Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has written to his predecessor George Carey asking him to consider his position as an honorary assistant bishop in Oxford over criticism of his conduct in the case of the former bishop and convicted abuser Peter Ball.
The letter was written ahead of publication today of a damning report into the handling of Ball's case by the respected former social worker Dame Moira Gibb, who concluded that the Church of England 'colluded' in abuse by Ball.
At a press conference with Dame Moira launching the independent report today, Peter Hancock, the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the lead bishop on safeguarding in the Church, confirmed that Archbishop Welby had 'written directly' to Lord Carey asking him 'carefully' to consider his position.
Bishop Hancock said that 'this is now a matter for Lord Carey and the Bishop of Oxford' who have been having conversations on the telephone and are set to meet in the next two days.
Steven Croft, the Bishop of Oxford, said in a statement: 'With reference to the criticism of former Archbishop George Carey in the report, the Archbishop of Canterbury has written to Lord Carey and asked him to carefully consider his position as honorary Assistant Bishop. As I hold responsibility for granting him a licence to enable him to carry out his duties, Archbishop Justin has asked Lord Carey to talk to me and we have agreed to meet in the coming days for that conversation. In the meantime he has voluntarily agreed to step back from public ministry.'
There was no further comment from Lambeth Palace or, at the time of writing, from Lord Carey.
Receiving the report on behalf of the Church, Bishop Hancock said: 'I am truly sorry that as a Church we failed the survivors of Peter Ball; having read the report I am appalled and disturbed by its contents; as Dame Moira says...we colluded, we failed to act and protect those who came forward for help. There are no excuses. We accept all the recommendations and we are working to action them.'
Bishop Hancock added that for the survivors, 'it may feel like this is all too late'. He said that he is aware from his meetings with survivors they 'live with the effects of this abuse for their whole life'.
Bishop Croft added: 'I want to give my heartfelt apologies to the survivors of Peter Ball's abuse. The Church of England has let them down by failing to act on the reports of his actions and there are no excuses for this.
'We must now act on the recommendations put forward by Dame Moira Gibb, and all bishops must demonstrate our accountability for making sure everyone in our church is kept safe. The church set up the National Safeguarding Team in 2015 and since then we have had a range of policies and training alongside new legislation covering clergy and other church officers and their responsibility to protect people.'