Sunday, 12 September 2010

Abbot Lawrence Soper

Well, it's now out in the open. The "80 year old monk living abroad whom police want to question" has been named. The following is from the Independent On Sunday today.

Their call comes as it was revealed that a former abbot of a prestigious Catholic establishment has been summoned back to the UK from Rome in connection with a police investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at St Benedict's School, Ealing, in west London. The Right Rev Dom Lawrence Soper, 80, now based at Collegio Sant'Anselmo in Rome, will voluntarily return to London this month to answer questions. Lord Carlile QC has been appointed to lead an independent inquiry into continuing allegations at the school.
This is going to go on and on. If it turns out that the allegations against Soper are substantiated, then this is much worse than the issue of Father David Pearce. Soper was Abbot from 1991 to 2000, and so would have been in a position not only to commit abuses, but also to cover up the abuses of others. For instance, Soper was Abbot when Pearce "retired" as Junior School headteacher and was appointed Bursar instead. It's one thing to have had a paedophile priest among the ranks of the monks at the Abbey, it is quite another for there to  have been a paedophile Abbot in charge of the place!

It is hard to imagine that nobody else at the Abbey had any idea about Soper. If that is the case, then it means that the monks (including the present Abbot, Martin Shipperlee) knew about him when they elected him Abbot. That means that they didn't think that this was a factor disqualifying him from the post. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.


  1. Because he is 80 Soper will never serve anytime in jail, but he should at least be banned from any premises where he can have any contact with minors. What about Father Gregory, when will he be charged?

  2. Why do the papers repeat parrot fashion that Carlile's review is "independent?"

    It is absolutely not independent. It has been commissioned by Shipperlee, through Nelson the school's solicitor, who alighted upon Carlile.

    The body paying the invoice is St Benedict's.

    Please correct any errors.

    Now what is the relationship between these men, if any?

    Were Shipperlee and Nelson contemporaries at St Anselm's in Birkenhead? Someone knows. "Any answers" is awaiting your posting on this site!

    But what of Nelson Shiperlee and Lord Carlile; anything or nothing?

  3. Back in late 1983 - early 1984 John Maestri, who had been the 2nd Master of the Middle School was due to replace Fr Lawrence Soper as Master of the Middle School.

    I wonder what Fr Lawrence knew about John Maestri? I also wonder what discussions Abbot Francis had with Fr Lawrence Soper about the Maestri problem?

    What a shame and disgrace that it is the Met that forces Lawrence Soper to account for his actions, I wonder did they threaten to apply for a European Arrest Warrant- how long O Lord.

    Why did the Abbot Primate harbour Abbot Lawrence for so long.

    Also I wonder whether Harrow School, where Lawrence acted as Catholic Chaplain after he left the Middle School is aware of the Police Investigations?

    Kyrie eleison.

    Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo:
    ne in aeternum irascaris nobis.

  4. Last week a poster suggested the convicted paedophile teacher Slade would have been ideally suited to St Benedict's given his love for corporal punishment. From today's Mail on Sunday.

  5. Jonathan; thank you [will never be enough!].

    And... anonymous of 13/09 @ 00.06; thank you too. That article is very interesting.

  6. If Soper's case for alleged abuse goes to court there is little liklihood of jail if he is guilty. I suspect at this stage in their lives, victims of any alleged abuse would prefer that he makes a clean breast of it all, and provides us with facts about his supervision and concealment of child sexual abuse at St Benedict's during his time as abbot.

    Of course though, one must remember that such a public confession goes completely against everything the Catholic Church expects from its priests.

  7. Oh, I don't know. It depends on the charges, on whether he pleads guilty and and on the judge. We're a long way from that yet - after all, Pearce was arrested in early 2008 and his case didn't come to trial until August 2009 (with an eve-of-trial decision on his part to change his plea).

    It's a bit early for us to speculate as to what Soper might get. We don't know whether he will be charged, and if so with what. Let's let the police get on with their job first.

  8. Whether he is charged or not there is still the matter of his time as abbot when he had a number of child abuse incidents to deal with. As we have had confirmed to us, none came to the attention of the police; why not? What was the complete reason for Pearce becoming the bursar? Were there other abusers known to Soper both on the board of trustees and elsewhere in the abbey and school? What other incidents of abuse were known to Soper but went unreported by the school?

    Soper has all this and more in his head, and it needs to be placed in the public domain so everyone can learn from this morally bankrupt religious order.

  9. Dom Lawrence Soper has absolutely no conscience. Even if the specific abuse allegations are proved to be false or not proven - and it's true that he hasn't even been charged yet - what is true is that for much of his career he treated small boys in a way that the RSPCA would not tolerate now or then if similar violence was perpetrated against animals in a farmyard. And on top of the then-legal physical violence he inflicted, he was extremely good at psychologically abusing the small children who had been placed in his care. I wish him nothing less than a long and lingering death from the most painful illness that can afflict a man, as I see no prospect of him receiving justice in the next world, and I doubt that he will be troubled in his own mind by any ruling made against him in this one. A man like that can justify anything to himself. But it is surely time now for people who were lay members of staff at St Benedict's in the 1970's and 1980's to examine their consciences. Your salaries and pensions are your thirty pieces of silver.

