Peter Ball: a legacy of shame

This blog is a reflection on the BBC’s brilliant documentary, ‘Exposed: The Church’s darkest secret.’

It is the story of the appalling behaviour of Bishop Peter Ball; and the appalling church cover-up which followed.

Which is more appalling – the choice between two sorts of shit, I grant you – you must decide for yourself; though I opt for the latter.

The heroes of this story are the victims of abuse prepared to speak, at huge cost to them selves.

And people like Mr and Mrs Moss, the chauffeur and housekeeper to the then Bishop of Gloucester/paedophile/sexual predator and abuser Peter Ball, who set the ball of justice rolling.

And the therapist Fiona Gardner, safeguarding advisor to the Bath and Wells diocese, who never gave up; and Dr Rosalind Hunt in Cambridge who believed Neil Todd.

And Neil Todd himself, of course, truly crucified by the church to protect their own. ‘It is better that a good man dies…’

The hall of shame in this story is well-peopled, and largely by bishops and Archbishops – inadequate men like George Carey, John Yates, Eric Kemp, Roy Williamson and Jeremy Walsh, who at best turned a blind eye, and at worst, actively misled the police.

And Prince Charles, of course, whose obsession with, and protection of, the paedophile abuser bishop knew no bounds.

It is the story of a serial sexual predator and arch-manipulator, Peter Ball, who was protected by his own; and the story of an institution looking after itself; and an establishment looking after itself.

Peter Ball, in his attention-seeking monk’s robe, (ever-so-humble) liked nothing better than hobnobbing with the rich and powerful – bishops, princes and Lords.

And private schools loved him; he was always available for their pupils and an inspiring preacher.

But Ball also liked other pursuits – he liked boys/young men to strip naked to pray, to receive savage beatings from him and to masturbate, both for him and with him. (With one victim, he linked their mutual masturbation to the suffering of Christ.)

He also liked to be beaten himself, and to anoint young men’s penises. He liked to orgasm in settings like these.

‘Just naked praying and cold showers – nothing more!’ he would say.

And the establishment believed him with relish – even employing private investigators (Bishop Eric Kemp, the lead in this matter) to destroy the evidence of the victims.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury was withholding significant evidence from the police for years; and worrying only for Peter Ball’s suffering.

You can see/read the story for yourself and reach your own conclusions.

But clericalism and deference have long been at the heart of the church’s illness; and here they are terribly exposed.

A robe does not mean the truth; a mitre does not mean the truth. Satan could not have done a better job than these men to destroy the lives of the innocent.

In Luke 17.2, Jesus says it would be better for such people to have a millstone tied round their necks and to be thrown into the sea. As you follow this story, that actually feels quite charitable.

So from this day, let clericalism be done with, and deference to such authority, a joke. Bow to no one.

And how wonderful to see the present Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, speaking out so forcibly against the whole wretched lot of them, referring to Ball as ‘the so-called Bishop’.

She understands.

So no church titles, no status, no deference to robes or religious authority; very few of the heroes in this story possessed any of those.

Yet the kingdom of God is wonderfully theirs.

Footnote: George Carey remains in the House of Lords.

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