Talk:George Bell (bishop)

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Can we get a source for Niemoller's planned execution? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:14, 8 July 2014 (UTC)

Can we have a source for this statement please?[edit]

'His role there was the Christian mission to industrial workers, a third of whom were Indians and Africans from the British Empire...'

The above statement (in section 1.1) has implications for the historiography of colonial migration to Britain. Please supply a source citation for this statement. Thanks Jazzlord1 (talk) 13:50, 22 October 2014 (UTC)Jazzlord1

POV flag in Child abuse section[edit]

My reason for affixing the POV tag: None would be more pleased than I if it were to transpire that this allegation was completely groundless. Sadly though I consider this to be unlikely. And anyhow, this is Wikipedia, where everything has to be backed up by reliable sources: and right now those sources seem to suggest quite strongly that the alleged abuse did indeed happen. Given that, it seems just about acceptable to talk of allegations in the section title, and later to talk about the alleged victim; but if we additionally stress the (factually accurate) amount of time that elapsed between perpetration and complaint, then we are implicitly casting more doubt on the allegations than the sources will allow.GroupCohomologist (talk) 22:01, 26 October 2015 (UTC)

Well, edit it then... I'm not sure the words carry the implications you suggest, but there's no harm in removing them. If anything they look bad for the church, not for the victim. Relentlessly (talk) 22:03, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
Part of the point is that it is hard to prove or disprove accusations made long after the subject is dead, and these accusations have never been tested in a court of law. The statement that the Church paid compensation pretty clearly indicates that its officials thought there was or might be some merit in the claims. I don't see the current wording as overly POV. It seems to be supported by the sources. I don't think we can fail to mention the time gap. How else would you have the section changed? DES (talk) 00:16, 27 October 2015 (UTC)
I don't think the current wording gives more emphasis to the time gap than The Guardian and the BBC do. So, I do not see a POV problem, and will remove the tag. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 02:19, 27 October 2015 (UTC)

I am puzzled by the judgement being exercised here. Allegations are allegations, and must be taken seriously. Indeed, the C of E has taken them seriously and was probably right to express sympathy to the claimant and pay him or her compensation, since if the allegations are true this is the least that could be done, and if they are false then nothing significant would be lost by doing so. The issue here is the public demolition of George Bell's (previously considerable) reputation. Do we have enough evidence, let alone proof, to accept that this is justified?

Allegations are not facts. Sources are not named people who have to stand by their testimony forever. IN any case, what sources are these which 'suggest quite strongly' that the alleged abuse did happen? The C of E has not published any of its inquiries, and incontestable evidence of allegations concerning events nearly 70 years ago, and not alleged until 37 years after bell's death and almost 50 years after they supposedly happened, would be very hard to find. Under the English system , which presumes innocence, such allegations should be tested in open court before an impartial jury. Short of that having take place - and nothing remotely resembling such a trial has taken place or can take place, allegations remain allegations and sources remain sources, and are not(for example)equivalent to sworn witnesses subjected to cross-examination in open court. If credible and disinterested corroboration now appears, then the position will change. As it is, I think the stress should be placed upon the word 'alleged', and the world left free to make its own judgment on the standing of claims not tested in court. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback Clockback (talk) 16:35, 5 November 2015 (UTC)

Hi Peter. I agree that we can't present the statements unequivocally. I wrote most of the content that is currently in the Child abuse allegations section, being as careful as I could to be as precise as possible. Certainly I wanted to avoid the most provocative language. There's a column in the Spectator (you may just possibly be aware of it) that is relevant here, and I will try to work some of the sentiment in. We can, of course, only go by the sources that are available, and there hasn't been much in Bell's defence. Relentlessly (talk) 19:56, 5 November 2015 (UTC)
Relentlessly described the allegations in a very even handed way. As they say, we have to go on the available sources. But then an IP address changed the article to highlight the fact that the two complaints were made 37 and 55 years after Bell's death. I felt that the total effect was now to cast more doubt on the story than the sources we had at the time warranted, so I set the POV flag (I'm timid and don't like reverting). It then turned out that I was in a minority of one, and so I let the matter rest.
N.B. As I'm still an inexperienced user, I simultaneously raised the issue at the Teahouse. Two of the comments above are by Teahouse hosts, including Cullen328 who removed the POV flag. GroupCohomologist (talk) 22:45, 5 November 2015 (UTC)

More evidence concerning this anonymous allegation is needed (despite the authority inherent in Bishop Warner's statement) Clive Sweeting5Nov2015— Preceding unsigned comment added by Clive sweeting (talkcontribs) 18:01, 5 November 2015

