Sir, — A couple of years before Bishop Peter Ball received his much publicised caution in the early 1990s, a priest left his wife and disastrous marriage. When questioned by his bishop and archbishop, he did not lie about his relationship with another woman, and the consequences were that his means of employment and accommodation were immediately removed from him.
This priest had no influential friends in either Church or State, and took early retirement at the age of 60, to ensure a modest income. Inevitably, and in full knowledge of what he was doing, his pension was considerably reduced and has remained so.
After some years, during which time he received no communication or support from anyone within the church hierarchy, the aforementioned priest was eventually allowed to take services again in a different area, and has continued to do so, much to the delight of congregations, who are fortunate to be on the receiving end of his careful preparation and celebration of the eucharist.
This is a man who is extremely talented in several spheres of life, and yet no one from the higher echelons of society rallied around him to cushion his existence, as they did Peter Ball.
Of course, there are differences: I am glad to say that my husband of nearly a quarter of a century told the truth when questioned about his behaviour; and, of course, breaking the Seventh Commandment, albeit expressing love between two consenting adults, is apparently far more heinous than abusing vulnerable young people, as the Church continues to demonstrate.
I cannot imagine the pain suffered by the victims of Peter Ball as they attempt to obtain justice. A prison sentence, of what will amount to two years, can never compensate for their wrecked lives. I do, however, empathise with their feelings of powerlessness, and this will never be lessened.
The Church and State are both hierarchical institutions, in which those seen as having the right background are favoured, supported, and frequently, it seems, not held to account.
NAME & ADDRESS SUPPLIED
From Mr Paul Sandham
Sir, — I am a guide at Portsmouth Cathedral, whose treasures include what remains of a wall painting, c.1250, depicting the Last Judgement. Discernible in the queue for hell is a mitred figure, conveying the medieval conceit that one of the bishops was destined for the other place.
As I explained this last week, a visitor commented: “I’m from East Sussex. Nothing changes.”
52a Salterns Lane, Hayling Island
Hampshire PO11 9PJ