Car­di­nal faces claim he ignored sex abuse al­le­ga­tions

Eng­land’s Catholic leader to give ev­i­dence to in­quiry in­ves­ti­gat­ing han­dling of child abuse cases

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Pa­trick Sawer

ENG­LAND’S most se­nior Catholic cler­gy­man faces em­bar­rass­ment this week when he ap­pears be­fore an in­quiry to an­swer claims he ignored child sex abuse al­le­ga­tions against his priests, in­clud­ing the son of JRR Tolkien.

Car­di­nal Vin­cent Ni­chols, the Arch­bishop of West­min­ster, is to give ev­i­dence in per­son to the In­de­pen­dent In­quiry into Child Sex­ual Abuse, which is in­ves­ti­gat­ing how a num­ber of key in­sti­tu­tions in Bri­tain han­dled sex abuse claims.

The hear­ing will ex­am­ine the car­di­nal’s for­mer Arch­dio­cese of Birm­ing­ham, where he served as arch­bishop from 2000 to 2009. It will look into the han­dling of al­le­ga­tions against Fr John Tolkien, the son of JRR Tolkien, au­thor of The Lord of the Rings and The Hob­bit, who was ques­tioned by po­lice in 2002 over an abuse al­le­ga­tion, but was never charged. Car­di­nal Ni­chols faces claims that se­nior church of­fi­cials al­lowed Fr Tolkien, who died in 2003, to con­tinue work­ing de­spite promis­ing an al­leged vic­tim years ear­lier that he would be forced to re­tire.

Fr Tolkien had been ac­cused by a Birm­ing­ham man, Christo­pher Car­rie, of hav­ing twice sex­u­ally abused him in November 1956, when he was aged 11. When, as an adult, he dis­cov­ered in 1993 that Fr Tolkien was work­ing as a parish priest in Ox­ford­shire, Mr Car­rie re­ported the al­leged abuse to the then Arch­bishop of Birm­ing­ham, Mau­rice Couve de Murville, who promised that se­nior of­fi­cials would in­ves­ti­gate.

Arch­bishop Murville told Mr Car­rie that Fr Tolkien was shortly due to re­tire as a priest. How­ever, Mr Car­rie dis­cov­ered the fol­low­ing year that de­spite this prom­ise, Fr Tolkien was still ac­tively officiating in church ser­vices.

This prompted him to re­port his claims to West Midlands Po­lice in Septem­ber 1994. In Fe­bru­ary 2002, fol­low- ing a sec­ond po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice ruled that while there was “suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence for a real­is­tic prospect of a con­vic­tion”, it was not in the pub­lic in­ter­est to to bring charges against Fr Tolkien be­cause of his poor state of health.

Mr Car­rie then sued the Arch­dio­cese of Birm­ing­ham for com­pen­sa­tion over the trauma he had suf­fered at his hands. The case was even­tu­ally set­tled, and he was paid an undis­closed sum.

Car­di­nal Ni­chols, who will give ev­i­dence on Tues­day, is ex­pected to be ques­tioned about how much he knew about claims against Fr Tolkien and other cler­gy­men and what he did.

Speak­ing about Fr Tolkien in Oc­to­ber 2003, the car­di­nal said: “With hind­sight he should have been stopped sooner.”

The hear­ing will also in­ves­ti­gate the cases of Fr Sa­muel Pen­ney and Fr James Robinson, both of whom were con­victed and jailed.

Pen­ney, 75, was jailed for seven-anda-half years in 1993 af­ter he ad­mit­ted in­de­cently as­sault­ing seven chil­dren, while Robinson was jailed for 21 years in 2010 for the sex­ual abuse of six young boys which be­gan in the Fifties.

Bernard Lon­g­ley, the cur­rent arch­bishop of Birm­ing­ham, will give ev­i­dence on Fri­day.

Christo­pher Ja­cobs, of Howe & Co, who rep­re­sents some of the com­plainants, told a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing in Septem­ber that the Arch­dio­cese was se­lected due to “the dis­parate na­ture of the Catholic Church and its lack of struc­ture, line man­age­ment or abil­ity to over­see child pro­tec­tion within its ranks”. The in­quiry will ex­am­ine “the fail­ure of those at the top of the church ei­ther to be able or will­ing to ex­er­cise any form of con­trol or even re­fer al­le­ga­tions made to them di­rectly to the rel­e­vant body,” he added.

The num­ber of years Fr James Robinson was jailed fol­low­ing his con­vic­tion for abus­ing six young boys

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