Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, brings credit on the Church of England, but Bishop Peter Hancock, who has criticised his being allowed to preach and give communion, does not.

Twenty-six years ago Carey failed to act upon complaints about Bishop Peter Ball, who was eventually sentenced to 15 months for indecent assaults and 32 months for misconduct in a public office. His victims were young men of 18 to 20. The Crown Prosecution Service did not pursue more serious allegations of abuse against two children.

Carey stepped down last year as an honorary assistant bishop, but the Bishop of Oxford has now reinstated his “permission to officiate” in his diocese. Peter Hancock, the CofE’s leading safeguarding bishop, said the move was regrettable and caused further distress to abuse survivors.

The archbishop has admitted his fault and says it causes him shame. In short he has acknowledged and repented of his sins of 26 years ago. But a bishop of a Christian church apparently thinks forgiveness inappropriate.

Carey was far from being the only one to be deceived by Ball. There was not then the alertness that there is now towards safeguarding, and his church was in chaos with the schism over the ordination of women and a royal divorce. None of that is any excuse but it might provide some explanation.

We may all be grateful that the likes of Bishop Hancock were not running the early Church. Embrace St Paul? Never! Not after what he did to all those Christians. The relatives of St Stephen would never understand. Peter? Heavens, no! A man who denied Christ not once but three times and in that foul-mouthed fashion? Whatever sort of example is that?

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection