An Establishment cover up: The sordid and sad saga of sex abuser Bishop Peter Ball

bishop peter ball

Bishop Peter Ball at his trial . Pic Credit: BBC

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The Church of England has finally fully acknowledged the impact of the predatory sexual abuse committed by one of its most charismatic former bishops Peter Ball.

A forensic report by Dame Moira Gibb into both his activities and the cover up by the church  of his behaviour which reached the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, (now Lord Carey) to protect the Church’s reputation.

It is a grim story only coming light after the former Bishop of Gloucester was successfully prosecuted and jailed in 2015 after  a career  of physically and sexually abusing and exploiting  boys and young men, including some who were particularly vulnerable.

The report says : “He had used his position within the Church to identify those whom he then abused. and admitted two offences of indecent assault and a further offence of misconduct in public office.”

Tragically a young man, Neil Todd, who had first accused him in 1993  of abusing him in when he was 17 killed himself in 2012 when  Sussex Police re-opened an investigation when he was Bishop of Lewes.

Equally culpable, though not an abuser, is Michael Ball, his twin brother and former Bishop of Truro, who ran a campaign after his brother had been given a caution for abusing Todd in 1993 to rehabilitate him using every type of pressure he could find.

None of the authorities, with the exception of Sussex police, come out of this well, Neither the Church, Lambeth Palace, Gloucestershire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service. It is litany of failed responsibility among those in power and also the misuse of power and reputation to protect the powerful.

Peter Ball comes out of this report as a manipulative, sadomasochistic  predator who appears to have used every trick to entice young men from public schoolboys to priests and damaged and vulnerable youths coming to the Church  for his own sexual  gratification. It is not clear  even now at 85 whether he shows any remorse as he refused to co-operate with Dame Moira’s inquiry.

While on the surface being a charismatic leader he and his brother appear to have conned  the Establishment to cover up his  activity and the Establishment appear to have been prepared to do so.

The report reveals how he wanted to whip Neil Todd who was only saved by worried staff at the Bishop’s house who sent him away. He also got youths to strip off in the chapel so they could pray together in the nude and even used a ceremony to anoint a youth’s penis in some bizarre religious rite.

But  as bad is the 20 year cover up . This included dragging Prince Charles into Ball’s defence – by using his privileged access to Highgrove House – to claim, falsely, as an examination of letters between Ball  and the Prince show, that he supported his cause. According to the report even a commercial arrangement that allows Ball and his brother to rent a house off the Duchy of Cornwall was twisted to say this was a Royal favour.

Lord carey

Lord Carey: Former archbishop of Canterbury Pic credit: BBC

Lord Carey emerges as a very weak character in this sorry saga. On the one level he is aware of Ball’s transgressions and tries to investigate, on another level he intervenes with the aim, whatever he says in a letter to Gloucestershire’s chief constable, to prevent a public trial of a Bishop by just issuing a caution. In the end this is done in return for his resignation as bishop. It is here that Gloucestershire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which now admits its mistake, are totally at fault. Lord Carey also failed to pass on information to the police on people Ball abused and defended his reputation to the police.

Then after this ” escape from justice” he and his brother pursue a ruthless campaign to rehabilitate him  as a priest – which is successful. They demand  money from the archbishop to fund their expenses, insist on his reinstatement as  a priest in his brother’s parish  ( at one stage his brother actually threatens to do this without Lambeth Palace’s permission) and he even gets an honorary retired bishop’s post from the  Bishop of Chichester.

The report recommends a strengthening of safeguarding in the Church of England and will be considered by the independent child sex abuse inquiry. But what it doesn’t address – and it is outside its terms of reference – is the glaring issue of homosexuality in the Church.

To put it in its historic context these events take place when people who were homosexuals in public life often lived  a double life for fear of exposure in the press. This was the time when  David Atkinson, the Tory MP for Bournemouth East was publicly a happily married man with a wife and children while secretly leading a double gay life in the House of Commons.

It was also the time when Britain’s first successful black footballer, Justin Fashanu, led a troubled double life attracted to young men, which led to his suicide when the US law caught up with him.

One wonders whether if as now – when to be openly gay no longer is a problem  and gay marriage is acceptable  ( except to the Democratic Unionist party)  Ball could have had a stable relationship instead.  Or was he a predatory abuser anyway? This is not to excuse the Ball twins from the appalling sexual abuse and cover up that followed. But it suggests the Church has got to address a wider problem than just the abuse.

The full report is here.

 

 

22 thoughts on “An Establishment cover up: The sordid and sad saga of sex abuser Bishop Peter Ball

  1. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    “While on the surface being a charismatic leader he [Peter ball] and his brother appear to have conned the Establishment to cover up his activity and the Establishment appear to have been prepared to do so.”

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  2. Reblogged this on Buried News and commented:
    Many years ago I met Peter Ball and although the congregation was impressed with him, I was perturbed that such a man had ever being accepted as a Priest, a view shared by one or two of the more earthly congregation. His saintly air, supposed naivety of the world was an act that even Ronnie Barker would be unable to match.
    In other words Ball was nothing short of being a religious conman. His connections with like minded clergy should have rung alarm bells, and
    The Community of the Glorious Ascension further give the impression of him being a Holy Man. All a front which give him access to the Establishment at the highest levels.
    In the early 1980’s a clergyman informed a small group of congregation that the Church was riddled with paedophiles and it was been covered up at the highest levels. I was told about this and my immediate thought turned to Peter Ball. The man at the meeting who was the informant thought it was unbelievable, but I decided to keep an open mind.
    So if the Church claimed that they did not know, how could a casual churchgoer at the time, be told a story that breaks over 40 years later.

