Saturday, 12 September 2009

Meeting with Abbot Shipperlee of Ealing Abbey

I spent a little over an hour with Abbot Martin Shipperlee on Friday morning, discussing issues arising out of Fr David Pearce’s conviction on charges of sexual assault and indecent assault.

The Abbot was aware of my blog, and I made it clear from the outset that I would write down my impressions of the meeting. He told me that Fr Pearce is to be sentenced on October 2nd, and a public statement will be made then, and that there would be some things he couldn’t say now in a discussion with me because they would pre-empt that public statement. I think that is fair enough, it is obvious to me that a further public statement must be made then, and we can only wait to see what it contains. Furthermore, my blog is not an appropriate vehicle for formal public statements from the Abbot about the case.

I started out by presenting to him the comment from the anonymous abuse victim. Although he had read the blog, it was before that specific comment had been put up, so he hadn’t seen it. I pointed out that this was (to the best of my knowledge) an entirely characteristic reaction to abuse of this kind. It is very difficult to come forward, and the pain doesn’t go away. I pointed out that this being so, it is certain that there are more victims who haven’t yet come forward, and who perhaps may never do so. It is very likely that these greatly outnumber the victims he is so far aware of. I also commented that while the anonymous commenter and I agree about the non-existence of God, I regard it as an absolute tragedy that somebody should be driven to that belief as a necessary psychological survival mechanism. He didn’t disagree with any of that.

We then looked at the public statements as they were reported in the local papers at the conclusion of the civil case in 2006 and on the occasion of Pearce pleading guilty to the criminal charges last month.

At the conclusion of the civil trial, the Ealing Times included the following in its report.

In a statement written to parishioners and obtained by the Ealing Times, Abbot Martin Shipperlee from Ealing Abbey said: "A High Court judgement was given against Fr David Pearce and Ealing Abbey, and damages awarded to a former pupil of our school.

"In addition, allegations relating to 1984 have been made against Fr Stanislaus Hobbs, and he has now been charged with an indecent assault."

He added the Abbey "deeply regrets" anything which could have led to such allegations being made, and said the incidents were being investigated in "full co-operation" with the diocese and police in accordance with the recommendations of Lord Nolan's report on the protection of children in the church.

Both Fr Pearce and Fr Hobbs have been relieved of any ministry and are currently away from the monastery.

The Ealing Gazette included this in its report on Fr Pearce’s criminal trial.

Westminster RC diocese said: "Ealing Abbey is deeply saddened by the case."

I have quoted above the sum total of the church’s statements as included in the two reports.

I asked him whether these reports were a reasonable representation of what had in fact been said, or whether they had misrepresented him or the church in any way. He agreed that they were a fair summary of the statements given at the time, and that there was no misrepresentation. He said that the statement following the criminal trial was as brief as it was because the criminal case doesn’t actually end until sentence is passed, and so his full statement will come then.

I then described the impression that those statements had had on me when I first read them. I said that they sounded like weasel words. He initially bridled somewhat at the phrase, saying that they were truthful words.

I explained that they sounded like he was being extremely careful to be as unspecific as possible about what exactly he was regretting. I said that it could easily be interpreted as regretting that the case had come to light, but not actually regretting the harm that Fr Pearce had done, since he didn’t offer any description of that harm. I said that whether or not that was what he intended to convey, or whether he thought the way I received the words was fair or not, that was an honest description of how it came across to me, and that it was entirely likely that others will have formed the same impression.

I made a comparison with confession, that a true and valid confession cannot be made until the sinner has a full understanding of what he has done wrong, and that once that full understanding has been achieved, the confession has to avoid the use of euphemisms and circumlocutions that minimize the magnitude of the sin. The use of euphemisms is a sure sign that the repentance is not genuine. I said that the same applies to apologies, and that anybody who has suffered at the hands of Fr Pearce will treat any apology that uses euphemisms as an insult and as a sign that the apology is not genuine. I commented that statements such as have been provided to the press so far quite probably serve only to increase the pain of the victims.

He promised to take my thoughts into account when preparing his statement for October 2nd.

During the conversation, we both repeatedly caught ourselves slipping into the use of euphemisms to describe the abuse.

We then moved on to the question of whether he is now in fact in a position to know what has been done wrong. By this, I meant not only the extent of the abuse perpetrated by Fr Pearce, but also the actions (and inactions) of the Abbot and others which resulted in Fr Pearce continuing unchecked for so many years, and the full extent of the harm that has been caused to the victims of abuse. In other words, I asked whether he is yet in a position to fully understand what he has to apologise for.

I asked what had been done (aside from the criminal investigations) to review the past and uncover the extent of the abuse. This merged into the next issue that I wanted to discuss, the measures being taken to prevent any repetition of the abuse, and particularly to ensure that any reports are promptly acted on so that any abuse gets stopped immediately instead of being given a chance to continue.

First of all he acknowledged his past failures. Quite clearly, the measures he had taken when he first received reports of abuse had been insufficient. He acknowledges that he had believed himself competent to act to bring an end to the abuse when with the benefit of hindsight he clearly wasn’t. He had thought that the steps he had taken to prevent a continuation of the abuse would be effective, and clearly they failed.

He said that the procedures have now been changed, such that for instance whenever there is a report of abuse, the police are now brought in immediately. We didn’t go into detail of what precise changes have been made. I saw little point as I’m not an expert in the field and therefore not competent to carry out an audit.

So I asked instead if he had requested or received external expert assistance in reviewing the Abbey’s and schools’ procedures for child protection. Agencies external to the Abbey have been brought in. He briefly described to me the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service and the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, and told me that both had been in to review procedures and policies. He said that changes have been made and there is still much work to be done to make sure that the policies are not only implemented but that everyone involved is used to effectively operating them. He said that the work of these two bodies is being carried out on a systematic basis though the whole of the Catholic Church in this country.

I pointed out a major problem of perception. It may be that those organisations are extremely effective in what they do, or they might not. I have no way of telling. But both are Catholic organisations, set up to be part of and to provide a service specifically to the Catholic Church. Given that the failures of the church to prevent and respond to sexual abuse are tragically common and widespread, with horrifying cases popping up all over the world, many people will understandably have grave doubts as to the church’s ability to reform itself by turning to organisations set up by the very church in need of reform.

In addition, I pointed out there has been a highly public and major failure resulting in great harm to children in the church’s care, which has happened on Abbot Shipperlee’s watch here in Ealing. Even if the two organisations he mentioned are doing an effective job, for him to earn a restoration of trust requires more. In my view, it requires that he go an extra mile beyond what the rest of the church is doing, and call in non-Catholic secular agencies who are experts in this field to provide an independent review and report. Otherwise, many people will understandably think the various church agencies are colluding in a cover-up. I said that I didn’t know who would be the best people to do that review, but that a phone call to the NSPCC to discuss it might be a good starting point from which he could find out.

Abbot Shipperlee didn’t promise to do that. He said that in this context he perhaps had not yet given adequate thought to the need not only to set things right but also to be clearly seen by the outside world to do so, and that this was an issue that he needed to reflect on further. He saw where I was coming from and accepted that the idea had merit, but felt that since he hadn’t thought this through sufficiently, he wanted time to reflect before deciding, and so he didn’t feel able instantly to say that he would go ahead and do this.

We then discussed the matter of providing care and support to the victims. One of my objectives in giving him that comment right at the start was to fix in his mind the fact that there are almost certainly very many victims who are at present unknown to him, who through shame or disgust or fear have not come forward, or who were unaware of the criminal investigation and so did not make a statement to the police. If Fr Pearce’s abuse started in 1972, the victims are hardly going to be restricted to the five boys he has been convicted of assaulting.

I also expressed the opinion that the letters he has sent to parents of the Abbey’s schools and the statement he has made at Mass cannot be regarded as public apologies, since many of the victims will have moved away from the parish or even left the church in disgust, and so would have been in no position to hear the apology, no matter how heartfelt and sincere it was. (By the way, I don’t yet know what form of words he used in his statement in Mass or the letters to parents. He has promised to forward a copy of both to me. Since again it would pre-empt his October statement, I am not going to publish them here even once I receive them.) Once children leave the school, they scatter to the four corners of the earth, and if the abuse has been going on at least since 1972, there are undoubtedly a far greater number of victims amongst ex-pupils than among those still attending the school. Apologies read out at Mass and notices posted on the boards in the Abbey don’t constitute an effective way of reaching out to those victims. I pointed out that modern technology, in the form of the web, offers a means of reaching out that simply wasn’t available to past generations, that an apology on the Abbey website has the scope to reach far more past pupils than the efforts made so far.

