To many here in America, the Reverend George Bell is a mystery. Only those who have read the about the exploits of Dietrich Bonhoeffer come across the name. It was Reverend Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, who was Bonhoeffer’s greatest English ally in his battle of defiance against the anti-christian activities of the Nazi regime in Germany. Bell also conveyed to the British government that it should recognize a provisional German government in the event Hitler was ousted during the war with the help of Bonhoeffer.
Bell also was a humanitarian and spoke out against the aerial bombardment of civilian targets in Germany in a speech in the House of Lords. After the war, he spoke mainly on nuclear disarmament and was a pioneer of the Ecumenical Movement. Bell died in 1958 and he was remembered as a man who stood on principle even as his chances to become Archbishop of Canterbury diminished due to his unpopular criticism of aerial bombing.
Just a few days ago, an article appeared in the Guardian stating that George Bell engaged in the sexual abuse of a young child. The witness has remained anonymous and a sum of money was paid to that person. Without cross-examination of this person or defense given by a man who has been dead over a half century, the fact that Bell has been given the “abuser” label without any formal jury trial smacks of character assassination by a media which takes any sort of accusation as gospel truth. We may rue the day when an accuser comes after any of us without any collaboration and be branded an abuser for the rest of our lives. Peter Hitchens said it best in his October 25, 2015 column when he said:
I know the C of E [Church of England] has had real problems with child abuse in recent years, and has a lot of apologising to do. No doubt. But was it wise or right to sacrifice the reputation of George Bell, to try to save its own? Who defended the dead man, in this secret process?