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Peter Ball: responses to conviction and comment

06 November 2015


From Dr Margaret Kennedy

Sir, — It seems disingenuous of the Rt Revd Lord Carey, who had oversight of Bishop Ball when the latter was cautioned for gross indecency in 1993, now to apologise to the victims of Ball after his sentencing.

Lord Carey says (9 October) that he regrets how “we dealt inadequately with Peter Ball’s victims”: “we allowed abusers to flourish in ministry.” He then argues this did not amount to “cover-up”! It is my experience that most bishops are aware of the sexual offending of the clergy they are responsible for.

Lord Carey’s saying that “we allowed abusers to flourish in ministry” argues that “cover-up” had to operate. Certainly, parishioners would never countenance sex-offending clergy in their parish if they had known, and, since they did not know, this was “cover-up”.

The continued denial by Churches (of all denominations) that they engaged in cover-up only serves to show the duplicity of apology, and only hurts and further damages victims more. Survivors would rather bishops did not apologise, but spoke the truth of these cases. The truth of “cover-up” has to be acknowledged.

Founder of MACSAS: Minister and
Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (UK)
28 St Crispins, Redford Park
Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland


From Dr A. S. Corio

Sir, — I was disturbed by Canon Angela Tilby’s column (Comment, 16 October) and its sympathetic interpretation of the longing to express love which might have underpinned Peter Ball’s crimes. I was also disturbed by Andrew Brown’s column (Press, same issue), which implied that Ball’s behaviour was the result of “pretend[ing] gay clergy don’t really exist”.

Canon Tilby wrote that Bishop Ball’s “aspiration to holiness was genuine, and that his desires, however warped, came ultimately from the same source as his longing for God”. Evidence presented at his trial, however, made it clear that he humiliated and sought to degrade his victims as part of a long-term strategy to enable him to abuse them spiritually and sexually. He gained great satisfaction from this. For many years, his position in the Church gave him the ability — and the immunity — to exercise this perversion of power on a wide scale.

So it is inaccurate to represent the abuse as stemming from a simple and yet confused desire to express affection. That misunderstanding is offensive to the very concept of love, and to Christians with different sexual identities living in committed relationships of all kinds, or in celibacy.

Further, this kind of apologetic harms the Church’s ability to implement robust safeguarding procedures. Canon Tilby to a small degree acknowledges this. I believe that the Church should continue to offer appropriate pastoral care to notorious sinners. This must include, for their sake, an acknowledgment of the reality of their abuse.

We must also make it plain that we are called to stand, with Christ, in solidarity with the oppressed, the powerless, and the abused. It is that kind of love that should underpin ministry in the Church of England.

2 Cross Street, Cambridge


From Margaret Wilkinson

Sir, — Canon Angela Tilby is quite correct to say that the institution of the Church continues to struggle in its response to the breakdown of clergy marriage. Many ex-clergy spouses have been left, as she says, to bear the guilt and shame. Many have also felt that their voice has not been listened to by the institution. This is particularly so in situations of domestic abuse, especially emotional abuse.

Broken Rites (www.brokenrites.org) has been working for more than 30 years to support separated and divorced clergy spouses, and to campaign on their behalf. Anyone who wishes to support us in this work can do so by becoming an associate member.

27 River Grove Park
Beckenham, Kent

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