Clockback and Clive sweeting, please note that this section uses variations of the word "alleged" three times. Please also note that the sources in this section of the article are rock solid. Of course, we cannot say in Wikipedia's voice that the allegations are true. But when the police say that he would be arrested if still alive, and when the Church of England makes a payment to an alleged victim, then these are very significant and well substantiated allegations which must be reported in this biography. It would be contrary to Wikipedia policy to ignore them or minimize them in any way, unless a published reliable source calls the story into question substantively. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 04:38, 6 November 2015 (UTC)
Well, in that case I don't know what 'substantiated' means any more. We don't even know what the allegations are, or who has made them. I am aware of no corroboration. The police are so willing to arrest on such charges nowadays that I don't think we can regard that as significant either way. They would, in fact, be nervous of *not* arresting such a person so charged in today's climate. But in this country the police (though they often act otherwise) do not decide guilt, or even decide on whom to charge. It's about as persuasive as 'no smoke without fire'. As for 'significance', anonymous, unproven and untested allegations of a sexual nature first made many decades after the death of the alleged culprit and never made during his lifetime seem to me to fall short of that definition. The Church might well think it politic and wise to pay compensation on grounds other than that it thinks the charges proven. Might I at least suggest that a link be made to my article in 'The Spectator' or a comparable one in last week's 'Church of England Newspaper' (I think by Andrew Carey), or, if it can be arranged, to the letter in The Times of Friday 6th November from a number of former Chichester choirboys who knew Bell and express their incredulity at the charge. Peter Hitchens, signed in as Clockback Clockback (talk) 14:42, 6 November 2015 (UTC)
Reluctant to do these links myself, because a) I fear that if I do they'll be reverted without pre-agreement and b) my computer skills are limited and I'll probably mess them up. But my view is that if the allegations are described, the rebuttals of them should be mentioned too. I'm absolutely not suggesting that the allegations should not be included in the entry, only that they should be balanced by the expressions of doubt that are also on the record. Peter Hitchens, logged in as Clockback Clockback (talk) 12:24, 7 November 2015 (UTC)
In the absence of any response, I have added these links. PH signed in as ClockbackClockback (talk) 15:04, 7 November 2015 (UTC)
Hi Clockback. I've had a busy few days, but I have now expanded this section. I have added the three sources you mention and I think the section is more neutral for it, especially as these are the only three opinion pieces I have seen on the subject. Relentlessly (talk) 16:13, 7 November 2015 (UTC)
Thank you very much. I agree that presenting both sides allows the reader to make a proper encyclopaedic judgment.PHClockback (talk) 18:06, 7 November 2015 (UTC)

This section seems to give undue weight to the unverifiable opinions of various right wing and establishment commentators. It takes up more space than the actual story. It looks like a whitewash job, which demeans Wikipedia. Should this be pruned?Charles (talk) 10:59, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Well in my view it gives too much weight to evidentially worthless claims by the Sussex Police, and indeed treats as normal and unexceptionable a self-proclaimed failure to apply reasonable doubt to the case by unnamed and questionably independent 'experts', as well as reproducing inaccurate stories from various newspapers which stated George Bell's guilt without having any on-the-record basis for this. It also accepts (via the same inaccurate media reports) the spurious claim that this was a civil case against George Bell, which it wasn't. Deceased persons cannot be sued. The defendant was the Church, and GB's interests and good name were not represented. Who cares what 'wing' commentators are on? In fact the four most prominent media critics of the treatment of George Bell are myself and Charles Moore on the 'right' and Michael White and Giles Fraser on the 'Left'. Of these, only Charles Moore could possibly be described as having any connection with any known 'establishment'. It is a non-partisan alliance for natural justice. The defenders of George Bell rely entirely on uncontested historical and biographical fact and have made no claims requiring verification (it is the prosecution, not the defence, which is required to prove its case in English law, as some tend to forget). Let us recall that we have here the deliberate publicising by the Church of a solitary uncorroborated claim, first made decades after the alleged crime and decades after the death of the alleged malefactor. It has been followed, so far, by no further claims of the same kind. To use the word 'whitewash' to characterise scepticism about this claim verges on the personally insulting. Peter Hitchens logged in as Clockback (talk) 13:31, 17 February 2016 (UTC)
I have just rewritten and updated the treatment on German Wikipedia in the light of the sources now available. I omitted several of the sources mentioned here, which may please Charlesdrakew, although I did add the letter from Franz Hildebrandt's daughter. Clockback may feel that I have left too much out: Charles Moore's article, for example. GroupCohomologist (talk) 12:25, 14 February 2016 (UTC)
I am just pleased that the insertions have been done. It is vital for the cause of truth that those coming across these allegations for the first time are aware that they *are* allegations and not proven facts, and that prominent well-informed and fair-minded persons have disputed them. It was most distressing to know that German readers might not be aware of this, and to be unable to do anything about it. Peter Hitchens, logged in as Clockback (talk) 13:35, 17 February 2016 (UTC)
I like White's piece; thank you for drawing my attention to it. Now that so many sources are available I think it might improve the readability of the article if some of the sources were indeed to be pruned: though White's article should be added in.
The presumption of innocence and innocent until proven guilty are possibly not exactly the same thing: but the latter phrase always reminds me of the 1997 election in Tatton. GroupCohomologist (talk) 14:32, 17 February 2016 (UTC)