His response to this was that it simply hadn’t occurred to him to do that. He said that on reflection he has concentrated too closely on himself and Fr Pearce and the actions necessary to stop the abuse, and on the victims he is in contact with and for whom support is being provided. He wasn’t specific about what this support was, and out of consideration for the privacy of the victims I did not ask for details. He acknowledged that on reflection too little has been done so far to offer support to victims as yet unknown.

Finally, I asked about his motivations, whether in his public statements so far he could with complete honesty say that the care and support of the victims was his primary concern, or whether trying to salvage the good name of the church was also in his mind. He was surprisingly slow to answer. He acknowledged that in retrospect, concern for the reputation of the Abbey was one of the matters on his mind, and that the statements as they have been reported in the press have not adequately communicated concern for the victims, partly because he himself did not make it sufficiently clear, and partly because the message has been attenuated through the medium of newspapers who have other agendas. I replied that concern for the Abbey’s reputation is also concern for the Church’s reputation, and that the Abbey’s reputation deserves to be no better than is justified by the actions of its clergy, and that his expressions of concern for the victims and tangible actions to help them form part of that reputation. He agreed.

I closed by saying that I was in no way convinced that all would be well, and that I would be following the situation with interest. I said that I would far prefer that the Abbey learned and was able properly to protect those in its care, but that if I concluded that this wasn’t happening, I would have no hesitation in calling for the Abbey to sever its links with the schools if thought that would better assure the safety of the pupils. I said that I might wish to visit again in a few months to discuss progress with him, to which he agreed.


I wrote up the notes above as soon as I returned home. I then decided the leave them overnight and review them again and make any necessary additions or corrections that I spotted. It isn’t a verbatim transcript of the discussion, but it is an account of the meeting which is as honest and accurate as my memory permits. I took notes of a few specific items during the meeting (the names of the organisations called in to help refine the child protection policies), but in order to keep the conversation going, I decided not to attempt to take notes of everything else during the meeting. I’m not a journalist and I don’t have shorthand.

I’ve deliberately avoided as far as possible mixing my opinions as to the Abbot’s responses in with the narrative, except in as far as I provided responses to him at the time. I felt it better to put my opinions down separately here at the end, so as to give people the opportunity to form their own impressions first.

I found the discussion somewhat frustrating. He was very cagey in many of his replies, and there was no means by which I could tell whether this caginess was simply for the reason he gave (that he cannot pre-empt the public statement he will give when Fr Pearce is sentenced) or whether there was some other reason as well.

He said the sorts of things I would expect to hear if he was essentially a good man trying to do his imperfect best to rectify a terrible situation, one brought about in part by his own failures in trying to do things he was unqualified for. But they are also exactly the sorts of things I would expect to hear from a person who is looking to restore the good name of the church by telling people what he thinks they want to hear. And until I see the actions, I have no way of knowing which of those two possibilities is nearer the truth, or whether it is in fact all a bit of a muddy mixture of the two.

Given the catastrophic extent and the duration of the Abbey’s failure to protect the children under its care from a monk and priest under the Abbot's authority, I don’t think that he can fairly expect to be given the benefit of the doubt. For the Abbot and the Abbey to regain public trust, fine words are needed, but even more important is that they are matched – and seen to be matched – with fine actions.

I left the meeting quite tired and feeling somewhat angry, for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Having read through my notes, I think I now recognise the source of that anger.

In describing his failures to stop Fr Pearce earlier, Abbot Shipperlee was of course stating no more than is blindingly obvious to anybody with a passing familiarity with the case. What he said was fine as far as it went, but it didn’t actually go very far.

And this is symptomatic of what I see as the main problem, the true source of my anger. It is that the scope of the Abbot’s actions so far seem always to have been as narrow as possible, and aimed at dealing with the most immediate problem.

  • His original actions to try and bring an end to Fr Pearce’s abuse were kept within the church, and as far as I can tell were aimed solely at preventing future abuse and not aimed at punishing past abuse or at identifying or supporting victims. And what is more, they didn’t even succeed in that limited aim.
  • His public statements have focussed solely on the immediate issues at hand, and have been restricted to a relatively narrow audience in most cases.
  • He appears to have done no more than is now being required across the whole Catholic Church to put in place procedures to prevent and halt future cases of abuse.
  • He appears to have shown little or no curiosity regarding the wider picture – how far has the abuse extended, who else might have been involved, how many people have been harmed, how can they be helped.

I was most shocked about his response to the idea of putting something up on the website to reach out to scattered victims. If he were lying, and had up to now made a conscious decision to try and let sleeping dogs lie and not reach out to victims so far unidentified, then that would be a terrible betrayal of the idea that Christians should conduct their lives so as to be a witness to the love of Christ. On balance, I think it overwhelmingly probable that he was not deliberately lying to me. He struck me as a person who would find it difficult to tell a deliberate and outright lie.

But it is not all that much better if he is telling the truth and that the idea of trying to use the website to reach out beyond the current parishioners and parents simply didn’t occur to him. The Abbey already has a website, the existence of which he can hardly be unaware. It contains material concerning matters such as messages to prospective new parishioners and to people considering a vocation as a monk. It provides a weekly letter from the parish to all who wish to read it, and the text of the week’s homily. It has a regularly-updated notice board concerning parish events. In other words, the website is already attempting to reach out beyond the boundaries of the parish.

For it not to occur to the Abbot to use the website as a means of reaching out to victims of Fr Pearce is an extraordinary failure of imagination. He put it down to being an elderly cleric who is not all that up-to-date with the developments of the world. On reflection, I find that excuse to be hard to swallow. If he’s that out-of-touch with the world, he is hardly a fit person to have responsibilities concerned with the running of a school which is preparing children for their place in that world.

From the criminal case we know that the abuse started at least as early 1972. That is the date of earliest crime to which Fr Pearce has pleaded guilty. I don’t know when Fr Pearce first joined the Abbey or started teaching at St Benedict's School, but if it was some time before 1972, I think it unlikely that the police have managed to successfully prosecute the very first case of indecent assault that Fr Pearce ever committed. And it is beyond belief that the cases which have come to court are anything other than a very small proportion of all the assaults and other abuses Fr Pearce has committed. The oldest of his victims are quite probably now in their 40s or 50s, and they could be living anywhere in the world.

No, I’m not satisfied. Not by a long chalk.


  1. I don't condone this sort of evasion but I do see why in a wider context Catholic priests might be very cagy about what they admit and to whom. The church in the West is under all kinds of threats and pressures and a siege mentality probably comes naturally to its staff. After all, any little pebble could cause an avalanche: woe betide the priest or Bishop who sets it off!

  2. As a committed atheist, I nevertheless acknowledge that there are some very admirable pastors, priests etc. There are also some very nasty pieces of work, such as Fr Pearce.

    I see no reason to suppose that the average character of those who "take the cloth" should be much different from our overall society.

    However it is possible to put people in situations where dreadful behaviour is either encouraged or at the least condoned. And that is what has appeared to have been happening in the Catholic church for many years.

    The problem is not so much that there have been nasty individuals in the church (that is inevitable) but rather that the *institution* has failed to recognise the problem and confront it.

    Your discussion with the Abbot reveals a startling unwillingness to accept the Church's failings in recognising and addressing the problem - and its complicity in allowing it to occur in the first place.

    And *if* the incidence of child sexual abuse in the Church is declining it is probably largely due to the "expanded" opportunities for child sex abuse in other places rather more than earnest policing by Church authorities.

  3. Well done. Looks as if you tried your best but Abbot Martin's pre-conviction rule of silence was an excellent way of avoiding your questions.

    I await with interest the post-conviction public statement from Abbot Martin.

    I hope Abbot Martin will explain:

    1. When he learned of allegations against Fr David (must have been before the Civil trial) and what action he took?

    2. Did he for example contact the Police?

    3a. Did he speak with the previous Abbot, Abbot Lawrence Soper to find out whether he knew of allegations against Fr David?

    3b. What did Abbot Francis know?

    4. Why Fr David was permitted to attend the Funeral of Fr Bernard Orchard in his full black habit? This was in November 2006 months after the Civil trial. Did this not give the impression that Fr David was in "good standing" and that the Civil trial had been unfair?

    5. Whether, after the verdict of the Civil Trial, the School or Abbey ever considered appealing against the Judgement? In other words, did they accept they had been negligent in permitting Fr David to be Headmaster of the Junior School?

    6. Whether after the verdict of the Civil Trial Abbot Martin permitted Fr David to reside in the Abbey or in any of its flats or houses, and if so why and when?

