The Rt Rev John Ward - Obituary
March 28, 2007
The paedophile priest scandal that has shaken Catholicism in recent times caused the downfall of Archbishop John Ward, the head of the church in Wales, who has died, aged 78. He was revealed as having failed to act in the 1990s over allegations about two priests in his Cardiff archdiocese. Though he acknowledged mishandling the cases, it was only after an interview with Pope John Paul II that he finally stood down in October 2001 on health grounds.
Ward had worked closely in the 1990s with Father John Lloyd, a parish priest who doubled as his press secretary. When letters from parents alleging misconduct by Lloyd with their children were sent to Ward, he passed them directly to the priest to deal with. In 1998, Lloyd was jailed for eight years for indecent assault, rape and buggery. At around the same time, Ward ordained Father Joseph Jordan, despite being warned about his potential paedophile tendencies by a fellow bishop. Jordan was subsequently jailed for eight years for sexual assaults on children. In 1999 Ward himself was accused of assaulting a girl in a primary school in the 1960s, but the charges were dropped.
Unrest about his conduct culminated in a damning BBC Panorama documentary in November 2000, and he went on sick leave after suffering a deep vein thrombosis. Edwin Regan, was appointed to stand in for him, but the following year Ward announced he was ready to resume his duties. He brushed aside all entreaties to resign so as to avoid causing scandal. It was only after he was summoned to Rome and spent half an hour alone with the Pope that he agreed to go. "I was determined," he said, "that no one - be it sections of the media or others critics - would force me out of office. I am weary of an environment characterised by lack of loyalty."
Ward was born in Leeds and educated by the Christian Brothers at Prior Park College, Bath, but in 1953 joined the Capuchin order of Friars Minor and was ordained. He was based at Holywell, north Wales, and was part of his order's travelling mission to the region until 1960, when he was appointed to their London parish in Peckham. After 1963, he served in various senior administrative roles within the order, first in Britain and latterly in Rome. In 1981 he took over as Bishop of Menevia, in south and west Wales, and two years later was elevated to Cardiff as head of the church in the principality.
A short, rotund and reserved man, his preferred style of leadership was that of the traditional prince bishop. He maintained a distant relationship with his clergy and congregations. The financial management of the archdiocese on his watch caused concern and his successor, Peter Smith, had to sell the archdiocese's residence to pay off some of the debts incurred. Ward retired to a bungalow, where he displayed his episcopal coat of arms above the front door.
· John Aloysius Ward, church leader, born January 24 1929; died March 27 2007