    I think the Church broke a commandment THOU SHALL NOT LIE.
    Remember this fine Christian lady’s comment
    Baroness Butler-Sloss told a victim of alleged abuse that she did not want to include the claims because “the press would love a bishop”.
    Another one who should read the scriptures Exodus 20:16 although we should make another to be more specific THOU SHALT NOT COVER UP THE EVIL DEEDS OF OTHERS.

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  3. Peter Ball and a church property at Bexhill on Sea links with Grafton Boys home. Were the MPS aware of the link? The man who really has got an inside line on Ball is Colin Campbell @ the BBC – excellent work in the past shame his BBC bosses in London did not let him off the leash

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  4. Carey weak. You should have seen the look on Rowan Williams face when I challenged him face to face about the CSA victims. Weak? FEAR!.

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  5. No surprises here, the usual church and state cover up of pedophiles in the establishment, links to the highest echelons of society, hundreds of innocent lives ruined, no recompense or apologies. Same old same old. Can’t imagine why anyone would be shocked at this after so many other examples of it before, and still no proper investigation into certain MP’s, PM’s and guest houses. We will never get to the truth of these cases as long as they all stick together.

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  6. Did Butler-Sloss believe bishops should be protected on principle, or did she have a more discriminating approach to her safeguarding?

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    • See my posting on 23.6.17 02:28 pm re. BBC. Loads that could not be aired. Who took that decision about Ball and BS investigation? And why do the Boob keep referring to the abused as ‘Young men’. Since when is a thirteen year old a Young Man. Lets really start getting out what the BBC have done since day one. For starters how’s about the journo who showed a picture of Leon Brittan to an alleged survivor and asked of him is the bloke? No wonder the BBC used him.

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  7. ‘given a caution for abusing Todd in 1993’ . Since 2001 the sexual activity for which Peter Ball was given a caution is no longer illegal, so it is incorrect to define it as ‘abuse’. It was repealed after lengthy agitation by ‘progressives’ as being ‘homophobic’. From reading the report Neil Todd appears to have been a rather disturbed individual and it is stretching matters somewhat to pin the blame for his suicide nearly 20 years later on his relationship with Peter Ball

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  8. Thank you for pointing this out. I have read the article and agree that it provides a good analysis of Peter Ball’s sexual activities and his predilection for teenage youths. Contrary to what you claim I am not in any way keen to excuse Peter Ball. My point was that if he had a predilection for a teenage girl of the same age then under the law at that time he would not have received a caution for engaging in sexual activity, nor would he today with a youth of that age. Thus I questioned David Hencke’s use of the word ‘abuse’ for sexual activity which is now legal and which moreover many people of a liberal persuasion campaigned vigorously to decriminalise over a long period of time before succeeding in 2001. For the record I personally support this change in the law. With regard to former Bishop Ball the man has seen his reputation shredded, he has served a prison sentence at an advanced age, and a little Christian charity might not come amiss given that we all have sexual predilections beyond our control, and that his offending was at the lower end of the scale without any threats of violence or force, although he does appear to be guilty of harassment at times.

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    • From what I’ve read there’s been little evidence of compassion or remorse on Peter Ball’s part, just a cynical preparedess to abuse influence and compromise friends in order to escape the consequences of his exploitation of vulnerable young men. It seems inappropriate for others to offer “Christian charity” to all ahead of him showing it to his victims/survivors. I’m afraid Ball comes across as a calculating predator rather than a frail mortal deserving our pity.

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      • Voxpopper

        http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/22/533931155/church-of-england-colluded-and-concealed-bishops-sex-abuse-leader-says

        “… an independent investigation into how the church handled the allegations against Ball, a former bishop who pleaded guilty in 2015 to indecent assault against young men … found that Ball “abused many boys and men over a period of twenty years or more. … Moira Gibb, who led the investigation, said in the report. “Ball’s priority was to protect and promote himself and he maligned the abused. …” … The “harrowing” report — in Welby’s words — details how investigators say Ball would use the trappings of his office to his advantage: “He had a well worn ‘modus operandi’, in which he would target and groom boys and young men. His abuse was charged with religious intensity. The men we interviewed spoke of how he ‘exploited the significance … of ritual’. For Ball religious rites became ‘a mask for abuse, and theology (was) used as a way of justifying abuse’. The evil of what he did was ‘compounded by his message that this made the victims more special and more holy’.””

        Neil Todd committed suicide after police reopened their investigation into Ball’s abuse.

        Your attempts to diminish the significance of Ball’s abuse and find a way of forgiving him remain unconvincing in the absence of evidence of Ball’s genuine remorse.

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    • “We all have sexual predilections beyond our control” What a frightening statement, and how untrue on so many levels. He was an authority figure and used that to abuse children, as he admitted, you really are so wrong.

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      • You appear to be confusing predilections with actions. Sexual predilections are part of every individual’s nature, including yours. We do not choose them, a truth which homosexuals have been pointing out for many decades. So you appear to be ‘frightened’ by human nature. Neither former Bishop Ball, nor anyone else, should be condemned for their predilections which are entirely a private matter. Ball paid the price for acting out his predilections, which in his case amounted to criminal actions, and he was duly punished by the justice system for them.

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      • No Mr Voxpopper it is you who are confused. We all have predilections, I quite agree, but they are not beyond our control, or at least that is true for most of us. It is frightening that you suggest these are beyond control because that excuses abhorrent behaviour and law breaking. And when those predilections are directed at the most vulnerable in our society we must never condone or attempt to condone that.

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  9. Are you asking whether he entered the church as a haven of homosexual tolerance? My question is whether an openly gay man can take Holy Orders?

    I see no reason for a gay person to become less spiritually aware than straight men, however few religious organisations openly embrace gay officers….

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