Sex abuse victim 'deeply distressed' by Lord Carey support for Bishop Bell

Bishop George BellLambeth Palace Libray

The sex abuse victim of former Bishop of Chichester George Bell has described the letter praising him from a former Archbishop of Canterbury as "deeply distressing".

The victim, who received compensation after she filed a civil claim against the Church of England, told BBC South East: "Great men can do evil things."

The Church formally apologised to the victim after she filed a civil complaint that Bell abused her as a child in Chichester Cathedral while she sat listening to stories on his lap. She had come forward two decades earlier but no action was taken at that time.

The Church accepted her account as true.

There have been complaints from commentators in some media that Bishop Bell, a once-revered figure on the Church of England's anglo-catholic wing, and who is long dead and unable to defend himself, has been unfairly traduced. 

Lord Carey of Clifton, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, wrote to Bell's 92-year-old niece Barbara Whitley describing the late bishop as "without question one of the greatest church leaders of the 20th Century". Carey said he was "appalled" at the way Bell's memory had been treated.

He wrote: "Your uncle was a man whose contribution to this country and the Church was outstanding. He was without question one of the greatest Church leaders of the 20th Century.

"The Church has effectively delivered a 'guilty' verdict without anything resembling a fair and open trial.

Letter from then-Archbishop George Carey supporting Peter BallCPS

"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."

George Bell was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 to 1958, when he died.

While he was in office, in 1993, Lord Carey wrote to police in  support of Bishop Peter Ball, now serving a prison sentence for sex abuse.