Friday, 2 October 2009

Sentencing of Fr David Pearce

Just two very quick items, I'll report in more detail later.

Fr Pearce today was sentenced to 8 years in prison for his offences against boys at St Benedict's School. According to law, he will serve half and the other half will be suspended. He will be placed on the sex offenders' register for life, and the judge also made an order that he must not have any unsupervised contact with any child under the age of 18, not be involved unsupervised in any educational activity with any child under the age of 18, and not undertake unsupervised any religious service in the presence of any child under the age of 18.

The Abbot was not present and no statement on behalf of the Abbey was made to the press at the court (though a press statement was issued later). I understand from discussions with journalists present that he has been refusing all calls from the press recently.

The story has hit the news. It was lead item on ITV's news programme "London Tonight". So far, the fullest written account is in The Independent, but the Ealing Gazette, the Press Association, and the BBC website are also carrying the story.

I'm not going to compete with the Independent's account, written by Wesley Johnson and Anisha Ahmed of the Press Association. Their journalists have better shorthand than mine and their account is a substantially accurate summary of the offences committed by Fr Pearce. Also, the victims have had their lives messed with enough, I don't want to invade their privacy any further by repeating the details all over again. I met one of the police officers who had conducted the investigation and she advised me that the case was under reporting restrictions as regards the names of the victims, but I assured her that even without restrictions I had no intention of naming any victims.

But there are a few points which I made a particular note of.

Firstly, it is quite clear from the account given by the prosecuting barrister that Fr Pearce got himself into a position of trust and authority and then used that position to prevent his victims from speaking up, and to prevent them for a long time from being believed even when they did speak up. One victim was even estranged from his own parents for a time as they found the accusations to be unbelievable.

Second, although the physical acts involved were not the most serious possible sexual offences, it is quite clear that it has had a devastating effect on the lives of the victims, as much from the abuse of trust as from the physical abuse. Statements read out in court from more than one victim mentioned how Fr David "was everywhere" in their life. It is quite clear that the victims were in no way able to deal with the psychological manipulations he inflicted on them, they just didn't have the age and maturity.

If any of the victims read this, let me assure you that from the description given in court, there is no reason at all for you to feel in any way guilty about your own actions. You were manipulated and you were not responsible for the abuse done to you. The mere fact that there was little or no physical coercion is entirely irrelevant, Fr Pearce was in such a position of authority over you, and in some cases over your parents, that there is no way that somebody of your age could have resisted an adult with the age, authority, education and sophistication of Fr Pearce. Psychologically it was the equivalent of putting a 9-year old into a boxing ring with Mike Tyson. There's no way you could possibly have been expected to withstand that. You have my every best wish and sincere hope that now Fr Pearce is behind bars for a substantial time you will be able to get on with your lives in peace and privacy.

Thirdly, I'd like to mention some of the points made in plea of mitigation by the defending barrister. I happened to be sat next to one of the victims in the public seats during the hearing, and could sense his hackles rise at some of the statements being made. But I don't blame the barrister for making pleas of mitigation - it is his job, and it is necessary for the judge to hear whatever good points there are to be made. But there was very little that really could be said that would have much mitigating effect. Here are some of the points made.
  • the defendant wished to apologise to the victims for the acts committed, and the barrister was now doing so on his behalf
  • he had shown sufficient contact with reality (in contrast to many other sex offenders) that he had changed his plea to guilty, albeit at a very late date
  • he did not set out to cause distress
  • the judge had a duty to sentence only on the basis of the charges to which Pearce had pleaded guilty (about half the charges originally brought - the rest were dropped by the prosecution in exchange for the guilty plea)
  • he had also done much good in the world, that he had been a good and effective teacher, that he had participated in and led a great many out-of-hours school activities, and that many pupils had benefited from the education he had had a part in providing
  • many people had come forward to act as character witnesses for him, including pillars of the local community, even though they were aware of his offences and that he had pleaded guilty
  • he hadn't acted as a predator - the crime career of a sexual predator classically involves an escalation in the seriousness of offences over time, which didn't happen in this case
  • the victim impact statements should be read with some caution, not because they should be regarded as in any way untrue, but rather that they should be read as the effect of all the abuse suffered by the victims, and that some of the victim impact statements made mention of abuse inflicted by others in addition to that by Fr Pearce
The judge was thoroughly unimpressed by most of this, and this was reflected in the points he made in giving sentence.

