BBC broadcasts ‘horror’ story of ‘monster’ bishop Peter Ball

BBC broadcasts ‘horror’ story of ‘monster’ bishop Peter Ball January 14, 2020
Cliff James reading from his book Life as a Kite. Image via YouTube.

IN November I carried a piece about a friend – Cliff  James, above – who was just about to publish a book in which he wrote about the abuse he suffered at the hands of Peter Ball, the former Bishop of Lewes, then Gloucester, who was jailed for 32 months for preying on young men.   

James, author of Life As A Kite, subsequently informed me that he was to be featured in a BBC2 two-part documentary entitled Exposed: The Church’s Darkest Secret. The first part was aired last night, with part 2 following on tonight.

Writing for the Irish Times, Ed Power said:

‘Evil’ is a word used over and over in part one of Ben Steele’s two-part documentary about disgraced Bishop Peter Ball and the British establishment that turned a blind eye to the depredations he inflicted on vulnerable young men. In interviews with survivors and in sensitive and sparing dramatic reenactments director Steele gazes unflinchingly into the darkness that took root in the episcopal wing of the British state and for decades proved impossible to weed out.

Peter Ball. Image via YouTube.

This is a horror story and so there is a monster. Ball, the Bishop of Gloucester, presented himself to the world as a charismatic aesthete. Whether hobnobbing on Wogan or with the Prince of Wales, he had the beatific smile and pixieish twinkle of someone who had found transcendence in self-denial.

Cliff, who I met in Brighton, UK, when he served as secretary for the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association –  of which I was a founder member 40 years ago – emailed me today to say:

The evidence about the Church and Establishment cover-up of abuse has been dripping slowly into public consciousness for years. This documentary is so important because it brings all that evidence together into a narrative where we can finally see the whole picture. It casts a spotlight upon the rottenness at the heart of the Establishment. It reveals how bishops and archbishops, lords and members of the Royal family were more concerned with protecting one of their own rather than with the truth.

And even now there is scant evidence of the Church hierarchy having any concern for the victims.

This attitude is still evident in the Establishment and nothing seems to have changed. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for example, condemned the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) – which investigated Bishop Peter Ball – and said that ‘money was being spaffed up a wall‘ on such investigations.

Power does not like to be scrutinised and will do everything it can to close down such investigations. That is why this documentary is so timely necessary.

He added:

One of the biggest secrets revealed in the documentary is how George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, knowingly withheld evidence of abuse from the police investigation, and continued to support Peter Ball for decades after he knew the truth. Peter was sentenced to prison for the crime of ‘Misconduct in a public office’ – which is a charge that could also be levelled at George Carey.

George Carey. Image via YouTube.

The documentary is tough viewing, but its message is essential: that the Establishment will always act to protect itself from criticism – even it that drives its victims to suicide, as was the case with Neil Todd.

The Sun homed in a section of the documentary in which James claimed that the “paedo” bishop’s relationship with Prince Charles made him “impregnable”.

He revealed how he was forced to take part in “humiliation” rituals while naked, being ceremoniously beaten and forced to take part in mutual masturbation.

Cliff told the show: “If I let him down and didn’t want to do those things, he would rub his bald head and say, ‘Never mind, I thought Christ had chosen you for a very special reason, but don’t worry, very few people are chosen for the holy life’.

“Of course by saying that he made me feel incredibly guilty and that I’d let down God – so I would do everything to try and make it up to him.”

In a Guardian report, Cliff said Ball boasted of his connections.

He kept mentioning his friendship with Prince Charles in a flippant way, [as] anyone would talk about a friend – but he’s talking about Prince Charles.

In an interview with the Brighton and Hove Argus, Cliff spoke about his ordeal of living alone with Peter Ball in a monastic retreat as part of the Give A Year to God scheme.

Ball founded and ran the camp in Litlington in the 1980s, when he was Bishop of Lewes. Some of the participants were aged 17 or younger. One was 13.

Cliff stayed at Ball’s country house in Berwick for a year. He said:

I lived with him there. Peter abused dozens of young men. The earliest was in 1977. I was there for a year in 1991, between the ages of 17 and 18.

It was lonely. I was the only young person living there. It was just me and Peter for most of the time during that year.

I was fearful. I was always afraid of what Peter would ask or demand, or how he would manipulate me next.

It was a large, rural house surrounded by fields. It was very opulent, very wealthy. There were chandeliers and beautiful decorations that Peter was very proud of.

As well as being a bishop, he was a monk who had taken a vow of poverty. He would apologise for being surrounded by such luxury as if he had no choice over it.

