Child sex abuse victim calls for confessional reporting by Catholic church

BBC [London, England]

October 20, 2022

A victim of child sexual abuse while he was an altar boy says children are still at risk and the Catholic church must do more to protect them.

The individual was abused by Father John Tolkien, a priest in charge of a church in Stoke-on-Trent.

He gave evidence to an independent inquiry which calls for the prosecution of those who work with children who do not report child sexual abuse.

The abuse at 11 years old “completely ruined my life”, he said.

The victim, who wishes to go by the name of Daniel, said he had kept quiet about his abuse for 50 years “which was horrible”.

“It’s getting somebody to believe, that was the first step, and now I want to try and help other people because there are more [victims] out there,” he added.

Father Tolkien, the son of novelist JRR Tolkien, had manipulated him, he said, by describing the acts as “special prayers which will elevate you on a level towards God”.

The abuse resulted in an attempt to take his own life aged 16, he explained.

“I was very angry for many, many years and it’s not until you get older do you realise what was going on or what had happened because it was all done in the action of the Roman Catholic faith as prayer.”

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal by then Home Secretary Theresa May.

It looked at the scale of sexual abuse including within the Archdiocese of Birmingham, where Father Tolkien was said to have admitted abusing boys as early as the 1950s.

The inquiry says its 20 key recommendations need to be accepted by government as a “matter of urgency” including a new law placing a duty to report child abuse on anyone who witnessed it or was told about it.

“Anybody who’s inside the Catholic church, whether they’re congregation or on the altar, or priests – whoever – if they’re suspicious about anything they should be able to feel they can report this without any problem whatsoever,” said Daniel.

“Even any suspicion in the confessional as well should be reported so it protects children going forward so they’re not abused the way I was,” he added.

“The church has got to change its ways going forward. This can’t happen again.”

The archdiocese was apparently aware of the alleged abuse by Father Tolkien but did not report it until decades later, the inquiry heard.

The priest later died facing no charges.

Former boy scout Christopher Carrie, from Solihull, was given £15,000 in 2003 after he sued the archdiocese, with Daniel also receiving compensation from the church.

The Roman Catholic church presided over a “sorry history of child sexual abuse where abusive priests and members of religious orders preyed on children for prolonged periods of time”, says the report.

Between 1970 and 2015, there were 3,000 complaints and 133 convictions. Millions were paid in compensation to victims.

The Catholic Council offered an “unreserved apology” to all victims and said it was reaffirming its commitment to the “continued refinement and improvement of our safeguarding work to protect all children and the vulnerable”.

Daniel also said he was campaigning to have a Stoke-on-Trent road, named after the priest, to be “taken down”.

Tolkien Way, close to the church where the victim suffered abuse, “is not named after the author”, he explained.

“The City of Stoke-on-Trent should look into this and I’ve got the backing of the Archbishop of Birmingham,” he added.