May 6 2012
by Jonny Greatrex, Sunday Mercury
THIS is the letter that sensationally reveals that the Catholic Church KNEW a paedophile priest had “an unwholesome relationship” – 25 years BEFORE he was jailed for sexually abusing six boys.
James Robinson, who worked in parishes across the Midlands, fled to America in 1985 – days after police were first alerted by a victim that he had been abused by the ex-priest when he was a child.
Yet in October of that year a letter was sent on behalf of the then Archbishop of Birmingham, Maurice Couve de Murville, by Monsignor Canon Daniel Leonard, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, to Reverend Monsignor John Rawden, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The Birmingham Vicar General made no reference to the shocking allegations of child sex abuse that had been levelled against Robinson, and were later proven, in his correspondence.
Instead he wrote: “Father Robinson’s work as a priest has been highly regarded ever since his ordination fourteen years ago.
“He has shown considerable talent in recruiting groups of lay workers to assist in various capacities.
“For some reason he has always been interested in being a priest in the United States.
“Even as a student, he wanted to join the Diocese of Miami, but was not encouraged by the Archbishop of Birmingham at the time.
“Since his ordination he has regularly done summer vacation work in various American parishes and from time to time expressed a desire to join an American Diocese.
“The immediate reason for his being in the United States just now is that a few months ago he met a man with whom he had an unwholesome relationship about thirteen years ago.
“We have no reason to believe that there has been any recurrence of this problem, but Father Robinson says that he would feel safer a long distance away and untraceable by this man.”
Robinson, a serial child sex abuser, was sentenced to 21 years in prison at Birmingham Crown Court in October 2010.
The 74 year-old was found guilty of a string of offences involving the sexual abuse of children over a period of 24 years from 1959 to 1983 – including the man referred to in Monsignor Canon Daniel Leonard’s letter who gave key evidence against him.
Some of his victims, who are now aged in their 40s, 50s and 60s, were attacked after the “unwholesome relationship” referred to by the Vicar General.
Chillingly the court heard that the pervert was known as “Father Jim” and that he had “a dreadful weakness” for boys as young as 10.
Jailing him Judge Patrick Thomas QC said: “The offences you committed were unimaginably wicked and caused immense and long-lasting – we can only hope not permanent – damage.
“You used, you abused your position of trust, your position of authority and total trust within the communities you moved to and from. You enjoyed, I have no doubt, selecting your victims, choosing vulnerable children.
“You enjoyed doing your best to groom them into accepting what you did to them.
“You were and are sufficiently devious, manipulative and bold to have got away with a highly risky sequence of sexual encounters over a period of 25 years.”
The paedophile lived in California until 2009 when he was extradited back to the UK to stand trial.
Eight years after he moved to Los Angeles he was defrocked when the Archdiocese of Birmingham wrote again to their Californian counterparts to tell them that Robinson had been accused of sex abuse and that he was being recalled to Britain. But the paedophile stayed in the US.
Now campaigners, led by Robinson victim Geoff Smith, targeted by the fiend while he was growing up in Walsall, are calling for a public inquiry into the role the Catholic Church played in Robinson’s escape to America. They claim bishops tried to cover up child sexual abuse by their clergy.
A website – www.stopchurchchildabuse.co.uk – has been set-up by an alliance of charities, victims and lawyers who want the Government to further investigate the Church. It has been backed by Birmingham Perry Barr Labour MP Khalid Mahmood.
And child abuse campaigners in Los Angeles have called for those church staff involved in Robinson’s move to America to be held responsible.
Mr Smith said: “There has to be a public enquiry into this.
“The Catholic Church allowed Robinson to escape serious allegations of sexual abuse and move to America where he could have potentially abused more children.
“The Church must answer questions on this and admit what it has done.
“I have spoken with four of the other victims who also want a public enquiry.
“They have covered up rape and abuse.”
Mr Mahmood told the Sunday Mercury: “There should be a public inquiry.
“It is absolutely disgraceful that the Church was involved in this sort of subterfuge.
“This is the worst kind of hypocrisy and we should root it out and finish it.
“It ruins people’s lives.”
A spokesman for the US group Survivors of Those Abused by Priests said: “It is extremely disappointing that Catholic officials were aware that allegations had been made against Robinson, yet allowed him move to America and praise him.
“Church staff in England and in California should be ashamed and held responsible.
“To us this is a clear cut case of negligent child endangerment.
“LA church officials wilfully put children at risk when they failed to inform parishioners and parents of the dangers posed by Robinson.”
Robinson, who was brought up in Brownhills, Walsall, left a career as a professional boxer to train in the priesthood in 1963.
He worked in Midland parishes including the Holy Family in Small Heath, Birmingham, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour at Rednal, Our Lady of Lourdes at Old Hill, Wolverhampton, and St Elizabeth’s in Foleshill, Coventry.
Last night Archdiocese of Birmingham spokesman Peter Jennings said the Church had new policies to deal with allegations of abuse since the 1980s and that Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville and Monsignor Canon Daniel Leonard, Vicar General, are now dead.
“The Archdiocese of Birmingham has co-operated fully with the police in their investigation into the allegations made against James Robinson,” he said.
“Those involved in the management of this matter in 1985 are no longer alive.
“Robinson was convicted and sentenced during October 2011 and it is not appropriate for the Archdiocese of Birmingham to make any further detailed comments at the present time as there are civil cases pending.
“The Catholic Church now has robust and effective policies and procedures in place to ensure that all allegations of abuse are reported to the police immediately.”
Church officials in Los Angeles said they knew nothing of the sex abuse allegations facing Robinson until 1993.
Archdiocese of Los Angeles spokesman Tod Tamberg, said: “We did not receive any claim that Robinson abused anyone before he came to Los Angeles, and we have received no claims that he abused anyone during his time at three parishes in our archdiocese.
“In 1993, the archdiocese received a letter from the Catholic bishop in Birmingham alerting us that Robinson had been accused of sexual abuse of children, and that he was being recalled to England.
“Upon receipt of the letter, which indicated that a crime was being alleged, Robinson’s priestly faculties were revoked, and he was sent home.
“Fifteen years later, in 2008, we received an anonymous phone call saying that he was managing a trailer park in Southern California. We turned that information over to the police.
“Given the penchant of child molesters to manipulate and lie in order to cover up their actions, it could be that Robinson lied to his bishop about a great many things, including possibly, his supposed relationship with another man.”