Fourth, I was very much struck by one point made by the prosecuting barrister, almost as an aside. After the civil case in 2006, Fr Pearce was placed on a "restricted ministry" by the Abbot. Part of a letter from the Abbot was read out in court which stated that Fr Pearce:
  • was not to have any public ministry
  • must celebrate mass only in private within the monastery
  • must have no contact with children
The reason given in the letter for this restricted ministry was "to protect Fr David from unfounded allegations". No mention was made in court of any other reason given.

The last of his victims was befriended by Fr Pearce after the civil case, despite the restrictions supposedly imposed by the Abbot.

Fifth, there was no sign of the Abbot. He was not present, despite the fact that he had led me to understand that he would use the occasion to make a statement. A press statement was issued later by the Abbey. I don't yet have a copy, because as far as I can tell it hasn't been posted either on the Abbey website or that of the Diocese of Westminster, so all I can do is quote what was included in the report in the Independent.
In a statement issued by Ealing Abbey, Abbot Martin Shipperlee said: "The crimes perpetrated by David Pearce were a betrayal of the trust placed in him as a teacher and priest.

"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.

"I would like to apologise in every way I can to the victims and to everyone else who has been affected by this case.

"I will remember in my prayers all those whose lives have been troubled by David Pearce's actions."

The Abbot said he was launching an independent review into the case "to examine what there is to be learned to ensure that there can never be a recurrence of this situation".

He added: "David Pearce's future as a priest will now be reviewed by my superiors in accordance with the child protection procedures of the church."
That is not nearly good enough. It leaves entirely unstated what of his own personal failures or the Abbey's institutional failures he was apologising for. After all, these failures were what permitted Fr Pearce to continue his abuse for so long. The words are very slightly less weaselly than those which followed the civil case, but fall far short of what the victims can and should reasonably expect from the Abbey.

Even the statement about the "independent review" could be interpreted as weasel words. "A recurrence of this situation" could be read to mean "a recurrence of things being found out to the extent that it got to court and embarrassed the church." I warned the Abbot against the use of euphemisms and circumlocutions, that an apology would have to be full and frank if it was going to do much good. Certainly I am comprehensively unimpressed with what has been offered so far.

I think that the victims deserve something a little more substantial in terms of support than that the Abbot will "remember in my prayers all those whose lives have been troubled by David Pearce's actions".

But I'm pleased about the independent review. I would like to learn more about it - who will be conducting it, what their terms of reference will be, and whether its report will be published. The details of this matter, and unless I know it is going to have a broad remit, unqualified cooperation from everyone at the Abbey and its schools from the Abbot down, a public report, and be conducted by secular non-catholic experts, then I'm going to be skeptical as to whether this is any more than window dressing. However, it it does have all those characteristics, then there is every chance that future abuse can be prevented and any other past abuse brought to light.

I intend keeping an eye on this and seeing what happens in future.


  1. Report in Gazette here:

    "Pearce was barred from acting as a priest in 2005 after a victim took civil proceedings against him. It followed an unsuccessful attempt to build a criminal case against him because of a lack of evidence.

    Further victims came forward and Pearce was arrested in January 2008.
    Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Robert Wendt said: "Thanks to the courage of the victims we have successfully managed to bring the perpetrator to justice many years after he had, no doubt, thought he had got away with it.

    "David Pearce is a predatory paedophile whose actions have impacted forever on the lives of his victims. I hope that today's sentencing provides them with some comfort and I would urge anyone who has suffered sexual abuse to come forward knowing that the Police and Crown Prosecution Service will take you seriously."

    Martin Shipperlee of Ealing Abbey said they were undertaking an independent review to prevent anything similar happening again."

    Thank you for attending the court hearing and giving your report.

    The CPS statement is shocking. They are to be congratulated for pursuing this matter.

    I hope the lengthy sentence of 8 years is seen by the victims as a sign that justice is being done for them.