    7. Where the post 2006 abuse took place? Was it in premises owned by the Abbey?

    A website that provides details of clergy abuse and the great efforts made by the clergy to cover up the abuse can be found at:

    Thank you for publishing details of your meeting with Abbot Martin.

  4. Benet
    Abbot Shipperlee admitted in court during the civil trial that the monks knew of accusations against Fr Pearce before he retired as headteacher in 1993.

    I think that should give you an adequate idea as to the answers to questions 1, 2, 3a and 3b.

    As for the rest, I do not know, and unfortunately your earlier comment with these questions arrived too late for me to ask him at the meeting.

  5. An interesting legal development in the States - an attempt to sue Bishops who knew of a priest's abuse and moved him to another Parish with a "Don't do it again, Father".

  6. There may well be other victims out there but I don't think that Ealing Abbey has a duty to scour the world to find them. If there is anyone with an unresolved grievance against David Pearce, it's resonable to expect that they might want to serach for him on the internet of their own volition.

    And of course there might be victims who don't want to come forward because they consider that their Catholic education was, on balance, a positive experience or because they feel that the abuse was a moderately unpleasant event that had no adverse effect on their subsequent lives.

    And I think it's reasonable for the Church to consider the possibility of people coming forward with false or exaggerated claims for mercenary reasons.

    I'm not qualified to comment on the Abbey's behaviour after the allegations came to light or whether current child protection procedures are satisfactory.

    I do however wonder whether you are motivated primarily by a desire to humiliate the Catholic Church rather than by a concern for children.

    Thank you for allowing me to comment anonymously.

  7. It boggles my mind that the previous comment imputes the possibility to you of a desire to humiliate the Catholic church. People who can write such things just don't get it. Child abuse that ends up in the criminal courts - and that is what is under discussion here - is certainly not a moderately unpleasant event. You have been open about your status as a concerned parent and had your desire been to humiliate the church you could presumably have chosen to speak to the press instead of requesting a personal interview with Abbot Martin. The author of the comment is part of the problem as far as I am concerned and I speak as a priest myself who knew Fr. David briefly as a young monk in the 70's. This story is a tragedy for him, for the Abbey and for the church. But above and before all it is a tragedy for those who through no fault of their own are the real victims in this story.

  8. I knew it, I bloody knew it.

    Gay Dave, that was his name to the kids and he was the one that all new kids were warned about. Oh, it was a dark day when he took over as headmatster of the junior school and he made my life hell for three years.

    Gutted for the boys and I am sure I must have known some of them. We all knew he was a deviant. Final straw for me was when he pulled a hair from my leg - a strange action to perform on an eleven year old child.

    I remember some time after that being sent to his office by a teacher and refusing to go unless the teacher went with me as I wasn't prepared to be alone with him - a clear indication of how he was viewed by pupils.

    No suprise at the ineptitude of Abbot Martin, even as a teacher he was weak as water. The only suprise is he made it to Abbot.

  9. It looks to me as though the problem with commenting on the issues raised here is one of a lack of accurate information. It seems clear that father Pearce was guilty of abusing his position of trust as headmaster and that boys were indecently assaulted whilst attending the junior or senior school.

    What is not clear is whether these assaults were in school or whilst the boys were away on trips or indeed on abbey premises, or all of these. I only refer to these points as the time scale is not clear- did the assaults stop and start over a period of years?
    This would not lessen the offences but would affect the numbers of boys involved.

    If father Pearce was generally known as "Gay Dave", did none of the parents or teachers think to enquire re: this at the time?

    As the parent of a child currently attending the school I would certainly be asking questions were one of my child's teachers to be referred to in this way.

  10. To Anon - 25th Sept 2009 - 02:47

    You raise good questions about when and where the assaults took place. Whilst the matter has been sub judice the Abbot has not answered questions of this type. After 02nd October, when I understand Fr David will be sentenced I hope the Abbot will provide full answers to such questions.

    I cannot recall even thinking about mentioning Fr David's nickname to my parents. Why would a school-boy do that? As I recall he was also known as Q.M..

    As a parent of a pupil attending St B's I hope you will ask these questions to the Headmaster.

    We now know that Basil Hume was aware of abuse at Ampleforth whilst he was Abbot. His response was to send the priest who admitted his abuse to be a Parish Priest in Workington Cumbria.

    We need the Abbey to be honest and straightforward about who knew what when. This is not intended to humiliate the Abbey or the present Abbot it is that we expect the Abbey to be truthful and to expiate these matters. If it is humbling for the Abbot to be truthful, so be it, the Rule of St Benedict has plenty to say about humility.

  11. I am one of the victims in the criminal case. I came across this blog via google - I was poking around seeing what was "out there" on the case thus far. Sentencing is later this week, after which I hope I can contribute more to the discussion.
    I hope all realise these are only "sample" charges of the multiple assaults and violations he committed against the victims in this case. Nor was he the only perpetrator of sexual abuse I was unfortunate enough to encounter whilst at St. Benedict's.
    I came forward after learning of his arrest on the local BBC morning news in Feb 2008. I have no knowledge of any support being provided, nor of any apology. I will not be attending sentencing.
    I will return to this blog soon.

  12. To Anon: 28th Sept 2009

    "I am one of the victims in the criminal case."

    Welcome! I sincerely hope that Abbot Martin and the others, Laurence Soper especially, who failed in their duty to protect the boys in their care read your comments and are shamed into making admitting the truth of what they knew. It's the same questions: Who knew what when? and it demands an answer.

    I hope that Fr David's sentence reflects the severity of the pain he inflicted on you & the others regardless of the "sample" charges he faced. I recall he was charged with 22 counts of Indecent Assault and only plead guilty to some 10 offences. Thank you for explaining this discrepancy.

    Your contribution shows how important and useful this blog has been and, I suspect, will continue to be for some time. Thanks again to Jonathan West.

  13. To the victim in the criminal case, thank you very much for taking the trouble to comment.

    I plan to attend the sentencing hearing if I can. I've enquired of the court what time the hearing will be, but not yet had a response. If I can attend, I will report back here as to events, including the details of whatever statement the Abbot makes.

  14. I have been waiting for more than thirty years to see this revolting pervert brought to justice. When I was a pupil at the school (1975 to 1982), all the boys knew that Fr David was a homosexual predator. We called him Gay Dave and sang obscene songs about him, there was no secret about it.

    The headmaster, senior members of staff and fellow monks must have known of his activities or at least strongly suspected them. As far as I know, there was never any investigation of his behaviour. It would be interesting to know why so many people chose to look the other way. Maybe they were trying to protect the reputation of the school. Maybe they were trying to protect themselves.

    It was generally believed that Fr David was merely one of a number of abusers at the school. Most of the teaching monks were suspected, however, in view of the laws of libel I will not name names at this time. I was very surprised to learn of the conviction of John Maestri (Middle School maths teacher) for indecently assaulting one of my contemporaries. We thought that he was a womanizer, he was never on our list of suspects.

    People who were not directly connected with the school may wonder why victims waited so long to come forward. On the surface Fr David was the model of respectability, a monk, an ordained priest, a qualified dentist and the holder of a commission in the TA. I remember one of my classmates denounced him to his face in front of a room full of boys. Within a few months he was expelled for a subsequent minor infraction of the school rules. I imagine that most victims decided that it was better to try to bury their memories and move on with their lives.

    We owe a great debt of gratitude to the five former pupils who found the courage to go to the police and finally bring the bastard down. If any of you read this, you have my respect and admiration.

    Now that Fr David has been convicted, I hope that the police launch a wider investigation into St Benedict’s School and Ealing Abbey. I have no doubt at all that there are more abusers to be found and that the worst revelations are yet to come.

    I was very interested to read of the meeting with Abbot Martin. I have never met the man but he sounds like a ghost from the past. After Fr David lost the civil action in 2006 Abbot Martin said that he, “deeply regrets anything that could have led to these allegations being made.” These truly are weasel words. I would like to know whether he is simply stupid and naïve or whether his motives are more sinister.

    The school and the abbey have a duty to reach out to former pupils and parents who have been affected. It is likely that claims will be made for financial compensation, this is only fair and right. They were happy enough to collect the fees and neglect their responsibilities. I wonder if the abbot thinks that St Benedict himself would be proud to know that this school had been named after him.

    I look forward to a lengthy prison sentence for Fr David on Friday (I will have a few beers to celebrate) and I expect to read more weasel words from the abbot in his long awaited statement.

  15. I remember one of my classmates denounced him to his face in front of a room full of boys. Within a few months he was expelled for a subsequent minor infraction of the school rules. I imagine that most victims decided that it was better to try to bury their memories and move on with their lives.

    This does not in the least surprise me, either the fact of the expulsion or the subsequent reaction of the other boys. After all, who would believe a boy who had been expelled over a pillar of the community?

