16 November 2020

Abuse, Westminster, and Manipulation

Last Sunday morning, the Sunday progamme, anchored by Ed Stourton (of an old Recusant family; he married in the Brompton Oratory but later 'remarried' a Beeb colleague ...  I once heard him say that he accepted the Church's teaching in a 'nuanced' way).

They discussed, of course, the IICSA report on Abuse in the English Catholic Church. And, of course, there was the inevitable call for Vincent Nichols' resignation. 

I can only say how very glad I am that PF has asked Nichols to carry on beyond his recent 75th Birthday. And that I think it does the Cardinal much credit that he is willing to do so. He deserves praise, prayers, and support. Not calumny. 

We all think we know how manipulative abusers are ... but perhaps not many of you have actually witnessed this at first hand, as I, very sadly, have. If you haven't, you just can't imagine how skilful and sophisticated that manipulation is. 

You can get a glimpse of it from reading the McCarrick Report. My experience related to the Anglican episcopal abuser Peter Ball ... and McCarrick brought back to me vivid memories of Ball's manipulations.

In 1982 he accepted a Police Warning [i.e. he pleaded guilty in return for not being prosecuted]. This was widely reported, and one newspaper carried extensive documented accounts (including his letters) of his career of abuse. I lodged copies of this material in the College Archive. 

The scheming and plotting by his admirers for his rehabilitation began more or less the day after his full admission of guilt.

I informed the Principal of the College, a place with which Ball maintained a close relationship, of what I had put in the Archives. 

There was a long silence.

Then he said: "I think that was inappropriate." I replied: "On the contrary, it was most appropriate." After another pause, he added: "John, I think you should know this. Bishop Peter only pleaded guilty in order to prevent a public trial from damaging the Church's reputation". 

When the diocesan bishop who first nominated Ball to the episcopate (a Canon Lawyer with judicial experience) came to publish his memoires (2005), he described events thus: "Although it was not realized at the time, the circumstances which led to his early resignation were the work of mischief-makers. It was a very sad end to his ministry and his departure was a real loss to the Church which was, no doubt what those who brought it about intended."

However, it was not an 'end' to Ball's 'ministry'.

During the decades that followed, I saw the gradual skilled reintegration of this truly dreadful man into the life of the C of E with the authorities of the C of E going along with it at every stage. Although he had publicly and with legal form admitted his guilt!!! After I retired from teaching in 2001, when I  heard a rumour that he was to preach in a certain public school I wrote to the head master there advising against this, but never received even the courtesy of an acknowledgement.

Furthermore: those dealing with errant clergy have to remember that there can be such things as mendacious accusers. And that nobody should be convicted of anything without proof 'beyond reasonable doubt'. 

In that position, you are rather like somebody with at least one and a half of his hands tied behind his back. 

And, last November 12, I ventured to remind readers of this blog that Nichols, despite now being pilloried, only had responsibility for the places where (and when) he was diocesan bishop.

I think 'the Cardinal' deserves fairer treatment.


Dr Frederick Jones said...
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Equusasinus.net said...

I add my voice to your support for Cardinal Vin Nichols and can add a further dimension to your relevant example of the appalling mismanagement of abuser Peter Ball by all concerned. Even when he was "safely out of the way" in retreat at Crawley Down monastery he was not properly supervised, when he should have been.

Like yourself, I converted from the Church of England, where I was a Franciscan friar for some years before being received into the Catholic Church in Normandy. I went to Crawley Down monastery in Sussex (CSWG: Community of the Servants of the Will of God) for a discernment retreat before returning home to SSF's Glasshampton monastery with my decision, then heading to France. Peter Ball was in retreat in the wooden guest chalet at Crawley Down at the time. While the regime was that of a silent monastery, the guests had plenty of opportunity to mingle and to engage with others, around he communal tea-making area and the library/lounge. During my stay there were young men staying as "Seekers" in rooms adjoining the offender. He had no supervision. Ball had been an old friend of the superior Father Gregory (R.I.P.) who glibly confided in me, as a fellow religious and trusted acquaintance, that Ball was there "for his own safety"(!) I do not suggest that anything improper took place but I add this detail because it shows that even when an abuser was 'out of circulation' in those days the potential danger he posed was not properly managed or even attempted. In fact it wasn´t even remotely understood.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I disallow comments which appear to me to be capable of being thought libellous.

motuproprio said...

It is perhaps unsurprising that the Wikipedia article on a former English suffragan and Welsh diocesan bishop entirely omits his previous membership of the Community of the Glorious Ascension.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Just for the record Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Nichols offer of resignation asking him to stay in place until someone was appointed in his place. You might not gather that from the Press reports of what the Cardinal told them but perhaps there was a bad line.