Anne Dawson

Your Grace

I am writing to you to earnestly consider the negative impact of your statement dated 15.12.2017 in response to the Independent Review by Lord Carlile of Berriew, regarding allegations against Bishop George Bell.

My concern is that the conclusion implied in your statement appears that Bishop Bell was a paedophile. The purpose of Lord Carlile’s report was to review procedures without prejudice. However, the message received by the public appears to be condemnation of Bishop Bell. Implying the guilt of Bishop Bell should have been left out of your statement.

You chose to use your statement to announce publicly that ‘a significant cloud is left over Bishop Bell’s name’ I respectfully urge you to reflect on the following:

 

  • The claimant’s own recollections as appearing in Lord Carlile’s Review.
  • The psychology in defence of Bishop Bell. Either he was a most devious paedophile, who negated all that he believed in whilst abusing a child, or he was a man whose Christian values were evidenced throughout his life by all who encountered him.

 

First, I wish to refer to the claimant’s reported words of Bishop Bell. I work in primary school, with children the same age as the claimant at the time of the alleged abuse. In my experience as a child therapist, the accurate recall of words spoken to children of 5 to 9 years is unreliable. As Professor Maden points out in his report, memory is not fixed and shifts over time. The memory substitutes words that fulfil the emotional recall, rather than the actual words. There were forty plus years between the alleged words spoken and the words reported. I feel there is reason to be cautious over the alleged words. The words themselves are lost over many decades. The emotional trauma is what is recalled. In processing trauma, memories subconsciously adjust to fit the adult interpretation of experience. This does not mean that the claimant is intentionally lying, but neither does it mean it is accurate.

Again with reference to Professor’s Maden’s report, his expert opinion is that. ’Nevertheless it remains my view that the possibility of false memories in this case cannot be excluded.’

It is important to distinguish between believing the claimant was abused and also having memory distortion. Professor Maden’s professional opinion does not attribute the alleged abuse to Bishop Bell. This opens up the possibility that there was some other unknown perpetrator, who has been wrongly identified as the Bishop.

In defence of George Bell, there is plenty of historical evidence of his actions and behaviour in his role as Bishop of Chichester, recorded at the time, without lapse of decades before it was examined. I believe Bishop Bell’s exceptional character evolved from his involvement in the events unfolding in Europe in the 1930’s and 40s as regards the rise of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust. His personality is so vastly at odds with that of child abuser, that from a psychological point of view, it must be called into question.

It seems vastly problematic that Bishop Bell would risk acting in such a self-destructive way, which would totally annihilate the authenticity of his life work. I would ask you to reflect on the likelihood that Bishop Bell was a child abuser, whilst simultaneously engaging in post war reconciliation. Do you really believe that behaviour displaying moral disintegration, whilst acting with absolute spiritual integrity is possible, without mental breakdown?

If you agree this, then Bishop Bell was the most ‘accomplished’ child abuser in history.

The Core Group were unable to employ Professor Maden’s forensic skill to examine Bishop Bell’s state of mind, so there is no parity of process. However the Core Group failed to research historical sources, as well as failing to contact those still living, who knew Bishop Bell personally, but were not approached before the financial settlement.

Finally I refer to point 282 of Lord Carlile’s Review: “The world at large would not have recognised that the Church had not found Bishop Bell guilty.

Point 282 refers to the explanation given to the claimant that the Church did not find Bishop Bell guilty. If it was said clearly to the claimant, it is now all the more your responsibility to explain to ‘the world at large’ the Church has not found Bishop Bell guilty.

I therefore respectfully and urgently request you to reconsider the words of your statement, in particular:

“We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name. No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good.”

I also attach a copy of my letter published in the Chichester Observer. I acknowledge my tone is shock and real distress caused by the words of your statement. I pray for a way forward to reconcile all parties and make restoration for damage caused to the reputation of Bishop Bell, so he regains his legacy as an inspirational figure of Christian courage for the current and future generations

Yours sincerely,

Anne A Dawson

School Pastoral Worker, Brent

Author(s) 
Anne A DawsonClick to open this page
Alan GaddClick to open this page
Vasantha GnanadossClick to open this page
Yvonne GrahamClick to open this page
Ruth Hildebrandt GraysonClick to open this page
Christopher HoareClick to open this page
David JasperClick to open this page
David Jasper & Ann LoadesClick to open this page