  16. An interview with Fr David from 2000 when he was the Novice Master:

  17. Vatican spokesman on Clerical Abuse:

    Extract below from:

    "Archbishop Tomasi responded (scil to criticism from Intl Humanist & Ethical Union), “As the Catholic Church has been busy cleaning its own house, it would be good if other institutions and authorities, where the major part of abuses are reported, could do the same and inform the media about it.”

    Archbishop Tomasi added that the majority of clerical abuse should not be characterized as pedophilia, but as ephebophilia, or homosexual attraction to adolescents. “Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90% belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17,” he said."

    Finis - no comment

  18. Amazing not only was Pearce made Prior he was Appointed Novice Master! These appointments were all made after serious allegations had been made against him. This has all the hallmarks of the abbots at the time attempting to confer the message that this was a highly regarded and trusted monk.
    Parents and children would conclude that he must be highly regarded and that complaints about him were likly to fall on deaf ears

    On a different topic one has to question his role as Novice Master. Was he considered to be the perfect role model to guide new monks.

    The establishment at the Abbey, not just the present Abbot must address these issues. I don't wish to hear they are sorry for what occurred. I want to know who allowed Pearce to continue his activities.

  19. He was a bloody awful novice master, believe me. But regarding questions of who knew what and when, do bear in mind that child abusers are devious bastards, and are very good at throwing up smoke screens. I lived in the same house as Fr David for two years, and while I frequently observed behaviour that I found odd, I never saw a scrap of evidence that he had been, or was, an abuser. He tended his facade of respectability with great care.

  20. "Amazing not only was Pearce made Prior he was Appointed Novice Master"

    Your comments are spot on! Perhaps someone could supply the exact dates the Father David was Prior of Ealing and also Novice Master. But I think it was in the 1990's: Dom Laurence Soper was the Abbot from 1991-2000.

  21. Mr West,

    Please advise at what time the sentencing hearing will take place tomorrow.

    Is it at Isleworth Crown Court?

    Are you still intending to attend the hearing?


  22. The hearing will be at 2pm tomorrow (October 2nd) at Court 4, Isleworth Crown Court.

    I do intend being there.

  23. What about those little after school tea parties held in private. 1981/3.
    Invitation only. This is when he really decided on his pray and how best to zoom in. Grooming the weaker boys. Everyone knew it was going on, pupils, teachers, probably some parents, other priests and perverts. There is a lot more to tell just wait and see... Now, who is going after the teachers and other priests who were in places of authority and responsibility who did nothing! YOU ARE NOW ALL GUILTY TOO. Own up, we know who you are. Looking back it is sick you all did nothing to protect the children.

  24. Abbot Martin and the whole community where very scarred of David Pearce, you must understand the hold he had over the community, he had been there for a very long time.

    Only in the last 10 years or so have the civil authorities and society in general got there act together about what to do about child abuse, and now thank-God it is all being cleared up and got rid of.

    Also has it not reached your mind that Pearce may have been abused as a child, although this does not allow these actions isn anyway, we have to judge with compassion.

    Human suffering is a part of life, there will always be it, we can try our best to suppress it but this will never happen, My sympathy and prayers go out to all the victims of this man, and i hope that you can find peace and move on, He has now been judged, there may be more sentencing to come but we shall wait and see, also he will be constantly observed by the police, and every move will be noted, also then he dies he shall have judgement by almighty God, which will be just and fair to his sins.

    It is all too easy to see fault, and we as a society love a bad story, but at Ealing Abbey the amount of Boys (and Girls now) who will have a good all round education, will receive the faith from a strong parish team and be one of the many people who benefit from the good of the Church, will far out number the mistakes and faults of the past.

    We can harbour resentment and anger at these people who do these crimes, but what good will that do? in a way they are still controlling us, if we let that happen, we need to let go, forgive and find peace other wise the feeling inside will fester. Now I am speaking from Experience when I say this, as a child I was sexually abused for a great many years, by more than one person,
    do I hate them? No,
    Do I hate what they have done? Yes,
    Has it made me a stronger more compassionate, understanding person, very much so!
    I harbours hatred for them for many many years, getting angry at the smallest thing, pushing the people who loved me away even my mother and father, but it wasn't getting me anywhere, and I began to forgive and let go and find peace, and now I can move on.


  25. Now Ive heard it all. They were too scared of Father David to protect our children! They just don't seem to get it. There were concerns about his actions going back to the 1980's. They did nothing. All they had to do was call the Police. Avoiding a scandal was the order of the day. Do they not realise THEY HAD A DUTY OF CARE to our children.

  26. I was a pupil at St. Benedict's from 75-82. Very interested to know who my contemorary is who's posted on this site. Interesting stuff. Was it Joe Z who denounced Pearce? Seem to have a vague memory of that happening. Despite the Pearce case, I don't damn the school - I received a great education. However, I'm deeply disturbed by the reaction of the monastic community. Weak, outdated and immensely naive. I haven't been following the case but my aunt informed my mum that sentencing was coming up and the news filtered through to me. I'm shocked, but not surprised. I've collected my thoughts on this on my own blog at

  27. Anon writes:

    "There were concerns about his actions going back to the 1980's. They did nothing. All they had to do was call the Police."

    Para 58 of the High Court Judgement [2006] EWHC 166 (QB) says:

    58. D1’s (David Pearce) concerns that Y had been beaten by his father and Y’s allegations against D1 were investigated by Social Services and the police. In the result the police decided to take no action and Social Services reported to Y’s parents that medical evidence did not establish any evidence of sexual abuse (ie by David Pearce). In the opinion of Social Services D1 had acted in good faith by responding to the distress of a pupil in his care."

    So there was a Police investigation of at least one allegation back in 1992. But it seems it was Fr David's decision to contact Social Services about one of his pupils that led to the Police Investigation.

  28. Two points regarding the above comment.

    It does not say anything in the judgement about Pearce reporting the matter to social services, Just that they were informed. By the police I might suggest?

    I wonder if the social services had known the true history of his activities that they would have held the opinion that he acted in good faith. I think not. Pearce never acted in good faith he was assulting our children.

  29. Para 46 of the 2006 Judgement says:

    "D1" (David Pearce) told him (the unidentified boy Y) that he (D1) might have to inform Social Services and he should approach D1 again if the alleged ill-treatment continued. Five days later, after some consultation with colleagues, D1 reported Y’s allegations to Social Services."

    I am reluctant to contradict the previous comment but I provide this in the interests of accuracy.

    Of course, Father David (in June 1992) was reporting to Social Services suspected physical abuse by a parent not allegations made against himself.

  30. Further to the comments posted Oct 6th 17:43

    Given that Fr David did make representations to Social Services in June 92, regarding alledged physical abuse by a parent of boy "Y", is it beyond the realms of possibility, that such action was taken for reasons other than the wellbeing of the child. Let me explain.

    Had the child confided in Fr David that he had indeed been physically abused by a parent, could it not also follow that the same child confide in someone else at a later date as to the inappropriate behaviour of the very man he turned to when he really needed help, namely David Pearce himself.

    Fearing that his behaviour or future behaviour might well be exposed , Fr David's concern for the boys physical wellbeing was a perfect smokescreen .

    At the very least, two seperate allegations, made by the same child within a short period of time might well cast some doubt as to their authenticity by those who were tasked to invesigate it.

    It is stated that after five days, and in consultation with others Fr David did report the alledged parental abuse to Social Services.

    Did the child continue to make allegations against his father in those five days, resulting in Fr David reporting the matter ? or did Fr David report the alleged physical abuse nontheless.

    He did have time to think about it, and although reporting the alledged physical abuse to Social Services was the correct thing to do ,I cannot help but question the mans true motives.

  31. Reading up a bit on criminal psychology may help those involved in this case. Fr Pierce seems to be a classic example of what used to be called a "psychopath" and what is now called a "pathological narcissistic personality". In this, the person is entirely fixated on self and apprehends other people as animated objects to be exploited and controlled. The really weird aspect that many of these cases demonstrate, and which "normal" people find so difficult to understand, is that they may know all the standard emotional rules and behaviour patterns appropriate to the social situations in which they are. However, the emotional signals that they give are a facade. A fairly common example is the woman who gets married to a charming, attentive man and who is absolutely shocked when he then subjects her to mental and physical torture and control which can last for decades.

    It is perfectly possible for such a person to control and dominate a closed social group such as a monastic community; there are many documented case histories. A striking one recently was the crippled dwarf in Hastings, who dominated his extended family to such an extent that several of them attempted suicide after his death and on his orders.


