Since the programme was shown on BBC1 last night, there have been various reviews of Abused: Breaking The Silence.
Most have concentrated on the horror of the events described in the programme. Some have also commented on the disgraceful behaviour of the Rosminian order, including their president Fr David Myers, in covering up the abuse.
But what struck me most strongly were the clear parallels between the abuses by the Rosminians at Grace Dieu and Soni, and the abuses by Benedictines at St. Benedict's School Ealing.
In both cases, the monks instituted a climate of fear, with regular beatings and other severe physical punishments.
In both cases, it seems that the priests sometimes derived sexual pleasure from administering those beatings.
In both cases, there was sexual abuse of young boys.
In both cases, boys were warned on threat of hellfire and damnation not to tell anyone about it.
In both cases, monks enjoyed watching boys naked in the showers.
In both cases, some boys did try to tell their parents about sexual abuse they had suffered, and some of them were not believed.
In both cases, when parents complained, only the most minimal changes were made. In the case of the Rosminians, it was to move a priest from Grace Dieu school to the boarding school in Soni, Tanzania, where he carried on abusing as before. In the case of the Benedictines, it was to move a priest from being Junior School Headmaster to being Bursar, while allowing him still to supervise the Cadet Corps where he could carry on abusing as before.
In both cases, where victims complained, the order denied liability and contested claims for compensation.
Last night's programme could have been about St. Benedict's, and although details of the narrative would have been different, the accounts of the abuse suffered by the victims would have been almost exactly the same.
Two schools. Two different religious orders involved. Very similar stories.
Let nobody call this a case of a few bad priests acting against the
orders of the church. The Catholic Herald (not a paper particularly noted for negative stories about the Catholic Church) has nearly 60 articles
tagged "clerical abuse crisis", describing cases of sexual abuse from UK, Tanzania,
Canada, Kenya, USA, Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Austria,
Germany and probably a few other places that I have missed.
It is time to realise that this is, if not normal behaviour by priests, at least distressingly common.
It is not a problem of just the way some seminary or other has trained its priests, it is worldwide.
It is not a problem of sexual licence introduced to the world in the 1960s, it has been going on much longer than that.
It is not a problem of a few rotten apples, it is too widespread for that.
It is not a problem of homosexuality, some abusers (Fr Kit Cunningham himself for instance) are heterosexual.
It is not a problem of liberalism, abuse was going on before Vatican II and the introduction of Mass in the vernacular.
It is not a problem of celibacy. Fr Kit Cunningham himself was in a very close and loving relationship with his housekeeper, and outside the church there are abusers who are married or in a regular sexual relationship.
So put aside all the traditional explaining-away accounts of the abuse crisis. They won't wash any more, not now we know about Fr Kit Cunningham.
course, this individual example of the problem as shown on BBC1 is going to have to be
resolved in a way that offers some degree of justice and healing to the
victims. It is tragic and scandalous that Fr Myers and the Rosminians
are digging their heels in against this.
But the wider causes of
the problem must also be addressed, and real effort put into introducing
proper child protection measures everywhere in the church, and more
importantly, establishing a culture of awareness and zero tolerance of abuse.
more saying "Oh, but Fr Kit was a wonderful priest who brought lots of
people to the faith", as if that excuses his actions. It doesn't.
more saying "Fr XYZ would never do such a thing" and so failing to pass
on a report or allegation of abuse. We know that priests - even very
prominent priests - can do such a thing.
No more of the attitude
that equates reporting abuse with an attack on the priesthood or on the
church itself, unless you want the church to be in a position where
it institutionalises the defence and protection of paedophiles and
That such a prominent priest as Fr Kit
Cunningham, who knew everybody who was anybody in London Catholic
circles, should have been revealed to be an abuser will be making a lot
of people feel awfully foolish and betrayed today. Let this be a wake-up
call. Abuse isn't something that only affects other people and places.
Nobody can be treated as being above suspicion, and robust protection
measures are needed to ensure that any abuse that happens near you is
detected quickly and stopped immediately. That is happening in some
places, but not nearly enough.
Two of the places where is isn't happening are St. Benedict's School, and St. Augustine's Priory School.