Child sexual abuse: Bishop George Bell and the Diocese of Chichester, by Jean Calder

I’ve been saddened to see so many people rush to defend the reputation of Bishop Bell – and by implication suggest the elderly woman who accused him of child sexual abuse is a liar. The Church of England has accepted that the abuse took place and given its previous determination to keep abuse by its clergy under wraps, I suspect the evidence is compelling. I was pleased that Bishop Warner apologised for the abuse and defended the alleged victim from criticism.

In respect of prominent abusers, the modern Church of England has done better than the Church of Rome. Eric Gill, the famous artist and Roman Catholic adult convert was the son of a Church of England clergyman, also from Chichester. Over many years, Gill sexually abused his sisters, servants and then his daughters, socially isolating the girls while using them as models for semi-erotic religious art. The abuse is catalogued in his own diaries, but if you visit the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral, where his famous Stations of the Cross take pride of place and are publicised in the Cathedral shop, there’s no mention of his history or his victims’ exploitation.

The Churches’ responsibility – and our own, whether we have faith or none – must be to protect the living, defend the powerless (especially children) and treat survivors with compassion.  This being the case, Chichester Diocese should, out of respect to all clergy victims, fulfil its promise to change the name of Bishop Bell House – and ensure people understand its past actions and current position regarding child protection and clergy abuse.


Teaching and the BNP

Members of the BNP and Combat 18 may not serve in the police force or prison service, but it’s fine that they can teach our children. Or at least that is the view of the General Teaching Council for England.

The GTCE has refused to write a clause into its code for teachers barring BNP members from working in state schools.

Amazingly, you can be a priest in the Church of England and a member of the BNP, although the CofE is considering a ban.

What is needed is a code of ethics for all public services and servants that enshrines rights and duties so that gender, racial, ethnic and other discrimination is outlawed, and that breaches of the code should result in the individual being permanently disbarred from public service.

That would go some way in dealing with the BNP and, at the same time, Islamic extremists.