The Most Reverend John Ward

The Telegraph
March 29, 2007

The Most Reverend John Ward, who died on Tuesday aged 78, was forced to resign as Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff in October 2001 after a controversy over paedophile priests made his position untenable.

He had resisted calls for his resignation the previous year following the jailing of two of his priests. But while he was on sick leave Pope John Paul II finally ordered him to retire immediately, thereby enabling Ward to cite this as the reason for his departure. Nevertheless his conduct still caused severe embarrassment to his Church.

Paedophilia came to prominence as an issue in the archdiocese in 1998, when the archbishop's former press spokesman, Father John Lloyd, was sentenced for sex offences when he was already serving a jail term for indecently assaulting a 13-year-old girl. The following year Lloyd became the first priest in England and Wales in recent history to be forcibly laicised by the Pope.

In the same year Ward himself was arrested by police in London and falsely accused of sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl in the 1960s, when he was a parish priest at Peckham, south London. He issued a statement vigorously denying the allegations but also taking a side-swipe at the police and the media. Pointing out that "a person is innocent until proven guilty", he maintained that many priests had been falsely accused and, because of police connections with the media, their lives had been made a misery and their ministry damaged.

"None of us is safe from false accusations," he claimed, adding: "Now that a bishop is so accused, I will use my position to go public and ask the kind of questions that challenge present procedures that are a dangerous machinery for grave miscarriages of justice".

In June 2000 Ward returned to the theme when he welcomed proposed changes to the law to protect teachers from false allegations of abuse. Noting that few of the 500 teachers annually accused of abuse were found guilty, he said he had received many letters from people who had been falsely accused. "I get the impression that anyone teaching or in a caring situation feels threatened," he commented, and he pressed for anonymity until charges were made.

It may be that this wariness of miscarriages of justice led to the oversights that accompanied Ward's dealings with a second serious paedophile case, that of Father Joseph Jordan. A former teacher, Jordan had been cleared of a serious sexual assault against a pupil at a school in Doncaster but listed by the Department of Education as unsuitable to work with children.

Jordan began his studies for the priesthood under the auspices of the Plymouth diocese; but when the bishop, the Right Reverend Christopher Budd, used the Church's guidelines on child protection to look again at the case, Jordan switched his allegiance to Cardiff. Budd wrote confidentially to Ward, urging him to investigate Jordan. Ward ignored this advice and withheld vital information about Jordan's past from the diocesan vocations board. Jordan was ordained in 1998, and jailed in late 2000 for sex offences against boys which included two since his ordination.

By now there was deep dissension in the diocese. One canon resigned from the cathedral chapter over the Lloyd affair, citing "a leadership crisis". In Ward's presence, the chapter was presented with a confidential memorandum which described the clergy's mood in terms of "malaise", "distrust", "lack of confidence" and "a sense of pointlessness in speaking to the archbishop". But in an interview with The Daily Telegraph in October 2000, Ward refused to resign, denying that he had been at fault in ordaining Jordan.

He made a similar refusal some days later in an interview with the BBC Panorama programme which examined the background to the Jordan case. It revealed that Ward had passed on letters of complaint from parishioners about John Lloyd to Lloyd himself, without taking any further action. Three of Ward's priests, who appeared on the programme, urged him to step down. Ward apologised for his mistakes, but stood his ground, saying he had acted in good faith.

The following day, however, he announced that he had asked the Pope to appoint a coadjutor bishop to work alongside him and eventually succeed him. Some of his clergy thought this was the best way forward, others angrily denounced the move as a way of clinging to power.

By now Ward's health was suffering. After the Lloyd case he had suffered a stroke, and following the publicity over the Jordan case he was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis.

Meanwhile the Catholic press was divided. The Tablet publicised the grievances of clergy and laity against the archbishop, and called for his retirement. The Catholic Herald defended Ward, suggesting that he was the victim of a witchhunt by a small minority of priests, that he had been duped by Jordan, and wrongly, or inadequately, briefed about Jordan's suitability for the priesthood.

John Aloysius Ward was born on January 24 1929 and brought up speaking Welsh at Wrexham before being educated at Prior Park College, Bath. He joined the Capuchin Friars at Holywell, Clwyd, and was ordained at Peckham. From 1954 to 1960 he served on the Menevia diocese's travelling mission in north- and mid-Wales. He then returned to Peckham as parish priest and guardian of the resident Franciscan community until 1966.

Meanwhile, he was both a member of the governing council of the Capuchins and provincial director of vocations. He was briefly the order's minister provincial then, for 10 years, an adviser to the Father General in Rome, with special responsibility for English-speaking Capuchins worldwide.

In 1980 Ward was appointed coadjutor bishop of Menevia, succeeding to the bishopric the following year. Two years later Pope John Paul appointed him Archbishop of Cardiff despite the preferences of local clergy. His adminstration was not characterised by great vision or marked spiritual leadership. However, he won the support of Cardiff Catholics when, in 1996, he resisted an offer by the socialist millionaire, Sir Julian Hodge, to build a new cathedral for Cardiff at a cost of £3 million, in the heart of the city. Ward was aware of the attachment felt by Cardiff Catholics to the existing cathedral, and maintained that it was adequate.

While he was recuperating from deep vein thrombosis in 2000-01, his episcopal duties were carried out by the Bishop of Wrexham, Bishop Edwin Regan. But rumours continued to abound. The archbishop's private secretary forcefully rejected claims by the Western Mail that Cardinal Hume had urged Ward to resign for ordaining Jordan, calling them "mischievous reporting" and persistent "repetition of distorted facts and half-truths".

Barely two weeks before his resignation, Ward aroused a storm of protest among priests and laity when he denigrated the memory of a popular priest by describing him as a "raving homosexual".

After his resignation Ward remained in the diocese, but kept a low profile.














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