TOLKIEN THE ARCHBISHOP AND THE LIE
Victim was told priest would retire … but nine months later he was still preaching and inviting parents to send children for ‘one-to-one’ worship.
By-line: Bob Haywood
FOR nearly 50 years John Tolkien selflessly ministered to the spiritual needs of thousands of Midland families.
As a shy Roman Catholic priest, he lived a quiet, pious life on a tiny stipend.
Many of his parishioners never knew he was the eldest child of J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, the book since turned into two Hollywood blockbusters.
As such, he was son of one of the most illustrious figures in English literature – and part of a very wealthy family.
But the owlish, bespectacled priest hid another secret, far more dreadful and black as night.
He was an evil paedophile who preyed on young boys in his parishes. In many cases, he ruined their lives forever. One victim killed himself.
Last night, one of his victims – still haunted by his childhood demons more than 40 years on – estimated that Tolkien had probably molested hundreds of youngsters over the decades in his unique position of trust.
Tolkien was, he believes, the most prolific paedophile Catholic priest of all time in Britain.
Christopher Carrie, now 57, of Solihull, West Midlands, has spent more than 10 years – and his pounds 10,000 life savings – amassing a dossier on the activities of the vile pervert.
Until now, the Sunday Mercury has been legally prevented from publishing the full story about John Tolkien.
But last Wednesday he died at the age of 85. So the truth can at last be told.
‘John Tolkien corrupted many lives and at least one of his victims committed suicide,’ said Mr Carrie.
‘All I ever wanted was for him to admit his guilt and say he was sorry. But he never did – and now he never will.
‘I don’t know where he is now but he is not in heaven.’
John Tolkien, one of three children, was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1946 and started his ministry the same year at St Mary’s Church, Coventry.
In 1950, he moved to the Church of the English Martyrs in Sparkhill, Birmingham.
This was his father’s city of adoption where, as a boy, J.R.R. Tolkien gained the inspiration for his fantasy books, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
The themes came from such places at Moseley Bog, Sarehole Mill, Hall Green, and Perrott’s Folly and the Waterworks Tower in Edgbaston – the ‘two towers’ in the literary saga.
The Lord of the Rings has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and was named Book of the Millennium in a recent poll. J.R.R. Tolkien, a professor at Oxford University, died in 1973.
Royalties from the books have brought in millions of pounds for the Tolkien family through the Tolkien Estate.
John Tolkien was parish priest in Sparkhill until 1957 when he moved to Knutton in Staffordshire. He stayed until 1966, and then moved on to Hartshill, also in Staffordshire, where he remained until 1987.
From then, until 1994 when he retired, he was parish priest at Eynsham in Oxfordshire.
Mr Carrie fell prey to Tolkien’s perverted lust when the priest was curate at the Church of the English Martyrs in Sparkhill.
The boy, from a devout Irish Catholic family, sang in the church choir and joined the 159th English Martyrs Scout Group which met in the adjacent church hall and of which Tolkien was group Scoutmaster.
Mr Carrie was targeted for sexual abuse after he joined the scout group at the age of 10.
He recalls coming home from school on Bonfire Night to be told by his mother that the priest wanted to see him in the presbytery that teatime. Neither mother nor son had any idea why – but he went as bidden.
Mr Carrie says he was invited into the presbytery and, after the pair chatted uncomfortably, he was partially undressed, fondled and sexually abused. He claims he was also assaulted on two later occasions. Tolkien left the parish soon afterwards. The terrified boy never told anyone about the ordeal and tried to put the experiences behind him as he grew into manhood.
He married at the age of 21 and had two daughters.
But as the years went by, his life was riven with turmoil, including the break-up of his marriage. He believes his problems trace back to his abuse by Tolkien.
Eventually, Mr Carrie plucked up the courage to tell the Catholic hierarchy what had happened to him.
In 1993, he wrote to the then Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Maurice Couve de Murville, and was granted an interview at Archbishop’s House next to St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham city centre.
Mr Carrie opened his heart during a one-hour chat over a cup of tea. The archbishop, since retired, promised to investigate.
Five weeks later, Mr Carrie received a letter from the then archbishop, the original of which has been seen by the Sunday Mercury.
Dated 10th October 1993, it reads: ‘I have interviewed Fr Tolkien. He is more than 76 and not in good health. He is now going to retire and will cease his active ministry as a priest.’
Mr Carrie was delighted with the letter. He noted there was not even a hint of a denial of his serious allegations and took this as implicit acceptance of his version of events.
However, Mr Carrie was still determined to confront Tolkien and, nine months later, found him taking a service at a church in Oxfordshire.
He was shocked because of the archbishop’s assurance that Tolkien would retire. Indeed, he was still carrying out full pastoral duties another five months later.
Tolkien reluctantly agreed to see Mr Carrie later at his home. Mr Carrie tape-recorded the two-hour conversation during which Tolkien did not deny the assaults.
Mr Carrie hoped that Tolkien would agree to co-author a book on paedophilia, giving the viewpoint of both the perpetrator and the victim in the same volume.
But the day after the meeting, he was stunned to receive a letter from solicitors acting for Tolkien, claiming he was attempting to blackmail their client.
He was warned that the police would be contacted if he made any further contact with the priest.
Mr Carrie, who has since remarried, made a complaint to West Midlands Police in August 1994, but heard no more.
He has since spent about pounds 10,000 on printing and publishing a book, telling the story of his childhood abuse, titled Klone’it (an anagram of Tolkien) which is on sale at £9.99
In October 2000 the Sunday Mercury were threatened with a libel action by Tolkien’s solicitors if we published an article saying that Tolkien was a paedophile.
We advised Mr Carrie to make a fresh approach to West Midlands Police.
A new police investigation was launched in March 2001 and a file was subsequently sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
But the CPS said in February 2002 that while there WAS sufficient evidence to put Tolkien before the courts, he would not be charged because he was too ill.
The Sunday Mercury understands that the police investigation uncovered other sex abuse victims in Birmingham and in Staffordshire.
But Mr Carrie, who has waived his legal right to anonymity as a sex-abuse victim, said last night: ‘I believe this man abused hundreds of boys throughout his 50 years as a priest.
‘It is inconceivable that he ever stopped. Paedophiles don’t.
‘Indeed, even in his old age, he placed a notice in the vestry of a Catholic church in Oxfordshire, inviting parents to send their young children for ‘one-to-one’ liturgy instruction which I believe was a cover for potential abuse.
‘He could well be the most prolific paedophile priest in the history of the Catholic church in this country.
‘Despite everything, I was willing to forgive him. Now I feel I have been left with the burden of guilt – but I don’t want to carry his sin.’
Mr Carrie, who is taking legal action against the Catholic archdiocese because of Tolkien’s abuse, was distressed recently at being called ‘a f*****g paedophile’ by two teenage girls in the street.
He believes that the youngsters totally misunderstood previous publicity about his case and thought he was a perpetrator of sex abuse himself, rather than a victim.
In November 2000, the Sunday Mercury confronted Tolkien at his then home in Oxford about the child sex abuse.
He raised his walking stick at reporter Bob Haywood and photographer Adam Fradgley and slammed the door against them.
Seconds before, Tolkien said: ‘I am saying nothing. I know the man you mean and he can publish what he likes. I don’t care.’
Asked point-blank if he had sexually assaulted Christopher Carrie as a child, he did not reply. Instead, he disappeared into his flat with a flourish.
Christopher Carrie campaigns for Mandatory Reporting of the sexual abuse of a child.