A report by Timothy Briden, a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, relating to fresh information received about the late Bishop George Bell, has been published today. Mr Briden was appointed by the Bishop of Chichester to make an independent assessment of the evidence.
The Cathedral Chapter welcomes Timothy Briden’s report and the accompanying statements by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team, the Bishop of Chichester and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The full report and statements can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/safeguarding/safeguarding-news-statements/national-safeguarding-team-statement-bishop-bell
The Bishop of Chichester’s statement refers to the difficulty of this complex case:
‘The legitimate quest for certainty has been defeated by the nature of the case and the passage of time. Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty, nor can it be safely claimed that the original complainant has been discredited. There is an uncertainty which cannot be resolved. We ask those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognize the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’
The Archbishop of Canterbury also notes:
‘The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has already questioned the Church of England over its response to the Bishop Bell case and the review by Lord Carlile. We expect that their report on our hearings will address further the complex issues that have been raised and will result in a more informed, confident, just and sensitive handling of allegations of abuse by the church in the future. We have apologised, and will continue to do so, for our poor response to those brave enough to come forward, while acknowledging that this will not take away the effects of the abuse.
This very difficult issue therefore leaves the church with an impossible dilemma which I hope people with different perspectives on it will try to understand.’