  32. will there be a high court judgement of this case made public for all to read?

  33. My understanding is that all court documents and judgements are public documents, so you can apply to Isleworth Crown Court for a copy of the judgement.

    The only point I would wish to make is that if you choose to do that and to republish the judgement, make sure you redact the names of the victims. I was advised by the police that reporting restrictions have been imposed by the court barring the publication of the victims' names.

  34. Strictly speaking there was no Judgement in R -v- David Pearce because David Pearce pleaded Guilty, so there was no Jury to hear the case.

    There may be a transcript of what was said in Isleworth Crown Court - but one would need to have the permission of the Judge to obtain this. Normally transcripts are obtained for the purpose of appealing the jury's guilty verdict. But what is your interest in obtaining this? - NB they are costly running into thousands of pounds...

    In this case I think one will have to rely on the Judge's sentencing speech - the Indy seemed to have the fullest account of this.

    Unlike the Civil case in 2006 there will not be a published Judgement.

  35. "It is perfectly possible for such a person (pathological narcissistic personality) to control and dominate a closed social group such as a monastic community; there are many documented case histories."

    This and the comment that the monks were "scarred" of Fr David seems to be lacking in any evidence. The Community at Ealing is not a strictly enclosed "closed social group". Members of the Community work outside the Monastery in the Parish and in the School: they are not Trappists. They read the newspapers, watch TV and have access to the Internet.

    What's more they knew David Pearce well. He was not a stranger to the Community he was a boy at the School. He was in the same class as Richard Baker and then worked with him in the CCF.

  36. To the victim in the criminal case- why was it not possible for you at the time of the indecent assaults approach teachers at the school and perhaps suggest that all was not well?

  37. There was another report in the Ealing Gazette on Friday 9th of October:

    THE VICTIM of a child-abusing priest has spoken of how his life has been devastated.

    The 27-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous, was molested by Father David Pearce at the age of nine.

    Too young to realise what was happening, the pain only manifested later, sparking bouts of rage and causing him to 'go off the rails'.

    Fr Pearce, of Ealing Abbey, in Charlbury Grove, was jailed on Friday for eight years for 10 counts of indecent assault and one sexual assault committed against boys between 1972 and 2007.

    Hearing the sentence, the victim, formerly of Greenford and whose case never came to trial, said: "It's the best piece of news I've heard in a long time.

    "You try and forget about it, but even now just thinking about it makes me angry.

    "It has dictated my life. Once you've felt that vulnerable you want to make sure nothing like that ever happens to you again. He was in such a position of trust and my father worked so hard for the school fees, it makes me sick."

    Pearce, 67, preyed on pupils while headmaster of St Benedict's lower school in Eaton Rise, Ealing.

    When the victim told his family about the incident in 1990, Fr Pearce claimed he was checking for marks in case his father had been hitting him.

    The spotlight was turned on the family for weeks until social services established his relatives were blameless.

    The victim's father began building a case against Pearce, causing him to step down from his post. Yet he was still allowed to remain at the school as an administrator.

    But the victim's father died of a brain tumour in 1994, two days before his son's 13th birthday and his wife did not feel strong enough to pursue it.

    She tried going to the abbey for help, but says she was turned away.

    She said her son's life was shattered, he became violent, ran away from home, and committed violent crime, leading to a four year jail term for threatening a probation officer.

    Now living in Seaford, Sussex, the victim's mother said: "He used to be such an outgoing boy, but Father David completely changed him, he became inward, untrusting and angry."

    Isleworth Crown Court was told a case was brought against him by a victim in 2004, but was dropped because of lack of evidence. The same victim went on to win a civil action and Fr Pearce was put on restricted duties by the Westminster Diocese, but this did not stop further abuse.

    He was arrested in February last year and admitted the 11 charges earlier this year.

    Abbot Martin Shipperlee, of Ealing Abbey, said an independent review will be launched to stop abuses happening in the future and Fr Pearce's future as a priest will be reviewed.

    He pointed out police and social services were involved in the 1990 victim's case, explaining why the abbey could not discuss the matter at the time.

    He added: "His exploitation of the most vulnerable was brought to an end by the courage of those of his victims who came forward and revealed what had been happening."

  38. I was resposible for the 2006 civil case agaisnt Pearce.

    I would like to say, thank you to x,y and z. You where intrumental in my win.

    If you are reading this, you can contact me though Mr. West.

    Thak you

  39. I was responsible for the 2006 civil case against Pearce.

    I would like to say, thank you to x,y and z. You where instrumental in my win.

    If you are reading this, you can contact me though Mr. West.

    Thank you
    Spell Check

  40. Monastery, School, Parish – a collective failure and a collective challenge!

    The problems that have developed, over the years, at St Benedict’s are by no means unique to Ealing. The same issues have affected Benedictine schools, and many others, up and down the country. Several people on this blog have commented on the lack of any corrective action on the part of the monastic community. This is indeed a crucial issue as the problems of these schools stem more or less directly from the attitudes of the people in charge of them, i.e. the monks. So, we have to be rather more aware of how these monastic communities operate and the standards they set themselves. Sadly, generally we don’t have to look very far, as all too often they simply reflect our own social standards!
    However, how are parents to judge the quality of these communities? On the surface all seems to be well, so how do we know whether a particular community is or is not fit to take charge of children? This is far from easy. But there are things we can judge. First and foremost, it seems, we should take a long, careful look at the man who is, at least nominally, in charge - the abbot. Benedictine abbots are elected by their communities and are, therefore, more often than not, mirror images of these communities. We can be sure, for instance, that an ineffectual abbot is the choice of a weak, ineffectual community – a community much in our own ‘image and likeness’. Such a community will inevitably regard its school as little more than a source of income. But, of course, parents who send their children to monastic schools expect more, much more. Historically, such schools were seen as places where educational and spiritual values spilled over from the monastery into the school to become part of the wider community. But, where these values are no longer central to a monastic community there can be, in reality, no monastic school.
    This does not, by any means, imply that a Benedictine school should be run like a boot-camp or adopt so-called ‘Victorian values’. On the contrary, the Benedictine tradition has always sought to embody, and to advance, the most enlightened and civilized standards. But these liberal, humane standards can only be upheld where ‘the tranquillity of order’ is respected and maintained. This fundamental order, in other words, flourishes only where there is genuine discipline and where men are schooled, and seek to be schooled, in the service of Him whose ‘burden is light’ yet, nevertheless, demanding.
    If we wish our children to benefit from this kind of ‘classical’ education then it is our responsibility to see that it is maintained. Conducting witch-hunts or smear campaigns is not responsible behaviour. We have to confront the facts and the people behind the facts with the depth of understanding and charity that our Christian tradition calls for. For this to happen, of course, we have to grow up but then so also does the Catholic Church; a church whose moral teaching, especially on matters of sexuality, is sadly lacking both in understanding and charity. These qualities are the fruit not of convenient political slogans or rulings, tribal laws or reactions but of that dynamic and demanding spiritual growth through which, Christ promises, we shall be guided, down the ages, by his Spirit – the Spirit of Truth. The true educator and the truly educated do not, therefore, seek to hide (suppress) human nature nor hide away from it (hypocrisy) but to nourish it into ‘more abundant life’. Such, I believe, has been the Benedictine vocation down the ages. (What, one can’t help wondering, would a man like St Aelred have made of a Fr David Pearce?) It is our duty, our responsibility, today not to fail this noble ideal so that, in turn, it will not fail future generations. Our world stands in desperate need of this ‘Benedictine’ ideal and we are all – monistics, teachers, parishioners or whoever else - part of that world.

  41. Excuse me but Pearce committed serious criminal offences against young boys in his care. The abbotts at Ealing are not the subject of a witch-Hunt or smear campain. They allowed this abuse to save the reputation of their order. Please don't let them paint a picture of being rather remote. Child abuse is a criminal offence They defended Pearce to the bitter end, at the expense of boys who had been abused, whilst knowing of his history and the allegations made against him

    On a second point have the details of the review of the matter been established. Who is going to sit on it. What are its terms of reference. Is this just a means to bury the issue

  42. I would like to clarify one important question. A contributor to this blog, Benet, claims that there had been another teacher at St Benedict's who had also eventually been convicted on child abuse charges - albeit after he left the school. John Maestri. Can anyone shed light on this and confirm whether or not this is true? If it is true, then it is a matter of great importance as both men taught in the school at the same time and the same building, the Middle School.

    If it is true, then one needs to raise serious questions about what was going on at the school and at Ealing Abbey in the 1980s and 1990s. It would mean that there was more than one convicted paedophile teaching at the school.

    If it is not true, then this blog needs to post a very clear apology to John Maestri and to the Abbey for previous misinformation.

