A FORMER Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, has stood by his reasons for granting Peter Ball Permission to Officiate (PTO) two years after Ball, a former Bishop of Gloucester, accepted a police caution, admitting indecent assault.
The bishop had deserved a “fresh start” and would never have reoffended, Lord Carey told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), on Tuesday, as part of its investigation into the extent to which the Anglican Church failed to protect children from child sex abuse.
Ball was first arrested in 1992 after allegations were brought by the late Neil Todd, who was repeatedly abused by Ball during the 1980s and ’90s, and who later took his own life. He accepted a police caution in early 1993, and resigned as bishop; but evidence of other assaults was not acted upon until 2015, when Ball received a three-year sentence, having admitted to the abuse of 18 young men aged 17-25 (News, 7 October 2015).
Under questioning from the lead counsel to the Anglican investigation, Fiona Scolding QC, Lord Carey, who was Archbishop from 1991 to 2002, acknowledged that Ball’s conduct had breached canon law. He regretted that he had not disciplined Ball or placed him on the Lambeth List after Ball had accepted the police caution in 1993, thereby admitting his guilt.
“Yes, we should have acted in a firmer way than we did,” Lord Carey said.
“Why not? Pity may have influenced myself and others. It could have been a longing that, at some point in the future, he might have a ministry again, because I am of the opinion that there is such a thing as grace, repentance, renewal, and restitution.”
Lord Carey went on to defend his decision to grant Ball PTO two years later for the same reasons.
“I hoped that there would be a time that he would be able to return to ministry fully as a retired bishop. . . But hindsight being what it is, yes, I should have acted more decisively, I should have imposed a total ban on him.
“But theologically I saw the possibility of a fresh start for him in a very limited fashion. . . Events proved that he never reoffended, and I felt that he would never do so because we removed him from a power base that he could exploit.”
Questioned whether he had been influenced by people who believed in the innocence of Ball, including his twin brother Michael, Lord Carey said: “I am not a weak person who says, ‘OK, I will follow your instructions’, because I did believe in the importance of someone returning to ministry if there are clear gives. . .
“I was sure that he would not have been a danger to anybody, which proved to be true.”
Ball did, however, go on to have contact with young adults after he was given permission by Lord Carey to preach and conduct confirmations in two schools. Lord Carey was shocked to learn in 2002 that Ball had gone on to preach in several more schools and carry out a further 25 confirmations without supervision.
He agreed that the limitations of the PTO were not enforceable, and that Ball had constantly “pushed the boundaries” of his ministry. “He should have had someone supervising his conduct; I failed, we failed as a team.” He also accepted that, since Ball showed no signs of penitence or remorse since accepting the police caution, he should not have been given PTO in the first place.
“He was always trying to minimise his behaviour,” he said. “I don’t think he ever learnt his lesson. Although he never reoffended, [not placing him on the blacklist] was a mistake I and others made.”
Ms Scolding also questioned Lord Carey in detail about several letters containing allegations against Ball which had been sent to the Palace during the first police investigation. Among the correspondents were the parents of young men who had been abused by Ball during his Give a Year to God scheme in Sussex, while he was still Bishop of Lewes (News, 23 July).
Lord Carey struggled to recall the letters. Ms Scolding, in turn, struggled to understand how, having heard evidence of Ball’s wrongdoing, the former Archbishop had continued to support him.
In answer to her questioning, Lord Carey agreed that child abuse had always been considered wrong and punishable by society and the Church; but he said that, at the time of the allegations made against Ball, the Church did not have the “mindset of 2018” regarding safeguarding.
“Human nature has not changed: that is true. But what has changed over the past 25 years is our understanding of how institutions and individuals can be corrupted.”
He admitted: “I couldn’t believe that a bishop in the Church of God could have done such evil things. So I actually believed him for quite a time because, who were [the people] complaining about him? I didn’t know these people, so you can understand most of us took a little time to catch on to what this man was doing to younger people.”
He and his team also thought that the police were responsible for handling the criminal case. “Our mindset was that the police were investigating very carefully, and we were disappointed that he was left with a caution, and that left me in a difficult position.”
Lord Carey agreed that he had wanted to keep Ball in the episcopate for a “long time” after his arrest, but regretted his correspondence to Ball about this. The counsel quoted one letter to Ball in which Lord Carey said that he was holding the bishop “in my heart and prayers” and that his arrest did “not diminish my admiration or determination to keep you on the episcopal bench”.
“What a sickly letter that was, and I am rather disappointed,” Lord Carey told the Inquiry. “He was a deeply respected person in the Church at that time, charismatic, I did want to keep him on the episcopal bench as a man with many gifts. For a long time that was my intention.”
Lord Carey maintained that this intention to restore Ball to ministry was not “fixed” but dependent on the outcome of the police investigation, however.
Under further questioning, Lord Carey refused to answer whether a lack of openness about sexual relationships and homosexuality in the Church had fostered a lack of understanding that cultivated abuse, but acknowledged that he, and the bishops around him, had not taken the allegations of indecency as seriously as rape.
“I didn’t think it was rape; I did not regard it as penetrative sex — narcissistic — but still bad, still wrong. You are right, we were misled by that. We did not think it was that important. When the police gave a caution, which, as I understand, is the mildest of responses, it seemed to smack as not terribly serious. That is why I wrote to the police to tell me more.”
He later said: “In the scale of things, I think all of us at the time were saying that he wasn’t raping anybody, there was no penetrative sex; and our weakness was putting [his offences] at the lowest of the low, rather than seeing that whatever it was, it was conduct unbecoming of a clergyman.”
Speaking directly to survivors, Lord Carey said: “I came into the ministry when I was quite young, I was in the air force. I had the most marvellous people to help me and nurture me.
“They [the survivors of Ball] didn’t have that: they fell into the trap of a wicked person, a deluded person, who used his considerable influence to shape them wrong, and I regret we didn’t see that earlier.
”And I want to say that we failed the abused in a number of ways, and if we were to do it now, I would say, of course, with hindsight, we didn’t have the safeguarding procedures.”
But the Church had done more than nothing, he said. “It would be wrong to say nothing was happening. Neil Todd did have care: there was the hospital chaplain, a number of bishops, the Bishop of Southwell who Neil Todd refused to see.”
He agreed, however, that the Church had been “playing catch-up” with regard to child-protection measures, the first of which was not enforced until 1995. “We were very conscious that our gospel commands us to look after the most vulnerable people. . . We were very slow in putting [some of the processes] into practice.”
Ms Scolding also brought up the considerable sums that had be paid to Ball in the months after his retirement on health grounds. These had come from the Church Commissioners and Lord Carey’s discretionary fund. Although an investigation by the Metropolitan Police had concluded that no misuse of funds had occurred, Ms Scolding represented the unhappiness of the survivors that no equivalent sums had been advanced to them for counselling.