feel so cross!
            But I want it to fulfil its role, I want it to return to honouring the Gospel, and instead it moves further and further away, with endless waffling.
            Of course there are great local Anglican churches doing a great job; and even though the clergy -laity model is not the Biblical one, it can still work if the vicar knows how to facilitate and delegate.
            I don’t want to see a split in the CofE but because the present leadership seems hell bent on turning it into an auxiliary arm of Social Services, I fear that is what will happen.

          • Jilly

            Thank you Danny.
            The church is cold at its heart, I fear. Small flames, like little night
            lights may flicker but the hearth is full of ashes.
            The factions squabble, the leadership seems hellbent on proving itself inadequate and plays up to whatever the passing populist fad hits the tabloids. It’s obsession with matters of sex! You’d think it had just been invented! St Paul(not my favourite writer, I confess) was living in times of graeco-roman social licentiousness but he didn’t tell his associates to get down and get dirty with the local lads lurking around the Coliseum. Au contraire- he set out firm does and don’ts which seems to me to set Christian lives slightly apart from the general hedonism of the time. Or is that verging on Puritanism?

            This latest Bishop Bell fiasco: the hierarchy decides to trash the reputation of a saintly man in order to ‘prove’ it can without fear or favour handle the issue of clergy child abuse, throw out +Bell in expiation for +Ball et al. The scapegoat. Bell’s reputation also sacrificed to atone for the sins of a morally bankrupt leadership. A religious hero for the trampling on.

            I admire you and Mrs Danny sticking with it and of course if it could be salvaged, turned around, and made good again what a powerhouse it could be. but I believe that’s now beyond the will or wit of Man to achieve. Will God step in?
            You mention a possible split. I wonder if that is optimistic…it seems to be on the verge of fragmenting.
            I like this site; it demonstrates the frustrations of many and keeps lines of communication open. (And I’m impressed by the scriptural chapter and verse wallahs)
            Anyway, it’s late and I’mramblingon.

          • Jilly

            And my keyboard keeps sticking.

          • dannybhoy

            Certain letters on my laptop keyboard have worn away, it’s sometimes a guessing gdsanme.
            This is a good website. Not overly intellectual or up itsself, humorous and usually good natured. Catholics and nonconformists tolerated, gays welcome- as long as they’re not bigoted.,..

          • CliveM

            What website would this be DB. Must give it a look in!

          • dannybhoy

            Anglicans Unleashed!
            No, er..
            Hmm, that’s not it either
            BishopBashing for Beginners?
            Oh I give up..
            Thankfully it’s the likes of thee, me and a few others that keeps the conversation understandable to the Common Man,.
            And there’s none commoner than thee Clive…

          • dannybhoy

            Danny and Mrs Danny have stayed because we never felt the Lord telling us to leave, and perhaps He had us stay so that we could get involved with other groups such as Churches Together and Messy Church, and make connections with other people in Anglican churches in the area.
            It may annoy other Christians but I believe that we are often too nice, too afraid of confrontation, and way too in awe of men who wear dresse- robes and do twirly bits around the chancel.
            Sorry, does nothing for me and I see nothing in Scripture insisting we do it.

  • Anton


    Are you willing to speculate on the redacted material that presumably did not appear in this version of the report?

    • Martin Sewell

      Dear Anton, thank you for reminding me, in all the flurry to get this out I had overlooked that point, but on reflection I am not troubled by material being hidden. By a specific question at General Synod last July I secured an on the record assurance that Lord Carlile would be free to comment on any redaction that occurred.

      I sent that answer to Lord Carlile and, as one might expect, he courteously acknowledged receipt.

      He was accordingly aware of his freedom to comment. Given his robust responses to the statements that have been issued subsequent to the publication of his report, I have no doubt that he would speak out if he felt the need.

      As a top lawyer experienced in matters of redaction, he almost certainly delivered a report so tightly drawn that there was no scope for intervention.

      • Anton

        Thank you.

  • Gregory Morris

    The York Minster farrago with the sacking of the bellringers where the Archbishop of York made disgracefully biased statements (implying the guilt of one of the ringers where no such guilt has been established in any court of law) in defence of the squalid behaviour of the Dean of York was the last straw for me. The arrogance and the self-conceit is overwhelming.

  • Dodgy Geezer

    …all complainants are entitled to be believed….

    1 – I can’t see that the Church is at all to blame.
    This is the 21st century definition of justice, and the Church is simply following established practice under Criminal Law. In fact, not only is the victim (‘complainant’ is surely prejudging the issue by suggesting that they may not be telling the truth) to be believed wholeheartedly, but if any evidence is unearthed that would make it hard for people to believe them, current practice requires that evidence to be suppressed. See the case of Liam Allan vs the State plus an anonymous victim.

    2 – Given that all victims are to be believed, compensated and awarded the position of martyr, I fail to see why there is a need for an investigation at all. But I suppose that it offers employment to a great many people who are deserving of expensive salaries…

    3 – When I was very young,Eden/Macmillan/Douglas-Home/Wilson/Heath* molested me, and promised me a million pounds in compensation…

    *delete as applicable.

    • Damaris Tighe

      At least in a court of law the defendant is represented by a defence lawyer. In cases such as the one above, when a kafkaesque Star Chamber is sitting in judgment of a dead man, I suggest the appointment of an Advocate to stand in his place – probably a defence lawyer by training or perhaps someone like Peter Hitchens – who can immerse himself in the accused’s life and state of mind and speak for him. Only then can the adverserial atmosphere of a court of law be replicated in which innocence is presumed and the prosecutors forced to consider an alternative story.

      • Little Black Censored

        A little like the procedure for deciding whether somebody has performed a genuine miracle, only the other way round.

        • Damaris Tighe

          As a Catholic I should know the precedure but had to check. I saw no reference to what I suggested – an Advocate to speak for someone who cannot speak for himself. But maybe you were punning on the word Advocate which is another name for the Holy Spirit?! There certainly needs to be more Holy Spirit in the workings of the CoE, rather than personal prejudice clothed as Holy Spirit.