    Paul Musetti (ex-pupil)

  43. The conviction of John Maestri is well known and was discussed at the time of Father Stan's trial at Isleworth.

    If you have nay doubts about the accuracy of this I would suggest that you contact Abbot Martin. Or as you say you knew John Maestri when he was a student of Theology at St Benet's - the former Master of St Benet's (the one who used to go round on roller-blades).

    I agree with you that the presence of John Maestri and David Pearce in the Middle School in the 70's and 80's is worrying. I hope this will be part of the Abbot's investigation.

    This makes the return from the Vatican of Lawrence Soper all the more necessary as he was Head of the Middle School at this time.

  44. Abbot Lawrence is NOT in the Vatican. He was spirited away to Benedictine Headquarters in Rome some years ago and has remained there ever since!

  45. There was also another teacher the police where interested when i went to them to charge David Pearce with abuse.
    The words of the police officer where "it looks like there might have been a paedophile ring". They sought further information from me, however I could not help them.
    It was not Maestri, however it was someone working with David Pearce during the 90's.

  46. Oh dear! I‘ve just read through the material on this blog. What a sad and sorry tale it amounts to for the Catholic Church. What more lurks between the lines one cannot tell, but has the Archdiocese of Westminster any responsibility for this community and its activities?

    And, one has to ask, what on earth do right-wing Anglicans think they are going to achieve by hitching their wagon to an outfit such as this?

  47. Have details of the review been announced? What are its terms of reference? I have a horrible suspision that its going to be a review of what went wrong, ie how did it all end up in the public domain.
    The above writer has a good point what role does the Archdiocese in ensuring that the right people are running the school and the parish.

    Once again when is Abbot Martin going to contact Rome and get Lawrence Soper back. It happened to a large extent on his watch. There are now in my opinion some very good christian monks at Ealing. They need the people who allowed the criminality at the school to step up and accept the responsability for what they allowed to happen.


    Many questions have been - and are being - raised (or in some cases hinted at) on this blog but few answers seem forthcoming!

    A direct response from the abbot and his monks is probably too much to expect, but promises have been made that parents and others want to see fulfilled! Nothing has appeared from the blog’s ‘spokesman’, Jonathan West, for a while. On launching his crusade he promised bloggers to keep a keen eye on how matters are going. What, we would politely ask, of his progress? If he has made little or no headway fair enough, but some further response would be welcome. Surely someone now must have some idea of how the abbey intends to proceed with its promised investigations. If no one has, things do indeed look very bleak!

    What are the questions raised? Well here are just some of them:

    • When were the abbey authorities first aware of Fr David Pearce’ molestation of children and/or accusations to that effect;
    • What, if anything, did they do about it;
    • Are the ‘police suspicions of a paedophile ring’ operating in the school/abbey in any way justified;
    • Who was the mysterious ‘other teacher’ (‘not John Maestri’)to come under suspicion;
    • Why, after being removed from the school, was David Peace given such sensitive and prestigious jobs, i.e. Novice Master and Prior;
    • Why did Lawrence Soper suddenly disappear to Rome;
    • Several priests at the abbey are, we are led to believe, prohibited by Westminster from exercising any priestly ministry – exactly how many and why;
    • What precisely is the abbey going to do to investigate these and the other questions arising out of what it has ‘allowed to happen’ over the past decade and more?

  49. ok,some good questions above but i dont think we or jonathan west will ever see any answers- just words.

  50. Yes I agree the questions just above should be answered.

    The question of Fr Laurence is being discussed on the other thread - the one for August. It's getting confusing with two threads though.

    I am surprised that Westminster should suspend any of the priests from Ealing a divinis without some form of public statement. But it should be easy to work out who is banned - who is no longer saying Mass in public?

  51. A big 'thank you' to the last contributor. I’m sure many people on this September blog had no idea that other, important comments were appearing the August blog. Yes, a single blog would be a good idea!

  52. There are three threads in addition to this one:

  53. If I find out anything more about the inquiry, I will post a new article. I intend to continue to follow this issue and will report what I can learn.

  54. As time marches's looking ever more likely that you/we are chasing a unicorn!

  55. Quote from the abbot's current letter to parishioners conerning Father David:

    "If you have any concerns or questions on this matter I shall be present after all the Masses this Sunday, as will Mr Peter Turner, the Child Protection Officer for the Diocese. I can also be contacted directly on 020 8862 2149 or by email at:

    Abbot Martin"

    I intend to contact him, it would be useful if others did the same.

    Former pupil (1975 - 1982)

  56. I was a pupil 72-82. Yes we all knew him a gay dave but I had no idea at the time of his abuse.

    It has been quite a depressing read. I had no idea that John Maestri had been convicted. He was one of my favourite teachers in the Middle School.

    Regarding Joe Z, I remember when Joe left. I had no idea about what was written by Mark Shanahan above (who was in the same year as me - Mark we do have a mutual friend on Facebook).

    What was the outcome with Father Stan, I understand that he was found guilty - is this correct?


  57. that should have read "not guilty". Apologies.


  58. Not sure of the actual verdict. But, he's suspended as a priest.

  59. I've written an open letter to the Abbot, concerning the "independent review" which I first suggested to him and he promised in the letter to parents. I've also included comments concerning shortcomings in the school's published child protection and safeguarding policy.

    See the latest two articles on this blog.

  60. I was disgusted to see that the abbott's letter refers to "Father" Pearce.

    So they are not stripping him of his title?


  61. Whoever asked the above question might like to take a look at the discussion about clerical 'identity' in the August thread. It's under CATHOLIC CLERICAL ABUSE and towards the end of the hundred or so entries there.

    However, Father Pearce is still a priest, though he can't ever again function as one in public, and is still a monk, Dom David Pearce O.S.B, and will remain a life-long member of the Ealing community.

  62. Three Post-Modern Rules for a Community such as the one we 'all know and love'....

    See no evil in whatever you do,
    Hear no evil about whatever you do,
    But, for God's sake,
    Do no evil, that might be found out!

  63. Nothing at all will be achieved by merely talking on this blog.

    If you genuinely want anything to change at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's school, then there is no point in us merely talking to each other here.

    I have reached the limit of what I can achieve alone with the Abbot - he has now refused to meet me. Nothing more will happen unless a group is formed which is able to apply more pressure than individuals can manage.

    I remain concerned at the inadequacy of the child protection arrangements there, as I've stated in the Open Letter to the Abbot. If you want to see any changes and are willing to form a group, email me here

  64. The full Charity Commission report on Ealing Abbey:

  65. What local MP, ANDY SLAUGHTER, has to say on this matter:

    '..the Charity Commision wrote to me with the findings of their Inquiry into St Benedict's Abbey in Ealing. The Gazette has reported on the scandal of Father David Pearce, a priest at the Abbey and former head of St Benedict's junior school, sentenced to eight years custody in October after almost 40 years of sexual abuse of young boys. In the most damning report I have ever read from the Commission, they concluded: 'the trustees failed to ensure that the restrictions imposed against [Fr Pearce] were properly implemented and we were extremely critical of the trustees in this regard'.
    The restrictions were those placed on Pearce after the High Court had found allegations of sexual abuse proven against him, but which allowed him to continue to abuse children. These appalling events are reminiscent of those recently exposed in the church in Ireland and the United States.
    What is now being called for and must be implemented is proper compensation for all victims and an independent and transparent inquiry into how Pearce was able to continue his criminal behaviour for so long.'

  66. Well done! Abbot Shipperlee will clearly be unable to hide away for very much longer! Let him try treating the Charity Commission in the same way he has Mr West.

  67. Fr Stan was found Not Guilty.The Jury took about 2 hours to reach a unanimous verdict. I was an Altar Boy from 1982 to 1988 and had regular contact with Fr Stan. I never had a problem with him, though I always kept away from Gay-Dave. I gave evidence and his trial and found the prosecution barrister came across as quite sly and patronising.

  68. Gosh! The Abbot had better look to his laurels - this barrister sounds just right for the job!

  69. Instead of waiting for the Abbot to find his laurels, something which will never happen, perhaps we should ask the Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation to take a look at how Ealing Abbey is being run?

  70. English Benedictine Congregation?9 January 2010 at 14:27

    What do you think the Abbot President of the ECB will do? There is nothing on the EBC website about child protection.

    Ealing is not unique is it? What about Cardinal Hume's cover-up at Ampleforth?

    or google "Buckfast/Douai/Belmont/Downside Abbey" and abuse for details of more abuse at Benedictine schools.

