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Lord Carey’s PTO reinstated

26 January 2021

It was withdrawn in June last year over an allegation relating to the late John Smyth


LORD CAREY, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, has had his Permission to Officiate (PTO) restored, the diocese of Oxford announced on Monday afternoon.

Lord Carey’s PTO was withdrawn in June last year (News, 19 June 2020) over an allegation that emerged from the lessons-learnt inquiry into how the late John Smyth had been able to abuse boys and young men during the 1970s and ’80s without being exposed. Lord Carey said last June that he was “bewildered and dismayed” by the diocese’s move.

The allegation was contained in two letters which the independent Smyth inquiry, currently being conducted by Keith Makin, passed on to the C of E’s National Safeguarding Team (NST). It suggested that, in the early 1980s, when Smyth attended Trinity College, Bristol, for a short period of part-time study, a report about his abuse was given to Lord Carey, who was Principal of Trinity from 1981 to 1987.

In a statement issued on Monday, Lord Carey welcomes the return of his PTO “following helpful and friendly discussions with the Bishop of Oxford” and further safeguarding training. He repeats, however, his assertion that he has “no memory at all of John Smyth at Trinity College Bristol”, and he “respectfully disagrees” with the conclusion of the NST core group that he did see the report.

The NST maintains that the concern about Lord Carey was substantiated, and has passed its conclusions to the Smyth review, which is expected to report its findings later this year (News, 1 May 2020).

It says, however, that the core group also concluded that, were Lord Carey made aware of a safeguarding concern today, “he would report it to the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor and the police or statutory authorities”.

In his statement, Lord Carey writes: “Let me say firmly that I condemn utterly the crimes of Smyth, and the damage he did to the lives of young people. I am fully committed to placing those who have survived abuse at the centre of our safe practices, thoughts and prayers, and to acknowledge how dreadful such abuse is and how lifelong the impact of such abuse.

“Over the past few years, I have spent an immense amount of time focusing intensively on safeguarding through working closely with two Inquiries into Peter Ball, including the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and through undertaking specialised safeguarding training.”

Lord Carey’s PTO was previously withdrawn in 2017 after he was accused of hindering the prosecution of Peter Ball, a former Bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, by failing to pass on letters of complaint about Ball’s actions to the police. Ball was later convicted of abuse and jailed. Lord Carey apologised to Ball’s victims and resigned as an assistant bishop in the diocese of Oxford (News, 22 June 2017). He was granted permission to officiate once again in 2018 in the church where he worships.

As evidence of his commitment to safeguarding, Lord Carey writes: “This year I have made a report to the NST of a disclosure I received about non-recent clerical sexual abuse.” And he says that he is “very willing to meet with survivors of John Smyth if they wish to meet with me”.

One of the survivors of Smyth’s abuse told The Daily Telegraph: “Whether George Carey can remember John Smyth or not is irrelevant. If he failed to respond appropriately to a report regarding extensive and exceptional abuse he should not be allowed to minister again.”

David Lamming, a retired barrister and a member of the General Synod, disagreed. “In no way could the information about John Smyth that George Carey may have received 36 years ago make him a safeguarding risk now in his ministerial role in retirement.”

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