Bishop Bell: the Church fights back

All of a sudden the #ChurchofEngland’s #NationalSafeguardingAuthority (the Safeguarding Adviser is Mr @GrahamTilby, whose name is familiar to readers of @LordCarlile’s review) has announced that as a direct result of that review it has received fresh information concerning @BishopBell, which it has shared with the #Sussex police.

The Safeguarding Team says that the new information “is being considered through the Core Group and in accordance with Lord Carlile’s recommendations.” It has also started looking for an independent person to assess the new information. No more will be said until the inquiries are over.

The laconic announcement invites lengthy comment on its very limited content:

1. Why not say whether the new information comes from the existing complainant, or from a new one, or not from a complainant at all? Perhaps we shall eventually hear that it came from MI5, which presumably kept an eye on Bell during the war? Or the answer may be that the Church hopes to propagate the impression that another complainant has been found, without actually saying so.

2. Why call in the police? They were unenthusiastic last time, and are unlikely to want to risk wasting their resources again, on a man who has been dead for sixty years.

3. Why not say who is on this Core Group? The last one, according to Carlile, was not much use, partly because it was amateurishly run. What improvements are being made?

4. Could the Safeguarding Group say more about it’s guidelines, and about which of Carlile’s recommendations it has adopted?

5. The news that an investigator is being sought sounds ludicrously inept. Is a mini-Carlile in view?

The fact that this new information was to be announced no doubt explains Archbishop Welby’s emphasis on his and his fellows’ disagreement with Carlile on whether or not Bell should have been named and the complainant paid off. Carlile had given his opinion, as a lawyer, that the Church should not have named Bell, but simply paid off the complainant, with a confidentiality agreement and no admission of guilt.

The prelates have repeatedly disagreed with Carlile on this point (and on hardly any others): their buzz word was transparency, but now it has become obvious that the Church had to take this line. Without the insistence on transparency it would not have been possible to justify the publication of the Safeguarding Team’s latest announcement.

The question of timing is straightforward. If the Archbishop and his cohort really are determined to keep a cloud over Bell’s reputation, and to defuse the growing campaign among church people for heads to roll, then this was the time to strike, just before the 1st February conference at Church House on Rebuilding Bridges, and in good time for Synod (8-10 February).

The most interesting question of all is why the hierarchy is sticking to its line. Is it just determined to quell a rebellion, or does it believe that the new information constitutes compelling evidence? If so, evidence of what?

Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3

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