    For an American perspective on Benedictine cover-ups see the copious info at:



  72. Thank's '14:27' for a useful guide. It seems Ealing is far from unique in terms of abusing boys! In all, five Ealing teachers have been accused but that's as nothing to what the American Benedictines get up to. One American abbey alone is,it seems, investigating over 119 abuse claims against its monks.

  73. This all makes it hard to believe Abbot Martin's defence that he did not understand how paedophiles ( rather pederasts ) behave.

    All he had to do was ask his brother Abbots at an English Benedictine Congregation meeting. Sad..
    is another major source of news stories on this issue - try searching for "Rembert Weakland"
    a former Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order

  74. Shipperlee,of course, knew all about this particular subject. Looking at the above websites, and others, one can't escape the conclusion that chasing boys and young men is something of a field sport among Benedictines. It apparently so much a part of their culture that no one bats an eyelid!

  75. I've been reading this blog on and off for the past couple of months. The conclusion I‘ve reached is stark and simple: we need – and rapidly - to accept that ‘the chasing young blood’ is not merely part of Benedictine culture but is, and has been, a strong undercurrent in world culture down the ages. It exists round the world - from Tokyo and back again!

    This aspect of our nature has been forgotten by some, not least because of the efforts of western Christianity. Maybe originally with the best of intentions, i.e. for sound sociological reasons, the church has made something of a fetish of ‘the family’, starting with ‘The Holy Family’. But despite its best efforts human nature, in this respect at least, hasn’t and will not change.

    It is, surely, time for us to take another, better, look at who we are as a species and maybe we will find that nature has a remarkable way of balancing things out and that her efforts are, as always, not without purpose.

    Many of our forefathers understood that grace is not foreign to nature but works in and through nature. Our job is to collaborate with both, to recognise dangers and pitfalls , but also to realise the potential good. We live in a world where millions, if not billions, of children and young people lack basic affection and warmth let alone honest to God love! This is for a multitude of reasons, but in our society it is often because love, real love – unselfish, open, fearless and creative love - comes way behind our generally accepted values. There is much in contemporary society that is truly great but, unless we happen to be scientists or poets, we have generally lost the understanding that love draws us out of ourselves, pointing beyond our immediate needs and circumstances. Where this awareness is present, human affections are sound, whatever sexual orientation may be involved. Much of the ‘affection’ sanctioned by contemporary ‘political correctness’ is, as many are beginning to see, lifeless and will lead ultimately to the creation of an even more dysfunctional, un-loving world. Where, as today, teachers, neighbours or friends are fearful to show affection to youngsters we are really in a very, very bad way.

    When I was a youngster we wore short pants, even up to the age of 15 or 16 in some cases. I clearly remember one, much loved and highly respected Form Master who, whenever we stood by his desk, would put his arm round us or hug our knees. No one felt there was anything ‘strange’, ‘wrong’ or ‘sinister’ about this. It was both loving and kind and forged a real bond between him and us. Today, of course, given that we’re all psychologically half-baked we would dismiss this act with ‘psychological analysis’. The analysis may or may not be correct, that’s really neither here nor there! In my teacher there probably was a latent capacity, as there is in all of us, to ‘go too far’. But, aware of the ‘pitfall’, what he showed, and was not in the least ashamed to show, was his humanity – his capacity to love and embrace another and to do so in the only way that really counts with us as a compete – embodied - human being.

  76. To the previous commenter. You're entitled to your views, and much as I disagree with you, I'm not going to remove your comment.

    I've been reading this blog on and off for the past couple of months. The conclusion I‘ve reached is stark and simple: we need – and rapidly - to accept that ‘the chasing young blood’ is not merely part of Benedictine culture but is, and has been, a strong undercurrent in world culture down the ages. It exists round the world - from Tokyo and back again!

    The fact that something is common does not make it good. Diarrhoea is common but I don't think we want more of it.

    The simple test to apply to an activity or behaviour is "does it do any harm?". And it is perfectly clear from abundant evidence that paedophile activity does cause harm to its victims.

    In some cases the activity may be mild and the harm correspondingly so. But any kind of sexual activity between teachers and pupils is unacceptable, simply because one is in authority over the other, and so it impossible for the pupil to give free consent. A sexual relation in such circumstances is an exercise in power.

    Where teachers genuinely have the welfare of their pupils at heart, they will find other ways of building the confidence of their pupils. The best teachers do that in a way that is inspirational.


    You seem Mr West both to have taken and failed to take the point of the last entry.

    Firstly, you choose to liken paedophilia to diarrhoea. The analogy is unsound and unfair. Paedophilia, whatever our view of it, is natural, in the sense that it’s innate to the human condition. Diarrhoea on the other had, though perfectly natural, is not innate but indicates some form of bacterial infection that has to be eliminated.

    You quite rightly sing the praises of teachers who build the confidence of their pupils in ‘other ways’. But these other ‘inspirational’ ways, are based very heavily on the sublimation of sexuality. They are rooted in what some educationalists term ‘the pedagogical Eros’ which does not, and cannot, emerge from ‘spirit’ alone but stems from the union of spirit and matter, nature and grace. It is this union that is peculiar to the human vocation and genius.

    The ‘Form Master, referred to above was highly inspirational but in a way that no teacher today would dare to be. Surely you agree that, this being the case, something has seriously gone wrong?

    You again quite rightly say that the sexual abuse of young people, and there most definitely IS such a thing, is abusive because of the relative power of the teacher to the pupil. But as contemporary thinkers, especially of the French school, point out, it is possible to regard the whole enterprise of schooling as an abuse of power. These are delicate and difficult matters and not subject to quick fixes or the aspirations of the politically correct and they most certainly cannot be dismissed by unjustified analogies.

  78. On the whole, I agree with the last contributor, though with rather mixed feelings.What he is trying to say is, I imagine, that if 'love casts out fear' then 'fear casts out love' and that we find ourselves living in an ever more fearful society. So fearful that we seem to believe that nothing - not even illness - should come our way. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a natural state of affairs.

    What I particularly note is that the 'Form Master' referred to did what he did in full view of everyone. There was nothing secretive or covert about his behaviour - it was, therefore, and surely still is both socially acceptable and desirable?

  79. If you don't like the analogy with diarrhoea, then take murder or war instead. War is common, it seems to be part of the human condition, but I think we would all be better off if we didn't have it.

    And acts such as you describe may in fact have a much darker aspect to them. They might be intended to demonstrate to the victim that there is nothing at all wrong in this kind of touching and that nobody should reasonably complain about it. In other words, it can have the same purpose and effect as befriending a victim's family. It increases the authority of the abuser over his victim.

  80. My dear, dear Mr West. There is nothing.... ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH ONE HUMAN BEING TOUCHING ANOTHER! It's a vitally important way in which we interrelate and communicate with one another.

    Furthermore, murder may be common to the human condition but it is not, for heaven's sake, innate!

  81. Interesting stuff. I tend to think education is ALL about teaching us to sublimate our basic drives or instincts none of which we can either eliminate or wish away. Where these drives are pretty straightforward and conventional there's actually little need for either sublimation or, therefore, education.

    Those who need both - the unconventional, the weird, the visionaries, the dreamers of dreams - are society's greatest treasure: its artists, saints, scientists, writers, philosophers, painters, therapists, statesmen, etc. These, as the guy above says, are the people who 'love'. They're the ones who look beyond themselves in imaginative and creative ways to what is new, or at least to what can be newly expressed, and its this thing, love, that keeps the ball rolling.
    - K, Second year medical student

  82. Everything of course, potentially at least, has, as the above contributor says, 'a much darker aspect'. But, if we become fixated on this darkness, to the exclusion of all else, then very quickly it is all we can see. We are then quite lost, we're both in the dark and of the dark!


    On the contrary, there are are circumstances under which touching is very wrong indeed. It depends on who, when, where, how and to whom.

    To just say that there is nothing wrong with one human to touch another is to think in a simplistic way - and I'm sure paedophiles like Pearce use exactly this kind of reasoning to justify their actions to themselves.

    As for murder not being innate, of course it is. It is a characteristic we share with several other mammals. That doesn't make it right.

  84. Sorry, Mr’re wrong again!

    Murder is an external act, and not, therefore, innate! Murderous, aggressive feelings are, of course, innate. You might like to note, however, that the difference between us and 'several other mammals' is that we do not HAVE TO act out these feelings. It involves a little number called 'free will'.

    If, of course, you’re a determinist in these matters then fair enough. But, surely, you can, in that case, have no viable arguments against the paedophile tendency. I take it also that you're not suggesting here that we put ‘other mammals’ on trial for their murderous acts?

