THE Pope’s representative in Britain, Archbishop Edward Adams, ought to be jailed or kicked out of the UK for failing to cooperate with a child sex abuse inquiry.
David Enright, a prominent lawyer representing victims of abuse in Catholic schools, has written to Theresa May, urging the Prime Minister to expel US-born Adams, above who stands accused of :
Cowering behind his diplomatic immunity.
Enright, a solicitor with the London law firm Howe and Co, raised the question of the nuncio’s position after the inquiry was told on Monday that the senior cleric had been slow to respond to repeated requests to hand over documents about mistreatment of children at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s school in west London.
Riel Karmy-Jones QC, Counsel to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), confirmed that a series of letters had been sent to Adams since November.
Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at the law firm Slater and Gordon, told the inquiry:
It is absolutely outrageous that the papal nuncio seeks to hide behind diplomatic immunity to avoid giving information to the inquiry. Yet again it shows the Vatican stalling and covering up scandal and gives the lie to their claims of change.
Prof Alexis Jay, chair of the IICSA, has powers to call evidence, including enforcing imprisonment of those who defy a request. The dispute between church and state, however, is complicated because the archbishop is also a diplomat.
As part of the investigation, the solicitor to the inquiry has written to to the apostolic nuncio to request that he provide a statement in connection with these investigations. The apostolic nuncio is covered by diplomatic immunity.
The inquiry’s request was for a “voluntary statement” covering a number of areas about the handling of complaints about Catholic schools in England and Wales and specifically relating to investigations at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s school. Karmy-Jones added:
The inquiry received confirmation that its request was being carefully considered. But] despite a number of further requests for updates the inquiry has not yet received a statement or any substantive responses to its correspondence.
In his opening statement, Enright said:
Rather than answer [the inquiry’s] requests for evidence, the nuncio, secreted in his papal residence in Wimbledon, first hid behind his diplomatic status and then simply refused to even acknowledge the repeated and ever more urgent letters.
This showed a “flagrant disregard” for the inquiry, he suggested.
The penalty for failing to comply with a notice from the chair [of the inquiry] is up to 51 weeks imprisonment. The papal nuncio needs to know that he has only three options: offer up the evidence, face criminal prosecutions or face expulsion from the UK.
He told the chair:
In his letter to the PM, Enright said the evidence sought:
Do not be deterred by concerns that archbishop Adams may cower behind his diplomatic immunity in order to deny you vital evidence on child abuse and to evade the force of British law.
Relates to the nuncio’s records of, and handling of, allegations of child sex abuse, including in relation to two convicted clerical child sex offenders [Andrew Soper and David Pearce].
However, it appears, that due to the diplomatic immunity enjoyed by the Holy See, the inquiry may be powerless to compel the nuncio to provide that evidence. That obstruction of a public inquiry into such grave and criminal matters cannot be tolerated. Should archbishop Adams fail to comply … then our clients ask that you exercise your powers to expel him from the UK.
Earlier, Karmy-Jones told the inquiry:
Two of the current [Ealing Abbey] monks are presently under restrictions following allegations of child sexual abuse.
One has since left the school. It would be for the inquiry to consider:
Whether safeguarding problems are still ongoing, and whether children remain at risk.
In 2017, a former abbot was jailed for 18 years after being found guilty of 19 rapes and sexual offences at St Benedict’s. Father Andrew Soper, above, fled the UK in an attempt to escape justice. He fled to Kosovo with £182,000 from the Vatican bank in a bid to avoid responsibility for the abuse at fee-paying St Benedict’s in Ealing, west London.
The inquiry heard that sexual assaults often occurred during corporal punishment inflicted by senior monks. Pupils were sometimes forced to perform sexual acts and, on other occasions, raped.
Ruth Henke QC, representing the Ealing Abbey monastic community, apologised for all past abuse. She told the inquiry:
I offer a sincere, unreserved and profound apology to each and every survivor. For all the harm caused to survivors, we are truly, truly sorry and will never cease saying sorry.
Kate Gallafent QC, representing the English Benedictine Congregation (EBC), said the papal nuncio had replied to the latest letter from IICSA.
The nuncio did send a response via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office because that was the appropriate channel.
In a separate statement, Christopher Jamison, Abbot President of the EBC, above, said:
I am truly sorry for what has happened and apologise unequivocally to all those who suffered and were abused by anyone connected with our abbeys and schools. IICSA’s report published in 2018 highlighted how flawed many of our past responses have been. We continue to work conscientiously to ensure our communities are safe environments for young people both now and in the future. We know how important this work is to survivors as well.
Whilst the inquiry hearings will continue to hear from victims and survivors, there may be others whose voices have not been heard and to whom we should listen. If they have not yet contacted the authorities I would urge them to do so.
The hearing continues.