Former Bishop of Chichester revealed as a paedophile

Former Bishop of Chichester revealed as a paedophile

The Rt Rev George Bell

The Rt Rev George Bell
23 Oct 2015 / Ben James / 

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A FORMER bishop of Chichester once tipped for the Church of England’s highest office sexually abused a young child over a period of several years, it has been revealed.
The late Rt Reverend George Bell abused the child during the 1940s and 1950s, it was revealed yesterday as the church settled a legal claim with the victim.
During his time as Bishop of Chichester, from 1929 until his death on October 3, 1958, Bell was a key figure in international affairs and revered for his support for the German resistance – fighting against the Nazis – during World War Two.
It was his principled opposition to the Allied bombing of Dresden that is said to have scuppered his chance of promotion to Archbishop of Canterbury.
The serving Bishop of Chichester, Right Rev Dr Martin Warner, has written to the victim to apologise and express his “deep sorrow”.
He said: “The abuse of children is a criminal act and a devastating betrayal of trust that should never occur in any situation, particularly the church”.
A church spokeswoman said the victim first reported the abuse to the then Bishop of Chichester, the late Eric Kemp, in August 1995, but was only offered pastoral support.
The matter was not reported to the police until 2013. The evidence at that stage would have justified his arrest and interview had he been alive.
The victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, claimed for compensation in April 2014.
The victim’s solicitor, Tracey Emmott, said in a statement: “While my client is glad this case is over, they remain bitter that their 1995 complaint was not properly listened to or dealt with until my client made contact with Archbishop Justin Welby’s office in 2013.”
She said the abuse and the inadequate response “has had a profound effect on my client’s life”.
Such was Bell’s reputation he was celebrated by Anglicans with a feast day each October 3.
Earlier this month Peter Ball, 83, the former bishop of Lewes, was sentenced for indecent assaults between the 1970s and 1990s.
A spokesman for the diocese said there were no other pending or settled similar claims relating to Bell.
She did not respond to a message about whether the feast day honouring Bell would continue.
THE DARK SECRET OF A RESPECTED PEACEMAKER
FOR more than 50 years after his death in 1958, Bishop George Bell’s legacy as a principled peacemaker and all-round kind and caring man remained intact. 
He was the courageous clergyman who questioned the Allied bombing of Dresden in 1944, urging the government to think about the impact on civilians. It was a brave move amid the patriotism of the time and one that cost him dearly – it is thought it prevented him from becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. 
In 1944, he rightfully called himself “one of the most convinced and consistent Anti-Nazis in Great Britain,” revered for his support for the German resistance and the dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed for plotting to kill Hitler.
As Bishop of Chichester between 1929 and 1958, he invited and welcomed Mahatma Gandhi to the area in October 1931, setting up a meeting between him and church leaders. 
It was again a brave gesture, with Gandhi campaigning for Indian independence from Britain and many conservatives concerned about the influence of the visit. 
In 1944, he rightfully called himself “one of the most convinced and consistent anti-Nazis in Great Britain,” revered for his support for the German resistance and the dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed for plotting to kill Hitler.
As Bishop of Chichester between 1929 and 1958, he invited and welcomed Mahatma Gandhi to the area in October 1931, setting up a meeting with church leaders. 
It was again a brave gesture, with Gandhi campaigning for Indian independence from Britain and many conservatives concerned about the influence of the visit.
He also worked tirelessly to unite churches after the war.
But his reputation lay in tatters yesterday with the revelation that he was a child abuser.
The current Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, spoke of a “bewildering mix of deep and disturbing emotions”.
He apologised to the victim, adding: “In touching the legacy and reputation of George Bell, it yields a bitter fruit of great sadness and a sense that we are all diminished by what we are being told”. 
We now know that as his stature grew in international affairs in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Bishop Bell, who was married to Henrietta, was abusing a young child.
The church said investigations gave it no cause to doubt the victim’s account, and has settled the claim. Until yesterday, the former Bishop of Lewes, the Reverend Peter Ball was the highest-ranking Anglican to be exposed as a sex abuser. He was sentenced last month for historic sex abuse. 
When Bell died on October 3, 1958, a date now celebrated by Anglicans with a feast day, he was safe in the knowledge that he had not been approached by authorities about the abuse. 
His victim, who has not waived the right to anonymity, reported the matter to Eric Kemp, the then Bishop of Chichester, in August 1995. 
Yet in a move now haunting the church, the bishop offered “pastoral support” and did not take things further. 
His response “fell a long way short,” Dr Warner acknowledged in a letter to the victim, “not just of what is expected now, but of what we now appreciate you should have had a right to expect then”. 
Bell’s name lives on in Sussex, with rooms available to book in George Bell house in the precincts of Chichester Cathedral. The diocese also ran a course about his life and work to commemorate his 50th birthday, and on October 3, Anglicans around the country celebrate his feast day. 
But yesterday attention fell on a life he had harmed, harm compounded by the church’s response. 
His victim’s lawyer welcomed the Anglican church’s new “culture of openness” that “seems to represent a proper recognition of the dark secrets of its past, many of which may still not have come to light”.
She added: “That failure to respond properly was very damaging and, combined with the abuse that was suffered, has had a profound effect on my client’s life.”

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