  2. You mention that the Prosecutor said:

    "After the civil case in 2006, Fr Pearce was placed on a "restricted ministry" by the Abbot. Part of a letter from the Abbot was read out in court which stated that Fr Pearce:

    was not to have any public ministry
    must celebrate mass only in private within the monastery
    must have no contact with children
    The reason given in the letter for this restricted ministry was "to protect Fr David from unfounded allegations".


    As far as I recall the Judge in the Civil Trial in the High Court case awarded £45,000 to Fr David's victim. The Judge also said that it was very hard to believe Fr David's account of what happened. So on the balance of probabilites a High Court Judge finds for the victim and casts doubt on Fr David's ability to tell the truth and Abbot Martin then writes that Fr David needs "to be protected from unfounded allegations".

    If Abbot Martin really thought the High Court had made a mistake why did he not pursue an Appeal against the Judgment?

    It is now vital that the Abbey publish the Judgment of the High Court case.

    The Abbot must realise that he has to tell the truth now. As the Judge said in his sentencing speech the recording angel knows what happened.

  3. when I was at this school it was fairly common knowledge that david was gay, infact he was known in the upper school as gay david.

    He was a very controling man and I came very close to being amongst those that he abused. He would take a situation and control it, turn it so that the outcome would be what he wanted.

    Not a nice man.

  4. He may have been forced to retire as a Junior School Headmaster in 1993, but What I would like to know is why was David allowed to work so very closely with the boys when he was re-instated in the school immediately after this as a Procurator.
    He probably carried on with his abuse right under everyone's noses and I doubt if any member of the school or monastery were in a position to say or do anything!
    He moved around both the schools freely, with his usual grace of Arragonce and attented all the school events taking a front pew with his camera, it sicken's me to think that his peers and even the school allowed these activities knowing what they knew about him!
    In my view 8 years is nothing in comparsion to what his victims and families have been put through.
    This isn't justice as he'll be out in less then four years whereas his victims whole lives have been ruined.
    Isn't it about time the high and all mighty church put a stop to all this!

  5. The Abbot's letter to parents of St B's can be found on the school website.

    under parents - then policies

  6. Pretty sad. Where is compensation money coming from? - the collection plate?

  7. "Pretty sad. Where is compensation money coming from? - the collection plate?"

    Yes of course as long as you put money in the plate at Ealing.

    In America many Catholics stopped contributing to the collection at Mass and instead put a handwritten note into the plate instead.

    The note advised the Parish Priest that the parishioner would not contribute any money to the collection until the scandal of clerical abuse had stopped.

    Why not send your weekly contribution to the collection plate to the likes of the Sacred Heart Fathers in Moldova?

    Perhaps the Ealing Monks could adopt a more frugal life-style as they ponder how to regain their poise after this scandal.

    Perhaps it is time for the Parish and the School to be taken over by the Diocese and separated from the Abbey?

  8. I was a pupil at the Junior school during the late eighties. he would supervise the swimming classes, "checking to see if we were dry enough" in the changing rooms afterwards . We soon learned to get dressed at lightning fast speed. He then brought it to my parents attention that I was sexullay precocius...projecting your sick fantasies were you Father ? He had his favorite pupils , one he often referred quite openly using his first name with the nickname "Baby" tagged on the end. He would shout and get unpleasent but then hold your hand and apologise asking to be "friends again" almost as you would with a partner very creepy and inappropriate. St Benedicts in my experience was a place that very much looked after its own , if you were aligned with the school via the PTA, making donations, sports achiever or active in the Abbey Parish all sorts of things could be brushed uner the carpet. In one incident a pupil with an active PTA parent was let off a cannabis bust whilst the others were expelled. Good at Rugby but not academically? dont worry we can reserve a place for you Bullying was never taken very seriously and the school which had an ungoing problem, in one case which left a pupil nearly blind and with a serious eye injury and another strangeled with his own tie to the point where he had welts on his neck. The was a real effort made by the teaching staff to safeguard the schools reputation at all costs . Alot of overt snobbery we were told that we were a cut above the "yobs" at the comprehensive down the road and as such were expected to behave accordingly. So much for a Christian ethos ? the God worshipped here was made in the perfect image of middle class west london suburban niceness he would probably have got his fishes and loaves from Marks And Sparks. This facade of respectability which was zealously protected was what allowed Pearce to get away with these offences for so long.

