AN inquiry has concluded that the Church of England put its own reputation above the needs of victims of sexual abuse – and that prominent establishment figures such as Prince Charles were were ‘misguided’ in their expressions of support of Bishop Peter Ball as he battled abuse accusations.
The inquiry said there was a serious failure of leadership by the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, in its handling of the case of the bishop who eventually went to prison.
Ball, a former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, was jailed in 2015, more than 20 years after allegations were made against him that were largely ignored or downplayed by the church. Ball accepted a police caution in 1993 and resigned as bishop but was allowed to continue officiating in the C of E.
Ball “seemed to relish contact with prominent and influential people”, a 250-page report published on Thursday by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) said.
He sought to use his relationship with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to further his campaign to return to unrestricted ministry.
The Prince and his private secretary spoke about Ball with the Archbishop of Canterbury and arranged for the Duchy of Cornwall to buy a property to be rented by Ball after he resigned as a bishop.
The Prince had been “misguided”, and his actions:
Could have been interpreted as expressions of support for Peter Ball and, given the Prince of Wales’s future role within the Church of England, had the potential to influence the actions of the church.
It said Carey, above, showed compassion to Ball that was not extended to the bishop’s victims, and displayed overt support for Ball’s innocence despite having no justification. Carey was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002.
The church’s response to allegations of abuse by Ball and others in the diocese of Chichester was marked by secrecy, prevarication and avoidance of reporting alleged crimes, the report said.
Disclosures of abuse were handled inadequately by the church, and responses failed to display an appropriate level of urgency or appreciation of the seriousness of allegations made.
Following publication of the report, a Clarence House spokesman said:
It remains a matter of deep regret to the prince that he, along with many others, was deceived by Peter Ball over so many years.
As he made clear in his voluntary witness statement to the inquiry, at no time did he bring any influence to bear on the actions of the Church or any other relevant authority.
His thoughts remain with victims of the abuse suffered over many years.