    I’m afraid I can only reiterate what, I would have thought, was so obvious as to be beyond dispute: touching is part, and an essential part, of human communication. On occasion, you are right, we may suspect that 'a much darker aspect' is involved; but the exception, and such feelings are the exception, cannot be set up as the rule. That would, to put it mildly, be a very topsy-turvy way to approaching life indeed, to my mind, it’d be little short of Kafkaesque!

  85. Murder is an external act, and not, therefore, innate!

    If killing somebody is an "external act" then so is touching somebody.

  86. Well of course! What is your point?

  87. I think I know it, but just want to be sure you do!

  88. The point of course is that you are raising a false dichotomy in claiming the murder is different from touching in that murder is an "external act". So is touching, and the key point about it is not whether it is innate, but whether it is harmful.

    And the answer to that of course is that it depends on the circumstance.

  89. I suspect, however, if you think it through, you'll find it doesn't stack careful!

  90. Not quite what I thought you'd come up with. But I can assure you I'm not in the least confused about touching and murder both being external acts. I am however very relived to see that you seem to shifted ground a little.

  91. missing e there = relieved not relived

  92. I'm not sure what change you think you have detected. I still hold the position that touching is good or harmful according to circumstance. Whether you choose to define an "external act" as being "innate" or not makes no difference to whether it is harmful. And quite frankly, I'm not all that interested in a discussion of what kinds of acts are innate. It is the harm that I am interested in preventing.

  93. No response this time. So, here goes: I'm sure you recognise, as well as I do, Mr West, the difference between murder and touching. The fact that they're both 'external acts' does not mean they're of equal consequence or that they equate in any other significant way. While both are expressions of emotion, one is irrevocable the other isn't. Touching, unlike murder, covers a huge spectrum of human intercourse, while murder simply brings all intercourse to an abrupt end. Touching, despite your insistence to the contrary,is generally spontaneous, affectionate, helpful and life-affirming, murder, on the other hand, is a denial of life's value altogether. There is no way I or, I suspect, anyone is going to buy into your argument that given the fact that they're both 'external acts' they're both equally obnoxious!

  94. Ah, I was wrong...there was a response. Thank you Mr West. But, I’d like you to consider for a moment the following. You're right in saying that what proves harmful is to a large extent circumstantial (its there, by the way, that I detect some improvement). But that does not mean we can set aside what is innate, i.e., what is part and parcel of our human nature, or indeed the social expectations of the child. If, as you seem to advocate, that because, under certain circumstances, 'touching' can be harmful it has to be outlawed altogether, then really that is, to coin a phrase, taking a sledge-hammer to crack a nut.

    But the real issue, for me, is that in proscribing the act of touching you’re, in fact, perpetrating an act of violence against the child, against its natural inclinations and expectations. You’re taking away from the child its natural language - the language of the body.

    'Suffering little children', and I’m not in any sense an orthodox Christian, means taking them on your knee and making them feel valued and at home. To alienate children from such innate tendencies is, no matter how well-intentioned, an act of corruption. You cannot protect children, Mr West, by destroying or denying what is best in them. Of course, like the rest of us, children are vulnerable and will, sadly, remain vulnerable. What matters is the quality of our protection which will never be absolute but must ensure that inner life of the child remains,as far as possible in tact - whole!

  95. If we are to continue this conversation, it would be easier if you were not to do so anonymously - I have no means of telling how many people I'm talking to here.

  96. As one of the contributors, I'm happy for this conversation to resume as and when necessary. For the moment I think enough has been said for most people, if not to make up their own minds, at least to see that there are at least two sides to this, as to almost every, argument. I'm quite sure there's good will on both sides, but 'good will', like patriotism, in my view, 'is not enough'!

  97. Well, you have done nothing to persuade me that those two sides don't consist of my side and the wrong side - wrong both as in morally wrong, and wrong as in illegal.

    So what do you think you have said that justifies any good will towards you?

  98. Mr West, you obviously want to keep up the 'good fight'. But, unless you can wean yourself of your conviction that your particular view is not merely justified but absolutely 'right', there's little room or hope for intellectual movement of any kind.

    This blog shows you have a tenacious character but it also shows a mind set that regards others as either 'with you or against you' and where, as in your case, this amounts to being the sole custodian of truth anyone who tries to open up your arguments to wider, if not deeper perspectives is inevitably accused of ill will. You may have abandoned belief in God, Mr West, but not, it seems, belief in the Devil.

    To insist that morality is merely a matter of 'the law'and essentially black and white is not to have moved beyond the limits of 'the penny Catechism'. It also, I think, reveals that fear of complexity that lies at the heart of all fundamentalist thinking, political or religious.

  99. In essence, you are pursuing a claim that paedophilia is natural and beneficial. I strongly oppose that position, not out of any fundamentalist claim to an exclusive access to the truth, but because of the mountains of evidence of the harm that paedophilia causes to its victims. The law reflects the evidence of the harm that this activity causes, and has accordingly prohibited it.

    You have free speech rights to seek a change in the law, but I do not have an obligation to provide a platform for your views. You can set up your own blog and agitate there to your heart's content. But you want to continue this conversation here, identify yourself.

    If you do not, further comments along these lines will be deleted.

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  104. This blog seems to have degenerated into a rather futile squabble! Can someone please help it to move on?

  105. Let me just summarise the position, for the avoidance of any doubt.

    The first post in this part of the thread (10 January 2010 12;41) asked us to accept that "'chasing young blood’ is not merely part of Benedictine culture but is, and has been, a strong undercurrent in world culture down the ages".

    That to me sounds very much like an attempt to argue in favour of paedophilia, and the comments about touching need to be taken in that context. Of course, the person who made the post is perfectly at liberty to identify himself and explain that isn't what he meant.

    I'm under no obligation to provide a platform propagating views promoting paedophilia, particularly from people who hide behind anonymity. You all know who I am - I use my real name here and have been quoted in national newspapers on the subject. If you disagree with me, I ask no more than that you identify yourself to a comparable extent.

    Therefore, as a matter of policy, I will delete all further anonymous comments pursuing this argument, in any thread on this blog connected with St. Benedicts School, Ealing Abbey or Father David Pearce.

    If necessary, I will turn on comment moderation to enforce this.

    I trust that I have made myself sufficiently clear.

  106. I agree that the first post in this part of the thread (10 January 2010 12;41) is quite different from any other previous contribution to this discussion.

    I find it hard to believe that any 15 year old boy would want a teacher "hugging his knees". I suspect that the comment "When I was a youngster we wore short pants, even up to the age of 15 or 16 in some cases" is a sign that this contributor is perhaps poking fun at this discussion (unless he went to school in the tropics).

    I therefore support your decision, Mr West, to remove anonymous comments in that vein.

    Let's recall that the plaintiff in the High Court case against Fr David was abused when he was a pupil in the Junior School - he was about 9 at the time.

  107. I am currently at St Benedict's school. While I am, unavoidably, utterly aware of these cases of abuse and am understanding of any feelings held towards the school and abbey, I am compelled to defend the school as it is currently.

    I am not a Catholic, yet I do believe that the monks currently teaching at the school are among the most encouraging, influential and helpful people in both my life and the lives of others at the school. It is clear that they hold deep regret concerning Fr David Pearce and acknowledge the entire gravity of his crimes. These monks are entirely good people and I would never believe that they would prefer to have kept these crimes hidden. They wish nothing but the best for both past and present students, and I believe that they would have no quarrel with the abbey as a whole being branded with a reputation if the victims can see justice served.

    I would also like to clarify that the fear and suspicion towards the monks stated here to have existed by an anonymous ex-pupil no longer exists. We all have absoulte trust in the monks, a few in particular are deeply valued to the extent of having Facebook fan groups dedicated to them.

    We are all deeply aware and saddened by these deplorable crimes against members of the community, and it is without exception thought that full justice must be served. Currently, no such situation exists at the school and it is one of the happiest places i have known.

  108. To the last commenter:

    Nothing would make me happier than to know that your trust in the school is justified.

    If the school's child protection procedures were brought into a fit state and the "independent review" promised by the Abbot were actually to be conducted in a way that reviews the past 40 years of abuse at the Abbey and the school, and lessons learned from it, then I would have far more confidence.

    I think these things should be done specifically because you should be able to be safe in the trust you describe. Unless and until they are done, I remain concerned that your trust may be misplaced.

    Unless the child protection procedures are brought up to standard, you cannot say with certainty that "no such situation exists at the school", no matter how honestly you believe your statement to be true.

    If it were true that the monks "would have no quarrel with the abbey as a whole being branded with a reputation if the victims can see justice served", then an enquiry really ought to be conducted to find out how bad it was in the past, so that all the past victims can have justice. But there is no sign of that happening.