  9. Shocking: this would not have happened in a
    Voluntary Aided/ State school. WHEN I BEGAN MY TEACHING CAREER IN 1971, part of my inductioin
    programme involved a session discussing/ reflecting on what Catholic Ethos meant in practical terms. THE Headteacher explained that for him, it was really important to know that each pupil could name a member of staff to whom he/she could could go if worried/troubled.As a staff, we were encouraged to be sensitive and aware when pupils approached us.It was advice that stayed with me until I retired.Was there NOT EVEN ONE MEMBER OF
    Staff to whom the boys in trouble could approach for help?

  10. From a parisioner: I agree entirely with the last comment.All Staff have a duty of care to the pupils in their charge.Was there NOT ONE
    MEMBER OF STAFF aware of Child Protection ISSUES?

  11. I agree with the above comments but remember who your employer is. I suspect reporting the matter to to the Abbott was not going to be viewed too kindly. We need the abbott to tell us when concerns were first raised about David Pearce. The dates please, and the number of complaints and concerns raised.

    I suspect that they are going to fudge on this one to save the reputations of others.

  12. What about the role of TEACHER GOVERNORS/PARENT
    GOVERNORS AT ST BENEDICT'S? I have worked in four Catholic Schools and the ETHOS in each school would have allowed staff and parents
    to voice their concerns or to alert the NSPC
    or Social Services.The latter are legally bound to investigate. Did anyone alert them?
    As well as the boys concerned, Fr David might have been protected from himself.
    This was going on and at the same time the Media frequently
    reported on cases of abuse and yet despite concerns NO ALARM BELLS RANG.SO SAD.I hope ABBOTT MARTIN considers all these facts when commissioning his enquiry.

  13. To the author of the last 4 comments.

    Be assured I will be keeping up with this and asking Abbot Martin about these things. But in the meantime, there is no need for you to continue replying to yourself. I get the point and so will other readers of the blog.

    There is of course nothing preventing you from making enquiries of the governors.

  14. In the late 80's & early 90's there were, I believe,in the Junior school,yearly police visits for Years 3-6 (organized by the headmaster who at the time was David Pearce) on the topics of "Road Safety"and "Stranger Danger" where issues of personal health and safety were addressed and discussed with pupils and teachers (i.e some time was spent also discussing the fact that people who were not strangers might also be a danger).Finding a trusted adult to talk to , if the need rose, was discussed and some year 6 boys would , for example say that they would prefer to, for example, talk to a male teacher, or talk to a teacher of a subject they enjoyed, rather than necessarily talk to their designated Form Teacher, if they had a problem. I do not think there was an organised list of e.g " pupil "a" will talk to teacher "x" if there is a problem."

    Form teachers (certainly of years 5 & 6) would discuss health and safety issuues in a weekly form period.

    Weekly Drama lessons for 7-11 year olds addressed topics such as bullying and personal safety and also in the case of year 6, guidelines on what to do in the event of inappropriate adult behaviour were given.

    At this time,although the topic of "child abuse "was not widely discussed, Michelle Elliot(who later set up Childline) appeared on radio and television and her profile was discussed with year 6.

    Teachers were made aware of child safety issues by the headmaster which is why the fact of a child appearing uncomfortable or any evidence of bruising would have been reported to the headmaster fairly quickly.

  15. i was moved from sacred heart juniour school to st benedicts mid academic year just after xmas in 1990. i was one of two boys joining the year. there were two classes in each year group and we were split, one in each class. this was 2nd year of st benedicts. this year that each class went swimming fortnightly. i can totally confirm the earlier comment. he never used to let us get dressed until we were "checked" to be dry. my new classmates told me to get undressed after swimming as i would get into trouble for not being checked. i remember to this day looking at them funny thinking i may only be 9 but i know how to dry myself. from that day onwards me and another boy got in trouble every week for not waiting to be checked. complaints were made, but parents didnt believe their children and teachers told us to shut up.
    what was worse was in last year of juniour school, the new gym opened and our year group was the first to use it. after the lesson fr david came into the changing rooms, told us we were not allowed to use the shower cubcles but have to use the communal area. he then left and came back with a video camera saying "dont worry boys, im only filming above the waist." he was mysteriously removed as head master a term after we left to middle school - many of us believe this was after the victims mother of the civil case in 2006 made many a complaint about the filming in the shower.
    i could go on. the whole thing makes me sick...makes me feel ill that the abbey protected him for so many years. the run a school...a responsibililty to educate and protect children yet knowingly harboured a vile demon like fr david. anyway, im gonna stop rabbiting before i get myself too worked up!!!!!
    good riddance to the vile excuse of a human being that he is.

