The Church of England "Colluded and concealed" a bishop's horrific, sexual abuse and assault, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says.
Ex-bishop Peter Ball allegedly abused as many as 18 teenagers and young men during the 1970s-90s. He was arrested in 1992 and resigned as bishop but continued to work in and around churches.
The congregation commissioned an independent report in 2015, conducted by Moira Gibb.
The results, released this month, are stomach-churning.
According to the report:
He had a well-worn modus operandi, in which he would target and groom boys and young men. His abuse was charged with religious intensity. The men we interviewed spoke of how he "exploited the significance, particularly within the Anglo-Catholic tradition, of ritual". For Ball, religious rites became "a mask for abuse, and theology (was) used as a way of justifying abuse." The evil of what he did was "compounded by his message that this made the victims more special and more holy."
One victim says Ball "was skilled in exploiting an ethic of forgiveness—he would express contrition and, in that religious environment, it was always expected that he should be forgiven for what he had done."
And forgive the church did.
The archbishop at the time, George Carey, allegedly knew of the abuse.
BBC reports Carey received seven letters from victims, but failed to notify the police of six. Carey refused to place Ball on the Church of England's Lambeth List, which names clergymen about whom questions of suitability for ministry have been raised. Carey even allegedly authorized funds to support Ball.
In 1993, Carey reportedly told Ball's brother he "believed [Ball] to be basically innocent."
"Abuse of Faith makes harrowing reading: the Church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward," Welby says.
"This is inexcusable and shocking behavior, and although Dame Moira notes that most of the events took place many years ago and does not think that the Church now would conduct itself in the ways described, we can never be complacent; we must learn lessons. I fully endorse the recommendations in the report and will ensure that the House of Bishops addresses how we can implement these as soon as possible, working with the National Safeguarding Team. For the survivors who were brave enough to share their story and bring Peter Ball to justice, I once again offer an unreserved apology. There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and the systemic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball over decades," Welby says.
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