The UK’s Catholic Herald on present attacks against Arcbhp. Nichols of Westminster

I made a correction to the top of this entry about what the Times wrote concerning Archbishop Nichols.  A couple readers pointed out an error I made in respect the Times story.  Thanks!


In the current number of the UK’s best Catholic weekly The Catholic Herald you will find two pieces of interest about the recent accusations leveled against the Archbishop of Westminster, Most Rev. Vincent Nichols.  The Times alleged that Nichols, while he was Archbishop of Birmingham,

“… presided over a child protection system that allowed a paedophile priest to continue abusing schoolboys despite repeated complaints from victims…."

The Archdiocese of Westminster states that the claim is false.  Apparently Archbishop Nichols is considering legal remedy against those who made the false claim.

For the Catholic Herald take see here and, the opinion piece, here.

For the Times.

It is pretty clear that The Times has joined its nearly homonymous counterpart in New York (aka Hell’s Bible) in the MSM campaign to undermine the Church’s moral authority.  The climate of discourse in England is markedly more brutal than many Americans are accustomed to engage in.  Also, the British society in general is already in a state of more advanced decomposition than in United States in terms of the rotting fruits of secularization and relativism.  The US is rapidly catching up.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the UK’s MSM will ratchet up with particularly harsh attacks on the Church, particularly in advance of the Holy Father’s upcoming pastoral visit to England. 

My I recommend to all my English readers that you obtain and read Aidan Nichols’s books The Realm and Criticising the Critics?   I suspect that they may be a little hard to get: they won’t have been popular with the powers that be.

I digress.

Here is the newsy piece from The Catholic Herald about what the MSM is doing to Archbishop Nichols with my E & C.:

Archbishop Nichols takes legal advice over newspaper’s allegation
By Mark Greaves

16 April 2010

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster is considering legal action against the Times newspaper over its allegation that he tried to protect a paedophile.

The story, published on the front page on Saturday, marked a new low in relations between the Church and the British media.

The paper alleged that the Archbishop "protected" a priest who abused children at a Benedictine school in west London – even though, as then Archbishop of Birmingham, he had no involvement in the case.

A Church spokesman said: "The attempt to saddle the Archbishop with responsibility for this tragic case is completely unfounded and is an unwarranted slur. His office is taking legal advice." [OORAH!]

Sources close to Westminster have confirmed that one of the options being considered is a possible court action for defamation.

The story came amid what has been described as a "feeding frenzy" in the press over the Church’s handling of clerical sex abuse.

Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton said the Times report showed "all sorts of misapprehensions" about the Church.

He said: "If the Archbishop of Westminster is perceived to be the head of the Catholic Church in this country, which is a fallacy, [But probably a common assumption in England,] then everything that happens, happens on his watch. The Ealing case is an example of that. [The media] assume the Archbishop runs everything, including the Benedictines." [Similarly, editors of the secularized liberal MSM in USA foster the bizarre fantasy that the Pope pulls strings in parishes.]

In 2006 and 2007 Fr David Pearce abused a boy at St Benedict’s Abbey in Ealing even though, as a result of previous allegations, he was forbidden from contact with children. The Times pointed out that Archbishop Nichols was chairman of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (Copca) at the time. However, he was not involved in the case and responsibility for the priest lay with the Benedictines who ran the school.

Bishop Conry, a frank critic of the Church’s handling of sex abuse cases, also condemned attempts to implicate Pope Benedict XVI in abuse cover-ups.

"[The media] is clutching at straws," he said. "They are trying to generate stories that aren’t necessarily there."

The latest attempt to implicate the Pope came in a report by the Associated Press which claimed that he delayed laicising a paedophile priest because of concerns over "the good of the universal Church".  [That phrase "the good of the universal Church" is constantly repeated in the MSM, but with little understanding of the force of the phrase, as a part of the curial boiler-plate common to petitions made by priests to the Holy See to be dispensed from the obligations of the clerical state.  My experience is that few of the religion writers for MSM outlets have even half of a notion of what they are writing about.  This present MSM coverage is a demonstration of how little they know but how determined they are to make "facts" they don’t in the least understand support their pre-determined goals.  Ah, that unbeatable combination of ignorance and arrogance.]

