3 July 2017

Abuse of Faith

The Report of the Enquiry set up by the Church of England into the doings of the sexual predator Bishop Peter Ball has emerged in not much more than a year, and it is blisteringly frank. The Church of England, in my view, has acted extremely wisely in securing this Report and in hanging so very much dirty washing on its line.  In view of the horrors which the Report itemises, it would be tactless to call all this a Good Result; but, given the basic enormity of the situation, I think the C of E has done very well.

But ... I do rather wonder about the subsequent singling out of Archbishop emeritus of Canterbury George Carey for every last refinement of ritual humiliation.

His reputation is already in shreds. But he is not a bad man; simply a stupid one. Ball, and his brother Bishop Michael Ball (against whom there is no evidence of abusive behaviour), were (as the Report makes clear) extraordinarily plausible and endlessly manipulative. They were able to run rings round poor Carey. One conclusion might be: it is a very bad idea to appoint someone as profoundly foolish to senior management in any organisation, especially an ecclesial body. But it is rather ugly to do so and then to give such a man a good kicking when he is down.

After all, it appears that some other individuals and bodies fall rather short of the standard of frankness wisely demonstrated by the C of E. The Enquiry had no power to sub poena individuals or organisations or their records; and one police force simply declined to collaborate. So did Ball's identical twin Michael. The CPS decided finally not to press charges concerning abuse of those beneath the age of consent, thus, potentially, enabling Ball to get away with a much shorter sentence. Understandably, some victims feel aggrieved about this. It is, surely, not too late to try Ball for these even more serious allegations.

Furthermore, Carey was not the only fool to be taken in by the craft and guile of an immensely cunning sexual criminal. The Great and the Good of the British Establishment were helpless suckers for the Ball 'magic'. Such people included the Prince of Wales, a High Court Judge and a raft of risibly gullible Public School head masters, who, more than a decade after Ball accepted a Police Caution and thereby admitted his abusive behaviour (1993), were still clamouring to get this 'charismatic' and 'approachable' figure to visit their schools and enjoy unsupervised contact with pupils. These naive dupes, like Carey, accepted the narrative of the Ball brothers that he was 'basically innocent'; that he had been 'set up'; that he had accepted the Police Caution only in order "to spare the Church the embarrassment of a trial". Shouldn't such individuals also suffer some reputational disadvantage? Dim daft Carey, I fear, is the working class boy who is being hung out to dry by an Establishment which is well protected by its ancient lore of how a chap covers his own back.

Lastly, two examples from closer home, of the evasion of negative consequences for past misjudgements:

Has the CBCEW ever published a report on who knew about Bishop Kieran Conry's womanising; and. most particularly, how early they knew about it? My impression is that the main desire has been to move on.

Our Holy Father appointed to his Synod on the Family a Cardinal notorious for having tried to cover up abuse by a fellow bishop, abuse which concerned that bishop's own nephew. (Yes; it would be funny if it were not so nasty.)

Such breath-taking hubris.


4 comments:

Simon Platt said...

Thank you, Father, for your own frankness.

Bunyip Bluegum said...

Was Bishop Conry's alleged behaviour against the law of the land? He may have hurt a number of people, broken the law of God, been extremely reprehensible and a hypocrite. But was what he did as foul as child abuse? Were his deeds the kind that demand a millstone round the neck and being cast into hell? So bad that there should be a public report? Would the report investigate whether the women had failed? Or initiated anything? Or apportion any blame to them?

I don't know Conry, btw or any involved. I don't condone his behaviour as I understand it. I feel sorry for all concerned. Including Conry.

Alan said...

Inclined to agree about George Carey being hung out to dry. What is the point of sacking an octogenarian from an unpaid job?

What nobody seems to acknowledge I think is that there was a known problem around Ball and his home-knitted religious order, the Community of the Glorious Ascension. That problem was perceived at the time as homosexuality. Thirty years on, the issue is seen as consent, or lack thereof, and the Grauniad has even used the case to argue for ecclesiastical acceptance of same-sex "marriage". For someone who has been around Anglo-Catholicism for half a century, I think that if I could have looked ahead from 1990 the future would have been a foreign country.

Stephen Barber said...

I was Safeguarding Adviser to an Anglican Diocese for a number of years. I was a social worker, not a priest or a theologian. I found that many people thought that a police caution was a warning. It is not. It is a possible penalty after an admission of an offence. The individual can only accept a caution if they admit the offence. When a person in the church, whether clerical or lay, accepted a caution for a sexual offence they were not allowed to work or volunteer again with young people. Similarly if they were convicted in court. Clerics were removed from ministry, by discipline, resignation or retirement. They were referred to the statutory authorities for consideration for the barred list - the decision to add their name was not ours - and clerics were referred to the Lambeth list or its successor, the Archbishops' list. We worked closely with the local authorities, the police and, as necessary, with other denominations and organisations, statutory and voluntary. Care was needed to ensure that those who had been removed were not allowed to creep back, as happened in Peter Ball's case. The system was not and is not perfect but it is much better than it was.