The programme includes interviews with two victims of Father David Pearce, from the 1980's and 1990's. I know who both victims are though of course I shall not name either. I had no part in the making of the documentary. The complaints from the victim named "James" in the programme didn't result in a criminal prosecution because James's father unfortunately died before he was able to successfully press charges. The Abbot at the time flatly refused to discuss the matter. However, the threat of scandal almost certainly resulted in Pearce being moved from the post of Junior School Headmaster a year after James's father first made his complaint. The Abbot of the time was Lawrence Soper, the monk now living abroad who is being required to return to the UK and report to a police station to answer questions concerning child abuse.
The second victim "Mark" spoke of abuse that spanned over ten years, apparently starting in the 1990s, and described systematic and regular abuse not only of himself but of other boys, and stated that it is completely implausible that the Abbey authorities had no idea of what was going on. He is one of the victims of crimes for which Pearce was convicted. Pearce was ultimately convicted of a string of offences spanning 36 years, from 1972 to 2007.
But the most gobsmacking thing about the documentary is the part of the interview with Archbishop Vincent Nichols which dealt with the subject of St. Benedict's. The segment of the interview followed a narration which explained that Pearce had been abusing at the time that Nichols was chairman of COPCA, the body responsible for setting in place child protection guidelines within the church. Here is the relevant part of the interview.
Q: You put the guidelines in place, you made sure that things happened in parishes up and down the country, and yet we have St. Benedict's in Ealing, it was happening whilst you were in charge of the guidelines. What are your reflections on that?The response to the first question can basically be summed up in the words "nothing to do with me, guv". He's saying that the guidelines are OK, and it's all the Abbot's fault that they weren't properly implemented. If I were the Abbot seeing that interview, my reaction would be "Gee thanks Archbishop!"
VN: Anybody that produces guidelines knows that they are only as strong as they are implemented. And the duty for implementing them lies at different levels in the church. The church is quite a complex old thing, this is a Benedictine house, therefore the lines of accountability lie within the Benedictine community.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard about... well it was the tip of the iceberg as well, really at St. Benedicts.
VN: COPCA did not receive reports on cases, so we were not managing cases and allegations. We were trying to provide a framework within which those with immediate responsibility should work, and clearly it didn't work in this case.
And Nichols is also saying that even though he now knows all about the problem, he can't do anything about it, because "the lines of accountability lie within the Benedictine community". So it's nothing to do with him at all. Hands washed entirely clean of the business. Pontius Pilate couldn't have worded it better.
Nichols quite frankly comes out very badly in his answer to the second question as well. Actual cases of child abuse within the church are far too lowly a matter for the chairman of COPCA to dirty his hands with. He produced his guidelines and then apparently showed no interest at all in whether they were working or whether they were being implemented. One would have thought that some passing interest in current cases coming to light would have been appropriate, if only to see whether the guidelines were being implemented properly and whether the cases had highlighted weaknesses that needed to be addressed. But no, it seems that the grand theory of the guidelines mustn't be sullied with such inconvenient things as facts.
This is the degree of support your children will get from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church as a whole. They will try to push the whole business onto the Benedictines, and since the Benedictines report direct to Rome, and they will tell you that you will have to write to Rome in order to get anything done. In fact, that is precisely what Vincent Nichols' Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser Peter Turner has said. I asked him some time ago what routes were available in the event that the Abbot remained intransigent. This is what he wrote in reply.
You asked me to ascertain who is responsible for overseeing the Abbot and I have tried to explain below.Of course, Vincent Nichols is not really quite as helpless as he makes out. There has been a comparable case in the Benedictine monastery of Ettal in Bavaria, where Archbishop Reinhard Marx of the archdiocese of Munich-Friesing asked Benedictine Abbott Barnabas Bögle of the Ettal Abbey and Prior Maurus Kraß of the abbey’s school to resign. In response, an Apostolic Visitation was carried out. Ultimately Cardinal Franc Rode, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, cleared the names of the abbot and prior and said that the visitation found "that Abbot Barnabas had done all he was required to", even though Ettal is one of three church schools in Bavaria which have been rocked by abuse scandals.
The Abbot President (Abbot Robert Yeo) [sic] has the duty to advise and warn, but cannot directly intervene in the life of a united Community.
The local bishops have an interest but like the President have no power to directly intervene
Ultimately there is recourse to the Holy See. This could be done via the Apostolic Nuncio, but he’s very sick, so you would have to approach the Congregation for Institutes of Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Rome. They could ultimately invoke an Apostolic Visitation, but they’d probably go first to the Abbot President
The Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation
Abbot Richard Yeo OSB
Bath BA3 4RH
But Archbishop Vincent Nichols hasn't even done that much. You really are on your own.