- Former Bishop of Chichester George Bell was condemned as an abuser by panel
- Bell, who died nearly 60 years ago, was condemned by the CofE two years ago
- Panel failed to interview living witnesses; accepted evidence from one woman
The former Bishop of Chichester George Bell
The Church of England smeared one of its own greatest heroes as a child abuser on inadequate and unconvincing evidence, an independent report is expected to find today.
The findings come two years after former Bishop of Chichester George Bell was condemned as an abuser by a Church panel on the uncorroborated evidence of one woman.
Bishop Bell, who died nearly 60 years ago, was condemned by the CofE two years ago. The Church said he was a criminal abuser and paid £30,000 in compensation to the woman, now in her 70s, who accused him of attacking her.
The condemnation wrecked the reputation of Bishop Bell, who had been an opponent of appeasement of the Nazis and a supporter of refugees from Germany during the 1930. He was considered a candidate to become Archbishop of Canterbury, but his career is thought to have been baulked because of his criticism of RAF carpet bombing of German cities in the latter stages of World War Two.
Since Bishop Bell was condemned by his successors in October 2015 his reputation has been trashed and his name has been erased from buildings named after him in Chichester.
Lord Bishop of Chichester George K. A. Bell attending the World Council of Churches
However a group of well-placed supporters questioned the methods the Church used to condemn him at a time when Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and other senior CofE figures were deeply anxious to avoid any taint of tolerating child abuse.
A report into the affair by Lord Carlile QC to be published today is expected to find that the Church panel which condemned Bell failed to interview living witnesses and accepted evidence from the woman who said she was abused, known only as Carol, without corroboration.
It said the Church should not automatically have believed the word of someone who said she had been abused, and that the process by which it found Bell guilty was deeply flawed. It points to the lack of any other accuser against Bishop Bell.
The embarrassment for Archbishop Welby follows a report commissioned by the Church into the abuse by another former Bishop, Peter Ball, which was left unchecked. The report blamed former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey for failing to do enough to stop Ball.
The CofE has published, but has not made available on the internet, another report by a judge into abuse by a senior cleric in Manchester, which criticised former Archbishop of York Lord Hope for his failure to bring in police.