Former Archbishop is 'appalled' by CofE's treatment of Bishop George Bell

Lambeth Palace Libray

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has said he is "appalled" at how the Church of England has destroyed the reputation of the wartime Bishop of Chichester, George Bell.

Bell was a revered figure in the CofE, a close friend of the martyred German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and a firm opponent of the destruction of German cities in mass bombing raids.

However, he was accused long after his death in 1958 of abusing a young girl in the late 1940s and 1950s. The woman came forward decades later and after investion the CofE announced last October it had formally settled her claim after experts said they had "no reason to doubt" its truth. Bell's name has been stripped from buildings and institutions and the current Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, has apologised to the victim.

However, a fightback in favour of Bell led by columnist Peter Hitchens has questioned the Church's handling of the issue and now Lord Carey has joined the fray.

Responding to a letter from Bell's 92-year-old niece Barbara Whitely, he said it had "delivered a 'guilty' verdict without anything resembling a fair and open trial".

He added in the letter date March 3: "His reputation is in tatters and as you sadly point out, all references to him in the diocese he loved and served have been removed and renamed.

"[...] I am frankly appalled by the way the church authorities have treated his memory.

"When this matter became public knowledge several months ago I questioned the Church's approach with someone at Lambeth Palace and was advised that it was in everyone's interest to keep the matter low key.

"I have however kept a watching brief on the matter and your letter has now prompted me to seek ways of re-opening this."

Lord Carey's intervention comes after it was revealed he wrote to police in 1993 over the disgraced Peter Ball, formerly Bishop of Gloucester, stressing Ball's "excruciating pain and spiritual torment". Ball was sentenced to 32 months imprisonment for misconduct in public office and indecent assault after admitting the abuse of 18 young men between 1977 and 1992.