Sexual abuse coverup by Anglican Church includes the former Archbishop of Canterbury

Religious coverups of sexual abuse of children aren’t limited to the Roman Catholic Church. As the Guardian (Andrew Brown!) reported Friday, the Church of England engaged in this kind of coverup in the 1990s, and it extended all the way up to a former Archbishop of Canterbury.

The abuser was Peter Ball (born 1932),and he was a sexual predator while both Bishop of Lewes and Bishop of Gloucester—a period of 15 years. The story is familiar: exploitation of boys who were impressed with Ball’s position and apparent empathy. A few things he did (from the Guardian):

At Lewes:

[Ball] had connections with numerous public schools, and at least one of them offered counselling for boys who were suffering from homesickness. Those who were especially spiritually favoured would be invited to shower with him, pray with him naked, massage his legs for phlebitis (he wore nothing under his habit) and occasionally be beaten by him. One of his victims was the chaplain of a neighbouring bishop, but this was not what brought him down.

What caused a “problem” was that one of Ball’s victims tried to commit suicide three times, succeeding on the last attempt. Ball’s fellow bishops knew about much of this, but kept silent. That led ultimately to complaints and Ball’s arrest, but only after he’d been moved to a position as Bishop of Gloucester. More of his misdeeds:

Both Ball and the evangelical QC John Smyth would get their victims to admit to masturbation and then beat them – though Ball made one of his roll around naked in the snow first. But the outward absurdity, and the elaborate justifications for the violence, can only have increased the humiliation and the sense of powerlessness of the victims. The spiritual abuser is in a unique position to manipulate the emotions of the victims, and to promote their own self-hatred.

It’s hard to imagine that a human can be so sadistic and horrible, but easier to imagine how his position of power, and the availability of trusting boys, gave him room to abuse.

Altogether there were many victims, but in 2015 Ball was charged only with misconduct in public office and indecent assault on one man and one boy. After a reported secret deal involving the Church, Ball was sentenced in October, 2015 to only 32 months in prison. He was released this February after having served only half his sentence. A year and a half in jail for a decade and a half of sexual abuse! Even to a determinist like me that sounds like a lenient sentence, since the man drove a child to suicide and several of his victims have claimed lifelong harm. It’s not much of a deterrent, and was there any attempt at reformation?

In the Guardian article, Brown links to an independent report commissioned by the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. You can find that report here, and though I’ve not read all of it, it’s sickening in both the details of the abuse Ball inflicted and the many Church officials who tried to cover it up. One of these was a former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, who resigned any connection with the Church after the report came out (he was “honorary assistant bishop of Oxford”). As the report states, Carey (now a Lord), was complicit in the Ball affair on several ways:

Lord Carey was significantly involved in:

  • The events leading to Ball’s resignation;
  • The way in which the Church treated Neil Todd in 1992/93;
  • The failure to ensure that complaints about Ball’s conduct were adequately followed up or passed to police;
  • The failure to take action under the Measure after Ball’s resignation;
  • The decision not to include Ball’s name on the List;
  • The provision of funds to assist Ball;

Wikipedia characterizes the report further:

An independent review in 2017 found that the Church hierarchy, notably former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, colluded in concealing abuse by Peter Ball over a 20 year period. Carey had seven letters from individuals and relatives after Ball was cautioned by police in 1992 but passed only one (of least concern) on to the police. Carey did not put Peter Ball on the ‘Lambeth List’ of clergy whose suitability for the ministry is questioned. Concealing abuse was given higher priority than helping victims. The review claims, “The church appears to have been most interested in protecting itself.” The report stated further, “progress [towards dealing satisfactorily with claims of abuse in the Church of England] has been slow and continuing, faster improvement is still required”. Current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said the C of E, “colluded and concealed” instead of trying to help, “those brave enough to come forward”. Welby has asked Carey to step down from his role assisting the Bishop of Oxford. Rowan Williams was also criticised.

Abuse survivor, Graham Sawyer, said the C of E treated him and others with contempt. Sawyer said, “The church continues to use highly aggressive legal firms to bully, frighten and discredit victims … In my own case, I continue to endure cruel and sadistic treatment by the very highest levels of the church”. Sawyer wants the police to investigate Carey’s part in the Ball case.

