First, came an accusation in mid-June from two Anglican churches in the UK that an ‘an unholy trinity’ – Justin Welby, left, the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Sentamu, centre, the Archbishop of York, and Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford – were all guilty of ‘ false teaching and practice’ with regard to homosexuality.
But today the headlines were firmly focused on a damning report that says the C of E had “colluded” with disgraced Bishop Peter Ball to cover up sex offences.
The report, the result of an 18 month-long enquiry by Dame Moira Gibb, found that senior clergy “trivialised” the actions of Peter Ball and sought to protect its reputation by failing to pass on evidence of further abuse.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey was heavily criticised in the report which condemns the Church of England over its handling of the case of Ball, who was convicted of sex offences in 2015.
Welby, according to this report, has written to Carey asking him to consider his position as an honorary assistant bishop in Oxford over criticism of his conduct in the Ball case.
At a press conference with Dame Moira launching the independent report today, Peter Hancock, the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the lead bishop on safeguarding in the Church, confirmed that Welby had “written directly” to Carey asking him “carefully” to consider his position.
Hancock said that “this is now a matter for Lord Carey and the Bishop of Oxford” who have been having conversations on the telephone and are set to meet in the next two days.
Steven Croft, the Bishop of Oxford, said in a statement:
With reference to the criticism of former Archbishop George Carey in the report, the Archbishop of Canterbury has written to Lord Carey and asked him to carefully consider his position as honorary Assistant Bishop. As I hold responsibility for granting him a licence to enable him to carry out his duties, Archbishop Justin has asked Lord Carey to talk to me and we have agreed to meet in the coming days for that conversation. In the meantime he has voluntarily agreed to step back from public ministry.
There was no further comment from Lambeth Palace or, at the time of writing, from Carey.
Receiving the report on behalf of the Church, Bishop Hancock said:
I am truly sorry that as a Church we failed the survivors of Peter Ball; having read the report I am appalled and disturbed by its contents; as Dame Moira says … we colluded, we failed to act and protect those who came forward for help. There are no excuses. We accept all the recommendations and we are working to action them.
He added that for the survivors:
It may feel like this is all too late.
He said that he is aware from his meetings with survivors that:
They live with the effects of this abuse for their whole life. I want to give my heartfelt apologies to the survivors of Peter Ball’s abuse. The Church of England has let them down by failing to act on the reports of his actions and there are no excuses for this.
We must now act on the recommendations put forward by Dame Moira Gibb, and all bishops must demonstrate our accountability for making sure everyone in our church is kept safe. The church set up the National Safeguarding Team in 2015 and since then we have had a range of policies and training alongside new legislation covering clergy and other church officers and their responsibility to protect people.
Hat tip: Too many to list