Others have followed the slanderous injustice done to the late Bishop George Bell by the Church of England. So I will defer to them. The ashes of Archbishop Cranmer is one who has done yeoman’s work on this matter. Another I must praise is (You might want to sit down now.) the Dean of Christ Church Martyn Percy. Some readers might remember I am not exactly a fan of him. But I must give credit where credit is due, and his article in Christian Today is revealing and courageous.
This slice of life from the Dean is particularly revealing:
On the October 21, 2015, I had been rung by the then Secretary-General of the Archbishops' Council and of the General Synod of the Church of England, Sir William Fittall. It was Fittall who told me, over the phone, that a 'thorough investigation' had implicated Bishop George Bell in an historic sex-abuse case, and that the Church had 'paid compensation to the victim'. Fittall added that he was tipping me off, as he knew we had an altar in the Cathedral dedicated to Bell, and that Bell was a distinguished former member of Christ Church.
Fittall asked what we would do, in the light of the forthcoming media announcements. I explained that Christ Church is an academic institution, and we tend to make decisions based on evidence, having first weighed and considered its quality. Fittall replied that the evidence was 'compelling and convincing', and that the investigation into George Bell has been 'lengthy, professional and robust'. I asked for details, as I said I could not possibly make a judgement without sight of such evidence. I was told that such evidence could not be released. So, Christ Church kept faith with Bell, and the altar, named after him, remains in exactly the same spot it has occupied for over fifteen years, when it was first carved.
And good on Christ Church Oxford for that. But shame on the Church of England. From this episode we see the sorry smear they were engaged in: telling people they had “compelling and convincing” evidence against Bell, but without revealing it, and now we know that evidence was very far from convincing.
Yet, on the basis that flimsy, puffed-up evidence, George Bell’s good name was trashed and removed from a number of monuments and institutions. One may suspect there were motivations behind this, such as posterior covering, that had little to do with evidence.
People are pushed to resign over truly “compelling and convincing” allegations of sexual abuse and rightly so. People who smear good men, even good dead men, on the basis of flimsy evidence and uncorroborated allegations should resign as well.