Saturday, 13 February 2010

Disturbing parallels

Laurie Taylor has written an article in this week's Times Educational Supplement, very bravely describing the abuse he suffered at Sacred Heart Boarding School in Droitwich. It is titled 'If you keep quiet, I won't say anything...'

He describes the moment when he and a friend finally summoned the courage to report the abuse
Somehow we plucked up courage to go and see the headmaster, Father Lythgoe. We stood nervously in his office and made our complaint. Said that we didn’t like to be touched. Said that we thought it was wrong.

He told us that we were making very serious accusations. These priests were very holy men. Didn’t we know about the missionary work that Father Dunworth had done in Africa? And why were we the only ones who had ever complained? Were we really so free of sin ourselves that we could afford to accuse others of wrongdoing?

Laurie Taylor recognises in his own experiences parallels with what he has read in the Murphy Report into abuse in Ireland.
As you read this report, you are gradually aware of one glaring omission from all the accounts given by bishops and archbishops of their reasons for inaction: a concern about the damage these serial abusers were inflicting upon young children. Whenever any mention is made of harm or damage, it is always in reference to the standing and reputation of the priest. It is this that must be protected at all costs.
Those of you who are familiar with the events at St Benedict's may recognise other parallels. My immediate reaction on reading this was to recall the Abbot's press statement and letter to parisioners.
The crimes perpetrated by Fr David 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.

We have cooperated fully with the police throughout their investigation and I would like to express my thanks to them for the professional way in which they have dealt with this matter.
This is all extremely convenient. Nothing can now be done to protect Pearce's reputation - he's been convicted. But by heaping all the blame for everything on Pearce, the Abbot aims to paint the Abbey and the church in general as being whiter than white.

But we know otherwise. Mr. Justice Field was highly unimpressed with the veracity both of Pearce himself and of the other witnesses on behalf of the Abbey in the civil case undertaken by "C" in 2006. You can read the full text of his judgement online.

In it, the judge refers to answers which sounded rehearsed and did not have the "ring of truth", mislaid documents, failure to check memories against documents and a variety of other evasions which led him to believe that "C"s allegations were both true and did not admit of an innocent explanation.

"C" was one of the victims of assault to which Pearce eventually pleaded guilty last year. When the prosecution barrister summed up the charges against Pearce, he referred to a letter from the Abbot describing the reasons Pearce had been placed on a restricted ministry. It would seem in fact that the restriction was in fact a part of a promise to the Charity Commission following their Statutory Inquiry. But the public reason given was "To protect Father David from unfounded allegations".

Parallels, anyone?


  1. It all seems to have gone very quiet. Is there any news on the independant enquirey into who knew what. Lets be frank they spent £250,000 of a charities money to defend a man they knew was a criminal. With regards to the above article I agree, Child abuse has happened in other religions and organizations such as schools and childrens homes. The problem with the Catholic Church is that every time it comes under fire it circles the wagons and defends its reputation without regards to the truth and justice. It needs to understand that child care organizations and the legal system are not part of a catholic persecution complex. No other organization today would have dreamed of defending Pearce against what they knew to be truthful allegations made by a child

  2. Yes, I am continuing to burrow away at this, and I will have more to report in due course. If you want to be notified immediately there is a new article on the blog, you can either subscribe to the RSS feed of it, or click the Follow button in the top right corner of the page.

    Stictly speaking, I don't know how much they spent on Pearce's defence, and the Charity Commission report states that the funds came from a claim on an insurance policy held by the abbey.

  3. I see the David Pearce story has even been picked up in Ireland:

    and the well-known and superbly researched US Bishops' Accountability site:

  4. As I recall from the Charity Commission Report the Trust's Insurance policy covered the legal expenses of the St Benedict's Ealing Abbey Trust's legal expenses in the High Court action and the damages awarded by the High Court.

    However the Insurance Policy did not cover David Pearce's legal costs - he has a different firm of Solicitors and Counsel acting for him. Those expenses were paid by the Ealing Abbey Trust, or rather the fee-paying parents of St Benedict's School who fund the monks of Ealing Abbey.

    The School needs to have its own Trust arrangements. It is clearly absurd that the parents of boys at St B's should pay for David Pearce's legal team.

  5. "Discovering Priesthood
    posted on 24 February 2010

    Day for Priesthood
    Ealing Abbey is hosting a 'Discovering Priesthood Day' aimed at young men in the diocese which will take place on Saturday 13 March 2010.

    The day will be run by Abbot Martin Shipperlee OSB, Fr Stephen Langridge, Vocations Director for the Diocese of Southwark and Fr Richard Nesbitt, Vocations Director for the Diocese of Westminster. They will be joined by seminarians and recently ordained priests.

    The latest news on the front page of the Westminster Catholic Diocese website.

    Does Archbishop Nichols really think Ealing Abbey is a good place to hold this event?

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. There is a report tonight at 10.30pm on Newsnight about Father Bill Carney the notorious Irish paedophile priest.

    Carney was able to abuse children for many years because members of the Church protected him from prosecution. There are striking parallels with the case of Father David.

  8. Waiting for the Ealing Enquiry in David Pearce12 March 2010 at 15:02

    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, the well-known advocate for survivors of Catholic clergy sex abuse, asks, “Where Does the Buck Stop,” in response to a note issued by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J.

    It is worth noting the Germans have launched investigations of the abuse at the Choir School in Regensberg within days of the story breaking.

  9. The Pearce story has been reported on the website of Fair Play for Children, a charity founded by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston.