Bishop Bell: the Church recumbent

The Church authorities, though under sustained pressure, are proceeding at leisure in the matter of @BishopGeorgeBell: indeed, they seem not to be proceeding at all. They announced on June 28 a review of the procedures by which @DrMartinWarner, the current Bishop of Chichester, had found Bell guilty of sexual abuse committed against ‘Carol’ sixty years ago. Since then thirteen silent weeks have passed.

Anticipating #LordLexden’s debate in the House of Lords on 30 July, the Church announced, (nine months after finding the Bishop guilty) that an independent enquirer was to be appointed to review Dr Warner’s conduct of the case.

Dr Warner had hoped to kick Bell into the forest of what was then the Goddard enquiry, until Goddard refused to examine the case.  Now it is in another forest, this time of the Church’s inactivity: presumably someone is thinking about who should act as the independent enquirer, what his/her terms of reference should be, and who should pay the bills, but there has been no outward sign of activity.

Of the many documents, all readily available on the internet, I shall mention four. First: the #GeorgeBellGroup’s review of Bishop Warner’s procedures, which was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury, on 18 March. Second: a review of the law by the Group’s two legal members (10 June). Third:  the whole Group’s powerful letter to the Archbishop on 5 July, urging the need for a genuinely independent reviewer with sensible terms of reference.

The Church was slow to notice the Group’s report of 18 March and I cannot find any published response from the Archbishop; nor it seems, has anyone answered the numerous points made in Lord Lexden’s debate, but #BishopPaulButler, then the “lead Bishop on safeguarding” did respond on 13 July. That is the fourth document.

His tone was more dismissive than conciliatory, and the letter’s content seemed inadequate for a response whose gestation had taken so long. The Bishop was plainly “digging in” and even verged on saying “mind your own business”. He reiterated the Church’s often-expressed refusal to say anything, however much redacted, about the evidence in Carol’s case; answered, rather unconvincingly, some of the legal points and delivered a gnomic warning, of the “I’d like to tell you but I can’t” kind.  Here is what he said:

…it is clear from the analysis in your review and in other documents that you and other members of the public are labouring under a number of misconceptions which we cannot correct without risking disclosure of Carol’s identity. All we can do is to remind you that not everything you read in the press is as accurate in points of detail (my emphasis) as it might be.

This intriguing statement must mean that Bishop Butler knows facts which would be conclusive if he could only say what they are. It seems extraordinary that no suitably deodorised version of those facts, particularly if they are “points of detail” can be published, without prejudicing the anonymity to which he believes Carol to be entitled.

 

@ChichesterDio @BishopPaulB @jwArchbishop @ClarkeMicah @MartynPercy @FACTUKOrg

Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3

 

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