  10. --

    And Soper was seen as the ideal candidate to run a school!

    It seems he shares much in common with some of those in the church who consistently can't face the truth about themselves, some of whom appeared in the Channel4 film tonight hosted by Peter Tatchell.

    The Trouble with The Pope

    The papers are full of comment about this film which seems to have hit nerves.


  11. To 23:13, if you were abused by Soper (or by anybody at the school), it is not too late to tell the police about it. There is obviously an active investigation going on, and the police will certainly take seriously reports from anybody else who comes forward. The school in the latest version of its child protection policy has very usefully provided an appropriate contact for anybody wishing to do so. I've repeated it below.

    Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT):
    Northwood Police Station
    2 Murray Road
    Northwood, Middlesex
    Contact : Duty Officer – Sharon Brookes
    Tel: 020 8246 1901

  12. I think it's important to understand that the sexual abuse, which is a terrible thing, is at the extreme end of the scale of the harm that these people did - many young people, including myself, were damaged by behaviour that was legal but completely indefensible morally - bullying, manipulative behaviour, hypocrisy - from people who set themselves up as moral experts. The victims of sexual abuse, who have been damaged the most, are yet the tip of an iceberg of psychological harm. And this is why this blog is so valuable. I remember Gregory Chillman giving me a bollocking when he was clearly drunk - as he was, often (is it illegal for teachers to be drunk in school?) - in the presence of Mr Strahan who could not fail to have been aware of the smell of strong drink. I believe that for a Headmaster to shout at a pupil while drunk would not be thought of as good educational practice nowadays (perhaps in the 1980's it was different). No one is going to now charge Gregory Chillman with being drunk in charge of a public school thirty years ago. But as he is still a member of Ealing Abbey, and as Strahan apparently still teaches, I believe it is extremely healthy for the parents of any minors they come into contact with to have as much information about them as possible. Take it from me, if you send your child to a school where Mr Strahan teaches, and if someone more senior than him gets drunk and decides to attack your child verbally, my experience suggests that Mr Strahan will do absolutely nothing about it. In schools like this the way children behave is all important - adults can do whatever the hell they want. That is a terrible way to bring up children.

  13. You posting is depressingly familiar to incidents of which I have knowledge mostly within private schools. How many times have we heard the word "fiefdoms" attached to these institutions? And when one suggests to the DfE that bullying and emotional terror can just as easily happen today, the denials rain in with the department citing the 'rigorous' nature of school inspections.

    Of course such denials are total crap, because rigorous safeguarding inspection does not exist because the DfE permits it not to exist.
    I have recently been speaking with an acquaintance who withdrew his son from a school because of physical bullying by a pupil and psychological and emotional bullying by the headmaster. The father’s story is a nightmare and he has not recovered from the experience, but his son is on the mend having received psychological counselling. This is a lesson to all parents who send children to independent schools - you have no rights! Don't for one minute think you do,- the school is all powerful and has deeper pockets than you. Fairness does not feature. It’s all about the protection of “reputation” which is a schools biggest intangible asset but not included on any balance sheet.

    The acquaintance decided to withdraw his son and the school said ‘ you've lost your deposit as a result of giving insufficient notice’. The parents said – ‘but my son is being bullied and you are doing nothing about it so I have no alternative but to withdraw him.’ The complaints procedure promulgated by the school did not work, the school made sure it did not work, and his complaints to the appropriate bodies including the inspectorate (ISI) went nowhere. No one listened.

    The parent then contacted the DfE independent schools desk. They said to him – ‘independent schools are private businesses, you decided to send your son to one so this is a private matter and we cannot become involved.’ The parent, a very bright respected man in his field said, ‘I have no rights and no support and no one cared about the bullying, including the local authority to which he attempted to report the emotional and physical abuse. No one wanted to know.

    His conclusion; "nothing works" in safeguarding despite suggestions and appearances to the contrary.

    Welcome to safeguarding 2010 - and it is set to worsen if the coalition rhetoric is delivered. They are comprised of public school boys with a sepia recollection of child protection “didn’t do me any harm.” All ministers are terrified of safeguarding and go where the civil servants generally suggest. And the civil servants at the DfE are collectively not up to much, are addicted to theory because it’s cleaner and easier to deal with than the grubby practicalities of reality.

    You are correct, it’s a terrible way to raise children. But there is little hope of change while parents remain unengaged with their children and the school on the subject. Parents need to ask searching questions of every institution, and a complete overhaul of safeguarding inspection and reporting is required.

  14. I am a recent former pupil of both St Benedicts and the school where Mr Strahan now teaches and I think it is absolutely absurd and ludicrous to suggest that in some way he should be held accountable or even put in the same bracket as a sex abuser! During my time at the school I found Strahan to be a considerate and fair teacher, and guess what. I felt completely safe whilst under his tuition. And isn't that what child safe guarding is all about ? Maybe this one particular teacher failed you 25 years ago, but to me it sounds like more of a grudge than any substantiated accusation.

