Lord Carey resigns honorary post in Oxford diocese after ‘harrowing’ report on Peter Ball case

22 June 2017

SWNS

Brought to book: Peter Ball arriving at Taunton Magistrates Court in May 2014

Brought to book: Peter Ball arriving at Taunton Magistrates Court in May 2014

BOTH the Archbishop of Canterbury’s predecessors have issued personal apologies, and Lord Carey has resigned from his position as an honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of Oxford, after the publication of an independent report on the Peter Ball case and the Church’s part in it.

Lord Carey has been strongly criticised in the report of the review group, chaired by Dame Moira Gibb, which was published on Thursday, almost two years after the review was announced by Archbishop Welby (News, 7 October 2015).

The 81-page report, Abuse of Faith, sets out in detail the events and circumstances leading up to, surrounding, and following the arrest and imprisonment of Ball, who received a three-year sentence in October 2015, having admitted to a series of indecent assaults and the abuse of 18 young men aged 17-25. One of his victims took his own life. Ball, who is 85, was released in February after serving 16 months of his sentence.

The report criticises the conduct of several senior Church of England figures — in particular, Lord Carey, who, it says, failed to respond to repeated expressions of concern and allegations against Bishop Ball — most notably those of the late Neil Todd, who was repeatedly abused by the bishop during the 1980s and ’90s.

In a statement on the report, which he described as “harrowing”, Archbishop Welby said that the Church had “colluded and concealed” rather than acted to help survivors to come forward; and he repeated an “unreserved apology” for this.

“This is inexcusable and shocking behaviour, and, although Dame Moira notes that most of the events took place many years ago, and does not think that the Church now would conduct itself in the ways described, we can never be complacent: we must learn lessons.”

Another statement from Dr Croft, on Monday, confirmed that Lord Carey had resigned. “I have met with Lord Carey following the Archbishop’s letter to him. In light of Dame Moira Gibb’s review into the Peter Ball case, Lord Carey has resigned from his role as honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Oxford. Lord Carey has accepted the criticisms made of him in the Gibb review and has apologised to the victims of Peter Ball.

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“Along with many others, I have been deeply distressed to read Dame Moira Gibb’s report with its narrative of the abuse perpetrated by Peter Ball which remained hidden for so long. I hope that the focus of attention will continue to be on the survivors of abuse and offering to them the care and support they need.”

Receiving the report on behalf of Archbishop Welby, on Thursday, the Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, who is the lead bishop on safeguarding, said that news of the leaked letter was “very disappointing”, since the focus should have been on the survivors.

“Having read the report, I am appalled and deeply disturbed by its contents. . . Today is a reminder of how we have failed, and this report provides robust recommendations for how we can improve our safeguarding practice.”

Ball had continued to abuse young boys and men sexually and physically for his own gratification, under the pretence of providing spiritual enlightenment, for the duration of his ministry as monk, priest, and, later, bishop, the report says. He had been involved in founding and running monastic religious communities since 1960, when concerns were first raised about his behaviour — including reports of praying naked on the chapel floor, self-flagellation, and the physical and sexual harassment and abuse of others, including schoolboys.

The Church’s “trivialisation” of such allegations, together with its naïve, prescriptive, and prejudiced attitude towards homosexuality, were in part to blame for its repeated failure to acknowledge and conduct a proper investigation into the exploitation carried out by Ball throughout his ministry, the report says.

It describes how, in October 1992, Mr Todd, after attempting to take his own life, disclosed the abuse to a “Mr A”, who passed on the allegations to the Bishop of Chichester at the time, the late Dr Eric Kemp, who subsequently briefed Lord Carey. It was not until Mr Todd attempted to take his life for a second time, however, that his worried parents contacted Gloucester Police. This eventually led to a Metropolitan Police investigation into the allegations.

Lambeth Palace later issued a press statement acknowledging the investigations. It stated that Lord Carey had instructed Bishop Ball to “rest” from his official duties, and was praying for him. There was no mention of survivors, and it said: “It must be emphasized that no charges have been brought against the Bishop, and the allegations about him are unsubstantiated. Moreover, the Bishop has a proven record of outstanding pastoral work, particularly amongst young people.”

