“His book is exhaustively researched, beautifully written, passionate yet objective & a major contribution to the literature on this heart-breaking subject” Charles Foster
Author: Richard Scorer
Publisher: Biteback Publishing
In 1956 Christopher Carrie, then 11 years old, was called to see Father John Tolkien, a Roman Catholic priest and son of the famous author, at the English Martyrs Presbytery in Birmingham. Tolkien gave Carrie a long talk about the “facts of life”, and then said that he needed to examine him. He ordered Carrie to strip naked, and then gave him a “special blessing”, which involved pouring holy water on Carrie’s penis and massaging it. Carrie was ordered to return the next week. The ceremony then involved rubbing Carrie’s penis between Tolkien’s praying hands. Don’t tell anyone about this, Carrie was told. If you do, Jesus will be offended, and you might lose your soul. Carrie was terrified.
The abuse wrecked Carrie’s life. He was full of self-disgust, suffered a mental breakdown, and his marriage fell apart. In 1993, having established that Tolkien was still a serving priest, he decided to tell the Catholic authorities. He met with the then Archbishop of Birmingham, Couve de Murville, and told his story. The Archbishop assured Carrie that Tolkien was going to “cease the active practice of his ministry”. But nothing happened.
For Tolkien himself there was, at least in the temporal jurisdiction of England and Wales, no judgment at all. In 2002 the CPS, despite having decided that the case passed the evidential test, decided, in view of Tolkien’s state of health, that prosecution would not be in the public interest. The archdiocese settled the civil claim.
Depressingly familiar case
The case is depressing, and depressingly familiar. It has many of the characteristic elements of clerical sex abuse: a vulnerable victim; spiritual blackmail; abuse cloaked in theological mumbo-jumbo; an arrogant yet accurate assumption of immunity; dismissal or active cover-up by the Catholic authorities, and ultimate forensic frustration.
Ever since Gilbert Gauthe, a priest in Louisiana, was exposed in 1983 as a paedophile, there has been a concerted and increasingly international attempt to get the Catholic church to confront the problem. For a long time that attempt was more or less unsuccessful. A big part of the difficulty is theological: the hands of a priest are the hands of God. If those hands masturbate an altar boy, you can’t just cut them off. And for the altar boy or his family to suggest that you should is seen as a sort of blasphemy. The priesthood is a consecrated caste, before whom the gates of hell, let alone the secular authorities, cannot prevail. The church is God’s City, and her rulers and statutes are more enlightened than those of the benighted heathen.
Christopher Carrie campaigns for Mandatory Reporting of the sexual abuse of a child.
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