Welby urged to apologise over sex abuse inquiry into bishop whose reputation has been 'carelessly destroyed' by allegations
By Jonathan Petre
March 20, 2016
|Urged: Senior Anglicans are urging the Archbishop of Canterbury to apologise for an ‘astonishingly inadequate’ Church inquiry into Bishop George Bell|
|Renowned: Bishop Bell, who served in Chichester for 30 years until his death in 1958 was accused of sexually abusing a woman when she was five-years-old when a relative took her to stay at the Bishop's Palace|
Senior Anglicans are urging the Archbishop of Canterbury to apologise for an ‘astonishingly inadequate’ Church inquiry into a celebrated bishop whose reputation has been ‘carelessly destroyed’ by allegations of sex abuse.
The 12-strong group, whose members include a former police chief and a retired judge, said Church authorities had leaped to judgment without speaking to key witnesses, such as Bishop George Bell’s former chaplain.
Ex-naval officer Canon Adrian Carey, who lived at the Bishop’s Palace at Chichester when the sex abuse is alleged to have taken place, said he found it impossible to imagine how such incidents could have occurred.
Bishop Bell, who served in Chichester for 30 years until his death in 1958, was a renowned opponent of appeasement and Nazism before and during the Second World War.
But last year an unnamed woman said he had sexually abused her while she sat on his lap as he read her stories at the Bishop’s Palace.
She claimed the abuse happened over a four-year period from 1949, when she was five, after a relative, who worked for the bishop, took her to stay at the Palace.
After carrying out a ‘long and complex’ inquiry, the Diocese of Chichester said it had no reason to question her account.
It formally apologised to the woman and paid out £15,000 in compensation.
But in a letter to Archbishop Justin Welby, the group said the allegations against Bishop Bell ‘cannot be upheld in terms of actual evidence or historical probability’.
A Church of England spokesman said its aim was to ‘search out the truth’, adding: ‘Issues of reputation cannot take priority over that.’