Criticism of Church in Peter Ball case well deserved, says bishop whom Ball ‘manipulated’

15 May 2019

KT Bruce

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, speaks at Bloxham festival, last year

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, speaks at Bloxham festival, last year

THE Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, was “used and manipulated” and subjected to naked praying in the 1980s by the disgraced former bishop and convicted abuser Peter Ball, it has emerged.

Responding on Twitter to the scathing conclusions of the latest Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) report, published this week, Dr Inge wrote that, as “a victim of Peter Ball”, he believed that the report’s criticism of the churchpeople who protected Ball was “well deserved”.

“I was not able to read the report on the day it was released but now have. I can’t speak with any authority of the Chichester report but, as a victim of Peter Ball who gave evidence, I think the criticisms of those who protected him are well deserved. A great stain on the church.”

Dr Inge submitted a witness statement to the abuse inquiry in May last year, it emerged, in which he said that he had met Ball in or around September 1979 when Dr Inge had first arrived at Lancing College to teach chemistry.

“The naked praying to which I was subjected took place on one occasion, and this was in or around 1981 or 1982. I was around 26 or 27 at the time. While I do not consider myself as having been abused by Peter Ball, I certainly feel that I was used and manipulated by him.”

Dr Inge, who was ordained priest in 1985, said that he had been in contact with Ball in the late 80s’ when he was involved with the Little Brothers and Sisters in Christ scheme. Dr Inge had not, however, been involved in the “Give a Year to God” scheme, he said, which was set up and run by Ball while the latter was Bishop of Lewes in the early 1980s.

A table in the IICSA report, Anglican Church Case Studies: The Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against Peter Ball, lists the convictions and allegations made against Ball from 1977 to 1990, many of which overlap. The age of the victims or complainants at the time of abuse ranged between 13 and 25 years. Many had attended the “Give a Year to God” scheme; the nature of the abuse included naked praying, masturbation, and flagellation for Ball’s own sexual gratification.

Another table lists 20 clerics and church volunteers in the diocese of Chichester who were convicted or cautioned between 1951 and 2018 for a combined total of more than 230 child sex offences.

In both the diocese and the wider Church, the report states: “The responses to child sexual abuse were marked by secrecy, prevarication, avoidance of reporting alleged crimes to the authorities and a failure to take professional advice.”

This includes the Church’s “unwavering support of Peter Ball” during the Gloucestershire Police investigation (allegations about Ball came to light when he was translated to from Lewes to Gloucester), and its failure afterwards to “recognise or acknowledge the seriousness” of Ball’s misconduct.

Ball “surrounded himself with powerful and influential” people, including the Prince of Wales, whom the report describes as “misguided”.

“Peter Ball sought to use his relationship with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to further his campaign to return to unrestricted ministry. The Prince of Wales informed the Inquiry he was not aware of the significance or impact of the caution that Peter Ball had accepted, and was not sure that he was even told that Peter Ball had been cautioned at the time.

“During the period of that campaign, the Prince of Wales and his private secretary spoke about Peter Ball with the Archbishop of Canterbury and a member of Lambeth Palace staff. In addition, the Duchy of Cornwall purchased a property specifically to rent to Peter Ball and his brother.

“The actions of the Prince of Wales were misguided. His actions, and those of his staff, could have been interpreted as expressions of support for Peter Ball and, given the Prince of Wales’ future role within the Church of England, had the potential to influence the actions of the Church.”

The report also comments specifically on the evidence given by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey on the case, whose response is described as “weak”. His “compassion” towards Ball did not extend to the victims, it says.

A statement from the House of Bishops on Thursday welcomed the recommendations listed in the report. “We recognise that the publication of this report causes most hurt and concern to survivors themselves. It reopens wounds,” the bishops said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury had asked every bishop “to read and study the full report in detail and we are absolutely committed to this. The Church has failed survivors and the report is very clear that the Church should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors. We are ashamed of our past failures, have been working for change but recognise the deep cultural change needed takes longer than we would like to achieve.

“We welcome the recommendations.”

The report would go to the National Safeguarding Steering Group next month, the bishops said, “so that the Church can formulate a detailed response to the findings and recommendations as we approach IICSA’s wider Church hearing in July. The lead bishop for safeguarding has been asked to report back to the House and to General Synod.

“It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report and act upon them.”

Read more on the story in our leader comment and letters page

Forthcoming Events

21-22 February 2020
Church Times Festival of Faith and Literature
For 2020 the Bloxham festival celebrates ‘The Power of Love’. Book tickets

26 March 2020
Theology Slam Live Final
Theology Slam is back, continuing its search for the most engaging young voices on theology and the contemporary world. Find out more

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read five articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)