The head of the Church of England said Thursday that members within the church conspired to conceal evidence of sexual abuse by one of its bishops for decades.
Church officials hid evidence that Bishop Peter Ball abused 18 men, ages 17 to 25, for over 20 years, according to Abuse of Faith, an independent report published Thursday by Dame Moira Gibb. The report was commissioned by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who said in a statement following the report’s release that the record of abuse, and the church’s willing coverup for Ball, was appalling and without excuse.
“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 said.
Bishop of Bath and Wells Peter Hancock, also issued a video statement about the report of Ball’s crimes and the church’s failure.
Hancock offered an apology to Ball’s victims and affirmed that he would ensure that the church took the necessary measures to prevent abuse and collusion in the future.
“This report affirms the direction and steps that we have taken to improve the consistency, robustness and rigour of our practice, but progress has been too slow,” Hancock said. “It has taken longer than it should have done, but we are absolutely committed to implementing Dame Moira’s recommendations, and my role as lead bishop is to ensure this happens.”
Welby called for George Carey to resign from his post as honorary assistant bishop for helping to conceal Ball’s crimes. Ball was first accused of abuse in 1993 by Todd Neil, whom Ball had abused. Carey, a high court judge, a member of the royal family, cabinet ministers and school headmasters rushed to Ball’s defense that year.
“Neil had already made three attempts on his life in 1993 before he summoned the courage to speak out … The church wanted to sweep this under the carpet,” said Mary Mills Knowles, Neil’s sister. “They had no concern for Neil’s wellbeing. He was very distressed, vulnerable and distraught. He felt nobody believed him.” Neil eventually did take his own life, according to an AP report.
Ball was merely cautioned at the time. He continued to work at 17 schools for 14 years after resigning his post as bishop. Ball was investigated on charges of abuse again in 2012, convicted and imprisoned in 2015, and served only 16 months before he was released. The report of his crimes and the church’s role in concealing them said that Ball used his position of religious authority to coerce young men to submit to naked praying, cold showers, beatings and explicit sexual activities with Ball.
“For the survivors who were brave enough to share their story and bring Peter Ball to justice, I once again offer an unreserved apology,” Welby said. “There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and the systemic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball over decades.”
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