Bishop George Bell: further statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury

January 23, 2018

We previously noted the Report of the Independent Review by Lord Carlile of Berriew QC into the Church of England’s handling of the accusations against Bishop George Bell, in which Lord Carlile concluded that, though the Church had ‘acted throughout in good faith’ and had been ‘motivated by a desire to do what it perceived to be the right thing by the complainant’, the process had been flawed and had failed to give proper consideration to the rights of the Bishop, which ‘should not be treated as having been extinguished on death’.

The Archbishop of Canterbury subsequently issued a statement – available here – in which he said that, while the Church accepted Lord Carlile’s overall conclusions, ‘we have to differ from Lord Carlile’s point that “where as in this case the settlement is without admission of liability, the settlement generally should be with a confidentiality provision”. The C of E is committed to transparency and therefore we would take a different approach’.

Archbishop Justin’s response attracted criticism, perhaps the most considered of which was a letter in the Daily Telegraph from a group of academic historians led by Professor Charmian Brinson. That letter has now prompted a further statement by the Archbishop in which he says that he cannot ‘with integrity’ rescind his earlier statement:

‘I wrote my response with the support of both Bishop Peter Hancock, the lead bishop for safeguarding, and Bishop Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester. We are clear that we accept all but part of one of the recommendations Lord Carlile makes and we are extremely grateful to him for what he has done and the help he has given the Church.

He indicates that, in his judgement, a better way to have handled the allegation would have been for the Church to offer money on condition of confidentiality. We disagree with this suggestion. The confidentiality would have been exposed through the IICSA process, and the first question we would have faced, both about Bishop Bell and more widely, would have been “so what else are you concealing?”. The letter from the historians does not take into account any of these realities, nor the past failures of the Church. But we will go on considering how we can make our processes better and more robust, as pointed out by Lord Carlile.’