There are several articles about Father David Pearce and the events at Ealing Abbey and St. Benedict's School in today's Times. The Catholic boy abused by Father David Pearce whose life fell apart, Britain’s top Catholic ‘protected’ paedophile, and Catholic Church’s bluster over child abuse puts its good work at risk.
If you who have come here as a result of seeing one or other of the articles there, I would like to welcome you. If you have a connection with the school or the Abbey, you are especially welcome to comment here about your experiences.
If you want to see what I have written here on the subject in the past, this link will take you to a list of all my Ealing Abbey articles. Some of those articles have a large number of comments below them. If you were at the school, you may well recognise some of your school contemporaries among those who have left comments.
I have been in touch with some of Father David's victims, both as as a result of people commenting here on the blog and people contacting me privately. If you are a victim and want to tell your story to somebody, but don't feel able to do so in public in a comment here, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anything you write privately will be treated in strictest confidence for as long as you wish.
My aim in writing about St. Benedict's as I have is quite simple. My son was at the junior school for a couple of years while Pearce was Junior School Headmaster, and could so easily have been one of his victims. The fact that he wasn't is the sheerest good fortune for me and my son - it is certainly not down to any merit or caution on my part against such a threat. It simply didn't occur to me at the time that this was something I needed to be on guard against.
More recently, I had followed the various abuse scandals in America and Ireland, and had noticed that they didn't seem to stem from a single exceptionally bad character, but rather were the result of a failure to respond appropriately to reports of problems. There seemed to be nothing unusual about any of the places where it happened, so I wondered somewhat idly whether I would hear of any cases in the UK.
So I was very shocked, but not all that surprised, when quite by chance I happened to read in the papers last August the story of Father David Pearce's conviction. That brought it a bit too close to home. That meant that I almost certainly knew victims or at least the families of victims.
Nobody else at St. Benedict's School should have to suffer the same kind of abuse. To that end, I am applying such pressure as I can to ensure that the school's child protection procedures are improved. At the moment, they are still a sorry mess, and I have written to the Abbot pointing this out. Also, I wish to provide whatever support and comfort is within my power for past victims of sexual abuse at the school - caused by Father David or anybody else. It is only too easy for these abuses to go unchecked if everybody just looks the other way and assumes that somebody else will deal with it. So I've decided that I will not look the other way.
But I can't do it all myself. If you feel able to join me in taking action in support of these aims, please send me an email. Much more can be achieved with people acting in concert. If you are concerned about abuse at the school, either past, present or future, then we can help each other.
If you are a parent of a pupil presently at the school, then I recommend that you read my article Chosen, written a few months ago. In it you will find a link to a BAFTA award winning documentary of that name, produced by three former pupils of Caldicot School. Caldicot School is a private boarding school, (with no Catholic connection) and the three participants in the film, now all in middle age, describe their experiences of being groomed and then abused by teachers at the school. The details of the sexual crimes committed against them differ in some details, but the techniques used to groom the victims are exactly the same as was described in court at Father David's sentencing hearing in October. You can view the film online via the link given in the article. You may find parts of it distressing.
If you are a parent, you need also to be aware that there is no statutory obligation to report allegations or suspicions of sexual abuse to the authorities. You are dependent on the school choosing to, and at present the school's Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy leaves it to the discretion of the school whether a case is of sufficient seriousness to justify a report.
I am perfectly well aware that sexual abuse is not limited to the Catholic Church or its schools. Any job which involves contact with and supervision of children will attract its share of paedophiles. The protection of children means that schools and other organisations caring for children need to have policies and procedures in place which ensure as far as humanly possible that abuse is prevented, and that any abuse that happens is detected early and stopped immediately.
The policies and procedures of St. Benedict's School and Ealing Abbey completely failed to do this. Father David Pearce abused pupils at the school in a paedophile career that spanned 36 years, and he was brought to justice as a result of a pupil making a complaint directly to the police. The school's procedures contributed nothing to the process. I doubt very much that the procedures have been improved to the point that any new paedophile at the school would be quickly detected.
I have no time for anti-Catholic abuse or discrimination. So far, the comments on previous articles have remained remarkably free of anything like that. I would like it to stay that way, and I will delete any comments I consider to be abusive. I want this blog to be somewhere where victims and others concerned about the issue can feel safe contributing to the discussion.