          • Little Black Censored

            I was thinking of the Devil’s Advocate.

          • Damaris Tighe

            I think we’re talking past each other my friend.

          • Jack believes he’s referring to the Roman Catholic Church’s “Promoter of the Faith” – a canon lawyer appointed by the Church to argue against the canonization of a candidate – populary known as the “Devil’s Advocate”. It was this person’s job to take a sceptical view of the candidate’s character, to look for holes in the evidence, and to argue that any miracles attributed to the candidate were fraudulent.

            It’s a role any decent chair of a Core Group meeting should perform and all present should adopt a sceptical and inquisitorial stance.

  • Martin

    Perhaps some should consider their positions, especially in light of the continued attempts to justify the kangaroo court.

  • Jilly

    The Archbishop witters about transparency – but only in order to tread into the dirt the reputation of those against whom allegations are unproven to even the minimum standard required in a Court of Law.
    ‘Through a glass darkly’ springs to mind when he seeks to protect the totally inept and cruel machinations of himself and his mates.

    • Gregory Morris

      I am afraid that it is more akin to wickedness in high places.

      • Jilly

        I think you are right, Gregory.
        It is now clear to me why Welby asked for a Christmas truce on verbal insults and abuse. I think it had little to do with Brexit but a lot more to do with the Carlile Report and Welby knowing several buckets of ordure were likely to be coming his way.

    • Little Black Censored

      A cloud now hangs over the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    • magnolia

      Indeed, even to the extent that it would not have been taken to Court. If it had got past the police (very unlikely) it would, it seems, definitely have been weeded out by the CPS. It is embarrassing. My respect for the Church in this would increase if they showed the ability to utter that precious, very Christian, and all too scarce word “sorry”.

      It is not the first time the church has unfortunately sometimes thrown the innocents to the lions, and it is not a pretty sight. New rigorous systems must happen, with people who commit themselves to turning up to meetings, and are largely outside the church hierarchy and unimpressed by internal politics.

      • The real disgrace in all this is not only damage to Bishop Bell but also to “Carol”. Having failed to competently examine her allegations their “findings” are now of little solace to her if she was the victim of sexual abuse by this man and, to be honest, this is not clear given the incompetence of this investigative process. Talk to victims of sexual abuse and the one thing that you’ll consistently hear is a desire to be believed and to receive an apology from their abuser.

        • carl jacobs

          A competent investigation would have forced a decision of “No action should be taken.” And then the case would have gone public with headlines like “Bishop’s Victim Accuses Church of Stonewalling”. Only her account would be made public. No defense was possible. She would have been believed by the public and the institution would have been hung out to dry.

          Or it could throw Bishop Bell under the bus. Whose interest did the Core Group protect?

          • Not so sure, Carl.

            If a robust and fair investigation had been conducted it would be able to stand the test of scrutiny and the Church could have commissioned an independent report in the circumstances you’ve describe. By going public in the way you suggest, “Carol” would have placed the issue n the public domain.
            The enquiry could have decided to arrive at no judgement, given the passing of time and lack of corroborating evidence if they concluded her account was credible. Alternatively, they could have held their ground and either dismissed or accepted her claim.

            Given their failures to investigate when she first raised the matter in the 1990’s, the Church could have awarded “Carol” compensation for this failure. Remember, this was submitted at a time when senior figures in the Church of England were found to have “colluded” with the now convicted bishop, Peter Ball.

          • carl jacobs

            What I described was what the CoE was afraid of. It’s what they acted to prevent. And there was no possibility of a robust investigation. The events were 70 years old. The only actual evidence would have been Carol’s testimony. That would stand unopposed – in a public environment where an accusation against a church leader was as good as a conviction.

            The CoE got ahead of the story by admitting guilt. It paid a little money to protect itself in hopes the whole thing would go away. Sure. It savaged the reputation of a dead man. But he’s dead. He can’t complain.

            And the sad thing is they were right. People will still assume that Bishop Bell is guilty. The CoE might look incompetent but that’s far better than looking like a co-conspirator.

            This whole thing is despicable.

          • Incompetence and acting in “bad faith” are not the same thing. There is evidence for the former, not the latter.

          • carl jacobs

            There is no evidence of bad faith only if you view the situation through extremely charitable rose-colored glasses.

            What did the report say over and over again.

            1. They paid no thought to establishing the truth of the matter.

            2. They did not consider the reputation of a dead man to be of any worth.

            3. Their primary concern was the reputation of the CoE.

            They even traded off the risk of Bishop Bell’s relatives coming forward to object and considered the risk very low.

            That doesn’t strike me as simply incompetence.

          • Not sure you can accuse the Core Group of acting in bad faith as Lord Carlile hasn’t done so.

            The Church of England could now conclude, based on what they have judged to be credible testimony, that it believes “Carol” was abused on Church property – but by person unknown. Given the passage of time and the inability to investigate further, it is now impossible to establish who this may have been. This was compounded by a 25 year delay on their part in responding to her initial disclosure of abuse back in the 1990’s. Jack suspects awareness of this is what drove the incompetence.

  • carl jacobs

    So, I’m struggling to find the “Good Faith” exhibited by the CoE. I see a church fearful of a sympathetic defendant beating the snot out of the church in the court of public opinion. I see a church fearful of an allegation that could never be disproved. But I don’t see “Good Faith”.

    I also don’t see a retraction. Wouldn’t “Good Faith” demand a retraction?

    • Ray Sunshine

      So, I’m struggling to find the “Good Faith” exhibited by the CoE.
      Don’t waste your time, Carl. You’re looking for something that isn’t there.

  • Happy Jack will break his Advent silence to pass one comment. As regular bloggers here know, Jack has previously supported the Church of England in this matter because he wrongly assumed there was some credible process behind the determination that, on the balance pf probabilities, that “Carol” had suffered abuse at the hands of Bishop Bell. He did so based on his own experience of regularly chairing various child protection meetings and conferences and also work with the survivors and

    • carl jacobs

      Yeah, well break your Advent silence second time and give us an update on your recovery.

      • Jack has had his operation and his abdominal aortic aneurysm has been repaired. He has been released home under strict instructions to avoid all sources of stress e.g. discusions of football and contentious debates of any sort. He is also awaiting the results of various biopsies taken. All in all, he’s feeling pretty well but very weak.

        • carl jacobs

          Heh heh heh.

          • Sod off …..

          • At least since National Catholic Reporter has closed its comments, you are free of one possible cause of raised blood pressure and temptation to argument 🙂 Merry Christmas and God Bless you, Jack xx

          • Thank you Tibs.
            God Bless you and your loved ones over Christmas. Don’t be such a stranger in the New Year! Jack enjoys our little exchanges and the weblog needs more women members.
            Yes, the N”c”R com box did vex Jack very considerably – as do most of the articles. However, he visited to keep up with the views of outliers – just as he visits the Remnant. These are confusing and distressing times for the Church.

          • Grouchy Jack

            Yeah, we saw that comment about Man City but have kept if from Happy.

          • carl jacobs

            Evidently not.
            Heh heh heh.

          • Happy Jackie


            Marry me, Carl.

          • carl jacobs

            I’m already married. And you are a grapefruit. There is a structural boundary inherent in the Created Order …

          • Happy Jackie

            Jackie is not a grapefruit. She is all woman. Well, will be soon. You are an acerophobe.

          • carl jacobs

            As spoken by the prophet Jackfruit: “Rind your pulp, and not your peel.”

          • Anton

            The cricket is worse news for Englishmen at the moment; the national team is touring Australia and getting thrashed.

        • Damaris Tighe

          Godspeed … 🙂

        • Get well soon.

        • Little Black Censored

          How about the divided personality, any progress with a cure for that?

          • Dodgy Geezer

            if you have a multiple personality and you get molested, do all of your personalities get compensation, or only the one(s) which were in operation at the time?

            Surely a critical question for theologians to examine, and of slightly more value than determining the capacity of pin-sized dance-floors…?

          • Happy Jackie

            Leave us alone …. you transphobic bully.

          • Grouchy Jack

            You looked in the mirror recently?

        • Anna

          Praying for you, Jack.

    • dannybhoy

      Hello Happy Jack!
      I understand you had to go back to hospital to have your sporran reattached, or something?
      I hope you are fully recovered and a new zipper has been fitted to keep your groats secure??

      • carl jacobs

        Groats? Is that what you call those in England? We use a different word in the US. Was there some question of their security? Or should we expect the sudden appearance of Docile Jack?

        • dannybhoy

          A sporran is wee hairy bag especially favoured by Scotsmen for storing their groats, either when not in use or to be produced when there’s a lull in conversation..

        • Docility is a great virtue, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, being related to the virtue of prudence. Specifically, it allows us to acquire knowledge through the teaching of another. Even the most learned people need to be docile, since no man is completely self-sufficient. We all stand in great need of being taught by others.

          Aquinas teaches that there are two obstacles that lie in the path of acquiring the virtue of docility. One is laziness, the other is pride. Pride, however, is far more insidious than laziness. The lazy person has difficulty concealing his laziness, even from himself. The lazy person usually knows that he is lazy. The proud person, on the other hand, has contempt for those who know things that he does not know, and conceals his indocility (as well as his pride) from himself, and is able to misinterpret his vice as a virtue. Thus, the indocile person who is proud often thinks that by his stubborn refusal to allow others to “impose” their ideas on him, he is maintaining an “open mind” or holding to a “truth” he has privately arrived at through personal judgement.

          “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

          • ardenjm

            Aquinas is devastating when used accurately.
            As here.

          • Thank you, ardenjm.

      • Jack wears neither a kilt nor a sporran and is not in the habit of carrying oats about on his person, thank you.

        • dannybhoy

          Take porridge man!
          It’s really good for you. Lowers cholesterol, maintains irritability and blocks the inclination to defect to Protestantism..

  • Anton

    What needed to be done, above all, was a cross-examination of ‘Carol’. I make no judgement on whether the abuse happened or not, but it is reasonable that somebody who is asking for money be subject to further questioning, which is likely to elicit further relevant information.

    • Jilly

      The prevailing view was that claimants must be believed – hence they straight away become victims or survivors. It is just a small step to prejudging, then condemning, the alleged perpetrator.
      I’m not sure that a ‘cross examination’ would have achieved much beyond what Tony Maden and Lord Carlile came up with. A memory, real or false will be held to strongly.
      What the Core Group ought to have done is look for corroborative evidence – which they didn’t bother with because they believed her.

      In 1995 there was a tweak in the Law which made it simpler to apply for comp. in cases of sexual abuse. I think this was around the time the first approach was made to Eric Kemp.

      False memories can be ‘retrieved’ under a host of different circumstances eg it has recently been stated that delusions can be induced by the widely prescribed sleeping tablet zopiclone, especially in older women!

      What struck me when reading Carlile’s report of what was alleged, the abuse itself, was the sheer drama of it. The alleged events of going along a long corridor, the stairs, the black garbed figure at the top, then in the cathedral, what was said and done etc seems to have happened as if on a brightly lit stage with a nightmarish, almost distorted, quality to it. I don’t say it was a lie (she has been described as a woman of integrity and I’ve not examined her nor have any evidence to suggest she made it up) but I wonder if this memory was influenced by films,books etc? Most sexual abuse, as reported, is sadly banal furtive and shabby in its context: in bedrooms, outbuildings, offices, backseat of car, in the front room when parents are out, etc.
      Anyway, just a thought. Preparing for incoming….

      • Anton

        Please see the letter that in an ideal world the church would have sent to Carol, above.

      • Guglielmo Marinaro

        Your suggestion about a pseudo-memory influenced by books, films etc. is an interesting one. Such cases are not unknown. A 14-year-old girl accused a 39-year-old estate agent, for whose family she had acted as a baby-sitter and on whom she had developed a crush, of repeatedly having sex with her in his car, in his office, in houses and flats that he was selling etc. She had kept a diary in which she recounted all their alleged escapades in lurid detail. She seemed entirely convinced of the truth of her story, and she also succeeded in convincing police and lawyers as well as her parents. Fortunately the estate agent, having a well-kept diary of his own, was able to establish water-tight alibis for some of the occasions when he was alleged to have been with her. His lawyer was also able to show that some of the purple passages in the girl’s diary were plagiarized from Harold Robbins’s novels, “The Betsy” and “The Lonely Lady”. (See IAN WILSON, Reincarnation?, 1982, Ch. 15)

        • Jilly

          Exactly, Guglielmo. And that false memory could have been formed
          at any time up to when she made her first approach as a complainant. So a false memory formed as an adult could incorporate any number of films of the Robbin genre. The abuse stated to have happened in the cathedral has a particular theatrical black sacrilegious quality.
          I wonder whether some form of violence had happened to her in her past, as a child, as an unhappy wife, and the memory of that blended with eg a film sequence and then fastened on the Bishop whom she might have associated with black robes.
          Its very worrying that none of this occurred to the investigators in the Core Group. It’s not that obscure!

  • carl jacobs

    Finally, there is always a risk that the Church, when faced with embarrassing allegations, will wish to settle the action in order to avoid publicity. Whilst I do not suggest that is what happened in this case, it is a temptation which should be guarded against. It cannot be right that in order to protect the reputations of the living, those of the dead are traduced.

    Of course that is what happened in this case. Oh, I forgot. The CoE acted in “Good Faith”.

  • magnolia

    No complainant should be believed without means, motivation and (possible) misapprehension being thoroughly examined, politely but persistently. Otherwise the door is left wide open not only to the sincerely mistaken, but to those who hold unfriendly intentions to the church, to destroy her from the inside.

    I am most appalled by the fact that the room it is said was not used by the Bishop at the time, and that he was even out of the country on speaking engagements. So who was using the stated room? Chichester theological college? If so, who within it? Was there an abuser who stated he was a Bishop, incorrectly but for effect? Or was it a mixture of memories making up some false ones?

    There seems to be little stress on not bearing false witness here, which is one of the 10 COMMANDMENTS. It matters a great deal to God. No indication surely that it is less important than not committing murder or adultery, so why the carelessness? Yes, George Bell may be dead, but his beliefs in non-violence, and all those who hold them, have been traduced by association, and that matters.

  • vsscoles

    The hierarchy is too stupid to apologise ,which would have cost nothing and would have closed the matter. As it is there will now be a campaign to restore the name and reputation of Bishop Bell – and to secure the departure of those responsible for this chilling exercise. From top to bottom. We have seen this week how power tends to corrupt churchmen to the extent that they can no longer act rationally – or justly.

    • dannybhoy

      In the first place they should have handed it over to the Police and allowed them to investigate the matter.

      • Anton

        What would the police have done? Said that there was no prospect of prosecution for the reason that the accused is dead, and left it at that.

        • CliveM

          Like they did with Edward Heath?

          • Anton

            Good point. I don’t know the criteria for pursuing an investigation when the accused is dead; do you?

          • CliveM

            Famous and gets the cop on telly.

            Excuse the cynicism.

  • Jill1968

    What a dreadful, shameful story. I hope the school in Eastbourne which changed its name from Bishop Bell School to St Catherine’s College will now change its name back again.

    • Manfarang

      Maybe they will change it back to a secondary modern too.

  • Chefofsinners

    “Rend your hearts not your garments” are the words of the prophet Joel, not of Archbishop Cranmer.

    So these are bad things. Should we not simply accept them? After all, we have already accepted contraception and divorce.

    • Martin Sewell

      Quoting from the introductory sentences to Evensong – in English 🙂

  • Dodgy Geezer

    How unlucky Christine Keeler was!

    Nowadays, being ‘molested’ (repeatedly) by the Secretary of State for War would have been worth a pretty penny…

  • CliveM

    And so we have the worst of all worlds. A Bishop effectively cleared, but with the cloud of paedophilia still hanging. A complainent compensated, but implicated as a fraud. A church stained by its inability to treat child abuse in both a compassionate and dispassionate manner. Dirtied by covering up the abuse, equally dirtied by it’s inability to deal justly with an alleged abuser.

    Cowardly, unfaithful and dishonest.

  • Anna

    This vindication of Bishop George Bell proves that there is a just God in heaven who does not forget His servants. Thank God for men like Peter Hitchens and others in the George Bell Group who courageously challenged this injustice against a righteous man. If the COE believed that they would not be challenged because George Bell had passed away leaving no descendants, how wrong they were. ‘For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant — to them I will give within my temple and its walls, a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever”‘ (Isaiah 56:4-5 NIV).

    Finally, as I mentioned in another post, people who readily label others as guilty without sufficient evidence should consider that one day they in turn might be wrongly accused, and their accusers just as readily believed

    • carl jacobs

      He hasn’t been vindicated because the CoE made a point of avoiding that issue. It seems quite content to focus the discussion on process and avoid the discussion of truth because it can’t win a discussion of truth. Their only real defense would be to attack the credibility of the accuser – which they don’t feel politically capable of doing.

      The CoE wants this to be a discussion of “We did a bad job. We learned some lessons. We will do better next time.” But don’t ask the obvious question: “Why haven’t you retracted your apology and admission of guilt?” The answer is “Because that would create a sh*t storm of bad publicity and would defeat the point of everything we have done. Don’t you understand we are just trying to escape this situation with as little damage as possible?” But they can’t say that out loud. And the polite thing to do is not present them the question in the first place.

      • Anna

        The Carlile Report has indirectly vindicated the late Bishop. The church’s response to the Carlile Report has been disgraceful. No proper apology, only a feeble attempt to hold to the moral high ground by implying that Lord Carlile had advised them against transparency in abuse cases and they – being so upright – would reject his advice. I doubt if any lessons were learnt.

        • Ray Sunshine

          No, Anna. There has been no vindication. As I see it, Bishop Bell has not even been what you describe as “indirectly vindicated”. Lord Carlile was not authorised to look into that issue at all, and in his report he makes a point of stressing that he was careful to refrain from going beyond the restrictions that had been placed upon his work. See, for instance, his footnote 13 on p. 27:
          13 I did not question Carol as to whether her complaints were truthful, as that was not part of my terms of reference. We did discuss at length the process and her understanding and expectations of it. I have taken her comments fully into account in writing this review.

          • Anna

            According to the George Bell Group, “A close reading of the detail of Lord Carlile’s report can only lead to the conclusion that he has vindicated the reputation of a man revered for his integrity across the Christian Church.”

          • Ray Sunshine

            I’m afraid that Lord Lexden is reading into the Carlile report the vindication that he wanted to find there—just as Archbishop Welby is reading into the report the pat on the C of E’s back that he wanted to find there. You could say that Lexden and Welby are both making the same mistake.

            The key to the answer, in both cases, lies in that footnote 13 that I quoted in full. The question “Did he or didn’t he?” is one that Carlile was not allowed to ask.

  • David

    Either you serve truth or pursue popularity. Choices must be made, which speaks volumes.

  • dannybhoy

    “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set ye free”
    In the Church of England..
    Terms and Conditions apply.

  • Ray Sunshine

    We now know that the whole procedure was very badly flawed from the outset. So badly, in fact, that it may be truthfully said that the Church of England never held an inquiry worthy of the name into the“Carol” case at all. Instead, the Church pretended to go through the motions of conducting an inquiry, in the fond hope that nobody would ever even think of lifting a corner of the carpet to see what had been swept under it. What a bunch of hopeless amateurs they were. It seems hard to believe that the upper echelons of the Anglican hierarchy should be entirely made up of poor muddle-headed twerps who have never noticed that there’s a difference between a pantomime horse and the real thing. Neverthless, sad to say, Lord Carlile has shown the world that that is, in fact, the true state of affairs.

  • Anton

    It is a pity that people feel the need to pronounce about vindication when they can’t know.

    “I don’t know” is the only reasonable conclusion to reach. I am glad that I am not in a position of having to act on that conclusion. If it is a no-win situation no matter how well the church responds, one might ponder whether this type of church structure is the right one.

    • carl jacobs

      This case should never have seen the light of day. There is utterly no evidence of guilt beyond one uncorroborated accusation. People should not doubt the integrity of a man upon such a foundation. Carol wants to be believed. On principle I will not believe her unless she establishes some corroborating fact. Otherwise we might as well denounce our neighbor to the Chekists and call it good.

      There are many possible motives here and none are being considered. People lie for attention. People lie for money. Are those any less plausible? But who is giving them the time of day?

      • Jilly

        I sympathise with your views, Carl. But I think it’s too late for that – Carol has been compensated and does not have to do anything.
        I have replied to Anton below about the ‘quality’ of her recollections which, I believe, does not set about attacking her or denouncing her or Bishop Bell (I have very positive thoughts about him) but which might go some way to explain what happened.
        Consider it a reply to you too!

    • Jilly

      Anton – of course this type of church structure is deeply flawed – the power is unbalanced and accountability is lacking. But it probably won’t significantly change.
      I’ve replied to you just now to a post you made hours earlier which satisfies me ( but maybe no-one else ) that aspects of the evidence of the alleged abuse (rather than procedures) was not really considered.

    • An Archbishop and Bishops incompetent in Safeguarding and “caught in the headlights” is not a ground for questioning the 2000 year old Apostolic Episcopal structure initiated by Christ.

      • Anton

        I had Establishment much more in mind.

        • Jack agrees that the Church should select its bishops, including a human head with final authority, and act without interference from the State or with an eye to appeasing public opinion or politicians. The fundamental problem with the Church of England is having a Supreme Governor who has a temporal role, albeit it is a figurehead position today, and not a spiritual role. There could be an Established Church in a nation free to act independently in ecclesiastical and spiritual matters. The Church should not be subservient to the State and no State should have the power of appointing bishops or jurisdiction over ecclesiastical matters.

    • Mike Stallard

      Innocent until proven guilty by a jury of your peers…

      • Anton

        That’s over-simplistic because it supposes that the evidence shifts the probability of guilt from Zero to One or doesn’t shift it at all. In fact it ends up in between.

        • Mike Stallard

          No it protects people from gossip, from innuendo and assumptions and anonymous stirrers.
          If there is a case, make it and be proud to stand in public to do so!
          Justice is simple: make it difficult and you cause delay and injustice. Our English system is fantastic when it is allowed to work.

          • Anton

            I must say that I am far from certain that anonymity should be granted.

  • not a machine

    Mr Sewell offers a comprehensive number of evidential guidance points some of which were not really formed at the time of Bishop Bells received judgement,leaving a number of statements made about him in difficulty, that claimed he committed security abuse of a child. Of course this re run has an interesting effect on whether church bodies are /were able to deal with failings that interface with the law. Religious bodies are not immune from bad things done by people with evil having a foothold within them, sometimes you can administrate correction, I do not believe the church can or should shy away from offering instruction or correction as an appropriate means of justice in what can be sensitive issues in general church actions, interactions and service, light can be brought to situations with this flexibility. There are though the situations where correction requires justice which has criminal implications, then there is the perfectly natural enquiry involving church bodies and the enquiry demanded by those bodies external to the church, and whose business it is. The protection against a false allegation is as much of the churches duty as is when matters turn to courts and prosecution. Bishop Bells allegation was in a time when a whiff of inquiry was sufficient to effectively create condemnation, the trumpet was infallible without evidence. I also don’t think that while Bishop Bell was being judged, it seems wrongly, that other people who abused children were not detected, not just in churches either. The law does not detect abuse, evidence does, behaviours do. The thought police in the church bodies must be a luscious and succulent dining experience for those that enjoy such things. I maintain it has been a small group of abusers in church, some able to conceal there wrongs, it is failure of sorts and should not have happened. The correct thing is not a church paralysed with guilt and fear, although the wound has been made and no guarantee in any religious or secular body that it cannot occur in the future, can the law prevent predatory evil?? I personally do not think it can, but I ponder if Christ can or does.

