A British government inquiry into the sexual abuse crisis that continues to shake the Catholic Church has focused on the actions of the Vatican’s diplomatic service — its network of papal nuncios around the world.
Under new policies put in place by Pope Francis, all sexual abuse cases now must be referred to the apostolic nuncio — effectively the pope’s ambassador — in every country, who in turn informs Rome.
But after tussles between Britain’s nuncio and the government’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, there is growing concern that the nuncios are using their diplomatic immunity to help the Catholic Church resist cooperating with police and civil investigations.
The government panel was first commissioned in July 2014 by then-Home Secretary Theresa May, now the prime minister, to investigate abuse after a series of scandals rocked public institutions, including the Church of England and the Catholic Church.
Headed by social services expert and professor Alexis Jay, the inquiry has been examining the case of the Benedictine monastery of Ealing Abbey in West London, where a former abbot, Laurence Soper, and a former deputy head teacher of its junior school, David Pearce, were both jailed for abuse of children.
Pearce, convicted in 2009, later had his eight-year prison sentence commuted to five after he pleaded guilty to sexual attacks on five boys, four of them under 14, over 36 years. Soper, who jumped bail and went missing for six years, was eventually rearrested and convicted in 2017 on 19 charges of assault against 10 pupils. His crimes included sadistic beatings and rape. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
In 2011, the Vatican’s then-nuncio to the U.K. announced an apostolic visitation to Ealing Abbey.
In December last year, Jay asked the current nuncio, Archbishop Edward Adams, to give evidence about the visitation’s findings. The inquiry also wanted to hear more from the nuncio about why Abbot Soper was living and working in Rome while he was out on bail during his trial. Soper fled from Rome and was found in a hideout in Kosovo in 2016 after a Europol warrant was issued for his arrest.
It was later disclosed that while police were searching for him Soper had 400,000 pounds ($517,000) in a Vatican bank account and wrote on several occasions from his Kosovo base to the bank, asking for funds to be transferred to him.
Despite being asked on several occasions to provide information about what was discovered about abusive monks at Ealing during the nuncio’s apostolic visitation, and about what Rome knew about Soper’s bank funds, Adams has yet to cooperate, provoking fury among lawyers acting for survivors.
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Source: Religion News Service