The Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols is to give live evidence to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse when it examines his former Archdiocese of Birmingham. The present Archbishop, Bernard Longley, will also give evidence in November when the investigates sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church in Birmingham in November.
Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, told a preliminary hearing this week that the inquiry will examine "the extent of any institutional failures by the Archdiocese of Birmingham to protect children from child sexual abuse."
The hearing, on Tuesday, formed part of the inquiry's wider investigation into the Roman Catholic Church, one of 13 investigations which are the 19 subject of public hearings within the inquiry.
The evidence in November is likely to focus upon the institutional response to the case studies of Father Penny and Father Robinson, both of whom were convicted, and Father Tolkien and another priest, designated as RC-F167, against whom there have been no criminal or civil findings.
The preliminary hearing also heart that there is some evidence that assistance was provided to the archdiocese by West Midlands Police that is alleged to have "impeded justice and impeded the bringing to justice of some of these perpetrators".
Birmingham was selected as a case study for a number of reasons, one of them being that it is the largest archdiocese in the country and it is hoped it will cast a light on some issues which may affect other parts of the country, the inquiry heard.
The preliminary hearing heard that the themes that appear to have caused the institutional failings in the Birmingham archdiocese include the disparate nature of the Catholic Church and its lack of structure, line management or ability to oversee child protection within its ranks and religious orders being completely outside the control of the diocese and answering only to their separate structure, particularly in Rome.
Then there is then the issue of church leadership and "the failure of those at the top of the church either to be able or willing to exercise any form of control or even refer allegations made to them directly to the relevant body," the hearing was told.
Mr Jacobs, representing a number of the complainants, said: "Those who instruct me take the view that the evidence so far presents a picture of the church as a clear and present danger to children as it is structurally organised. It is an organisation that is fundamentally structurally incapable of implementing minimum standards of child protection consistently and there is no evidence, in my submission, from the church that that is not the case."