  16. Message to JONATHAN WEST:


    NOT SO.

  17. In that case, I apologise. The various comments had such a similar writing style that it seemed an incredible coincidence that two or more people with just that style should make comments at the same time.

  18. (currently anonymous-after I contact Jonathon I may well put my experiences up)I think that the issue at Ealing Abbey is much broader; Charity Commission expects them to have a complaints policy[ they do not and continue with a culture that fails to recognise, let alone address, wrongdoing. I should add that David Pearce is and will remain a member of the Ealing Community after release; they are an Order and NOT under the control of Rome (which has only Doctrinal Authority. How do I contact you Jonathon?

  19. To contact me by email, click here, or if that doesn't work, click the "View my complete profile" on the right hand side of this page, and then click the Email link on the next page.

  20. Today, Benedictines do indeed belong to an Order - Ordo Sancti Benedicti. However, in their case, the ‘order ‘ is a lose federation of self-governing groups of monasteries each of which is free to interpret the Rule of St Benedict more or less as it sees fit. Thus, the vast majority of Roman Catholic Benedictines belong to one of the twenty Congregations that make up the "Benedictine Confederation".
    Consequently, within the Benedictine family, monasticism can mean very different things. At one end of the spectrum there are monasteries following a strict regime close to that of the Cistercians, while, at the other end, some monasteries are little more than collections of men who find it congenial and/or convenient to ‘dwell together’. At the more ’lax’ end of the spectrum there is little to differentiate the ethos of these monastic institutions from that of an English public school or officers’ mess except, by and large, discipline is less in evidence.
    The way of life upheld by the English Congregation, to which Ealing belongs, is at the furthest possible remove from anything Cistercian. The lifestyle of its monks is that of English gentlemen generally free to follow their own interests and inclinations. Wherever abbatial guidance or authority is weak, the life of these monasteries all too easily descends into a gentile free-for-all and the monastic ideal of a common life dedicated to spiritual values and religious formation is all but lost sight of. Given this secular environment it is not surprising that behind the gentlemanly monastic façade there often lurks a spirit of studied self-indulgence. But then, what’s new, Chaucer knew all about that, didn’t he?

  21. To all those who have commented, thank you.

    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.

    By the way, I've realised that some of you have commented not realising that comments have been appearing on other articles I've written on the subject. I've written a total of 4 about Fr Pearce.

    Catholic clerical abuse at Ealing Abbey and St. Benedict's School

    Meeting with Abbot Shipperlee of Ealing Abbey

    Sentencing of Fr David Pearce

    A big "Thank you"

  22. As a pupil at St Benedict's in the 60s thru to about 1971 or so I am saddened by the abuse detailed above. But far from surprised.

    I remember boys being "tickled" over a priest's knee during Gym. Most of us knew enough to stay well away from that particular pervert. One of my mother's regrets was that she did not go to the school when I told her about it...

  23. Many a cleric has habits beyond the one he wears!

    A friend, now in his late 50s or early 60s, was a pupil at another, rather more famous Benedictine school. There, on the knee of one of the monks, he was regularly 'cuddled and kissed'. Mind you, he admits, it was such a miserable place that he was glad of any 'comfort' that came his way!

  24. Okay, not at all good! But please remember it is not just the Benedictines! The same sorry tale is told of Jesuit, Salesian, Lasallian and many other schools run by Religious Orders.

  25. Come on! Don't be so damned naive. It's told everywhere and always about every school under the sun. It's part of life and there's nothing we can do about it. EXCEPT either grow up or pile on yet more stupid misery and suffering. Life's very short, so do yourself a favour - Let go and MOVE ON!

