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music > choral music > Westminster Abbey > curacy of Arthur Wesley Carr > pastor

Some Reflections on Sin and Evil from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

The English choral tradition, with its use of highly trained boys' voices in the treble line in the setting of a gothic cathedral, is one of the great musical experiences, the love of God made audible.

So what can we say of the Church of England’s Wesley Carr, dean of Westminster 1997-2001 as guardian of this tradition? He has presided over the loss of more musicians in a four-year tenure than any other dean or abbot in its thousand-year history. An unsuitable person to hold high office who should never have been appointed, he has a history of difficulty stretching back 30 years.

In 1972 Carr was moved out of his first job as a junior lecturer at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, for mounting a campaign against its principal.

A doctorate in biblical studies from Sheffield resulted in a book 'Angels and Principalities' [1977] in which Carr attempted to show by creative retranslation that evil spirits did not exist in biblical texts. Ephesians 6:12- a key passage that could not be retranslated, was declared by Carr [without evidence] to be a second century insertion. Carr's deception was later uncovered by Walter Wink and others and his work is now discredited.

In 1974 Carr moved to Chelmsford, as chaplain and then canon, where he was in open and bitter conflict with colleagues, and bishop Trillo famously described Wesley Carr as his ‘troublesome priest’. How good is this comparison to Becket? Carr's methods of working at this time are demonstrated in his report to the churches of Stansted [1980], where his involvement as a consultant caused resignation, division, the loss of a 'cathedral type' choir, and the closing of a Norman church. Looking at the report, one sees themes that emerge again in his career, the accusations of ‘obscenity’ and ‘collusion’ against those who disagree with him, an assumption that whatever is examined is in error, negative suggestive words and phrases, verbosity, lack of substance, no solutions to the perceived problems, and an indifference to suffering.

The report also evidences Carr's abiding interest in Freudian psychoanalysis - he has been an advisor to the Tavistock Institute for a number of years in their group relations programme. The psychoanalysis of groups, according to the Tavistock method, involves psychoanalysing a group as if it were an individual [do you know anyone who has been cured by psychoanalysis?], exposing the group ‘phantasy', and then deflecting the libidinous and aggressive reaction that this exposure inevitably causes. Perhaps this kind of behaviour is acceptable amongst consenting adults. In the wrong hands, such techniques are useful tools for pyschological cruelty, deception and group manipulation.

Promoted out of Chelmsford to become Dean at Bristol in 1987, in 1989 Carr engineered the sacking of the organist and master of choristers Malcolm Archer, even taking the trouble to type out Archer’s letter of resignation for him, whilst insisting on absolute secrecy (a Carr hallmark, and one of the reasons he has avoided exposure for so long). This sacking of a decent man and consummate musician caused such a furore that shops refused to supply the cathedral. Thoughtfully, Carr provided a confidential negative reference to all choral institutions likely to employ him. Wells, the next door diocese, eventually took Archer on, much to their profit where he has done excellent work ever since. Wells’ verdict on Carr’s malicious reference? - there was no case to answer.

'After sacking his cathedral organist ... Carr next moved against Roy Collard, headmaster of Bristol Cathedral School, and forced his dismissal in 1993. Colleagues have described an 18-month campaign waged by Carr against Collard, now headmaster of Worksop College. A supporter said Collard did not want to speak about it: "He and his wife had such a thoroughly miserable time". Following Collard's departure, the Headmaster's Conference, the body that represents Britain's leading public schools, was so outraged by Carr's behaviour that it refused to admit the new head of the cathedral school to its membership. The four year suspension lasted until Carr moved away from Bristol deanery to Westminster. A prominent figure within the conference said yesterday that Carr was also involved in the dismissal of Anthony Verity as master of Dulwich College in 1995, when Carr was a college governor.' [Sunday Times 26/4/98]

But Carr’s real claim to fame is the systematic destruction of the Christian values of honesty and compassion at Westminster Abbey, where due to the patronage of those eminent judges of human nature Messrs John Major and George Carey, he was elevated to a position of almost complete unaccountability in 1997, with a sigh of relief from Bristol. A senior churchman reported at the time "someone has decided that you need a tough bugger".

To understand the full extent of Carr’s effect on Westminster, it is worth recording that when he arrived it was one of the kindest institutions in the Church of England, under dean Michael Mayne, and with the choir under the direction of the gentle, eminent Martin Neary.

The targets of Carr’s inappropriate aggression were, characteristically, those with responsibility for the welfare of children. One of his first acts as dean was to engineer the appointment of an unqualified teacher as head master of the choir school, dismissing the first round of applicants entirely; and after the post was advertised for a second time, dismissing all applicants but one as unsuitable. Next, he decided that the choir school teachers were overpaid. Instead of sorting out this apparent problem gradually by freezing salaries, he insisted that teachers take an immediate pay cut of up to 18%.

