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.