  26. I am an ex Student; It's true every teacher, priest and school boy knew he was called "gay Dave". Point being, there's no denying involement by every adult inside the School. I was actually close and shared many conversations with Pearce but like most boys - we knew to keep our distance as he was seriously creeping at times and camp the rest. His persuasion was not the risk - it was his strange behaviour that should have been addressed. Must say; I knew his failings yet ignored it and never thought he'd go that far.

    1. To the Victims; I feel as a student before you, I should have spoken up to the adults - everyone has let you down. We're writing on this forum because we're shocked and saddened to know you feel into this guy's trap.

    2. To the School - the legal Duty of Care was not taken and to close this Case with simply locking Pearce away, completely ignores the lesson to be learned. Reflecting back - the school authorities (lay and clergy) were weak. By not standing up to your responsibility (eg publicly taking the fall) all of you remain weak and not worthy of respect - sad as I'd would have sent my boys to the School.

  27. I too was there between (about - going from memory here!) 72 to 82-ish? Junior school, Middle school, the lot. Left after O-Levels.

    Was interested to read other postings about Lawrence and Maestri. I remember them both well, but hadn't noted anything untoward about them - maybe I wasn't their type... Interestingly, I remember both Maestri (when I was in Middle school) and Pearce (later - but before he became headmaster of (?) Junior school) as talented teachers - not that that relates to what they did, but I just mention it in passing.

    As has been mentioned by other posters, Pearce was universally known among the boys as Gay Dave. All the time. When I was there his offending was (from what I can gather from reports) maybe of a slightly lesser degree than later, but it's hard to be sure. He certainly grabbed a grope whenever he could. And the CCF was heaven for him. Quite apart from being able to strut around in his very lovely uniform as Captain Pearce on a Friday afternoon, he also got very actively involved in fitting out the cadets for uniforms. "Oh look, much too baggy", flapping the waistband and getting a hand down inside.

    I guess the effect that such things (and others I won't know about) varies a lot from person to person. I can well believe that it has a terrible effect on some. Personally I just found him a creepy f***er and kept away when possible.

    He's now serving his time - but if 8 years is what he deserves, then I'd give a lot more to the bastards who protected him. Really. He's a sad, despicable man - but he could have been dealt with *decades* ago by those who were in a position to do so. They chose to not do so. Yes, "chose" - they knew what he was like.

    I so, so wish that the religious crap I believed back then was true and that these people would, one day, get judged by a higher power. Sadly I know that's not so.


    '...if 8 years is what he deserves, then I'd give a lot more to the bastards who protected him.'

    Well, far from serving time, 'the bastards who protected him' - including David Pearce's friend, Martin Shipperlee, are happily running the show.

  29. 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

  30. The full Charity Commission report on Ealing Abbey:

  31. I was there right from the beginning of David Pearce's tenure. During that time at least two more of his monastic colleagues also indulged in what might appear to others as questionable behaviour (I choose these words carefully). It was commonplace - there are undoubtedly many other victims who for their own very good reasons would wish to remain in the background - I am not a victim - but on two occasions came very close to being one - these perverts are clever and quickly recognise resistance or a potential whistleblower and move on to the more vulnerable - unfortunately my parents were dismissive of my alerts.

  32. Sorry if this has already been covered but have there been any updates since the beginning of the year? I saw the piece in the Guardian newspaper.

  33. Take a look at the most recent articles on the blog, about the Charity Commission reports, Andy Slaughter's article in the Ealing Gazette, and the Abbot's latest remarks in response to the reports.

  34. I had been sitting with some monks of Ealing just days after Fr David had been arrested. There was business as usual, one even said how proud they could be about their school. None mentioned to a guest this major incident which then already was in the news. Would one not expect that the monks of Ealing should be equally shocked, talking and discussing such a horrible incident? What does this say about a community if such charges against a "brother" do result only in "business as usual"? It is sick...

  35. oh to be heard... The guilt I feel in posting these words about Fr Michael Hollings. A boy made accusations about Fr Michael and they were quashed, so many couldn't believe anything bad about such a good man. However Fr Michael however good his intentions, used illicit methods of 'helping' young men.My husband was also , around the same period invited to be intimate with Fr Hollings in a way I cannot say here, but if ever anyone happens to read this and knows of anyone who experienced abuse from Fr Hollings please know you are not alone.

