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ABUSE in the British Roman Catholic Church is in the news again. The country’s most senior Catholic cleric Cardinal Nichols apologised for withholding evidence of abuse allegations made against JRR Tolkien’s son when he was a priest.
He said he was keener on settling legal action against the Church quickly when, in 2002, he chose not to disclose a key document to a complainant. Cardinal Nichols said: “My main purpose, I must admit, was to try and avoid civil action in court.”
The priest, John Tolkien, who died in 2003 aged 85, had been accused of twice sexually abusing the 11-year-old Mr Carrie in the mid-1950s, explaining his actions as a blessing.
Lawyers for the Archdiocese of Birmingham identified at least two other alleged victims and then uncovered a record from 1968 of a complaint made to the archdiocese about John Tolkien. Nichols, archbishop of the diocese when the record was uncovered, said he was sorry that more decisive action was not taken then.
Recent reports, some from inside the Church itself, are suggesting that among supposedly celibate Catholic clerics as many as one in five are involved in what the Church considers illicit heterosexual or homosexual relations.
More troubling are the many cases of widespread physical abuse of children by nuns and monks in Catholic-run schools, children’s homes and orphanages.
All too often the abusing priests or nuns were simply moved to other parishes or sought refuge in the Vatican.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has asked for detailed information on the full extent of child abuse worldwide by priests, monks and nuns.
The Vatican often fails to report known crimes to the police and has allowed abusers further contact with children.
Dr Thomas Plante of the Catholic Santa Clara University in the US states that “approximately 4 per cent of priests during the past half century, and mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, have had a sexual experience with a minor” – let’s be clear here, what he describes as sexual experience is really illegal sexual abuse.
What is happening here in Britain? Let’s start with a round-up of some of the worst cases in England and Wales.
In July 2000 Archbishop (later Cardinal) Cormac Murphy-O’Connor acknowledged he had allowed a paedophile priest, Father Michael Hill who had abused nine boys over a 20-year period, to continue working as a priest.
Father Alexander Bede Walsh was sentenced to 22 years in prison in March 2012 for serious paedophile offences against boys.
James Robinson worked in parishes in the Midlands where accusations of child abuse were made in the 1980s. The Church allowed him to escape to the United States though it knew all about his abuse.
Robinson not only remained free but was also paid £800 a month by the church. He was finally extradited back to Britain where he received a 21-year prison sentence for multiple paedophile offences.
Physical, emotional and sexual abuse from priests and nuns was a fact of life for unprotected children at Father Hudson Home, Coleshill, Warwickshire. Vulnerable children were reported to have disappeared inexplicably.
In December 2012, staff at the Christian Brothers school, St Ambrose College, Altrincham, were accused of acts of abuse. More than 50 former pupils contacted police, either as victims of or witnesses to sexual abuse. The abuse occurred for 40 years from 1962.
William Manahan, a Benedictine Father of Buckfast Abbey Preparatory School, was convicted of molesting boys in his school during the 1970s. In 2007, two more Benedictine monks from Buckfast Abbey were sentenced for sexually abusing boys.
Yet another Benedictine former priest, John Kinsey of Belmont Abbey, Herefordshire, was sentenced to five years for sexual assaults on schoolboys in the mid-1980s.
Jeremiah McGrath of the Kiltegan Fathers was convicted in May 2007 for facilitating abuse by Billy Adams. McGrath had given Adams £20,000 in 2005 and Adams had used the money to impress a 12-year-old girl who he then raped over a six-month period.
James Carragher, principal of a Catholic residential school for boys with emotional and behavioural problems in Market Weighton, was jailed for 14 years in 2004 for abusing over 200 boys in his care over a 20-year period. The chaplain, Anthony McCallen, was also sent to prison in 2016 for abuse.
Things were just as bad north of the border.
One notable case was a mentally ill woman with a nun as her carer from a very young age. The nun locked her in a darkened room and sexually abused her. Aged eight the victim told a priest about the abuse during confession. The result was that the priest and the nun raped her together.
As recently as 2016 Fr John Farrell, retired priest and the last head teacher at St Ninian’s Orphanage, Falkland, Fife, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. His colleague Paul Kelly, was given 10 years, both for the physical and sexual abuse of 35 boys.
Both the Guardian and the BBC reported complaints that the Scottish Church hierarchy did not co-operate fully over investigations of child sex abuse. While in public the Church says it offers support for abuse victims in fact more often it refuses any help.
Catholic priests are abusing children all across the globe while the Pope and his staff in the Vatican, far too many of whom are, of course, themselves abusers, live in luxurious asylum beyond the law.
They mouth Christian-sounding platitudes while refusing to do anything meaningful to clean out the sewers of abuse in the worldwide Roman Catholic Church.
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