The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is examining the Archdiocese of Birmingham’s response to abuse allegations made against four priests, including Father Tolkien who is the son of JRR Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

The IICSA is looking at the allegations against the diocese of Birmingham from the 12th to the 16th of November. A Roman Catholic Archdiocese is thought to have been aware of sexual abuse by Father John Tolkien, but did not report it until decades later. The priest is alleged to have made a group of scouts strip naked in the 1950s, when he was based in Sparkhill, Birmingham. He had been accused by a Birmingham man, Christopher Carrie, of sexually abusing him twice in November 1956, when he was aged 11. Carrie discovered that Tolkien was still practising as a priest in 1993 and then reported the abuse to the Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville. Carrie was told that senior officials would investigate the matter and that Tolkien would retire soon, but nothing was done. Tolkien died in 2003 and denied all allegations of abuse.

During the IICSA investigation evidence has emerged that suggests that Father Tolkien had admitted the abuse before his death. The note suggests that Tolkien admitted the allegations, and was possibly sent for treatment. The note was made by Archbishop of Birmingham Maurice Couve de Murville as part of a 1993 investigation and suggests that he had seen information concerning the alleged abuse in 1968. It was uncovered during the investigation that the Archbishop did not take any action and neither matter was reported to the authorities.

England’s most senior Catholic clergyman Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, is to give evidence in person to the IICSA. The hearing will examine the Cardinal’s former Archdiocese of Birmingham, where he served as Archbishop from 2000 to 2009. Cardinal will be questioned about why Tolkien was allowed to still carry on working in the church despite promises were made to the victim that he would be made to retire.

Carrie reported the matter to the police in 1994 but nothing was done until the second police investigation in 2002. The CPS ruled that while there was “sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of a conviction”, it was not in the public interest to bring charges against Fr Tolkien because of his poor state of health. Tolkien later died that year and Carrie successfully brought a compensation claim against the Archdiocese of Birmingham.


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