Archbishop called to provide evidence but is covered by diplomatic immunity
'The pope’s representative in Britain has failed to respond to repeated requests to hand over detailed evidence about mistreatment of children at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s school in west London to the child sexual abuse inquiry.
Riel Karmy-Jones QC, counsel to the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA), has confirmed that a series of letters have been sent to Archbishop Edward Adams, who is the papal nuncio, the Vatican’s senior diplomatic representative in the UK.
Prof Alexis Jay, chair of the IICSA, has powers to call evidence to the inquiry, including enforcing imprisonment of those who fail to comply with requests. The dispute between church and state, however, is complicated because the archbishop is also a diplomat.
“As part of the investigation,” Karmy-Jones said, “the solicitor to the inquiry has written 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 related to any investigations carried out at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s school.
“The inquiry received confirmation that its request was being carefully considered,” Karmy-Jones said. “Despite a number of further requests for updates the inquiry has not yet received a statement or any substantive responses to its correspondence.”
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 fled to Kosovo for a time in an attempt to escape justice.
Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at the law firm Slater and Gordon, said: “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.”
Scorer told the inquiry there had been widespread rumours in the 1980s about abuse by a former St Benedict’s teacher, Father David Pearce, who has since been convicted of sexual abuse.'
Read more: Pope's UK envoy fails to respond to requests by child abuse inquiry