Justin Welby has thrown George Carey to the wolves. Homo homini lupus est! Man is wolf to man. The Archbishop of Canterbury is wolf to his predecessor. Justin Welby has asked George Carey to step down as assistant honorary bishop of Oxford, after the Moira Gibb report found that senior figures in the Church of England colluded for over 20 years with sexual predator Bishop Peter Ball.
Has justice been done? Is this yet another juggling trick at the Barchester Episcopal Circus? If justice has been done, why has the Rev Graham Sawyer, the heroic victim at the centre of the abuse scandal, uttered these nightmarish words: ‘The church continues to use highly aggressive legal firms to bully, frighten and discredit victims ... In my own case, I continue to endure cruel and sadistic treatment by the very highest levels of the church.’
George Carey has stepped down. So why is Sawyer is still facing ‘cruel and sadistic treatment by the very highest levels of the church’? Is he pointing his finger at the current archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu? In that case, should Justin and John swallow their cyanide pills and walk the plank?
All abuse—sexual, emotional, physical or psychological—is an abomination. The victims of abuse cry out to heaven for vindication. When institutions collude to silence them, heaven weeps. When bishops perpetrate the most perverse of abusive acts, and other bishops protect them, covering up their sins under cope and mitre, heaven bleeds.
The Church of England smears saints, and shields scoundrels. I addressed the Ball scandal in a column this time last year, and pointed out how while the CofE was eulogising Bishop Ball and protecting his image, it was demonising Bishop George Bell of Chichester. Ball, the pervert, was busy fiddling with boys, while Bell, the hero, was standing with Dietrich Bonhoeffer against Adolf Hitler.
Justice has been done. That’s what Welby wants the world to believe. Two previous archbishops have apologised. But somewhere there is a smelly dead rat. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. The ghost of King Hamlet is hovering over Lambeth Palace. It is the ghost haunting Wobbly Welby for his hypocrisy. “Hypocrisy in the highest! Pietas ficta in excelsis!” it wails in a shrieking tremolo, pointing a shaking finger at wavering Welby.
“Hypocrite” is made up of two words—hupo (under) and krino (to judge). It literally means, “to judge under” as a person judging someone from behind a screen or mask. The true identity of the person is covered up. In Greek drama, actors held over their faces oversized masks painted to represent the character they were portraying. The ‘hypocrite’ is one who plays a part on the stage. ‘You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye,’ says Jesus.
Welby’s blatant hypocrisy came to the fore when he dished out bonuses of £1 million to the Church of England’s 10 senior fund managers last month. ‘The payments brought charges of hypocrisy from City critics who say the CofE has opened a gap between what it tells other people to do and what it does itself,’ wrote journalist Steve Doughty.
So why did Welby preach hellfire and brimstone against the bonus culture when he was on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards? ‘What is it essentially about bankers that means they need skin in the game? We don’t give skin in the game to civil servants, to surgeons, to teachers,’ he said in 2013. So why did Welby not give bonuses to hardworking vicars in inner-city parishes? Ironically, at that time Welby ‘accused banks of “hypocrisy” in continuing to pay their staff big bonuses while insisting they are undergoing a cultural overhaul.’
Welby’s hypocrisy took a quantum leap forward earlier this month when he wrote to the Primates of the Anglican Communion criticising the appointment of Canon Andy Lines as the new missionary bishop for GAFCON. Welby dusted off the ancient Canons of the Council of Nicaea (325 AD), claiming that the creation of such missionary bishops was a grave violation of Canons 15 and 16. Andy Lines was about to commit the mortal sin of “border crossing” (trespassing into another bishop’s diocese).
Here, Welby is being a hypocrite on two counts. First, on BBC Radio 4 he blamed terrorism on religious scriptures that have ‘been twisted and misused.’ Isn’t this precisely what he is doing with the Canons of Nicaea? Second, Canon 15 forbids the transfer of bishops, presbyters and deacons (not just bishops!) from one diocese to another. In that case, Welby needs to return to the diocese where he was first ordained as deacon and step down as Archbishop of Canterbury! Or at least return to the See of Durham, where he was bishop before he made his career move to Canterbury, which was precisely the reason why Canon 15 was framed! It was to prevent bishops falling into the trap of careerism. If a bishop moved to another bishopric, the council decreed, he must go back. A council in Alexandria called a bishop who moved to another diocese an “adulterer.”
Above all, Welby’s rank hypocrisy stinks to high heaven regarding his own presence at the camps where the pervert John Smyth was abusing Christian boys. Initially Welby denied any knowledge of the abuse even though he was dormitory officer at the Iwerne Christian camp during the mid-1970s where John Smyth, the camp’s chairman, had groomed and beaten more than 20 boys and young men. Welby said that he had ‘no contact’ with the organisation between moving to Paris in 1978 and his return to the UK in 1983. However, this month Welby changed his tune after fresh evidence emerged that he had indeed had come back to the UK and given a talk in 1979 to people at the camp, which was also attended by Smyth.
Numerous questions remain unanswered. The Gibb Report also points a finger at former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. If Welby has asked Carey to step down as assistant bishop, why has he not asked Williams to surrender his licence to practise as an Anglican priest? Moira Gibb also states that nine other bishops were part of the cover-up yet did not name them. Why are they not named? Are they still in ministry? Will Welby ask them to step down as well?
Yes, Lord Carey and other leaders of the Church of England behaved very poorly by the standards of today. The Gibb Report shows that this was as much about confusion as collusion. Other arms of the State responsible for enforcing the law against Ball colluded with him and covered up his crimes by handing him a slap on the wrist and not a hefty custodial sentence. But time and time we discover that in every institution of the State, the church and the voluntary sector and even the BBC and footballing authorities handled victims of abuse appallingly.
Gibb herself admits that the Church of England had no safeguarding policy at the time that Peter Ball’s crimes came to light. It was a year later that such a policy came forward. Now we are weighed down by policies. And yet, clergy are abused, bullied and harassed, often by their own bishops. But Welby chooses to ignore the unanswered questions that constitute the heart of darkness in his church. Instead of addressing the state of the Church of England, Welby and Sentamu have deployed a weapon of mass distraction and are using special powers to call for an emergency debate on the ‘unanswered’ questions about the state of the nation at the Church of England’s ruling general synod next month. General Synod’s agenda has zero mention of the Gibb Report. However, its farcical agenda, which borders on the script of a Peter Rogers’ “Carry On Church” movie, will discuss reaffirmation of baptismal vows for transgender people and banning therapy for homosexual people who are seeking to become heterosexual. So it is okay for a male to become female but it is not okay for a homosexual to even seek to become heterosexual? Sheesh!
The Gibb Report has very strong words that the Church of England will need to take very seriously if there is to be any change at all. ‘We were struck during this review by a manifest culture of deference both to authority figures in the Church, particularly bishops, and to individuals with distinctive religious reputations—or both. This deference had two negative consequences. Firstly, it discouraged people from “speaking truth to power.” Then, on the few occasions where people did speak out and were rebuffed by a bishop—the summit of the hierarchy—there was nowhere else to go.’
The actor’s mask hiding Welby’s face is slipping. Some day he will have to go. Unless Welby goes, there will be nowhere else to go.