Reports failed to note that it was the priest himself, Fr Stephen Kiesle, who asked to be laicised, therefore it was not a punishment for abuse. He had, in fact, already been suspended from active ministry, and had been given a three-year suspended sentence for sexually assaulting two boys.

Bishop Conry is one of many commentators – both Catholic and secular – to strongly criticise media coverage of the abuse scandal.

Austen Ivereigh, co-ordinator of Catholic Voices, a project training well-known Catholics to speak to the media during the Pope’s visit, said the Church was being used as a scapegoat for widespread child sex abuse. [I don’t often agree with Mr. Ivereigh, but he sure got that right.]

In an article for America magazine, he said: "The coverage has now moved into a new, irrational phase. The media have merged with the mob. They are not standing outside the crowd, coolly examining the facts. They are standing in locus vulgi [the place of the crowd]." [I will drill into Mr. Ivereigh’s piece elsewhere.  It is worth your time.]

The Times, he claimed, had "led the way in promoting hysteria and distortion". He cited coverage in the Sunday Times of a plan by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to arrest the Pope.

"Rather than report this as a publicity gimmick, or at least point out how dubious are the legal arguments, the Times reports this as if it is a perfectly sensible response to established facts, ["facts"] and even enlists a semi-Catholic columnist [Libby Purves] to agree with the idea," he wrote.

George Weigel, an American Catholic author, claimed that the "scandal-mongering had now metastasised [good image] into a full-scale assault on Catholicism itself".

He said the papal trip to Britain was "in trouble" and urged English and Welsh bishops to devote "the next four months to the most vigorous defence of the truth of Catholic faith". [And who in the UK is going to step up and do that?]

Both Mr Weigel and Mr Ivereigh pointed out that many of the recent child abuse stories had been supplied to journalists by lawyers bringing class actions against the Church. [Not to mention "retired" Archbp. Rembert Weakland.] "The interpretations which the lawyers are keen to put on them are precisely those which the media uncritically adopt," Dr Ivereigh said.

Jeffrey Steel, [Anglican convert and] a blogger and theologian who set up the Facebook group "Catholics who condemn the media’s treatment of the Pope", which now has over 2,400 members, said he had "completely lost respect" for the Times as a newspaper.

Mr Steel said: "The person who has been most responsible for trying to sort out [clergy sex abuse] is our present Holy Father. Why aren’t they trying to support him rather than look for a smoking gun that isn’t there?"

Brendan O’Neill, the humanist editor of Spiked Online, described the campaign against the Pope as "a secular Inquisition". He said it had acquired "a powerfully pathological, obsessive" character in which "scaremongering supersedes facts".

Fr Timothy Radcliffe, a Dominican theologian, said the reporting of the abuse scandal had been "unjust". [Radcliffe … My list of those with whom I am surprised to find myself in agreement is growing.]

He said: "Of course we need the scrutiny of the media. They have been necessary to make us face this terrible failure. [Agreed… in the first big wave in the early 2000’s.] But often facts are misreported, innuendo is used to undermine innocent people’s reputation, as with the case of Archbishop Nichols and the Pope, in ways that are simply unjust. The media rightly demand that the Church be accountable for its failures, but the media, too, must by accountable for the way that they can undermine the very people who are doing everything possible to confront this scandal."

James Bogle, chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, said the attempt to draw Pope Benedict into the abuse scandal was "irresponsible journalism".

He described recent attacks on the Pope in the Times, notably by columnist India Knight, as "sick-making".

"There is simply no evidence [of the Pope’s complicity], but that cuts no ice in a media frenzy where merely to believe in religion is sufficient basis for presumed guilt of the most awful crimes," he said. [A frenzy on the surface.  It is cold and calculating underneath.] "This is not freedom, justice or liberalism. This is dark, sinister intolerance, bigotry and religious vilification of the sort that used to flourish in this country 200 years ago when Catholics were persecuted simply for being Catholic. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] Civilised and liberal-minded people had hoped that sort of intolerance was long gone. Tragically, it seems to be making a comeback." [Which tells us something about what is going on in a society under the near complete domination of the dictatorship of relativism.  The powers behind the dominant message stream in the MSM hate this Pope because he has clearly described what they are up to and the consequences of their dehumanizing of cultures and societies.]