    1. is this going to be raised in the Goddard Inquiry ? I also know someone clos2 to me who was in my view inppropriately 'encouraged' to be intimate with Michael Hollings. Abuse in my view.

  36. There needs to be much more exposure on the abuse that has taken place.
    The biggest issue, as I see it, is that abuse has taken place over a number of decades and that it does not lie solely with Fr David. Fr Michael was widely aknowledged to be a problem earlier, and another priest (I cannot remember as it was before my time) was widely accepted to be abussive for many years in the 60's/70's.
    The investigation needs to consider whether perverted Priests were angling for St Benedicts in Ealing knowing that there were opportunities available to them?
    I was a student from the middle school onwards c late 80's and fortunately didnt witness the goings-on in the Jnr school. Not that I didnt hear all about "Gay Dave" and his "fiddling" and videos. The boys we knew were taken advantage of included a student that had his mother employed on a temp basis at the school. How is that not predatory? It is completely calculated and St Benedicts in my time had a very, very sinister feel to it with many dark murmurings amongst students. Sexually abussive priests, priests that bought alcohol for underage boys, you name it...

  37. I am concerned to see postings on Michael Hollings who certainly seriously abused his position of trust when I turned to him in need as a young man. I want to get a written apology from Vincent Nichols for this and know if the Catholic Church is really prepared to atone for what it has allowed and covered up and to disclose the extent of the problem of sexual abuse, not just with children but also with adults. How much were they aware of the problems involving Michael Hollings and why was nothing done to protect potential victims of his "affection"? Why was nothing done about "the bad apples"? How could I and others go about getting proper redress when such incidents are so long ago, were committed by someone now dead, and were not in themselves criminal as opposed to being moral and perhaps cannon law offences? Perhaps Vincent Nichols would like to post his reply here given his commitment to zero tolerance (see Times today) - is this just words and an attempt to take the heat off this part of the RC church - Michael Hollings was after all a front runner for the post that Vincent Nicholls currently holds and yet the only public statements about Fr Hollings appear to seek to ridicule anyone who made allegations against him.

  38. I am relieved? excited ? or at least moved to hope that after years of repressed anger, that there may be some hope of the abuse of young men by Michael Hollings coming to light.Also that it be known, even a man such as Fr Michael Hollings who no doubt did so much good, was also capable of abusing his position as a parish priest of high esteem.

  39. Anyone who has experienced the shite liturgy on offer at Ealing Abbey would know that it is a community with problems. It's a give away each time.

  40. I was at St Benedict's upper school until the late 1970s.

    Fr David had a reputation then as someone to avoid, however I never heard any specific allegations, he was just considered rather creepy and the "Gay Dave" nickname was current in the 1970s.

    However, I was a victim of his colleague Fr Laurence Soper. I had to go to Soper's office after school one day to be caned for not doing my homework. Canings then were commonplace and almost considered as a badge of achievement amongst the boys, so that didn't bother me.

    Fr Laurence told me to put my hands in my trousers and wriggle my underpants down so that they wouldn't obstruct the caning! He then went a bit red in the face as he said he wanted to double check that I didn't have some protective padding down the back of my trousers and he put his hands inside the back of my trousers and spent some time groping my buttocks. I thank God that that was the worst of it and that the creep didn't grope anywhere else. However I still felt very soiled and ashamed and felt too embarrassed to tell my parents who did not get on well at the time. I wonder if the piece of shit knew that! I do feel guilty about not spreaking up as it may have alerted the authorites to some extent.

    By the way, I was caned many times at St Ben's and never did anyone else use this "underpants" and "check for padding" trick, the other teachers just issued a simple wacking with no preamble.

    This was a double betrayal for me as I was passionate about science at the time and Soper, who was an accompllished physics scholar, taught me physics. I didn't exactly go off the rails but I did rebel a bit at St Benedicts and didn't achieve the qualifications I had hoped for.

    A pox on Soper, Pearce, the other sick shits and especially on the craven cowards who protected them, may they rot in hell!

