The Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner has responded to a report about the church’s failings when claims of sexual abuse were made against the former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball.
Dr Warner said: “We who serve in the diocese of Chichester welcome the report of the independent review by Dame Moira Gibb into the Church of England’s handling of the abuse committed by Peter Ball.”
Ball, 85, was jailed in 2015 for sexually abusing teenage boys and young men more than 20 years after his behaviour was brought to the attention of the church authorities.
He started his career as a curate in Rottingdean, having been to school at Lancing College. He went on to found a religious order called the Community of the Glorious Ascension in Lewes before he became Bishop of Lewes.
Dame Moira’s report – An Abuse of Faith – accused the church of colluding with Ball rather than responding appropriately.
The report, commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, criticised among others the diocese of Chichester.
It said that at the time of Ball’s abuse, the diocese, which has its head office in Hove, was dysfunctional.
Dr Warner said: “The report rightly directs our attention to the survivors of abuse: ‘The church must not stop listening, with genuine openness and empathy.’
“But it is with shame that we have to confront the instances in the recent past when we did not listen.
“Dame Moira Gibb and her team are to be commended for the painstaking care with which they catalogue those failures.
“The damage done to young lives by an abuse of faith is something that today motivates us to ensure a change of culture within the church.
“The recommendations in the report commit us to ensuring that every church is always a safe environment for the vulnerable, young and old alike.
“And we must never become complacent about our attention to safeguarding or the possibility of abuse of power.”
The report can be found on the main Church of England website www.churchofengland.org.