Old Scan­dal Re­turns

The Church of England - - COMMENT -

In 1983 a group of wealthy laity in the Dio­cese of Chich­ester were conned into giv­ing money to as­sist Derry Main­war­ing Knight es­cape a Satanist or­gan­i­sa­tion in which he claimed to be trapped. The lo­cal vicar, the Rev John Baker, be­lieved him and per­suaded parish­ioners to help. Bishop Eric Kemp got the po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate and it turned out that Knight had raised more than £250,000 by fraud, much of it in Sus­sex. Knight claimed that fel­low cult mem­bers were Enoch Pow­ell, Leo Abse, and Wil­lie Whitelaw. A jour­nal­ist who in­ves­ti­gated the scan­dal in­ter­viewed Do­minic Walker, then an in­cum­bent in Brighton, who said he had coun­selled peo­ple in­volved in Sa­tanic cults who had named fa­mous peo­ple as mem­bers. Ac­cord­ing to the blog, ‘Swal­low­ing the Camel’, quoted by David Aaronovitch in The Times, the in­ter­view with Walker was men­tioned in a let­ter to the Bishop of Durham by a sex abuse cam­paigner who de­manded that the C of E take ac­tion. The church duly passed on to the po­lice non­sen­si­cal claims for which there was no ev­i­dence re­sult­ing in sen­sa­tional press cov­er­age so that, as Aaronovitch put it, ‘Enoch Pow­ell’s rep­u­ta­tion was trashed by the 30-year-old in­ven­tions of a con­victed con man’. In a state­ment the C of E has said that Pow­ell’s name first en­tered the public domain in con­nec­tion with Sa­tanic cults in a story pub­lished by the Daily Mail but that doesn’t ex­cuse the church for giv­ing the story legs. There were, of course, real cases of abuse in the Dio­cese of Chich­ester, some of which, it is claimed, in­volved Bishop Peter Ball. Al­le­ga­tions against Bishop Ball must have been known to the dio­cese but were not re­vealed un­til Arch­bishop Rowan Wil­liams or­dered a visi­ta­tion. Maybe the Church is over-re­act­ing now be­cause of past cover-ups. Bishop Martin Warner has ad­mit­ted cover-ups but not said who was re­spon­si­ble.

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