A former senior adviser to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor the head of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales today branded as ‘lies’claims that he was a hypocrite who forced a former girlfriend to have an abortion and wanted another girlfriend pregnant with his twins to end their lives.
Dr. Austen Ivereigh is a practicing Roman Catholic and anti abortionist and the lies ‘destroyed his reputation’and cost him his job, his counsel Ronald Thwaites QC told the High Court.
The 41-year-old is seeking libel damages from the Daily Mail over an article in June 2006 headed ‘Archbishop’s aide accused of abortion hypocrisy by former lover.”
He was seriously defamed by the article ‘which falsely alleged that he was a hypocrite for not practicing what he preached in relation to the issue of abortion,’said Thwaites.
He said the issue of abortion was a very serious matter to everybody and particularly in the Catholic Church. At the time he was head of public affairs for the Cardinal.
‘As a result of that article we say he lost his job. The effect of the offending article was to rob him of moral authority and destroy his credibility as a spokesman on Catholic issues and destroy his reputation.”
Catholics would have read into it that he was guilty of procuring an abortion and was someone who should be ex-communicated from the church and be outside of the Church. ‘Few things could be more serious or devastating than that.”
But the newspaper denies libel and claims it is true. They have to prove that, said Mr. Thwaites. Telling the jury of six men and six women about the story in the Bible of water being turned into wine he said : ‘The miracle to be performed by the defendants is to attempt to turn lies into the truth.”
He said Dr Ivereigh of Cumberland St., Westminster, South West London, ‘only ever had one view about abortion and that is he was and is against it . It is one of his core beliefs.”
He said the story goes back to 1988 when he was 22 and met a girl at college in Oxford and commenced a relationship. By the beginning of 1989 she discovered she was pregnant which was ‘ a bit of a shock to them.”
Although their relationship was unlikely to lead to marriage he was happy about the pregnancy and was prepared to support her and the baby. She was prepared to have it. His family also supported him.
But he claimed the woman’s mother ‘ a very formidable lady’was against it and while he was opposed to abortion she accepted her mother’s wishes and had a termination.
But her mother was out of the country when she had the abortion and his own mother collected her from the clinic and looked after her until she was well enough to continue with her life.
That was the end of their relationship and they went their separate ways, said Thwaites.
It was a generation later that he met another older woman a divorcee with two children – who can be named only as Madame X by order of the court – and they began a relationship in 2005.
She worked for a pro life newspaper which made no bones about its opposition to abortion, said Thwaites. When she became pregnant with twins, they planned to have the children, move in together and marry . The pregnancy was greeted with joy by him and his family, the court heard.
But then their relationship went ‘from very cool to cold to distinctly frosty,’he added. He was ‘bewildered’by her change and she refused to see him. When he tried to get in touch she said he was harassing her.
He tried to persuade her not to have an abortion and even got a priest to talk to her. But she did not appreciate it.
She was then taken to hospital where she miscarried both of the twins . But he did not find out for weeks. He believed she was going ahead with an abortion against his wishes. ‘He was left in agony and ignorance as to the fate of these children,’said Thwaites. ‘He was not responsible for the miscarriage and did not want her to have an abortion.’
But the article which claimed he gave his former girlfriend ‘no choice’but to have an abortion and told his latest lover he would not support her if she had his twins wrongly presented him ‘as a man without honour who was unfit to work for the Cardinal,’added Thwaites.
Ivereigh told Mr Justice Eady and the jury he was ‘saddened and bewildered,’by the lies in the artricle.
The hearing, due to last three weeks, continues.