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Not quite ‘the highest standards’

16 October 2015

Embarrassment: the Telegraph story, on Thursday of last week, about "royal intervention"

Embarrassment: the Telegraph story, on Thursday of last week, about "royal intervention"

THE most delightful story of the week comes from Sweden, where the King’s grandson was baptised last week. In conjunction with this, the tabloid Expressen ran a headline: "This is how the archbishop will avoid being reported [for child cruelty]."

It turns out that when the infant’s mother, Crown Princess Madeleine, was baptised in 1982 she howled so lustily when the water was dripped on her forehead that "an upset middle-aged man" in a suburb of Stockholm reported the Archbishop to the authorities, with a view to having him prosecuted for child cruelty. This story belongs in any anthology of dechristianisation. The complaint was later dropped.

 

OUR own royal family was less innocently in the religious news. "Prince Charles forced to deny link to Peter Ball after sex abuse bishop evaded prosecution following intervention of Lord Chief Justice and member of the Royal family" is not a headline one expected in the Telegraph.

This leaves open the mystery of which member of the Royal Family it was who made an appeal on Bishop Ball’s behalf for leniency in sentencing.

We know that the Prince of Wales made available a cottage on one of his estates for the Bishop, but this was only after the caution, and so can’t be described as an intervention in the process. Who was the other Royal involved? Could it have been the woman described by Lord Runcie as "all pills and Jesus"? Answers, or even suggestions, would be welcome.

 

THE Daily Mail showed what it really thinks of those who write for the Mail on Sunday by sending a video crew to monster Lord Carey on holiday about the story.

The video is mostly notable for the efforts of the tour guide to put his hand over the camera lens and push it away from the party. I cannot confirm the rumour that Lambeth Palace wants to hire him.

The former Archbishop managed a proper apology the next day, promptly spoiled by the addition of a second sentence: "I greatly regret the fact that, during my tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, we dealt inadequately with Peter Ball’s victims and gave too much credence to his protestations."

Stop here, I want to say. No, really. Stop right here. Don’t say the next bit. You’re in a hole. Don’t dig any more.

But Lord Carey is not a man to shrink from the proffered shovel. He continued anyway: "Allegations by some that my actions amounted to a cover-up or collusion with the abuser are wrong. I have always insisted upon the highest standards of holiness of life from all who are ordained."

What makes this squirm-making is that, even if it was perfectly defensible to offer the disgraced Bishop permission to officiate, as Lord Carey did on the basis of inadequate information, you couldn’t call that "the highest standards of holiness of life". It is generally reckoned a higher standard never to have been cautioned by the police at all.

The whole thing ends up as just another example of the horrible messes that people get into when they pretend that gay clergy don’t really exist.

 

THERE was a disturbing piece by Peter Oborne, who resigned as the Telegraph’s chief political commentator last year, disgusted with the subservience of the Barclay brothers to the advertisers.

He had been booked to talk at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference on Muslim charities and extremism. This was cancelled after an Andrew Gilligan piece in The Sunday Telegraph alleged that Human Appeal, one of the charities involved, had links to terrorists.

Oborne challenged Gilligan on the story, which, he claims, contains "a number of obvious errors, which could have been rectified had Mr Gilligan chosen to speak to Human Appeal". (He spoke instead to the aorganisers of the meeting.) This is sad, partly because Oborne and Gilligan used to be friends. Their last telephone conversation, recorded by Oborne, who demanded that Gilligan stand up his story, does not end well: "Mr Gilligan then asked me: ‘Is this an inquisition?’

"I replied that I was just asking him questions in the way that a reporter does. Mr Gilligan said that he wasn’t going to tolerate this any longer and put down the phone. Before doing so he said: ‘Their denials are not supported by evidence. What I wrote is supported by the facts.’

"This may be so — but Mr Gilligan has yet to establish these facts."

Gilligan has done some excellent work on the Lutfur Rahman story and elsewhere, but unless he can produce his evidence, this looks like a damaging mistake. It has not just harmed the charity involved, but has also undermined the idea that British Muslims can trust the Government to deal with them fairly.

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