Skip to main content

0800 917 1000   Open weekdays 9am-5pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

C.4: Peter Ball’s appointment as Bishop of Gloucester

60. The Crown Appointments Commission[1] (the Commission) is responsible for the nomination of diocesan bishops to the Crown through the Prime Minister. Candidates are nominated by a variety of sources, including the diocese concerned, bishops or individuals known to members of the Commission. The nomination of candidates is completely confidential.[2] In the 1980s, the Commission was made up of the two archbishops, six representatives elected by and from the General Synod and six representatives elected by the diocese concerned. The appointments secretaries of the Archbishops and the Prime Minister were non-voting members.[3]

61. Peter Ball openly expressed his ambition to become a diocesan bishop for some time.[4] In 1985 he was a candidate for the position of Bishop of Norwich. A member of the Commission said they had been under some pressure from the Prime Minister’s appointments secretary, Robin Catford (subsequently Sir Robin Catford) to appoint him. He was a resident of West Sussex and sat on the Chichester Diocesan Synod from 1979 to 1984 and 1980 to 1990.[5] It had been hinted that Peter Ball would be especially welcome at Sandringham.[6] His appointment had been opposed by diocesan representatives who reported that “Norwich could not take a group of young men living with the bishop in the Bishop’s House”.[7]

62. In 1990, Peter Ball was considered for the Archbishopric of Melbourne, Australia[8] and for the Diocese of Leicester.[9] Bishop Eric Kemp provided a reference for the latter, mentioning Peter Ball’s “particular gift with young people” and his dependence “on companionship which he has found particularly in the communities of young people who have gathered around him”.[10] Comments made by Bishop Kemp at the time of Peter Ball’s subsequent arrest[11] show that he knew, at least by 1992, that Peter Ball had been involved in naked prayer with some of those young people. In 2015, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) relied on such behaviour in the prosecution of Peter Ball.

63. In 1991, Peter Ball was nominated for the role of Bishop of Gloucester. The Commission, chaired at the time by Archbishop George Carey (now Lord Carey of Clifton), did not have any evidence about inappropriate or abusive behaviour by Peter Ball.[12] The Commission met for two days to discuss candidates.

64. Afterwards, the Archbishop wrote to the Prime Minister, John Major (now Sir John Major), on behalf of the Commission and put forward two candidates for his selection. Both carried the full recommendation of the Commission but two-thirds had voted in favour of the first candidate, with Peter Ball as second choice.[13] The Archbishop did not personally express a view and wrote even-handed references for both candidates. Peter Ball was described as having a remarkable reputation as an evangelist, and having “particularly winning ways with the young and unchurched”.[14]

65. When the Archbishop’s letter was provided to the Prime Minister, it was accompanied by a covering note from Mr Catford expressly advising the Prime Minister to select Peter Ball.[15] He included summaries of both candidates. There was one paragraph on the first candidate, “a creative thinker who communicates well”. By contrast, almost three pages were devoted to Peter Ball, who was described as:

“A man of humility, holiness and vision combined with a quite extraordinary sparkling personality, impish humour and an unrivalled ability to communicate to the highest and the lowest of all ages and background.”

66. Peter Ball’s connections within the establishment were also emphasised. Besides recording Peter Ball’s friendship and support to the family of Ian Gow MP (who was killed in 1990 by an IRA bomb at his home in East Sussex) and the victims of the 1984 Brighton hotel bombings (which targeted those staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party conference), Mr Catford noted:

“Many people on both the church and state sides have long wanted the two Ball brothers to become diocesan bishops ... This is probably the last chance for Peter.”[16]

67. There was a convention that the first candidate would be selected; indeed John Major had done so on his four previous appointments.[17] Yet, on this occasion, Mr Catford advised the Prime Minister to exercise his “limited freedom to act independently” and select Peter Ball.

68. Having seen the note, Archbishop Carey found it “deeply disturbing” and “appalling”;[18] in his view, this showed the Prime Minister’s appointments secretary “going beyond his responsibilities” and clearly influencing the mind of the Prime Minister.[19] The appointments secretary was intended to be a neutral administrator but Mr Catford appears to have gone beyond that.

69. The Prime Minister appointed Peter Ball as Bishop of Gloucester in March 1992. His enthronement was attended by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, whose home was within the Diocese. There were some within the Diocese who were unhappy about a monk becoming bishop, but this objection was short-lived and largely limited to Peter Ball’s first six months in office. Although there were many in the Diocese who were impressed by his work,[20] Peter Ball felt that he was unpopular with senior members of diocesan staff, including the Dean of Gloucester Cathedral, the Archdeacons of Gloucester and Cheltenham, and the Bishop of Tewkesbury.

70. Peter Ball’s chaplain was Reverend Stephen Eldridge. When Reverend Eldridge assumed the role, he was assured he would be all right because Peter Ball had “been told ‘no more boys’”. However, Reverend Eldridge saw young men with Peter Ball at Bishopscourt, the official residence. He also witnessed what he considered to be Peter Ball’s inappropriate behaviour with or towards young men more than once.[21]

Back to top