    • not a machine

      My response to the EU negotiator is the EU should bear in mind that the second largest EU economy is leaving and will still be the 6th largest world economy in 2019,hardly a piss poor hand in who will be facing the greater portion of consequence in perpetuity☺️

  • Chefofsinners

    Happy Christmas Carol.

    Bungle Bell, bungle Bell, there’ll be hell to pay,
    Oh what fun it is to deride
    On the basis of hearsay – hey!

    Georgie Bell, infidel, so the bishops say,
    Evidence is classified
    Until judgment day.

  • CliveM

    If there is a lesson to be learned and that is injustice can’t be redeemed by more injustice.

    Even for the most well meaning of reasons.

  • Mike Stallard

    Bishop Bell confirmed me. I remember the day very well.
    Bishop Bell tried and failed to modify the bombing of Nazi Germany. That alone makes him an outstanding bishop.
    Who is Carol? What is her real name? Why cannot she just stand up and speak openly?
    I call this gossip and it has been treated as Holy Writ.
    It stinks. How many new priests could have been paid a year’s salary out of the fees and stipends of all these very important and truth seeking experts?

    • Martin Sewell

      Mike I understand your frustration, but I do not expect complainants to have their identities routinely in the public sphere. I seek justice for a Bell AND victim’s by the simple method of good impartial process for all. I am talking to victims who have been left in fragile mental health as a result of their abuse. We can be sensitive and just.

      • carl jacobs

        And yet she has from her anonymous position destroyed a man’s reputation, rewritten history, and made herself historically significant in the process. And all without a shred of evidence.

        Men believe what they want to believe about those they wish to be guilty. “Is he my ideological enemy? Then what crime is he not capable of committing?” It took nothing to set the hounds on the chase. She had only to cry “Havoc!”

        • Anton

          And those they believe to be innocent. Not that I am saying anything either way. People seem to find uncertainty difficult to bear, either way.

          • carl jacobs

            When you presume someone innocent because there is no evidence against him, you are doing the right thing.

          • Mike Stallard

            English law, the jury system, family courts, innocence until proved guilty by your peers, habeas corpus, right to reply, extradition without evidence…
            Hey! Who cares!
            What have we become recently?

          • Anton

            You say there is no evidence. Her testimony is the evidence. Plenty of people are convicted of various crimes on the testimony of others. The evidence needs to be tested, that is all.

        • Lucius

          “And all without a shred of evidence.”

          Was there nothing other than the purported victim’s allegation? No other corroborating direct or circumstantial evidence?

          • carl jacobs

            There was nothing.

          • Lucius

            I am not familiar with the case. Was the suspect actually convicted in a court of law or just the court of public opinion? Either way, a mere allegation without more, and especially if it is disputed (or contradicted) by the suspect, puts the idea of due process and justice itself in dire straights.

          • carl jacobs

            Bishop Bell was sacrificed by the CoE because it was afraid of a public relations disaster. There was no trial. They assumed he was guilty and decided how to salvage the reputation of the CoE.

            There is no evidence at all to substantiate the allegation. She made the allegation in the mid 90’s. This allegedly happened in the 40’s. It’s a 70 year old allegation. There is no physical evidence. Any potential witnesses are dead.

          • Lucius

            I see the Bishop is deceased, so not only a case built upon a mere 70-year old allegation, but the benefit of prosecuting an “empty chair” as well. I suspect the CoE’s response is being shaped by the Western media’s (and especially American media) current obsession over sexual misconduct allegations.

            The CoE may come to regret being so easily swayed by public opinion. In my humble opinion, I think the current media-driven sexual misconduct witch hunt will go the way of the “campus rape” movement at American colleges, which is, feminist overreach, followed by an easily debunkable major story, leading to loss of credibility.

          • CliveM

            More charitably, they were also perhaps over compensating for previous lapses were there was plenty of evidence that was ignored. As in the case of Bishop Ball.

  • Anton

    Here is what would have been said by the CoE to Carol in a better world:

    Dear Carol: We take your allegation seriously, but we have the following problem. Somebody telling the truth would say what you say. Somebody lying in the hope of getting money would say the same. So we do not know how to distinguish. Would you be willing to be interviewed in a way that would do its best to distinguish? Yours etc…

    I can see two reasons why this letter might not be sent: legal constraints; and anti-church media making mischief of the searching questioning of a plaintiff who already says she is a victim.

    This is truly a messy situation. I hope that the church people involved are seeking God’s way forward in prayer.

    • Manfarang

      An interrogation, who is going to be the good cop, who the bad cop?

      • Lucius

        “Good cop, bad cop?” No. But heavy allegations should be subject to thorough investigation. Part of any investigation includes asking the purported victim uncomfortable questions both for purposes of gathering all the facts and evaluating the veracity of the allegation. No?

        • Manfarang

          Of course they must be investigated but how do you question someone who is dead to get their side of the story?

          • carl jacobs

            how do you question someone who is dead

            To the CoE, that was a feature and not a bug.

          • Lucius

            Indeed, but therein lies a critical problem. From what I understand of this case, it is built upon a 70-year old allegation, without any corroborating direct or circumstantial evidence, against an “empty chair,” which is, a deceased suspect, who to my knowledge never admitted culpability while living. Forgive me, but without more, this is simply not sufficient to convict a man, whether in a court of law or court of public opinion. And to “convict” him nonetheless is deeply troubling both morally and legally.

          • Manfarang

            I certainly agree with you.

      • Anton

        Do you agree that someone telling the truth and someone seeking easy money would say the same thing, making it hard to distinguish?

        • Manfarang

          Getting at the truth is not easy even lie detector tests are not always reliable.
          In the Bishop Bell case because of the length of time the allegations are unverifiable.

          • Anton

            Carol is the one making the allegation and seeking the money and there is no reason to pay her without questioning her. One never knows what might emerge in her favour or against it.

          • Manfarang

            So are you going to issue a subpoena?

          • Anton

            I’m not even Anglican.

          • Manfarang

            Not culturally?

      • dannybhoy

        Happy Jack for ‘bad cop’..
        Clive for nice cop..