The section still gives vastly undue weight to opinions of various commentators, some of them churchmen with an obvious conflict of interest. Wikipedia deals in verifiable facts without comment and analysis. It is not a vehicle for propagating the unverifiable opinions of political columnists. I will be pruning it shortly in line with Wikipedia guidelines.Charles (talk) 18:40, 18 February 2016 (UTC)

Pruning the child abuse section[edit]

This is no longer about the POV flag that I set long ago, hence the new section.

Charlesdrakew: What I would prune and what you have pruned are completely disjoint. I would start by removing Morris and Hanson as they don't add anything; and with Pardoe it would be better to restrict ourselves to his factual criticisms. Whereas

  • Fraser founded Inclusive Church: Surely he can be trusted to take abuse allegations seriously?
  • Butler speaks for the CofE central hierarchy and is basically backing Warner up. That's not COI. And even if it was, it would be relevant.
  • The choirboys' letter is less relevant than it was at first, when we did not know whether the victim was male or female. But it is still a first-hand testimony about the character of a person long dead, and that by people who would have been at great risk in the hands of a child-molesting bishop.

I realise that there is ample pretext for fearing a cover-up: but that does not make everything a churchman says COI. GroupCohomologist (talk) 21:47, 18 February 2016 (UTC)

Why would a group of choirboys know anything? The bishop probably did not have day to day contact with them. Opinions in letters to newspapers are not encyclopedic material. I almost did remove Hansonm but he does seem to reflect local opinion in the Chichester clergy. It is just better to steer clear of sources close to the C of E and cover verifiable facts. Wikipedia does not do editorial analysis.Charles (talk) 22:02, 18 February 2016 (UTC)
Hanson: You're right, that point is worth saving: but one can also work it into the bit on Warner's letter to the Telegraph, which acknowledges "bewilderment and anguish … in the Diocese of Chichester". As to the rest, I begin to fear that we will have to agree to differ. GroupCohomologist (talk) 22:18, 18 February 2016 (UTC)
If we are pruning, rather than just spitefully removing things with which we disagree because of our personal prejudices, then let's prune the evidentially worthless sections about how the police were not called to investigate the actions of a dead man (why would they be? The alleged crime was in the far past and the suspect, being no longer alive, was beyond prosecution, to assist which is their only function. You might as well say that the fire brigade or the coastguard or the Home Guard or the Spanish Inquisition weren't called) and how the police later said they would have arrested a dead man if he had been alive (so what? An arrest is proof of nothing even when a live person is arrested, and the police in any case had no business naming the notionally arrested person. They aren't allowed to do this when the arrestee is alive). Similarly, the stuff about the 'experts' , unnamed, their expertise undisclosed, their independence unproven, finding 'no reason to doubt' the claim is of no evidential value either. The reason to doubt any claim of criminal acts against anybody does not need finding, if one is in England at the time. It is called the presumption of innocence. If they couldn't even find that, then their other attempts to find reason to doubt must have been pretty laughable too. If we're truly pruning for strict relevance, this worthless, prejudicial flannel should go, pronto.The fact that it is not clear what the Bishop of Chichester apologised for (and has, significantly, never been disclosed) should be added, if this apology is to be mentioned. Is 'pre-litigation process' accurate? Surely an out-of-court settlement of a claim against the Church is a more accurate description. No case of any kind against George Bell himself was ever conducted. Nor did anyone in this process represent his interests. The letter from the former Choirboys is significant in that it represents a contribution to the discussion from several named living people, entirely disinterested, corroborated by each other, who actually remember George Bell, and whose knowledge of him is beyond dispute, as a result of their known duties at the time. The only other such direct material comes from the alleged victim, an unnamed person an uncorroborated statement, is recalling incidents when she was five years old. Peter Hitchens Clockback (talk) 10:33, 19 February 2016 (UTC)
Meanwhile I genuinely don't understand why the Giles Fraser reference has been removed. Clockback (talk) 18:13, 21 February 2016 (UTC)
Though I don't agree with Charlesdrakew's argument, I think I do understand it: see his last comment in the old POV section.
I'm still a relatively inexperienced editor, and don't go in for combative editing (the one exception is clearcut vandalism, but that most definitely does not apply here). Do you know if Relentlessly is still interested in this story? I would be interested in their opinion. GroupCohomologist (talk) 20:17, 21 February 2016 (UTC)
