A BBC TV report, Exposed: The Church’s Darkest Secret, about sexual abuse by a state church bishop has revealed how far the British “establishment” will go to defend its own and betray their victims..
The report was about Peter Ball, a Church of England bishop, and one-time monk. Ball was friends with prime minister Margaret Thatcher, MPs, the “Queen Mother” and Charles Windsor, the man entitled to become the UK’s next hereditary head of state. According to the BBC he gave the impression of being a counsellor to Britain’s “royalty”.
The programme said that Ball used his connection to 10 Downing Street to become bishop of Gloucester. His enthronement was attended by Charles Windsor.
Ball abused young men for decades starting in the 1970s. While the church’s bishop of Lewes in East Sussed as many as 24 young men stayed in his house. Some were troubled individuals and some claimed that they were taken advantage of by the cleric.
The young men who stayed with Ball could find that praying together with him included sexual advances. They might be told that they owed it to God to take their clothes off for the bishop. And that they needed to co-operate if they wanted to be as holy as others. Ball called it “being naked before God”. The young men were lead to feel guilty if they did not co-operate.
One 17 year-old was said to have been treated by the bishop as a slave. In an initiation ceremony he was whipped by the cleric. Mutual masturbation was proposed as a way of feeling the suffering of Christ!
Ball was the supervisor of another priest accused of abuse. One time the two shared a bottle of wine, while becoming aroused by intimate touching of a young man who had been brought along.
The BBC reported that there was a network of abusers in East Sussex when Ball was in charge of the Church there.
Supporting the Abuser, Not the Victims
One instance of abuse was reported to the Bishop of Lambeth John Yates. He asked the complainants what they expected him to do about it. He did nothing.
When one victim was hospitalised after taking an overdose the state church did not bother to notify his parents.
The Gloucestershire police started to investigate some of these allegations. When the investigation reached the point of arrest the head of the state church George Carey suddenly showed an interest. He called another police force, the Metropolitan Police, to let them know that a bigwig like him was taking an interest. This was the start of an “establishment” campaign of support for Ball. Other bishops backed-up their pal.
Carey met with the investigators but failed to give them letters reporting other cases of abuse that he had received.
Crown Blocks Prosecution
While investigating the police received 28 letters in support of the abuser, including a good number from MPs and the heads of private schools. Tony Lloyd, a lord, appeal court judge, and one-time attorney-general to Charles Windsor, went so far as to make a telephone call to the detective leading the investigation. Carey, head of the state church, also wrote in support of Ball.
Like so many guilty criminals Ball sometimes answered “no comment” when questioned by the police. When he did answer he blamed the victims and their parents.
In the end the police were not allowed to prosecute. True to the spirit of its name, the Crown Prosecution Service in 1993 “advised” the police to do no more than caution the abuser. A former police officer interviewed for the programme could not understand how such a minimal “punishment” could have been thought right.
Ball resigned his Church positions but that state church soon took him back into its fold. He was not put on the “Lambeth List” of suspect priests. Within two years he was back in business. He gave his support to another cleric who was accused of abuse.
Friends in High Places
Ball conducted private services at the Highgrove home of (Prince) Charlie Windsor. The two exchanged letters and Charlie expressed sympathy for the cleric. He spoke to the Archbishop of Canterbury about restoring Ball to the ministry of the Church that Windsor expected to head one day.
He went even further and had the Duchy of Cornwall buy a house that Ball could rent. The “prince” said the wanted Ball to live close to him. When Windsor married for the second time Ball was a wedding guest.
Afterwards Windsor claimed that he had not known that the police caution indicated guilt.
Meanwhile Charlie’s Church shunned the victim of Ball’s abuse. When the Church’s Diocese of Bath and Wells employed a “safeguarding officer” she was met with hostility both locally and in the Anglican hierarchy.
She was not allowed to see Ball’s file. When she tried to initiate a “risk assessment” of Ball, he started a personal campaign against her, bringing in a member of the House of Lords to support him.
Church officials wanted to keep their secrets buried. It’s attitude was summed up by the name given to the filing cabinet where evidence of abuse was kept. It was known as “the naughty boys cabinet”. The programme claimed that senior officials of the Church, including the Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, knew the extent of the abuse. Carey said that “These things should not be brought up again”.
The safeguarding officer found that letters from victims had been withheld from the police. She was convinced that the Church wanted to support Ball, not his victims. When the allegations were made public he was not suspended. A private investigator was employed at one point to discredit one of the Church’s victims of abuse. This backfired when the investigator came to believe that the allegations were true.
A Sentence That Did Not Fit the Crime
A police officer who investigated Ball’s crimes said that the state church closed ranks to support Ball.
The attitude of the state clerics, lords, ladies and prince had been summed up by one Ann Butler-Sloss on another occasion. This former Court of Appeal judge and now a legislator-for-life, in 2014 withdrew as head of an inquiry into child sex abuse. This followed an allegation by a victim of abuse that in a previous review “she wanted to exclude some of his allegations in a bid to protect the Church of England” according to BBC News, because she “cared very much about the Church”.
Establishment interests first. Citizens and victims last.
In the end Ball could not completely escape punishment. He was sentenced for some of his crimes. He spent sixteen months in jail.