A FORMER Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, has criticised his successor over the treatment of George Bell, the former Bishop of Chichester accused of abusing a child in the 1940s and ’50s. Bell died in 1958.
Speaking at a conference organised by supporters of Bishop Bell in Westminster last Friday, Lord Carey referred to the official reaction to a review of the Bell case by Lord Carlile QC. Lord Carlile had criticised the conduct of the investigation into the allegations against Bishop Bell.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey
“Instead of this leading logically to the rehabilitation of George Bell’s reputation,” Lord Carey said, “the Church compounded the problem further by apologising for the procedures that had been found wanting by the Carlile review, but refusing to retract its conclusion that George Bell was in all probability guilty of the abuse.
“In the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a ‘significant cloud’ hangs over his name. The Archbishop bluntly added: ‘He is accused of great wickedness.’
“What is deeply unsatisfactory is that no explanation is given and no evidence for these conclusions. If the Carlile report revealed how biased and unjust were the conclusions of the Core Group, how can the Archbishop, the Bishop of Chichester, and Bishop of Bath & Wells continue to unblushingly assert that George Bell’s reputation remains under a cloud?”
Lord Carey went on: “Now, it gives me no pleasure to note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has received harsh criticism from a number of leading historians and theologians and, sadly, his response has been so far unsatisfactory. Those of us still committed to the national Church remain horrified that not more has been done to explain his remark that ‘a cloud remains’. At the very least, justice demands it.”
Lord Carey also criticised the lack of support for Bell among the other bishops. “Why the silence from the House of Bishops? Each member must know that he or she is implicated indirectly in this condemnation of Bell. Only one bishop has distanced himself from the Archbishop’s conclusion, but I understand that at least six others disagree with him.
“Unity and collegiality are good things, but never should they replace what is right and true. ‘Collegiality’ is not to be mistaken for ‘collective cabinet responsibility’ or ‘party discipline’.
“So it is right to press the Bishops to declare themselves. ‘Do you share the opinion that a “significant cloud” hangs over George Bell’s name? Do you agree that he is guilty of “great wickedness”? Please tell us what you think.’”
Lord Carey described the Church’s treatment of Bishop Bell as “shaming, because it is unjust”.