Archbishop Who Suffered Scandal and Loss of Trust Dies at 78

By Abbie Wightwick
ic Wales [Wales]
March 31, 2007

ohn Aloysius Ward's time as Archbishop of Cardiff was blighted by child sex scandals and dissension, reports Abbie Wightwick

IT WAS an end to his career he cannot have imagined in his worst dreams.

The achievements of John Aloysius Ward, below, Archbishop of Cardiff for 18 years until 2001, were overshadowed in the final years by scandal and controversy and being held in distrust by some of his clergy.

His problems began in 1998 when his former press secretary Father John Lloyd was jailed for eight years for sex crimes. Worse was to follow. The next year lurid rape allegations emerged when a woman claimed the Archbishop had assaulted her when he was a London parish priest in the 1960s.

The allegation was reported by a tabloid newspaper before police had approached the Archbishop. He was arrested but no charges were ever pursued. He returned to his duties, saying he was pleased the allegations had been seen to be false.

The incident left him angry. He saw it as a collusion between press and police and promised to use his position "to ask the kind of questions that challenge present procedures that are a dangerous machinery for injustice". He received many sympathetic letters from teachers and others who had also been falsely accused

His experience may have influenced him when he ordained Joe Jordan in 1998 despite warnings from a fellow bishop. Jordan was jailed for eight years in 1999 for indecently assaulting boys and for child pornography.

There was deep dissension in the archdiocese. The cathedral chapter was presented with a confidential memorandum which described the clergy's mood in terms of "malaise", "distrust" and "a sense of the pointlessness in speaking to the archbishop".

The BBC's Panorama programme claimed the Archbishop had ignored repeated warnings from his clergy about Jordan's behaviour. He was watched by three million viewers saying he believed he had done everything possible to detect Jordan.

The same day a letter he had written was read out in all parish churches. In it he said he would be writing to the Pope asking for a coadjutor bishop to work with him until he retired.

The letter said he hoped everyone would believe he had always acted in the best interests of the archdiocese and its people. The next day he suffered a blood clot and was taken to hospital.

Born John Aloysius Ward in Leeds in 1929 he grew up in North Wales and considered himself a Welshman.

As a child he was once suspended from serving as altar boy at Wrexham Cathedral for giggling and his primary school headmistress warned pupils "not to play with Jackie Ward" or they would lose their vocations.

He went to Prior Park, the Christian Brothers' school in Bath, and then returned to Wales in 1946 to join the Capuchin Franciscan friars at Pantasaph, Holywell. He was ordained in London seven years later.

He was then called back to Wales to provide for the Catholic communities in remote areas of Gwynedd, Clywd, Dyfed and Powys. In 1969 he was made parish priest of Our Lady of Dolours, Peckham, and Guardian of the local Franciscan community in south London. In 1970 he was elected adviser to the Father General of the Capuchin Order in Rome. His special responsibility for English-speaking Capuchins took him to Africa, South East Asia, Australia and America.

In 1980 he returned once again to Wales. He was made Coadjutor bishop of Menevia and became bishop in 1983 after Langton Fox retired.

He is credited by some for helping to move Wales's Catholic community from the margins to the mainstream.

The Most Rev John Aloysius Ward - born in Leeds, January 24, 1929, died March 27, 2007.


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