This week the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published online its guidelines to bishops on how to deal with abuse.

According to the Vatican commentator John Allen, the document makes explicit for the first time the need for bishops to report abuse to the police. It states: "Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed."

Meanwhile, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi defended Pope Benedict as a credible leader on the issue of priestly sex abuse, saying his respect for truth and transparency stood out against recent "unfounded insinuations".

A spokesman for the Times said it stood by its story. [Of course it does.]


How you can subscribe to The Catholic Herald.   They also have an exemplary online version of the entire weekly, if you are, for example, not in England and are worry about lack of postal alacrity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Biased Media Coverage, Clerical Sexual Abuse, SESSIUNCULA, The Drill, The Last Acceptable Prejudice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Christina says:

    Thanks for the post! The barrage of bad media coverage was getting depressing; it’s always good to see people standing up.

  2. LarryPGH says:

    Father Z,

    So that we would know how to respond to these attacks, how should we define the phrase “the good of the Universal Church” in such a way that it doesn’t seem like we’re saying “cover up over here in order to avoid greater scandal over there eventually”…


  3. bruno says:

    A spokesman for the Times said it stood by its story. [Of course it does.]

    I believe that they create these crises mostly for financial reasons for the most part. It sells and creates a larger readership.

  4. bruno says:

    I mean it sells papers and creates fore advertising.

  5. chcrix says:

    “The person who has been most responsible for trying to sort out [clergy sex abuse] is our present Holy Father. Why aren’t they trying to support him rather than look for a smoking gun that isn’t there?”

    For the same reason that Pius XII is vilified even though he did more than any single individual to alleviate the persecution of the Jews in WWII Europe. There is an agenda that can’t be served by the truth.

  6. PostCatholic says:

    Could someone explain what “MSM” is supposed to acronymically represent?

  7. Andrew says:

    It just gives you an air of being well informed when you don’t spell it out: but MSM stands for “main streat meadia” (I think). It’s one of those meaningless phrases that our culture is so fond of tossing around.

  8. eulogos says:

    I thought it was “main stream media.”

    And speaking of that, this morning before I left for work I read another one of these awful articles in the Wall Street Journal, no less. This was about physical abuse in a boarding school in Germany, in the Munich diocese but run by the Benedictines. There was a maddening lack of specifics, so one couldn’t be quite sure if they were talking about the sort of paddling and caning which used to be the norm in boarding schools, including those elite ones run by Anglicans, from what we read in literature, or if something more extreme were involved. It said that these incidents would now be characterized as illegal assaults-but what corporal punishment wouldn’t these days? It said there was also some sexual abuse, and that there was an incident of corporal punishment of “perverse practices.” It did acknowledge that the Benedictines and not Cardinal Ratzinger had authority over the school.

    Has anybody else seen this? I am just summarizing from memory of a brief scan of the article.

    Susan Peterson

  9. sawdustmick says:

    As one who lives in the Diocese of Westminster, I would ask for your prayers for our Archbishop. No doubt he will become the victim of a hate campaign for taking legal action.

    (Hopefully all my spelling is correct this time !)

  10. Joined the Facebook group and I trust I’m not alone in so doing.

    As for needing media, etc: “Seldom affirm, rarely deny, always distinguish…”

  11. Gabriel Austin says:

    I am perplexed [a usual condition for me] that few seem to have read Mary Midgley’s slamdown of Ricard Dawkins in 1985 in her EVOLUTION AS RELIGION. Mr. Dawkins cried that she was mean. Other think she was just plain sensible in revealing the strange roots of current atheism.

    Inter alia, one cannot prove or demonstrate atheism. It is a negative.

  12. eulogos says:

    I found the article online but could only see part of it. Perhaps one needs a paid subscription? If anyone has one, or knows how to get the rest of the article, here is the link

    Susan Peterson

  13. Gladiatrix says:

    If lawyers for plaintiffs are leaking stories why has no-one reported them to their relevant Bar Association for professional misconduct? If people like Austen Ivereigh and James Bogle wish to do something useful in the UK they could report Geoffrey Robertson QC to the Bar Standards Board and Mark Stephens to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for professional misconduct. They could also report both of them plus Richard Dawkins to the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights (CEHR) for inciting religious hatred.