By March 1998 he was ready to move against the organist and master of choristers. Having been aware for some time that Martin Neary operated a separate account for the handling of choir tours, and with a new canon treasurer, Michael Middleton, in place, Carr suspended Neary just before Holy Week 1998 for unspecified reasons, and accused him of dishonesty. Carr concealed crucial evidence from Chapter, thus inciting them to support his anti-Neary views and give negative evidence to Jauncey's enquiry.

The subsequent appeal to the queen, involving over half a million pounds of lawyers fees, Carr’s resolute refusal of mediation, and the eventual ruling of Lord Jauncey, that confirmed the dismissal whilst clearing Neary of any dishonesty, crucially confirmed that both the Precentor and the Dean knew about the questionable account’s existence well before the suspension.

Amazingly, whilst the appeal was in process, with a sum of less than £14,000 in dispute, the Dean and Treasurer of Westminster Abbey awarded themselves unsecured loans from Abbey funds of £45,000 and £50,000 respectively in order to buy their retirement homes. This demonstration of the dignity and integrity of Wesley Carr [dean] and Michael Middleton [canon treasurer] was such that they felt obliged to repay the loans early. The Receiver General of the Abbey Rear Admiral Snow, resigned at the end of 1998 - the reason stated in the Abbey newsletter: 'the air at Westminster was too strong for him.' Substitute 'stench of corruption' for 'air' and you have it.

Sad though this story is to relate, it gets worse. Here begins the child abuse and associated malpractice.

Carr’s unqualified head master, out of his depth, begins to bully boys under his care. First, a 13 year old is suspended in his last week, then a ten year old is expelled in distress. Then, a complaint of serious verbal abuse against a 12 year old in spring 2000 is met by a blocking response from Carr and a request for 'much more detailed information'. Another incident of serious verbal abuse against an 11 year old in the autumn of 2000 results a formal complaint. The dean immediately launches an internal investigation headed by the (new) receiver general Major General David Burden, whose methods are unorthodox to say the least - including selective counter-briefings to ‘on-side’ parents using confidential letters of 'off-side' parents. This abuse of confidentiality is a hallmark of Westminster Abbey’s regime.

During this period a series of strange letters emanate from the fingers of Mr Carr. One is a seven point legal ultimatum, what a lawyer would call an abuser's charter. Carr's letters demonstrate an aggressive reaction caused by fear of exposure.

Children who had complained were singled out for even harsher treatment, and Carr duly accused them of fabrication. By this stage more children had complained and it was clear that the dysfunction was that of the unqualified teacher, not his pupils. This was uncomfortable for Carr, who thought that by appointing a bully he could keep everything under control. A social services report delivered in January 2001 was initially ‘not received’ by Carr, and when he realised this was one lie too many, acknowledged as 'a draft'. The school doctor, concerned at the high levels of stress-related illness at the school, took his concerns to Carr, only to be asked to ‘substantiate the allegations’ by giving confidential medical information. When he declined, the Receiver General called his practice and another of his school clients, to question his medical competence. The doctor, a veteran of Bosnia who should know child abuse when he sees it, did the appropriate thing, and resigned.

And so, belatedly, and under the pressure of his own karma and the worried Carr, did the offending teacher resign. Not without a false reference from the Very Reverend Dean of Westminster (see Medway Today) to ensure that no lessons were learned and he was rewarded for his wrong doing. In the end seven children aged 10 -13 were forced out of this 38 pupil school in distress through the deliberate malpractice of Carr and his surrogates, with all the trauma and disruption to their careers that this involved for the children and their families.

But Carr's spite was still not satisfied. Furious that some of the Abbey choir pupils had been received by another choir, he pursued them, writing twice to their CEO in an attempt to get them removed.

Carr's lecture in April 2001 'whither and whother in a new dilemma' is an apology for his behaviour. With a fifth of the choir gone - he says it has 'never sounded so good', but that 'boarding is unfashionable'. The very reverend Carr proclaims himself the victim of 'Christians'.

What did Christ say about treating children badly? Better a mill stone tied around the neck. Because they are beginning their journey and your deeds good and bad will be visited through them after your death. At the ages of 10 -13 one's sense of justice and fair-play is forming. The lack of integrity demonstrated by Wesley Carr as curate and pastor to these children is something he should explain and account for - the more so since Carr is something of an expert in pastoral care, with books such as 'The Priestlike Task' [1985] and Pastor as Theologian [1989] to his credit.

His forthcoming essay is entitled: 'Some Reflections on Sin and Evil from a Psychoanalytic Perspective' [Free Associations Press]. We expect the usual standards of integrity. Maybe a mirror for Christmas? Pray for him. To research his brilliant career see the factual archive and links at






the sower and the reaper hold the work going round

Ephesians 6:12: because our conflict is not against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, the authorities, the world rulers: the darkness of this, the evil everywhere [in the heavens].

Peace to you now and forever

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