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Belated coverage of a cover-up

09 October 2015

Stealth: The Times on Saturday reported the Pope’s secret meeting with the US court clerk Kim Davis

Stealth: The Times on Saturday reported the Pope’s secret meeting with the US court clerk Kim Davis

THERE may be some tiny part of any Archbishop which yearns to announce an inquiry into possible criminal acts by his predecessors. Admittedly, the crime involved is usually “giving interviews with malice aforethought” rather than assisting with the cover-up of child abuse, but needs must.

The Times was fulsome in its praise of Archbishop Welby’s inquiry into Lord Carey’s dealings with the convicted abuser Peter Ball: “Lord Carey of Clifton, then Archbishop of Canterbury, acknowledges that he spoke to the Crown Prosecution Service at the time of Ball’s caution but insists that his inquiry was merely to reassure himself that justice was being done.

“Lord Carey denies having interfered in the Ball case and in the administration of justice. It is essential, in the interests of his own reputation for probity, that the truth be established.”

Knowing absolutely nothing of the circumstances of this case, I would none the less be astonished if the CPS had assumed from the outset that the Archbishop was primarily interested in openness. Some years before, I had been treated, in a pub garden outside Canterbury, to a remarkably full and frank account of the cover-up of a deeply embarrassing fraud case in the diocese of Chichester by the man who had organised it, Bishop Eric Kemp.

A plausible conman had persuaded various Evangelical millionaires that he needed to purchase some “Satanic regalia” that he had used in a former life. These turned out to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, which he duly collected and spent without any discernible improvement in his character.

When the story reached the Bishop, he told me, he had summoned the Chief Constable and the Lord Lieutenant to ensure that as much as possible stayed out of court and still more out of the papers.

If that is the way that things were done, the scope for misunderstanding a tactfully phrased enquiry is considerable, perhaps on both sides.


BUT, for pure skulduggery, you would be put hard to beat the machinations surrounding the Pope’s meeting on his US trip with Kim Davis, a court clerk in Kentucky, who was briefly imprisoned after she defied a judge’s order to grant marriage licences to same-sex couples.

Unlike Pope Francis’s other interventions in the US political process, or culture wars, this was conducted with some stealth. So much stealth, in fact, that the Pope himself may have been unaware that he was doing it. He met her, it appears, at a reception at the nunciature.

The news that he had done so broke a couple of days later, on a blog supporting his predecessor, and was then stonewalled for eight hours by the Vatican press office.

By this time, the conservatives were delighted that the Pope had devoted one of his gestures to their pet cause, after so comprehensively siding with the Left in his remarks on immigration and climate change.

After about 24 hours, though, the official clarification made things even murkier. The Pope’s spokesman confirmed that the Pope had met Mrs Davis, but denied that this meant support for her defiance of the law.

As The New York Times reported: “‘The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,’ the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said in a statement released on Friday morning.”

It’s not entirely clear which of the particular and complex aspects of Mrs Davis’s position the Pope is so unhappy with — but it might be that her devotion to marriage as instituted between man and woman is so great that she is already on her third.


THERE is one other American story, not at all funny, which is worth noting. This is the report that, in the massacre at a community college in Oregon, the murderer demanded to know whether students were Christian or not before shooting them.

Rather like the story of David Cameron and the pig, this is something that large numbers of people (not the same crowd, though) really want to be true. The Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee posted on Facebook: “The recent spike in mass shootings across the nation is truly troubling. Whether the perpetrators are motivated by aggressive secularism, jihadist extremism or racial supremacy, their targets remain the same: Christians and defenders of the West.

“While this is not the time for widespread panic, it is a time to prepare. I would encourage my fellow Christians who are serious about their faith to think about getting a handgun carry permit. I have always believed that it is better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.”

I feel the same about the faculty of reason.

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