Sorry, I still don't get it, especially now the Bishop of Chichester's latest fact-free blethers have been added to the entry. Mr Drake was objecting to 'right wing' media supporters of George Bell. Why then would be exclude the defence of him offered by a left-wing clergyman? Also I don't understand what interests are being defended by those who insist that GB is entitled to the presumption of innocence. The Church has two clear interests - its desire to appear decisive and effective when faced with allegations of child abuse, having hitherto handled proven cases of this feebly and inadequately, and its later consequential desire not to look silly by admitting it rushed to judgement in the Bell case on inadequate evidence, which it did. Several media also have an interest in not being shown to have been wrong to have treated an allegation as if it were a proven charge. But GB's defenders have no interest except a desire to defend truth and justice in general. The breadth and depth of the criticism of the Church's behaviour (all of it personally disinterested, and going against the general fashion of presuming guilt in such cases) is evidence in itself that the charge is not beyond reasonable doubt. So is the absence (which can hardly be noted by Wikipedia but which much influences GB's defenders) that there has been no subsequent allegation against him of the same kind by anyone else, despite quantities of local and national publicity. It is not I who have been combative. It is Mr Drake, who has sought to remove material he does not like. I have never at any stage removed any of the large amount of material in this entry which I regard as irrelevant and prejudicial. I have added material to balance it, which Mr Drake now seeks to 'trim'. Let him trim his own side's stuff, which is badly in need of it. Otherwise, let him leave it alone.Clockback (talk) 11:51, 22 February 2016 (UTC)
I am User:Charlesdrakew not "Mr Drake" and I do not have a "side". I am merely trying to bring this section more in line with wikipedian policy of reporting verifiable fact rather than unverifiable opinion and editorialising. The spoutings of professional loudmouths who have no way of knowing what may or may not have happened in Bell's private life come in the latter category. This whole article is about Bell, not about church politics and reactions to them. That belongs in another article.Charles (talk) 10:15, 23 February 2016 (UTC)
Whoever you may be, and whatever your name or username may be, your ad hominem attitude here, for instance using such terms as 'professional loudmouths', and your imputations of low motives, such as 'whitewash job' do not suggest a dispassionate encyclopaedist but a person with an axe to grind. You most certainly have a 'side', even if you yourself are unaware of it, as demonstrated a) in your irrelevant complaints about the political affiliations of ('right wing') journalists (in fact these interventions are disinterested, have nothing to do with political affiliations and are evenly balanced between left and right, though the entry no longer shows this important fact) who have commented on the matter and b) in the contrast between your severe attitude towards legitimate pleas for the presumption of innocence, the treatment of uncorroborated unproven allegations as uncorroborated unproven allegations and not as proven facts, and caution in a rush to judgement, and your lack of severity towards evidentially worthless matter such as the non-calling of the police (for what purpose should they have been called?) in 1995, the police's later ultra vires public claim that they would have arrested Bishop Bell had he been alive, after an alleged 'investigation' which appears to have been no more than a conversation with the sole complainant, the current Bishop of Chichester's mysterious apology in which he has never revealed for what he has apologised, and the failure of unidentified allegedly independent alleged experts to observe the presumption of innocence in their so-called and misdescribed 'pre-litigation process' which would be better described as an out-of-court settlement between the Church and the complainant, in which Bishop Bell was neither sued nor represented. The accusations against George Bell are an important fact, and so are the defences made of him by many people familiar with his life and work. Both should be properly represented here, and if they are to be 'trimmed' (though I see no great reason why they should be, there being no current shortage of electrons) , the trimming should be be done by a dispassionate person, not by somebody who calls his opponents names and imputes sordid motives to them. Indeed, we have no way of knowing what happened in George Bell's private life. That is why we cannot allow claims of his guilt to go unchallenged. The balance in the article between the allegations and the challenges must therefore be maintained in the interests of truth. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Clockback (talkcontribs) 10:35, 24 February 2016 (UTC) Peter Hitchens logged in as Clockback (talk) 10:37, 24 February 2016 (UTC)