George Carey in the News – Q&A

Our MediaNet editor Alastair Tancred sums up the latest news coverage of the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

What is the nature of the allegations faced by George Carey?

The former Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002 was criticised by a report last year for his part in the cover-up of sexual abuse committed by disgraced paedophile bishop Peter Ball.

Lord Carey stepped down as an honourary assistant bishop in Oxford soon afterwards at the request of the current archbishop, Justin Welby. In March here were even suggestions that police and prosecutors were considering a criminal investigation against him.

Lord Carey was again heavily criticized last month in hearings held by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) – established to find out how the Church of England responded to allegations of child sexual abuse levied against Peter Ball.

Ball was allowed to continue ministering and was not prosecuted for more than 20 years, by which time one of his victims had committed suicide.

He was jailed in 2015 after finally being convicted of abusing his victims. Now aged in his late 80s, he is out of prison on parole.

Lord Carey was archbishop at the time Ball was accused of the offences and has been lambasted for his “uncritical support” of him, which came even after the offender had accepted a caution and admitted his guilt.

Why has the matter recently returned to the news?

Months after being asked to step down, Lord Carey was controversially allowed to return to preaching after the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, reinstated his “permission to officiate” (PTO) earlier this year.

The decision allowed Lord Carey to preach and preside at churches in the Oxford diocese. Croft himself is reported to be under police investigation for allegedly failing to respond properly to a separate report of clerical sexual abuse.

The IICSA’s investigation into the case follows on from a separate Church of England independent review last year.

What do George Carey’s critics say?

Dame Moira Gibb concluded in her review last year that senior figures in the church had “colluded [with the abuser] rather than seeking to help those he had harmed”.

“The church appears to have been most interested in protecting itself,” she said.

Lord Carey had “set the tone for the church’s response to Ball’s crimes, and gave the steer which allowed Ball’s assertions that he was innocent to gain credence”, she said.

In his response to the report, the former archbishop said that it made “uncomfortable reading” and that he accepted its criticisms of him.

Victims of the abuse were also reported to be upset that Lord Carey had been given a PTO., arguing that it had caused them yet more distress.

What do George Carey’s defenders say?

They argue that he has been harshly treated and that forgiveness should be offered to those who get things wrong.

Media commentator Anne Widdecome has been especially outspoken. In a newspaper column, she argued that it was upsetting that the head of the C of E’s ant-abuse team, Peter Hancock, was at the forefront of efforts to stop Lord Carey from preaching – a move she said was “offensive to all Christians”.

“Carey was guilty of negligence, not collusion, but if Bishop Hancock’s view is correct then there is no place for forgiveness: Christ died for everybody’s sins except George Carey’s.

“Where is Hancock’s problem? If the early church had been run by the likes of Bishop Hancock then the apostles would have turned away St Paul, who had been busy persecuting Christians and privy to the death of St Stephen.”

Lord Carey himself has meanwhile admitted that a series of letters sent to him alleging improper conduct against Ball should have been passed to the police several years ago. 

How has Prince Charles become involved?

Prince Charles was a friend of Peter Ball before he was jailed for sex abuse.

The Prince of Wales recently told the inquiry that he did not seek to influence a police investigation into the paedophile bishop.

A written submission from the prince was read out at the IICSA inquiry, in which he said that he felt “deep personal regret” for trusting Ball when initial reports of abuse emerged, years before he was jailed in 2015.

In a 1997 letter, the prince said of a critic of Ball: “I’ll see this horrid man off if he tries anything.”

Has the issue proved to be divisive?

Extremely. The Daily Telegraph summed it up at the end of last month when it said that  Church of England bishops are turning on each other over the issue, which has become even more divisive following reports that Bishop Hamcock was recently locked out of discussions relating to Lord Carey.

Sources: The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The BBC






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