In 1993, Ball stood down as Bishop of Gloucester after his arrest and caution for gross indecency. In the December, Lambeth Palace received seven letters containing “potentially disturbing information” about Ball, but did not release them during the police investigation. Lord Carey chose not to place Ball on the Lambeth list — naming clerics of questionable suitability, and during a CRB check of Ball in 2004, no evidence of the police caution had been recorded.

“Only one of those letters was handed over,” Dame Moira said on Thursday. “It is perfectly possible that the course of events would have been altered had those letters been handed over. It was deeply inappropriate that the Church did not hand them over at that time.”

Bishop Hancock said: “It was disgraceful that the Church consistently and completely failed those survivors at that time.”

Mr Todd took his own life in 2012, after the allegations against Ball resurfaced. This led to an investigation by Sussex Police, Operation Dunhill. Lord Carey had played down previous concerns, allowed Ball to continue his ministry, and even provided funds to assist Ball during this time, the report says.

Both Lord Carey and Lord Williams, who was Archbishop when the police investigation into Ball was conducted in 2012, have apologised.

Lord Carey states: “I accept the criticisms made of me. I apologise to the victims of Peter Ball. I believed Peter Ball’s protestations and gave too little credence to the vulnerable young men and boys behind those allegations. I regret that after Peter Ball was cautioned I did not place his name on the Lambeth list.”

While Lord Williams had “inherited a confused situation” from his predecessor, and started the process that led to Ball’s arrest and imprisonment, he had been too slow, and “missed the opportunity to review and clarify” the case, the report says.

Lord Williams acknowledged this in his apology. “It is clear that I did not give adequate priority to sorting out the concerns and allegations surrounding Peter Ball at the earliest opportunity. I recognise that such a delay is likely to have increased the pressure and distress experienced by the survivors of his abuse and I am sincerely sorry for this.”

The report also criticises other senior church figures, including Ball’s predecessor as Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd John Yates, as well as Peter Ball’s idenitical twin brother, the Rt Revd Michael Ball, who conducted a “manipulative” campaign to allow his brother to continue his ministry.

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Concerning one aspect of the twins’ relationship, it concludes: “It appears to us extraordinary that a bishop should, at best, be so careless as to allow himself to be impersonated, and particularly to be impersonated by a former bishop who had resigned in the circumstances detailed above. However, the Church has considered these matters and has taken no further action. That may be appropriate in the light of Bishop Michael Ball’s age, and status as a retired bishop.”

The report dismisses allegations that any member of the royal family intervened on Peter Ball’s behalf. “Ball himself, both in his correspondence and in his public statements, sought to exploit his contact with members of the Royal Family in order to bolster his position, particularly in the eyes of Lord Carey and others from whom he hoped to receive sympathetic treatment.

“We have reviewed all the relevant material including the correspondence passing between the Prince of Wales and Ball held by the Church and found no evidence that the Prince of Wales or any other member of the Royal Family sought to intervene at any point in order to protect or promote Ball.”

The report also notes of Peter Ball: “His decision to withhold his co-operation with this review does not sit well with [his] declarations [of remorse].”

Presenting the report, Dame Moira said: “Peter Ball abused his faith and his Church, appearing outwardly as a good and holy man while actively harming others. He abused the faith that people rightly had in him as a leader in the Church, and most importantly he abused the faith of those who sought spiritual guidance from him, and instead found hurt, deceit, and manipulation.”

These “shocking” acts were compounded by the failure of the Church to “respond appropriately” to numerous concerns raised by survivors and others, including those who had known and worked with Ball, she said.

Her report sets out 11 recommendations for the Church, both to support the complex needs of survivors properly, and to prevent further abuse. This includes reviewing its safeguarding procedures, as well as the responsibilities of the National Safeguarding Team and the Lambeth, Bishopthorpe, and Archbishops’ lists.

Bishop Hancock said that a copy of the report had been sent to all the Bishops, and that survivors would be invited to tell of their experiences, including the family of Mr Todd. He also referred to new safeguarding legislation and updated guidance from the House of Bishops.

“For the survivors, it may feel this is all too late. I am personally aware from my meetings with individual survivors in the course of my work that they live with the effects of this abuse for their whole life. I once again offer them my wholehearted apology.”

Report in full here.

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