The Church of England ‘colluded’ rather than helped young men abused by a former Bishop of Lewes – an independent review found today (Thursday).
Peter Ball, aged 85, was released from prison this year for sex offences against 18 vulnerable young men between 1977 and 1992.
An independent report into his ‘serious sexual wrongdoing’ released today criticised the actions of the Church, saying it failed to respond appropriately to his misconduct for many years.
The reviews’s Chair Dame Moira Gibb said: “Ball’s priority was to protect and promote himself and he maligned the abused. The Church colluded with that rather than seeking to help those he had harmed, or assuring itself of the safety of others.”
The review makes 11 recommendations to ensure safeguarding in the Church is of the highest possible standard.
Responding to its findings, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called the Church’s behaviour ‘inexcusable and shocking’ and said it must learn lessons.
He said in a statement: “Abuse of Faith makes harrowing reading: the Church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward.
“This is inexcusable and shocking behaviour and although Dame Moira notes that most of the events took place many years ago, and does not think that the Church now would conduct itself in the ways described we can never be complacent, we must learn lessons.
“I fully endorse the recommendations in the report and will ensure that the House of Bishops addresses how we can implement these as soon as possible, working with the National Safeguarding Team.
“For the survivors who were brave enough to share their story and bring Peter Ball to justice, I once again offer an unreserved apology.
“There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and the systemic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball over decades.”
Receiving the report on behalf of the Church, Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, said: “I am truly sorry that as a Church we failed the survivors of Peter Ball; having read the report I am appalled and disturbed by its contents.
“As Dame Moira says in her foreword, Peter Ball abused boys and men over a 20 year period and as a Church we colluded, we failed to act and protect those who came forward for help.
“There are no excuses. We accept all the recommendations and are working to action them.”