Ball/Carey: why a serial abuser was allowed back to ministry

A serial sex abuser was able to return to his ministry, including work in schools, because, in the eyes of the church, his ‘religious stature’ made him ‘incapable of truly abusive behaviour.’

Dame Moira Gibb’s newly published report shows that Bishop Peter Ball (pictured, right) used his position as an Anglican priest and (supposedly) Franciscan monk to carry out abuse of boys and young men on a vast scale, often claiming justification in ‘spiritual practices’. A retired policeman and ordained priest was commissioned by Ball’s supporters to investigate with a view to vindicating him. After extensive work he 'came to the conclusion that Ball had been involved in abusing … very many young men who passed through his care.’

In 1992, his practices well known and attested in Church circles, Peter Ball accepted a police caution for indecent assault and resigned his bishopric rather than face trial. Soon he was agitating for reinstatement in his ministry. In this he was aided by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who funnelled money to him, declared him ‘basically innocent’ and ‘played the lead role in enabling Ball to return to the ministry.’ He sanctioned Ball’s return to schools work, so that Ball worked in up to 25 schools after his police caution. In 2000, Lord Carey continued to ‘stand by’ this ‘wonderful priest and bishop.’

How could this happen? Dame Moira suggests two factors. One was that the church was confused about homosexuality, condoning secrecy and failing to distinguish between consensual, legal relationship and illegal abuse.

The other was a ‘view that a person of Ball’s religious stature was incapable of truly abusive behaviour.’  

In 2010 Lord Carey confronted the Supreme Court with a demand that special religious courts should consider cases ‘engaging religious rights’ as secular judges failed to understand Christianity as the ‘highest development of spirituality’ (see The Jesus Candidate, page 47). Lord Justice Laws responded that the Archbishop wanted to take a ‘road to theocracy.’

The Church of England must be congratulated on publishing Dame Moira’s frank exposure of its failings – revealing the dangers of the theocratic thinking that puts the church above the ordinary law of the land.

3rd July, 2017


Tim Farron resigns: 'I am a liberal to my fingertips but faith made me a suspect'

Tim Farron is stepping down as leader of the UK Liberal Democrat party, after gains in the recent general election resulted in a 12-member block in the new Parliament. In his resignation letter to Party members, he says that the media's 'constant questions about my Christian faith' left him 'torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.' As a liberal, he is 'passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things' but society does not seem ready to accept this, treating his faith as a 'matter of suspicion.' He concludes quoting the great hymn of Isaac Watts - only something 'so amazing, so divine' as Christ could have made him freely step down from leadership of the Party that, he says, 'I thoroughly love.'

For a comment see blog, 29th June 2017.

Tim Farron

Ashers: gay cake update
Ashers bakery and its directors discriminated unlawfully against LGBT people generally by refusing to ice a cake in support of the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland (NI) – so found the Province’s judges. In December 2016, the NI Appeal court heard final representations from the bakers and from the Province’s Attorney General, and refused them leave to appeal to the UK Supreme Court (UKSC).

But the court left it open for Ashers directors to seek their own appeal to UKSC. The Supreme Court will now hear the case in May 2018.

Meanwhile the NI employment specialist Legal Island has published an interview* on the Ashers case with Michael Wardlow, head of the NI Equality Commission. He answers judges’ criticism for failing to advise the bakers, saying that the Commission’s service is "not mediation" and that, once the aggrieved customer asked the Commission for help, advising the bakers would have created a "conflict of interest." The Commission, he says, receives some 3,000 requests a year to take on cases, of which about 60 are accepted because they have "strategic importance." He confirms that the Commission is actively working towards the "inevitable" legalisation of same-sex marriage in the Province.

In The Jesus Candidate blog , we argue that it is mistaken to see the bakers as victims of religious discrimination. Rather, the case is about political freedom – can the court-made concept of "associative discrimination" be used to compel a business to provide services to a political campaign against its will? This is the question we hope UKSC will be able to consider.

*Thanks to Fran Porter for bringing this to our attention

the gay cake

Inquiry examines ‘moral sources of the civic good’

Leading lawyers have announced a new inquiry to find the "moral sources of the civic good."*

The inquiry is run by a partnership of barristers in the Inner and Middle Temples, and scholars from Kings College, London. They seek to carry out the first recommendation of Living with Difference, the 2015 report from the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Political Life:

  • A national conversation should be launched across the UK by leaders of faith communities and ethical traditions to create a shared understanding of the fundamental values underlying public life. It would take place at all levels and in all regions. The outcome might be a statement of the principles and values which foster the common good, and which should underpin and guide public life.

According to the inquiry’s organisers:

  • The project will be helping communities to rediscover and renew the moral (re)sources offered by the major religious and philosophical traditions that inform British life; and so to renew their own identities as varied and valued parts of our nation. We will be promoting the cohesion that will make out of Britain’s communities a totality far greater than the sum of their often divergent and isolated parts.

The first consultation session was held in London in March 2017. Retired judge Lady Butler-Sloss, who chaired the Living with Difference commission, led the event, together with former Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge. More events are planned for 2017

Lord Judge
After Christendom

The After Christendom book series, edited by Stuart Murray, is moving publisher.

Future titles will be published by the American firm of Wipf and Stock, replacing the UK publishing house Paternoster.

The series started in 2011 with Stuart’s book Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a strange new world. So far 11 titles have appeared, including Faith and Politics after Christendom by Jonathan Bartley, now co-leader of the UK Green Party, and Atheism after Christendom by the Cambridge academic Simon Perry. Future plans include Security after Christendom by the Exeter University central Asia expert John Heathershaw, and a revised edition of Post-Christendom.

Please contact us for more information about the series and previous titles.

Reading the bible after Christendom (2011), one of the titles in the series
by Lloyd Pietersen