Peter Ball, a former Anglican bishop and protégé of Britain’s royal family who was convicted of sexually abusing 16 boys and young men over 15 years, died on Friday in Taunton, in southwest England. He was 87.
His death, at Musgrove Park Hospital, was announced by church officials. No cause was given.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with everyone affected by this news,” said the Rev. Peter Hancock, a bishop of the Church of England.
Mr. Ball had a sprawling network of well-positioned friends, among them Prince Charles, who provided him housing on one of his estates.
Those powerful friends helped reinstate Mr. Ball to the ministry in 1993 after he had admitted to an act of gross indecency, as described under the law, with a 19-year-old man and accepted a police caution, which allowed him at first to avoid a criminal trial.
More than two decades later, however, in 2015, the case was reopened. His trial was an acute embarrassment to the church, unearthing a history of complaints about Mr. Ball that had gone ignored by church officials. He served 18 months of a 32-month sentence.
An independent inquiry’s report released last year, notable for its blunt criticism of Charles, concluded that Mr. Ball’s supporters had failed to consider that someone they liked might also be an abuser.
“It is likely that they genuinely believed in Peter Ball’s innocence,” the report said. “These individuals could not conceive of the possibility that someone like Peter Ball could be guilty of such offending behavior.”
One of Mr. Ball’s accusers, Phil Johnson, expressed regret that with Mr. Ball’s death many cases would remain unresolved.
“I don’t think we will ever know the complete truth of what happened, what has been covered up, what has been destroyed,” he told the BBC. “We may never know those things now.”
Peter John Ball was born on Feb. 14, 1932, in the southern coastal town of Eastbourne. As a student at Lancing College and Cambridge University he was celebrated for his athletic accomplishments. He then attended Wells Theological College and was ordained in 1956. In 1960, he and his twin brother, Michael, founded a monastic order, the Community of the Glorious Ascension.
Mr. Ball became known as a charismatic speaker, and a favorite of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s. He occasionally joined her for nights out in London while wearing his monk’s habit. He often preached to members of the royal family at Sandringham, one of its country estates.
He was friendly with the headmasters of many exclusive boarding schools, which he visited to mentor young men and boys. At trial, victims described approaching him for spiritual guidance and being urged to strip naked, take cold showers while he watched, submit to beatings or sleep naked with him.
After Mr. Ball was made the Bishop of Lewes in 1977, he often invited young men and boys to live in his home. He became Bishop of Gloucester in 1992, promoted ahead of the church’s favored candidate on the strong recommendation of Prime Minister John Major’s appointments secretary.
At the time, according to the inquiry’s report, Mr. Ball was told that there should be “no more boys.”
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