    They could also usefully report Ruth Gledhill, India Knight, Libby Purves and Robert (?) of The Times to the Press Complaints Commission and the CEHR.

    As far as I am aware none of the above has yet been done by aggrieved British Catholics.

  14. THREEHEARTS says:

    Keep in mind a very salient fact and mention it often. The New York Times and its L.A. counterpart are in the midst of financial woes due to blogs and internet marketing and advertising. They will as they lack integrity they will glomme onto any scandal and use it against those who do not fight them in court. If there is any chance a judge will grant deformation payments of large amounts against them (any media that is), they will fold like a pack of cards. Class actions by catholic groups will stifle them. Too many times in the past the Laity have not said enough in the public arena. Look at the victories these young men are achieving at Find on their web page the stand they took at George Washington University

  15. Liam says:

    I attended St Benedict’s Ealing for 14 years. The now imprisoned Dom David Pearce was headmaster of the junior school for part of my time there. The current Abbot (since 2000), Dom Martin Shipperlee and the former incumbent Dom Laurence Soper should take the blame for this scandal not Archbishop Vincent Nichols. They similarly allowed another priest of the Abbey remain as deputy headmaster of the senior school despite having a serious alcohol problem causing much embarassment for the priest and the school. Sheer incompetence on both their parts.

  16. A Church spokesman said: “The attempt to saddle the Archbishop with responsibility for this tragic case is completely unfounded and is an unwarranted slur.”

    Well, let us consider the facts. Father David Pearce had in fact been abusing children for decades. We know that complaints had reached COPCA by 2004, and that following an investigation, Peter Turner, the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, advised that a risk assessment had been conducted and that Pearce should be removed from contact with children, since four separate complaints had been made against him in recent years.

    No action was taken. The former pupil who complained in 2004 went on to take out a civil action against Pearce and the Abbey, and won, being awarded £43,000 in 2006.

    Pearce was at last placed on a restricted ministry, but allowed to remain at the Abbey. However, few people knew he was on a restricted ministry, and even fewer knew why, because the reason given out was that it was “to protect Father David from unfounded allegations”. This meant that nobody was in fact in a position to enforce the restrictions – it seems that they relied on Pearce’s willingness voluntarily to abide by them. Of course, he didn’t, and he was presented with an overwhelming temptation to abuse again, in the form of a boy from the school who was brought into the monastery and paid to wash dishes.

    Certainly there are others more immediately responsible for the failure to prevent Pearce from abusing. In particular, I don’t see how Abbot Martin Shipperlee can justify remaining in his position. As Pearce’s Abbot he was responsible for supervising him. The COPCA officers who were responsible for the advice that Pearce should have no contact with children should have ensured that arrangements were put in place to achieve that aim.

    But Vincent Nichols was at the time chairman of COPCA. The policies and procedures COPCA operated were ones he had had a major part in drafting. Either the procedures weren’t properly followed, or the procedures weren’t adequate in the first place.

    In addition, even in the present ferment about child protection, a decision to keep a priest away from children is hardly an everyday event. I find it incredible that Vincent Nichols as chairman of COPCA was not at least advised of the decision and the reasons for it. If he wasn’t advised, then this is another clear failure, either in terms of not following procedures or the procedures not being adequate in the first place. If he was exercising effective oversight, he ought to have been informed. Therefore, since we must of course believe him when he says he wasn’t informed, it follows that he was not exercising effective oversight.

    So, saying that Vincent Nichols “presided over” a system that failed seems eminently reasonable to me. I don’t think the Times’ headline was particularly good, but it is defensible in as much as the system operated in a way that in effect protected Father David Pearce rather than his victims.

    We have in the UK an honourable tradition in politics that when there is a major failure within an organisation, the head of it resigns. I would classify the failure to keep a known paedophile away from children as a major failure of an organisation whose purpose is to protect children from precisely this danger.

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