  • Father David

    One of the major criticisms of Diocesan Bishops is that they are far too managerial! Well, they have made a complete hash of managing the Bishop Bell case. Even with the long-awaited publication of the report by Lord Carlile, the level of mismanagement continues to be truly staggering.

    • chiaramonti

      “managers in fancy dress…although gaiters are only worn at important religious events…like the Royal garden party!’ -Yes Prime Minister. So TM appoints a woman to London, sorry recommends the appointment to the Sovereign.

      • Anton

        Monstrous regimen?

      • Jilly

        Theresa May did not make the appointment nor the recommendation. The system of appointing the AB of C was changed by Gordon Brown, he being a son of the manse didn’t want to be involved. It seems that one Caroline Boddington draws up a shortlist of candidates then some mates – six clergy and six others – gather round do some interviews and decide.
        Our new Bishopette wasn’t on the bookies shortlist of six properly trained fairly senior bishops. But whatever – TM not in the picture.

    • dannybhoy
    • disqus_5FxF9H1HiV

      Unfair to the diocesan bishop in this case; Martin Warner urged that further investigations should be made, he protested that the name of George Bell should not be released. It was pressure from national rank people on the Core Group that decided to proceed on the assumption that Bell was guilty, to eschew any investigation, and to release Bell’s name to the press.

      Of course, now the rest of the world is fully aware of just how shittily the CofE has been across the board, it is poor old Warner who is pushed to the front to carry the can.

  • IanCad

    Not exactly on-topic; But, to follow the theme, may we look forward to some Christmas cheer in the form of a resignation – preferably the sacking – of Alison Saunders, the chief inquisitor, prosecutor, and all-round villain of the Crown Prosecution Service??
    I have a particular sympathy for victims of false witness and accusation. I suppose most long term married men share my sentiments.

  • chiaramonti

    Oh dear, a woman ‘Bishop’ appointed to London. What will the Inspector think?

    • Ray Sunshine

      Heythrop College, where the incoming Bishop of London did her postgraduate degree, was originally a Jesuit foundation. At the moment, it’s scheduled to close next year. The 2017-18 academic year is its last, it says here. Will Bishop Mullally be able to save it from the axe?

    • Chefofsinners

      I am thinking she was probably a lot more use to the Kingdom of God when she was a nurse than she ever will be as a bishop.

      • dannybhoy

        Thanks, your post gives me the necessary excuse to introduce this clip by Dr. Gavin Ashenden in the impact of equality on the Church of England..

        • Everyone should watch and listen to that clip.
          Absolutely right and extremely worrying.

          • dannybhoy

            Don’t worry about it, that’s what concerned Christians always do.
            Let’s instead think about what we can do to either fight back or stand our ground..

        • David

          Thanks dannyboy. I saw it some time ago but it is so well explained it is worth listening to again. Bishop Ashenden, as he is now, speaks with such wisdom. I tune in to his almost daily services whenever I can. It is shown on Facebook, if you are interested.

          • dannybhoy

            Yes I try to keep up with the podcasts.
            “Justin Welby must apologise or resign.”

            Being uncharacteristically picky, but he was made a bishop by The Christian Episcopal Church of Canada and the USA..
            Doesn’t mean anything to me, it’s always and only the person and not the position, as far as I’m concerned.
            I think we may not agree on some doctrinal issues but I am looking forward to meeting him.
            I wonder what Jilly will make of it?

          • Jilly

            Hi Danny…. re you referring to Gavin Ashenden’s article? (I’ve only just seen your post and looked it up)
            I totally agree with him. I don’t think Welby has a leg to stand on re Bishop Bell: the Carlile Report cleared him as far as it was able to given that he,Carlile, wasn’t asked to give an opinion on guilt but did give out hints just as Tony Maden wasn’t asked to discuss false memory but he did anyway. Welby, by sticking to his guns (‘less than adroit’ – Carlile’s response – code for b. stupid) appears not courageous but weak and obstinate.

            His dealings with Carey were small-minded and spiteful. Carey was at fault in shielding Peter Ball but that was many years before and Carey wasn’t the only one and what earthly use was further humiliating him over his Oxford job so long after?
            Welby is the type who tries to make big people look smaller so that his own stature is enhanced. The action of a small weak man.

            I think Gavin Ashenden is right. Welby should go. He has lost credibility. He either lied or was remarkably inept and his treatment of Carey a fellow AB of C ( retired) was vicious.
            A good article. Good analysis. Will be reading more!

          • dannybhoy

            I am in the process of arranging a public meeting for Gavin, early next year. I must say I am very much looking forward to meeting him. I believe the Lord has a particular ministry for him.
            I am pleased that you find yourself in agreement with him. You seemed to have had a bad experience with the Church, have you found a genuine fellowship which encourages Christian love and discipleship?

          • Jilly

            I’ve been around the block a bit but there always seems to be what you referred to as ‘ terms and conditions.’ Ulterior motives, agendas, same hymn sheet or else. Or it could be me … marching to a different drum. Or being too picky.
            At university, someone said in a sermon ‘If you find the perfect church, don’t join it – you’ll only spoil it’ – But one can’t commit to a church on doesn’t respect. And some people have managed, sort of, as solitaries…
            I sometime wonder about The Hound of Heaven,that ‘measured tread’ but could be deluding myself.
            I’ve been out for quite a while and boy! the CoE is a different animal!
            Occasionally I’ve dipped in as mentioned earlier. I admire the certainties many on this site have. Lucky them!

          • dannybhoy

            I was out in the spiritual wilderness for about 30 years. Not that I ever stopped believing in God or Christ as my Lord and Saviour; only that things personal and theological remained unanswered and unresolved.
            I found my way back to active faith by the grace of the Holy Spirit..