One can’t exculpate religion here, for it gave Ball the power and cachet to abuse young men, and also the access to them. It further provided a powerful and respected institution, to which secular authorities deferred, that could help cover up Ball’s abuse.

Kudos to Justin Welby for commissioning the independent report. I wonder if Lord Carey, though, will suffer any repercussions beyond resigning as a titular official.

The predator: former Bishop Peter Ball, who often dressed as a monk

George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury

h/t: Paul

19 Comments

  1. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Once again, religion uses its privileged place in society to destroy lives.

  2. Veroxitatis
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Carey comes from the Evangelical wing of the C of E. In my experience the happier and clappier they are the worse they are.

  3. Randy schenck
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    The Anglican Church, a chip off the old block.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 2:24 am | Permalink

      Good one. 😀

  4. ploubere
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    And among the faithful, no lessons will be learned.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    As Hitch used to say about the Anglicans, ‘swhat happens when you embrace Henry VIII’s Tudor family values.

  6. pdmanson
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    The Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood for his role in the banking scandal. I wonder if there will be any campaign to strip Carey of his title (if you can do that to bishops).

    • Veroxitatis
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Well, Lord Archer is still there.

    • noname
      Posted June 27, 2017 at 1:52 am | Permalink

      The Knighthood is given by the head of this church. Of course, the head didn’t know anything about these abuses (like any good leader), shouldn’t say a word, we shouldn’t even know that there’s a head in these cases and this is an article in one of the best daily newspapers in one of the most democratic countries.
      The first line of this country’s Anthem is
      “God save our gracious Queen” and not “God save our abused children”. Stephen Fry thinks that this is even better than most secular states, and unfortunately, I can’t always tell whether he’s right or wrong.

      • Veroxitatis
        Posted June 27, 2017 at 3:58 am | Permalink

        It’s not a knighthood. It’s the equivalent of a life peerage: ie its not a heritable title.

  7. Tom
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Nothing much will happen.
    In Britain it is no surprise.
    The scandal has already dropped down the BBC RSS newsfeed since I could not find the story in the top 20.
    As all christians should know churches are mainly there to preserve “the faith” and if this means turning a blind eye or concealing evidence of a crime then so be it. After all the christian faith is supra national and why should piffling local laws bother it?

  8. BJ
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Lord Carey absolutely should (but probably won’t) be charged as an accessory.

    It’s important to remember that it’s not only religious institution that allow this kind of abuse, as such abuse has taken place wherever people are put in authority over minors, particularly in places like juvenile halls for young criminal offenders. Abusers seek positions of power so they can better carry out their will.

    • Rita
      Posted June 26, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      Yes! Thinking of Jerry Sandusky and the cover-up by Joe Paterno. And the public outrage toward the victim.

  9. Posted June 26, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    The true nature of a godley individual revealed and funny enough or rather sickening enough, it looks and smells like a common ol shady human. No surprises there including the pious cloak of church untouchability.
    Who’s gonna burn in hell then?
    I wonder does this little problem ever accur to these degenerates? Or do they just pray the bejesus ‘out of it’ and they’re good for the next seedy episode.

  10. Ken Pidcock
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Rowan Williams was also criticised.

    WEIT readers may recall the eloquence of Eric MacDonald, an advocate, from personal experience, of assisted dying. At one point, Eric shared personal correspondence of his with Williams regarding legislative initiatives where Williams had said

    Those who vote have to balance the possibilities of acute suffering against what many see as a perfectly real and concrete risk to the vulnerable.

    I’ve long thought that the essence of callousness, a kind of inversion of compassion. The possibilities of acute suffering, indeed.

  11. Ken Pidcock
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Rowan Williams was also criticised.

    WEIT readers may recall the eloquence of Eric MacDonald, and advocate, from personal experience, of assisted dying. At one point, Eric shared personal correspondence with Williams concerning legislative initiatives in which Williams had said

    Those who vote have to balance the possibilities of acute suffering against what many see as a perfectly real and concrete risk to the vulnerable.

    I’ve long held that to be the essence of callousness, a kind of inversion of compassion.

  12. Posted June 27, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I know Anglicans can be crypto-Catholic, but this way is worse than most!


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