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Cardinal Vincent Nichols of London in a 2015 interview with Salt and Light. YouTube

LONDON, England, November 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) ― England’s only Cardinal has been criticized for his refusal to disclose an early allegation of abuse against the priest son of one of the country’s most beloved authors.

On Monday during a private hearing into historic child abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham, it was stated that Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Birmingham from 2000 to 2009, had instructed lawyers not to admit that an accusation had been made against Fr. John Tolkien, the eldest son of author JRR Tolkien, as early as 1968.

Nichols wrote a letter of apology that was presented Monday to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICCA). He was due to give testimony on Tuesday but was prevented by illness.   

As part of its investigation into the Catholic Church, the IICCA is holding five days of hearings this week examining “the nature and extent of child sexual abuse by individuals associated with the Archdiocese of Birmingham.”  

The IICCA is also investigating child abuse in other denominations and institutions.

The inquiry was told that the Archdiocese of Birmingham had known from 1968 that Fr. Tolkien was a risk to children. That year, it was noted that a complaint had been made that he had told boy scouts to strip naked. Nevertheless, he was allowed to continue in ministry.  

In 2003, the archdiocese paid a £15,000 out-of-court settlement to a man who said he had been abused three times as an 11-year-old boy scout by Fr. Tolkien, the scoutmaster, in the 1950s. The payment was made to Christopher Carrie “without any admission of liability.”

Meanwhile, the 1968 complaint was kept a secret. The inquiry heard that a lawyer working for the archdiocese wrote to Nichols acknowledging that the archbishop had “said that the archdiocese would prefer not to disclose this document even if it means settling the action (with Carrie) .”

The inquiry was told that at least four other people had come forward with allegations of abuse against Fr. Tolkien. Directed by Nichols, the Archdiocese of Birmingham made several payouts, but a lawyer acting for victims alleged that the archbishop was motivated not by justice but by a wish to keep the 1968 incident a secret.

“It wasn’t settled because Archbishop Nichols wanted to ‘do the right thing’ by a victim of abuse,” said Richard Scorer.

“If you study the file, we suggest it is very plain that Mr Carrie’s claim, and those of other victims of John Tolkien, were settled for one reason and one reason alone – because in the absence of a settlement, the archdiocese would have been obliged to disclose that they had received a complaint, or possibly complaints in the plural, of sexual indecency by Father Tolkien in 1968.”

Fr. Tolkien was never convicted of a crime. When allegations that he abused Carrie emerged in 2001, he denied them. According to the Daily Mail, police deemed the priest too ill to be charged. He died in 2003.

Since the 1950s, at least 78 allegations have been made against individuals in the Birmingham archdiocese, and at least 13 priests have been convicted in court or cautioned by police.  

Cardinal Nichols became the Archbishop of Westminster in April 2009 and is the most senior Catholic bishop in England and Wales. He was raised to the cardinalate by Pope Francis in 2014.