Archbishop Welby responded by apologising for the sloppy investigation. But he insisted that a cloud still hung over Bishop Bell’s reputation. “No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness.”
That is what prompted the seven eminent historians to re-enter the fray and insist that “there is no credible evidence at all that Bishop Bell was a paedophile.” The professors, who include a leading authority on Nazism, Sir Ian Kershaw, added that
We believe the historical figure of George Bell is safe in the hands of historians even though, very sadly, it would appear to have been impugned from within his own Church of England.
The historians insist that they are not implying that the accuser is speaking deliberate falsehoods: merely that the things that she believes she remembers should be cross-checked against other available evidence.
On one point, at least, Sir Ian and his colleagues deserve a hearing. Bishop Bell’s record as an internationalist and humanitarian is a matter of general historical interest, not just a detail in the history of the church. It follows that the investigation of his life should be conducted outside the confines of the church, as transparently as possible, with a fair hearing for all interested parties. That has still not happened.