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Priest in Sex Abuse Row Fled to America

By Martyn Leek
Sunday Mercury
October 12, 2003

The Roman Catholic Church in the Midlands was last night embroiled in fresh controversy about paedophile priests.

It follows new allegations that a former Archbishop of Birmingham allowed a priest at the centre of sex abuse claims to be transferred to America.

Police say they would like to question Father James Robinson about alleged abuse dating back 30 years -- but they do not know where he is.

This shock revelation is the latest in a long-line of sex scandals to rock the Catholic Church in Birmingham.

Father Robinson will be confronted by one of his alleged victims on the BBC 1 programme Kenyon Confronts on Wednesday night.

The current Archbishop of Birmingham, Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, met with the corporation's Head of News last week to discuss the programme.

He had previously blasted the corporation for being 'biased and hostile' towards the Catholic Church.

Following the meeting he said he had been allowed to voice his 'disquiet' at his meeting with the BBC.

But the Sunday Mercury has been told he was so worried about the looming documentary he asked the BBC not to show it.

He also asked for a meeting with the Director General of the BBC Greg Dyke -- but was turned down.

Last night one former abuse victim, who asked not to be named, said: 'The church has known about the exploits of Father Robinson for some time.

'Allegations about him were made way back but nothing was done. Instead he was shipped abroad. 'Hopefully something will now happen.'

It is alleged Father Robinson first abused a boy while training to become a priest at Oscott College in Sutton Coldfield.

While training he used to visit the Father Hudson's children's home in Coleshill, Warwickshire. There it is claimed he had sex with a boy on the premises of St Theresa & The Sacred Heart Church which is in the grounds of the home.

This is the same church where paedophile priest Father Eric Taylor abused many of his victims -- some as young as six -- during his reign of terror.

In 1998, Taylor was found guilty of 16 charges of indecent assault and two other serious sexual charges. He was sentenced to seven years in prison but died two years later aged 82. Our source says he informed church authorities about Father Robinson's alleged abuse in 1973.

He reported the allegations to a nun and presumed the priest had been investigated but he later discovered a boy was still allegedly being abused by him.

It is also claimed the victim, who was allegedly abused between 11 and 18, was interfered with at his own home in Moseley, Birmingham.

After completing his training Father Robinson was moved to the Holy Family Church in Small Heath, Birmingham, where he is alleged to have abused another boy.

Between 1974 and 1979 he was parish priest at the Holy Trinity Church in Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire.

Then from 1979 to 1982 he was shifted to St Elizabeth's Church, Coventry, where he is again alleged to have abused other boys while a parish priest.

Father Robinson finally moved to Our Lady of Lourdes in Cradley Heath in the Black Country. While there further historical allegations of abuse were said to have been made known to church bosses. But in 1986 Father Robinson was suddenly transferred to America 'overnight' according to our insider.

At the time Most Reverend Maurice Couve de Murville was the Archbishop of Birmingham and should have known about the move.

A BBC insider told the Sunday Mercury Father Robinson is now living in California.

In 1993 the English Roman Catholic Church is alleged to have told its American counterparts about the abuse claims and Father Robinson was stopped from giving Holy Communion.

The TV contact also said police cannot extradite Father Robinson because under Californian state law the alleged offences took place too long ago.

But a West Midlands Police spokesman said the force did not know where the priest was.

'James Robinson's whereabouts are not known at this time,' she said.

'We would be interested in speaking to him about allegations that have been made.'

The Sunday Mercury was unable to contact the former Archbishop of Birmingham, Most Reverend Maurice Couve de Murville.

Peter Jennings, spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham, said the church was not commenting about Father Robinson.

Usually he refuses to speak to the Sunday Mercury because of our string of exclusives about previous sex abuse scandals.

But yesterday he admitted the Archbishop had asked for the plug to be pulled on the documentary.

'He requested they consider scrapping the programme altogether,' he said.

'If they could not do that he asked if they could postpone the episode until later in the series because it is Pope John Paul II's silver jubilee on Thursday.'

But our informer says that the Archbishop had wanted to go even further. He claimed: 'He wanted to see the big cheese Greg Dyke but was told that he had to deal with Richard Sambrook, the Head of News, instead.' A BBC spokesman said the meeting had been 'positive and constructive.'

The BBC show also includes a survey of Catholic priests in which more than half said they thought the church had dealt inadequately with alleged abuse by priests.

Commenting on the poll findings, Most Reverend Vincent Nichols admitted the church still 'has a lot to learn'.

 
 

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