By Harriet Sherwood
The most senior Catholic leader in England and Wales went to extraordinary lengths to try to discredit a BBC documentary on child sexual abuse and its cover-up by the church, the Guardian can disclose.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, publicly accused the BBC of bias and malice before the documentary was aired in 2003. Documents seen by the Guardian show he also lobbied the BBC’s director of news, wrote to all priests in his archdiocese urging them not to speak to BBC journalists, and lodged a formal complaint against the programme’s makers.
The BBC’s programme complaints unit (PCU) rejected the complaint, and the BBC governors’ programme complaints committee dismissed his appeal against that decision. Nichols refused to apologise to the programme-makers.
Last month the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) criticised Nichols for putting the church’s reputation before the welfare of abuse survivors. In a report, IICSA said Nichols’s response to the BBC programme was “misplaced and missed the point”.