NOT a good week for the Establishment, really: the attacks on both the Prince of Wales and a former Archbishop of Canterbury for sheltering Peter Ball were unremitting.
The Sun gave over the whole of its front page on Saturday to an attack on Prince Charles for his support of the disgraced bishop. Worse was to come on Sunday, when the matter of Lord Carey’s permission to officiate (PTO) came up.
There are two relevant facts here. The first is that no one suggests that Lord Carey is, or ever has been, any threat to any child or youth. In that light, it is absurd to remove his PTO, although it would do no harm for him to undergo the sort of training that everyone now must be subjected to.
The second is that Lord Carey’s not passing on to the police some of the letters of complaint that he received about Ball very probably contributed to the suffering of the victims and, indeed, to the suicide of Neil Todd. So it is only just to stop him operating as an assistant bishop. In mitigation, he has admitted to what he did, and acknowledged its wrongness without histrionics.
I think that, more than anything else, he is a victim of snobbery in this story: his own, and other people’s. He was probably behaving as he thought most of the rest of the Bishops’ bench would do in those circumstances, and the evidence suggests that he was right: they would have done much the same.
Even his attempt to palm off Ball on Archbishop Desmond Tutu is less shocking than the way in which John Smyth, the Evangelical Christian camp leader accused of savagely beating young men during the 1970s and ’80s in his garden shed, was helped out to Zimbabwe, and then, after a boy died at one of his camps, still further on to South Africa. Smyth’s alleged crimes were, in my view, more grave than the offences for which Ball was convicted, and very probably known to more people, who all did precisely nothing to bring him to justice.
Lord Carey’s bedazzlement by the royal family is well attested, and was mocked enough at the time. But Prince Charles’s behaviour was worse — which is to say, much more supportive — towards Ball, and he is not going to lose his retirement promotion to King as a result.
So I do not have much sympathy with the bishops who are now emerging to criticise the granting of PTO to the old man in the aftermath of his disgrace. I know that there is a sort of poetic justice in thus shaming a man who used to argue that gay clergy had a duty to uphold moral standards inapplicable to the laity by staying celibate, but to do so is closer to the letter of the law than to its spirit.
Meanwhile, the headlines make grisly reading: “Church slams return of ex-Archbishop after sex abuse cover-up” in the Mail; “Church of England bishops turn on each other over Lord Carey abuse scandal” in the Telegraph.
THERE is one group of people who would happily change places with the Church of England’s media team, and that is the Labour Party’s. The anti-Semitism row has now reached a point where there is simply no good way out of it (Press, 20 July).
There is something surreally perfect about the emergence of a tape in which Peter Willsman, a Corbynite member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, explains that he has never personally come across any evidence of anti-Semitism in the party (despite sitting on the disputes panel that adjudicates on such complaints), and those who say otherwise are “Trump fanatics” in the Jewish community.
There was an interesting and subtle take on this from Stephen Bush on the New Statesman website: “There are undoubtedly people who hold anti-Semitic views within the Labour party, [but] their strength comes not from people who agree with them, but [from those] who regard it as something that has to be ignored in order to prioritise retaining control of the institutional levers of power within the Labour Party. And that’s why Willsman is the true face of Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis.”
The capture of institutions from the inside by ranting fanatics who have no conception of how they appear to the outside world is something that happens in Churches and political parties, quite independent of the ideology involved.
FOR the second week running, there is a really thought-provoking piece from the web magazine Aeon, this time on the Siege of Vienna in 1683. That battle has become a kind of historical icon to white Christian nationalists (many of them American) who see European history as one long struggle against Islam.
But the Aeon essay, by the Norwegian historian Dag Herbjørnsrud, points out that the Polish light cavalry were actually Sunni Muslim Tatars who had been settled in Lithuania for centuries, and were protected by King Jan Sobieski, for whom they had earlier fought against the Swedes, while several Protestant princes fought in the Turkish army.
“Sobieski and his allies never ‘saved Europe’, nor Christianity, despite the claims of plaques, textbooks, and encyclopaedias,” Herbjørnsrud writes. “Rather, the ruler of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was Europe’s foremost saviour of Muslim life and culture in northern Europe.”