Monday, 13 May 2019

Anglican Abuse News - Peter Ball, Prince Charles and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Peter Ball, Bishop of Gloucester, jailed in 2015 for sexually abusing 18 young men.
Inquiry publishes report into the Diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball | IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has revealed that the Church of England had a casual approach to child abuse by it's clerics that was the equal to that in any Catholic diocese. All the 'sympathy and understanding' was reserved for the cleric who had given in to temptation and been caught, and none for their victims.

This 'understanding' went all the way to the top and included Prince Charles, future titular head of the Anglican Church. As with the Catholic Church, according to the IICSA, the Anglican Church was more concerned with “putting its own reputation above the needs of victims”.

The IICSA has found that former Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball, misused his position to sexually abuse young men, talking them into stripping naked to prey, and taking part in masturbation and flagellation sessions. Ball was convicted and given a 32 month sentence for the admitted sexual abuse of 18 young men between 1977 and 1992. Two further charges of indecently assaulting two boys, aged 13 and 15, were allowed to lie on file by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Peter Ball, along with his twin brother Michael, set up the Community of the Glorious Ascension, an Anglican monastic order through which he met many young men and boys as novice monks. He later became Bishop of Lewes, within the Anglican diocese of Chichester and in 1992 he was appointed Bishop of Gloucester.

He resigned in 1993 due to 'ill health', after receiving an official police caution for sexual abuse after admitting an act of gross indecency with a 19 year-old man, but was allowed by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, to continue to work as a priest (but not as a bishop) and he was given accommodation at "Manor Lodge", a 'grace and favour' property bought for the purpose by Prince Charles, as part of the Duchy of Cornwall Estate.

The CPS now say that there was sufficient evidence to charge Ball in 1993 but the then Director of the CPS, Barbara Mills, decided not to proceed to trial.


Former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. "Overt Support... frequently did the wrong thing"
It was only in 2015 that Ball stood trial. This followed on from Sussex Police being given the report and historic files from an 'independent' review carried out by Elizabeth Butler-Sloss into the Chichester Diocese handling of the case of two priests, Colin Pritchard (who later changed his name to Ifor Whittaker) and Roy Cotton. Although given testimony concerning Peter Ball by Phil Johnson, a member of the National Safeguarding Panel for the Church and a victims of Pritchard and Cotton, Butler-Sloss omitted any mention of Ball from her report.

Also noteworthy in the 2015 trial was the decision by the CPS not to proceed with the two more serious charges against Ball, of sexually abusing two boys aged 13 and 15 respectively.

We may never know the true harm caused by Charles’ intervention and support for Ball, but welcome the fact that the inquiry did not shy away from highlighting his role in this scandal.

This report is a damning indictment of years of church cover-up, facilitation of child abuse and denigration and dismissal of victims.

Richard Scorer, lawyer at Slater and Gordon,
acting for a number of victims.
Quoted in the Independent
During the 2015 trial it was alleged that "a member of the royal family, a lord chief justice, JPs, cabinet ministers and public school headmasters — "many dozens" of people — had campaigned to support him in 1993". In other words, that there was high-level establishment support for Peter Ball.

Prince Charles, who met Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey to discuss the case and who provided him and his brother with a grace and favour house, wrote several letter to Ball expressing his support, saying he wished he could "do more" for him and telling him “I feel so desperately strongly about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you and the way you have been treated.” There was not a word of sympathy for his victims, one of whom, Neil Todd, later committed suicide.

[I]n speaking about Ball with the [then] Archbishop of Canterbury [Lord Carey] and a member of Lambeth Palace, and the Duchy of Cornwall buying a property to rent to Ball and his brother – were misguided... [Prince Charles'] actions, and those of his staff, could have been interpreted as expressions of support for Peter Ball and, given the Prince of Wales’ future role within the Church of England, had the potential to influence the actions of the Church.

IICSA Report
A spokesman for Prince Charles now claims the Prince was deceived by Ball and said, “As he made clear in his voluntary witness statement to the inquiry, at no time did he bring any influence to bear on the actions of the Church or any other relevant authority," he added. "His thoughts remain with victims of the abuse suffered over many years.”

Of course, there is no way that Prince Charles letting it be known that he thought Peter Ball was being done a monstrous wrong and wished he could do more for him could have influenced the director of the CPS or a former High Court Judge. The very idea!

The IICSA report is heavily critical of George Carey who offered "compassion" for Ball but not his victims; who displayed "overt support" for him and who “frequently seemed to do the wrong thing” in his investigations into Ball. Since his retirement, George Carey has been a tireless defender of Christian privilege and the right of Christians to discriminate and abuse those with whose lifestyle they disapprove. He constantly describes any attempt to make Christians comply with anti-discriminatory laws such as the Human Rights Act as discriminatory. Apparently, he believes Christians should have privileged exemptions from the legal obligation to treat all people equally in the provision of goods and services, and should be entitled to imposed their bigotry on others.

For years, the Diocese of Chichester failed victims and survivors of child sexual abuse by prioritising its own reputation above their welfare. Not only were disclosures of abuse handled inadequately by the Church when they came to light, its response was marked by secrecy and a disregard for the seriousness of abuse allegations.

Peter Ball is one example of how a senior member of the clergy was able to sexually abuse vulnerable teenagers and young men for decades. The public support he received is reflective of the Church’s culture at the time; a support that was rarely extended to his victims.

Professor Alexis Jay, inquiry chairman.
Quoted in the Independent
Of course we shouldn't be surprised by this report of sexual abuse and laissez-faire tollerance of it. There seems to be something rotten at the heart of religions where adults have authority and influence over vulnerable people and this is not just confined to men or even homosexual men, but to heterosexual men and women in positions of power. Nuns are as likely to abuse as they are to be abused by priests. Although more obvious because of their numbers, Catholics are certainly not alone in their willingness to abuse and cover-up.

We see the same willingness in Protestant churches, in Mormon Churches, in fundamentalists sects such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and American Southern Baptist churches, in 'moderate' Episcopalian churches such as the CofE and in church-runs schools, religious orders and seminaries. Where there are people under holy orders in charge of vulnerable children and adults, there will normally be sexual and physical abuse and there will normally be those in authority who ignore it or even actively participate in it.

There seems to be an undercurrent of covert sexuality, in some cases amounting to sex addiction, associated with the 'profession' of priest, preacher or pastor. At the same time, the secretive and insular organisations are predisposed to turn a blind eye to it and defend the institution rather than its victims, so tacitly facilitating it.

Even when it comes to light, after expressions of regret, blubbing, hand-wringing apologies and promises to do better next time, nothing changes. No one ever asks, what is it about 'faith' that turns natural human sexuality into a nasty, abusive perversion used to abuse, control, dominate and exploit the vulnerable people with misplaced trust in 'men and women of God'.

No one ever asks what it is that is rotten at the core of religions that leads to these crimes, least of all those closest to it.

Further Reading:
The full IICSA Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report is available here or, in pdf format, here.







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