He added:

The abuse was sexual, mental and physical. He got pleasure from inflicting physical pain on others. Neil Todd was the last youth on the scheme. He killed himself because of the stress and the pressure when the police investigation reopened a few years ago.

It has affected me. It did at the time. But I was lucky. I had the opportunity to stand up to him towards the end. I was able to get some measure of empowerment because I confronted him. He backed away and apologised. He said everything he was doing was for God.

It helped that I turned my back on the Church and became an atheist after that.

You can watch Cliff reading from his book here.


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  • Raymond Metcalfe

    I have just finished watching the first part. How much more is hidden? how many more victims are there? how many more abusers are roaming the aisles of the church? This is the church of England not some small religious group no one as heard of or cares about. This is part of the pillars of the establishment and its rotten from the top to the bottom. I wonder if peter balls crime had been fraud or theft would the establishment have circled the wagons so quickly? As Hitch said religion poisons everything and this demonstrates just what that poison is like. How many lives have been ruined I wonder and the good old CofE as done nothing but covered it all up I do wonder how many more abusers there are hiding within its ranks

  • Ann Kah

    Catholics and other church organizations have been doing the same, and although they are dragging their feet and are extremely reluctant to cooperate, an intense scrutiny is finally being turned on them here in the USA. But at least our governmental involvement with them is unofficial.

  • Jezebel’sOlderSister

    Tell me again how religion is harmless? That it is only bad actors that distort religion that are harmful? People like this guy use religion and its trappings to hide their crimes from the public and from the law. They learn quickly that many people are taught, from an early age, to offer unearned respect and deference to those that wear a particular costume, or act in a particular manner. This is one of the proofs that the United States was not established as a “Christian Nation.” Although it has been a little problematic, the basis of our legal is system is that all men are created equal. There is no provision in the laws of the United States that set professional religious people above others. I know, I know, that’s not how it works in practice — but it should work that way. For example, the preacher that was found guilty (in Ohio, I think) of molesting under age children that was given a particularly lenient sentence because the judge felt that the man’s spiritual leadership was needed in the community. although it has been a long time coming, I am glad to hear more of these cases that have been dragged out into the open, and that the people who have committed these monstrosities are at least being publicly outed for what they truly are. Unfortunately, the damage that has been done to their victims cannot really be remediated — how do you return trust/virginity to someone who has been assaulted? But, maybe now, when children tell their parents that their pastor/minister/teacher, the parents will be more likely to believe the child and move to protect their children, and themselves, from these “bad actors.” To Cliff, and to the others who have been hurt by this man, I’m am truly sorry that you went through this, but I’m glad that you have the courage to make the rest of us aware of what happened — maybe you have helped other vulnerable people realize that this behavior is immoral and illegal.

  • Broga

    ” James claimed that the “paedo” bishop’s relationship with Prince Charles made him “impregnable”.

    Would a judge have dismissed a victim’s references to Prince Andrew as “mischievous” if he had not been a member of the Royal Family? Even after his disastrous interview there have been no police follow-up to test his bizarre comments. (Remember his hand around a woman’s waist and his denial that it was his hand).

    Why did “Senior Military Officers” decide to announce that they had “lost respect” for Prince Harry over an issue that had no connection with his brief career in the army? Was that spontaneous or typical grovelling to the royals to besmirch Harry?

  • Jezebel’sOlderSister

    WTF are you talking about? This has NOTHING to do with the article. Go away, troll.

  • Meurig ap Gweirydd

    Sadly the other 2/3 will keep what they experienced secret, partly out of shame and partly out of fear of retribution, but mostly because few people would believe them (or respect them) if they did say anything.

  • Michael Neville

    He [Ball] said everything he was doing was for God.

    That makes sense, since in the propaganda Yahweh is depicted as a sadistic, narcissistic bully.

  • Stephen Mynett

    As I have posted here before, Ball was known about all around Gloucestershire for decades and his habit of visiting schools and going into the boys changing rooms after rugby or football matches. They were complaints and some schools would not have him back but nothing serious was done until it was too late.

    Jezebel . . . I suggest you look back over the posting history of the Freethinker. Broga may have been off topic, although as this was about the royals as well his post was relevant. He has been a regular here for years and posted a lot of very interesting stuff.

  • Broga

    Have you some objection to paragraphs?

  • Bubblecar

    Rather amusing to compare the Murdoch-owned Sun’s treatment of the (Anglican) Ball story with Murdoch’s Aussie papers’ protective attitude towards Cardinal Pell. Murdoch is of course a staunch Catholic.