This week was a torrid week for the Church of England and very embarrassing week for the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, as the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse reran the scandal of former Bishop Peter Ball, a convicted sex offender who preyed on young men. He jailed in 2015 for 32 months for offencesagainst 18 teenagers and men.
The case which I wrote about a year ago here was a classic Establishment cover up where a lively and personable bishop lead a double life which was well exposed last year by Dame Moira Gibb in her investigation into the scandal. As I said last year :
“Peter Ball comes out of this report as a manipulative, sadomasochistic predator who appears to have used every trick to entice young men from public schoolboys to priests and damaged and vulnerable youths coming to the Church for his own sexual gratification.”
Let it not be forgotten that as a result of his activities a young man, Neil Todd, who had first accused him in 1993 of abusing him in when he was 17 killed himself in 2012 when Sussex Police re-opened an investigation when he was Bishop of Lewes.
As last year’s report revealed how he wanted to whip Neil Todd who was only saved by worried staff at the Bishop’s house who sent him away. He also got youths to strip off in the chapel so they could pray together in the nude and even used a ceremony to anoint a youth’s penis in some bizarre religious rite.
Now it appears while all this was going on Peter Ball could rely on the support of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, and Prince Charles, who were both subject to a very active campaign from the former bishop and his twin brother saying it was a “vendetta ” against him and all the claims were false.
Prince Charles letters reveal frankly he was duped by the bishop. – a man he had known for 20 years. In the letters between Prince Charles and the Bishop, read to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), Ball spoke of a “malicious campaign” against him and “harassment” by “fraudulent” accusers.
In a letter to Ball in 1995, the prince said: “I wish I could do more. I feel so desperately strong about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you.” In 1997, the prince wrote a letter in which he described an apparent accuser as a “ghastly man… up to his dastardly tricks again”.
In the written submission, read by the counsel to the inquiry Fiona Scolding,
“I first became aware of Peter Ball during the 1980s. He was later appointed Bishop of Gloucester when he became my local diocesan bishop.Peter Ball told me he had been involved in some sort of ‘indiscretion’ which prompted his resignation as my local bishop.
“He emphasised that one individual that I now understand to be Mr Neil Todd had made a complaint to the police, that the police had investigated the matter, and the Crown Prosecution Service had decided to take no action.
“That sequence of events seemed to support Mr Ball’s claim that the complaint emanated from one individual and that individual bore a grudge against him and was persecuting him, that the complaint was false, but that the individual had nonetheless profited from the complaint by selling his story. Events later demonstrated beyond any doubt, to my deep regret, that I, along with many others, has been misled.”
The main point of these disclosures seem not to be that Prince Charles was to blame but he is probably the highest profile figure to be conned by a manipulative sex offender. He is not the first and won’t be the last
The real blame in my view lies inside the Church of England which needs urgently to take a real stand against child sex abuse – by first ending the conflicting and blurred distinction that requires senior people in the Church to take a pastoral role in looking after priests while at the same time having to handle abuse complaints against them. It needs to segregate the two by handing over complaints to an independent authority.
It also needs to look at mandatory reporting of claims of sexual abuse. It doesn’t have to heed what the government believes over this issue – it can take a stand by itself. In that way the matter will be handed over to the police for a proper investigation to find out the truth.
It does not have to wait the full inquiry’s findings before it takes action either. It owes people like Neil Todd who was vilified and took his own life to create a just and fair system to deal with sexual abuse – so that others do not take their own lives.