          • Jilly

            By ‘active faith’ do you mean getting involved in a church/Christian community? Did you go looking to get involved or did someone invite you?
            Being away from the sacraments is what I’ve missed the most but not the ‘genuine fellowship’ as, frankly, I’m not sure I’ve experienced it. I’ve known a few wonderful inspirational people, the singers which drew me to the song, now long dead, but years ago the church seemed either a middle class exclusive enclave or intensely evangelical which I found rather intimidating. I was drawn to the mystics, Cloud of Unknowing, John of the Cross, Thomas Merton etc but was firmly told by a RC Carmelite priest that unless I joined the RC church I was one of the damned. His views were of course pre-Vatican Two but at the time it was frightening! I didn’t join the RCs but the Anglican Church has been in such a persistent sexual and social frenzy, that it makes itself appear only for sexual militants or members of the Labour Party. Some people are blessed with a strong faith which can handle rebuffs, others are more fragile. So as you say, a job for the Holy Spirit!

          • dannybhoy

            By ‘active faith’ do you mean getting involved in a church/Christian community?
            Even as Christians we can’t fully explain to another person the inner and outer factors that make us behave as we do. We are individuals moulded by our background, our temperament and our intelligence and our life experiences. I think most of our personal ‘daemons and fears’ are wrapped up in our very early years, perhaps even when we were in our mother’s womb.
            Only God the Father, the Creator who brought mankind into being truly sees us as we are, and loves us completely.
            Somewhere along our personal timeline, the Holy Spirit finds a way to start speaking into our consciousness and gradually makes us aware that all of our problems stem from our separation from our Maker. It may be something we read or see, or the witness of a Christian, or the prayers of a Christian family member, or most usually a combination thereof.
            Before I was aware that I was a sinner I started going to churches seeking for peace, for hope.
            I didn’t find it in the churches I visited, but ultimately the Holy Spirit led me to a kindly, devout and gentle Anglican curate, and used him to bring me to saving faith – the born again experience spoken of in John 3:1-20
            So I think it is the desperate soul, the soul that has run out of excuses, the soul that desperately seeks for peace and hope, that will find our Lord Jesus in all His wonderful redeeming grace.
            There are no perfect churches becaise there are no perfect people this side of Heaven. The best churches are those which recognise that they are born again into the family of God, and that we are called to love one another in the power of the Holy Spirit.

          • Jilly

            Thank you, Danny, for your thoughtful response.
            Lots to think about.

  • len

    Perhaps the fault lies with us in expecting the Church (physical) to be something it can never be.
    Whenever we put’ the church’ under the microscope be it R C C , C of E , or whatever denomination it fails dismally when humans are put in control of something Holy which it turns into dust.

    Of course this isn`t to say we give up trying but we should be aware that the church spiritual doesn’t fail because it has Christ as the True Head but there seems to be an ever widening gap between ‘the two churches’.

    The greatest travesty is that the unsaved will look at the church physical and see it as a hypocritical irrelevance.

    Let us Christians preach Jesus Christ and not the wretched Church which is failed Him.

  • Anton

    George Carey, in a private letter which has gone public (at whose behest?), complains at the unjustness of his treatment at Welby’s hands over the Bell affair and says Welby will be judged for it. Whether Carey means judged by public or church opinion or by a Higher power is left ambiguous. See:

    Carey’s handling of the Peter Ball affair was extremely poor and he would do well to remember Matthew 7:3-5.

  • ukfred

    Why am not surprised? I left the church of England in 1992 when a vicar who had previously lied to his assistant curate and to other members of the congregation (as I found out later) told me something which was contrary to the objective truth of the situation about which I had asked him a question. despite his bishop being aware of the facts in both my and the assistant curate’s cases, this man was promoted within the C of E.

    While I do not have evidence that the whole of that organistaion is corrupted, I seem to find over and over again that it is suffering systemic corruption although there are a few good men and women who still are members.

    My conclusion from this article is that Church House are looking to union with Rome and are doing their level best to prove that the only paedophiles that they will throw to the wolves are dead, innocent, men.

    • dannybhoy

      Yes, very interesting. It’s not that (hopefully you) or I expect members of the clergy* to be perfect, but when it’s a clergyman who belongs to the established Church or the Catholic Church, a whole lot of other factors come into play. If it’s a scandal it needs to be dealt with quickly. If it involves sexual abuse -even more quickly. These Churches will do anything necessary to protect the reputation of the Church, because in doing so they are protecting themselves. Hierarchical structures will bring pressure to bear on insubordinates either to confess or be the fall guy in order that justice can be seen to be done and the rest of the structure kept safe.. even if it remains corrupt.
      Once the leadership falls into ungodly hands, corruption spreads and godly people are driven out or forced to conform.
      I have no time for leadership structures because they often involve men who love power and influence, or those who are in awe of such..
      As Dirk Bogarde said in the film “Singer not the Song”
      It is indeed the man and not always what he represents..

    • Anton

      If they are looking to union with Rome they would not just have appointed a woman to be Bishop of London.

  • Dominic Stockford

    The hierarchy of the CofE are not fit for purpose, neither is the administration. “What purpose?” you ask. Preaching the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, and Him alone. And if they can’t do that, why think they could manage this?

  • suemary

    No one here seems to understand a very simple truth and that is if anyone is accused of sexual abuse they are guilty. No further investigation needed. It is now true everywhere and increasingly even women are not free from worry on this score. pick up a fallen child and you are quite likely to have someone screaming at you that you are a pervert.

  • disqus_5FxF9H1HiV

    Bravo Mr Sewell.

    Your conclusions are echoed in the lively ongoing debate on Ship of Fools, where there are still those who seek to defend the weaselly statements from Lambeth and Peter Hancock, Lead Bishop for Safeguarding. I have a little more respect for +Martin Chichester: he at least tried to get the situation properly investigated – but then he has more rigour, backbone and integrity than +Welby and the rest of the House of Bishops combined.

    One of the most astonishing things brought to light by Carlile is that the Core Group tried to justify the failure to make any attempt to investigate the complaint by saying, broadly, it was too difficult to try to track down people after such a period of time. As someone on SoF put it: “…all they
    had to do was look in the one reference book in every CofE office –
    Crockford’s Clerical Directory – to find the domestic chaplain who was
    still alive a full four years after the second complaint was made. Its
    easier than using a telephone directory to find a CofE priest, it even
    gives their full work history.”

    Keep pushing for it to come onto the agenda for February’s GS meeting: perhaps an approach to someone in the House of Lords can work the magic again?!