  41. Well I would just like to add that I was not a victim but came in close contact with David Pearce. In 2005 I was studying for the priesthood and he was my spiritual director. I must say I'm angry with the Abbot for not acting when he should have. Knowing I opened up to a peadophile about my innermost spiritual and emotional problems has made me feel sick. People I have spoken to have said God can still be there in people such as him, but to be honest everyone knows when you abuse another human being no matter what your faith or faithless. St Paul says it's a law written upon the hearts of men. I find it hard now and have a serious trust issue with those in higher authority. I can tell you I will not be silent and will always speak out about what I have heard and seen. I can say in my time as a seminarian I was 3 times harrassed sexually by a priest who was supposed to be a friend. The only reason he stopped was because I told him if he didn't stop I would punch him in the face! imagine trying to explained a black eye publically, he soon wised up. I can tell anyone reading this that I know of one incident where a bishop was making sexual advances to his priest friend.

    My point I'm making here is well it's like this. A large percentage of people in holyorders don't fear God it's almost as if they don't believe he exists. This needs to stop.

    I still feel that I'm being called to ministry as a deacon. But to be honest I can't say I'm gonna just swear blind obebience to a bishop that I hardly know.

    Believe me I hope I never encounter anyone near my kids and my heart goes out to anyone who has felt abused or victimized.

    sometimes I think I can hear jesus crying!

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  45. I have deleted the the three comments above which were a cut-and-paste copy of Hans Kung's open letter to the Pope. It is rather long and off-topic for this article. If you want to look at Hans Kung's letter, it is available in various places, for instance at the BBC.

  46. I posted an earlier comment (17 march) and took up my complaints with Archbishop Vincent Nichols. His response was direct and appropriate. I encourage others to have confidence in the response of the Catholic Church in this country under his lead.

    Thanks to those who posted here on their experiences of Michael Hollings. He was lionised as an unorthodox hero and he befriended saints, lords, journalists, police, poor and sick. But, some know him more for his flaws and wrongs. Someone said to me that grace and brokenness were not mutually exclusive presences and, to me, there are few who exemplify this more than him. RIP.

    I am not a Roman Catholic but can see that the RC church in this country is taking a determined lead amongst religious groups to try to get safeguarding for children and young people right.

    Good luck to those who are still struggling to rise above whatever mire and turmoil they have been put in by the boundary violations of priests and, if you are interested, you may find help by doing what I have done and passing responsibility for dealing with any injury caused onto those who are accountable. I personally found the story of Mary, the undoer of knots, also very helpful!

  47. Strange, but I wasn't aware of this case (Pearce) until today when I saw a documentary on ITV. I was at St Benedicts' in the late 60s. Dom Gerard, initially headmaster of the Middle School, was notorious for his interest in little boys. Later he moved to the Senior school, where he attempted to abuse me, amongst others. I ran away, kept on running. Others weren't so quick or so lucky. Point being that everyone knew about Gerard – boys and teachers alike. But to go against him was seen as going against the Church and that was the worst sin of all. Anyway, the Abbey at the time was a hot-bed of bullying, waspish homosexuality. . .I knew at least one postulant who left because the atmosphere was so poisonous. Gerard continued his career and activities into the 70s, ending as headmaster of the Senior school. God only knows how many lives he and others like him ruined. The Church has always put its existence, its authority, its majesty ahead of everything and everyone else. It justifies this by the claim that it is the only institution that can truly lead people to God. It asks for forgiveness and understanding yet still refuses to fully reform. It demands that religious belief play a part in the secular life of the nation. . .but one suspects it won't be eager to endorse any Islamic argument in favour of female genital mutilation. Or perhaps it will. Women have never been as popular with the Church as have, say, adolescent boys. Someone once said that all it needs for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing. At St Benedicts' and elsewhere good men and women closed the eyes and ears, all in the name of Holy Mother Church. Somewhere in the world they still are. It's what happens with an autocracy. There was, is, a great deal that is fine and mystical in the Church. . .or was that all a confidence trick as well?

  48. Anonymous said...

    "I was at St Benedicts' in the late 60s. Dom Gerard, initially headmaster of the Middle School...continued his career and activities into the 70s, ending as headmaster of the Senior school."

    You've either got your dates wrong or are thinking about a different priest. Dom Gerard Hayes became headmaster in 1960, and was dead within 12 months.