Bishop of Bristol speaks of being ‘silenced’ by ‘tribalism’ in Gloucester Diocese in the 1990s

24 May 2019

She was among a handful of bishops to respond individually to the abuse inquiry findings

Diocese of Bristol

The Bishop of Bristol,the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull

The Bishop of Bristol,the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull

THE Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, has said that she was “silenced and marginalised” while she was a deacon in Gloucester diocese in the 1990s by the same “tribalism and clericalism” identified by the official abuse inquiry in its latest report.

Bishop Faull was one of a handful of bishops to respond individually to the scathing conclusions published in the latest Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) report, Anglican Church Case Studies: The diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against Peter Ball (News, 17 May).

In both the diocese of Chichester and the wider Church, it 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 included the Church’s “unwavering support of Peter Ball” — the disgraced former bishop and convicted abuser — during the Gloucestershire Police investigation (allegations about Ball came to light when he was translated from Lewes to Gloucester), and its failure to “recognise or acknowledge the seriousness” of Ball’s misconduct.

Bishop Faull posted on Twitter: “I was a Deacon in Gloucester Diocese from 1990 to 1994. I longed to be able to speak to the then Archbishop of what we observed and experienced. But the tribalism and clericalism identified by IICSA silenced and marginalised me (and others). It still does.”

She was responding directly to a Tweet from a survivor, Gilo, who asked why individual bishops had not responded to the report, on the day of publication. He wrote: “Looked at handful of bishops’ own tweets today IICSA didn’t impinge on them. Or bishops opted for shtum. Who controls collective? Who instructs corporate strategy? How are they assimilated?”

Bishop Faull declined to comment further, however, when approached by the Church Times.

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, said on Tuesday that she was “deeply ashamed” of the legacy in her diocese. The Church still had a “journey to travel” in terms of its approach to safeguarding.

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“Peter Ball was a former Bishop of Gloucester, and I am deeply ashamed of that legacy, and deeply sorry; just as I am deeply ashamed and sorry about the abuse people have suffered across the Church, which, in the past, has so often been compounded by wholly inadequate response and a lack of compassion and understanding.”

She paid tribute to Neil Todd — the first victim to accuse Ball publicly, in 1992 — who took his own life in 2012. “It is utterly inexcusable how the Church handled this case. People allowed themselves to be manipulated, and those in authority did not follow the correct processes. They were instead trying to protect themselves and the reputation of the Church. . .

“It is vital that we listen deeply to the victims and survivors that come forward, take them seriously, and act in the right way. While I believe the Church has come a long way regarding safeguarding processes, policies, and structures at both local and national level, there is still a journey to be travelled.”

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, has described himself as “a victim of Ball”. It emerged last week that he submitted a witness statement to the abuse inquiry in May last year, in which he said that he had been “used and manipulated” and subjected to naked praying by Ball in the 1980s.

He wrote on Twitter: “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.”

The Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman, responded: “Thank you for saying this. I cannot speak with the authority of your experience but wholeheartedly agree with all you say.”

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, also responded to the report on social media. She wrote on Twitter: “I have just completed reading the IICSA investigation report on the Anglican Church — difficult reading. I am humbly reminded of words at my consecration as bishop ‘Give humility that she may use her authority to heal and not to hurt, to build up and not to destroy.’”

A statement from the House of Bishops last week 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 [that] 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, the Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, has been asked to report back to the House and to the 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.”

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