    However, I am absolutely not denying that what has happened at St Benedict's is both utterly harrowing and disgusting, perpetrated with an arrogance which is just jaw dropping.

    You all seem so concerned for the children, but the more I read the more I become convinced that you are moving away from rational thought and into complete hysteria, and that you actually don't understand us or our needs at all.

    The assertion that physical contact is always inappropriate is plain ridiculous. At an assembly once I remember a best friend heaving and breathless with tears over the recent violent death of his father, and the simple action of a teacher standing beside him and reassuringly placing his hand on the boys shoulder led to him calming down, and let me tell you, my friend truly appreciated that act of kindness when all other teachers stood watching his pain silently .

    It really says more about your sick mind if you read into and the mere mention of physical contact makes you uncomfortable. Sometimes all it is is one human being reaching out to another.

    I guess what I'm saying is if you want to be successful, don't take your eye off the ball, and if you want to catch these men, don't turn it into a witch hunt. Because at the moment it appears hysteria is causing accusations to fly everywhere, and you as a result are managing to look to us teenagers utterly out of touch of reality and as though actually, it comes down to some personal vendetta or grudge, rather than anything to do with us or our safety.

  15. Well, well Larry my lad, so you've had your collar felt by the Old Bill, not before time from what I am told. I was fortunate enough to avoid your time as Middle School Headmaster by about a year.

    I hope you've got yourself a good lawyer, otherwise you could be swapping the Rule of St Benedict in Rome for Rule 45 (formerly 43) in HMP Wandsworth.

    With a little luck there will soon be enough of your pals locked up with you to set up a new priory.


  16. Where's Larry?

    1. He's still on the loose somewhere - surely somebody must know where he is --

  17. As a past pupil of St Benedict's, and in the same school year as Laurence Soper, I can categorically inform you that he is only 68, and not 80 as The Independent claims. It would be interesting to know from where their information came.

  18. Anonymous said...

    "I remember Gregory Chillman giving me a bollocking when he was clearly drunk in the presence of Mr Strahan."

    Mike "Mickey" Strahan left St Benedict's in the summer of 1990 to become (I think) deputy head of St Augustine's.

  19. As an addendum to my statement I am drawing attention to the circumstances surrounding the conviction in 2005 of sexual crimes against children of John Kinsey. Kinsey was a novice at Belmont Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Hereford when these offences were committed. He subsequently left the monastery and was ordained to the secular priesthood for a British diocese. Had the Abbot of Belmont advised the receiving diocese of Kinsey's conduct and if not why not? If the Abbot had advised the diocesan ordinary why was he accepted as a student for the Roman priesthood and permitted to proceed to ordination. Were there offences committed by Kinsey during his time as a secular priest?

    Did the Arnold/Yeo visitation investigate or even touch upon such issues that could have occurred at Ealing? Has Shipperlee the present abbot been given yet another opportunity to mislead which is code for lying -yet again?

  20. I now understand that Christopher Jarvis, employed by the Rt. Rev. Christopher Budd, Roman Catholic Bishop of Plymouth as a paedophile abuse investigator has been convicted and jailed for child sex offences. Was this not the diocese Richard Yeo O.S.B was summoned to following the conviction and jailing of the Abbot of Buckfast for child sex abuse offences.

    So where is Abbot Emeritus Laurence Soper? I suggest that he is in hiding at a monastery or religious house of some description in Europe. Quite possibly known to and protected by his hosts. If not then it takes money to disappear. Where then did this money come from and how was it obtained? As Bursar of St. Anselmo's the Benedictines headquarters in Rome there may have been ample opportunity to make provision for precisely this purpose- to disappear. Is the Roman Catholic Church routing funds to support his life while on the run?

    Quite possibly the Apostolic Visitation will recommend Shipperlee's removal as Abbot. A vicarious sacrifice and Yeo himself installed as Administrator in a scenario none too different from Buckfast Abbey. The windmills of the mind turn and turn...

  21. The Rt. Rev. Abbot Richard Yeo O.S.B was appointed administrator of the Benedictine Monastery of Buckfast, Devon following the conviction and jailing of the Abbot of Buckfast,the Rt. Rev. William Manahan, O.S.B. The news that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth employed a now convicted paedophile, Christopher Jarvis, over a 9 year period in a key and crucial child protection role beggars belief. Jarvis was the lead investigator at Buckfast Abbey concerning historic sex abuse allegations at the monastery. Did Yeo meet or communicate with Jarvis at an time? What was the nature and substance of these communications. Did Jarvis' advices or recommendations influence Yeo...the questions roll on and on....

  22. Chris Jarvis was recruited in good faith from social services.Genuine mistakes are made but I agree maybe Abbot Yeo has enough on his plate at Buckfast to get involved at Ealing