The Church of England colluded with a disgraced former Bishop who abused men and boys over a period of 20 years, a damning independent report has found.
Senior figures in the church worked with Peter Ball, former bishop of Gloucester and Lewes, to cover up evidence of his crimes.
Ball was jailed in 2015 for abusing 18 young men who had come to him for spiritual guidance.
He served 16 months in prison and was released in February this year.
The report came after a year-long enquiry by Dame Moira Gibb, which found that the church ‘trivialised’ Ball’s actions to protect its own reputation.
The enquiry found that letters from members of the public who had experienced abuse were not passed onto police.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey was strongly criticised over his handling of the case.
It emerged that he wrote to Peter Ball’s twin brother Bishop Michael Ball after Peter Ball was given a caution for gross indecency, saying he considered him to be ‘basically innocent.’
Peter Ball stood down as a Bishop in 1993 after a young man called Neil Todd informed the church that there had been ‘sexual activity’ between them.
But despite this Lord Carey permitted Ball to carry out baptisms and confirmations, as well as making public speaking appearances at schools.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that the report made for ‘harrowing reading’.
He said: ‘The church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward. This is inexcusable and shocking behaviour.
‘To the survivors who were brave enough to share their story and bring Peter Ball to justice, I once again offer an unreserved apology. There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and the systemic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball over decades.’