Former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has admitted the Church of England failed victims of disgraced bishop Peter Ball.
Lord Carey directly addressed those who had been harmed at the hands of Ball, who was imprisoned in 2015 for sexually abusing 18 young men over 30 years.
Now aged 86, Ball, the former bishop of Lewes and then Gloucester, was released in February last year.
Giving evidence at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Lord Carey said: “They fell into the trap of a pretty wicked person, a deluded person who used his considerable influence to shape them wrongly.”
He added: “We failed the abused in a number of different ways and I want to say that if I were to do it now I think I would do it a number of different ways, with hindsight.
“We did not have safeguarding procedures in place then. One thing I could have done is to set up an action committee to delve into matters more individually as well.”
Lord Carey was archbishop of Canterbury between 1991 and 2002, and oversaw the Church of England at the time of Ball’s arrest in December 1992.
He told the inquiry that child protection was not an issue at the forefront of the CofE during his tenure and that the “cumbersome” institution was sometimes “behind the curve” when it came to addressing allegations of abuse.
Lord Carey added that revelations of sexual abuse around prominent figures in recent decades have made people more aware of the dangers which face young people and potential victims.
He said: “We know much more about the charismatic power of people who are close to younger people, who can influence them or shape them wrongly.
“All of us pre-Jimmy Savile had no understanding that those people in influence and power can have a really negative and evil effect on the lives of others, and this has gone on in the church from time to time.”
Asked if he had received child protection training – now known as safeguarding – the 82-year-old said he did not know it was available to anyone at the time.
“It’s one of the things if maybe I was more aware of things happening in society, maybe I should have done but I was not aware.”
Lord Carey resigned as honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of Oxford after an inquiry found he delayed a “proper investigation” into Ball’s crimes for two decades by failing to pass information to police.
A “perfect storm” of events including the ordination of women and the breakdown of the Prince of Wales’s marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales at the end of 1992 into 1993 meant that revelations about Ball came at the “worst time”, he said.
“There was so much going on so it was the very worst time to have something like this falling into my lap,” he said.