Jane Little: Let me start with Sean’s point that the archdiocese should have stepped in with an investigation of its own, even though technically religious orders don’t come under your jurisdiction.We have a masterly bit of confusion right at the start here. He seems to be saying that Ealing Abbey both is and isn't under the jurisdiction of the diocese. It seems that in general terms it isn't, but in the specific context of safeguarding it is. So, if the parish is not implementing "procedures adopted by the diocese", does the diocese have the right to intervene in matters of safeguarding or does it not?
Bishop John Arnold: No, and you were quite right to correct him. The monastery is autonomous and under the Benedictines, and they have their own structures there for visitations and of course the Vatican can step in and supervise that and establish an Apostolic Visitation. The parish as it is, is under the diocese and of course subject there to the safeguarding provisions and procedures adopted by the diocese and all dioceses in England and Wales.
This is quite important. If the diocese has the right to intervene, then it should have done, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols was wrong to tell me he was unable to intervene. And if it hasn't the right to intervene, then it should have expressed its concerns to those who can intervene.
JL: But in the case of the diocese of Plymouth, the Bishop there had ordered a review into child protection at Buckfast Abbey and beyond, so why if it can happen there can’t you do it in the diocese of Westminster?The thing I most notice about this is that John Arnold has managed quite neatly not to answer the question. The question is why has the Diocese of Westminster not intervened at Ealing Abbey in the way the Diocese of Plymouth has at Buckfast. But all he's said in answer is to describe what has happened at Buckfast, and then describe what has happened at Ealing, which is that the Papal Nuncio (rather than the diocese) requested a visitation. What he hasn't said is why the diocese never requested a visitation. It is quite clear from comparable cases in other countries that Nichols does have the right to make a request along these lines to Rome, other bishops have (e.g. in Munich) when faced with obstructive Abbots.
JA: I’m not that familiar with Plymouth itself, but as I understand it, Bishop Budd has brought in the NSPCC to review the whole operation of procedures following the conviction of Chris Jarvis, but again, the monastery would be autonomous. A bishop can make recommendations, and in this case it was in fact the Nuncio who made recommendations to the Vatican that there should be an Apostolic Visitation to Ealing.
JL: What about the argument made there by Sean that the church authorities here were obstructive rather than co-operative and that it’s very important to achieve some sort of transparency?Well, he would disagree, wouldn't he? Note that again though, he seems to be talking about the church in general, whereas Sean O'Neill was talking more specifcally about the church authorities responsible for safeguarding at Ealing and Buckfast.
JA: Well, I’d have to disagree. I think the procedures are working pretty well, and they’re in place. I don’t tink there’s any intention of the church to be obstructive. We’ve got a very difficult problem here, and we’ve got ongoing work with victims, we’ve got to make sure that the safeguarding procedures are in place and I think there is transparency. What there mustn’t be is an overlap, so the Apostolic Visitation is looking to make sure that the safeguarding procedures are in place, and they’re being followed, but the investigations must be handed over to the statutory authorities.
And in his claims of transparency, I notice he says "we’ve got to make sure that the safeguarding procedures are in place" without making any statement about whether (at Ealing) the safeguarding procedures actually are in place.
And I have severe concerns about the church's procedures for handing over investigations to the statutory authorities. Section 2.1 of the CSAS procedures addresses handling of allegations of abuse of children. Within section 2.1, clause 2.1.1 deals with reporting allegations or concerns to the local safeguarding representative. But clause 2.1.2, describing referral to the police or social services starts as follows.
"When the decision has been made, after consultation with the Safeguarding Officer or Safeguarding Coordinator or by the Local Safeguarding Representative or recipient of the information in the case of an emergency, to make a referral to Children's Social Care Services or the Police, the following steps need to be taken."
And it goes on to describe the actions to be taken, once the decision to refer has been reached. What the clause doesn't do is describe the basis for making the decision to refer, the circumstances under which a referral must be made. So, Ealing Abbey could arguably claim that it is following the CSAS procedures, and yet never refer anything!
JL: It’s a bit embarrassing though isn’t it that the Vatican has come in over the local church’s head, and essentially said “You can’t deal with it. We will.”In that case, there is a significant concern as to whether the visitors chosen are in a position to be sufficiently independent. For instance, Bishop John Arnold himself is an auxiliary in the Diocese of Westminster, yet the Pontius Pilate job the diocese has done here in leaving Ealing to its own devices is something that ought to be worthy of comment in the visitation's report. But is John Arnold going to have the guts to criticise his own Archbishop? I doubt it very much.
JA: No, not really. Apostolic Visitations are not uncommon, and Rome very often steps in. As any big company when procedures are under question, they will come in and review procedures and make sure they are in place. So it’s not unusual, and some people have said this is a rebuke to Archbishop Vincent and a rebuke to the Benedictines, that couldn’t be the case. Here I am, I’m Archbishop Vincent’s auxiliary, and the Abbot President of the Benedictines is my co-visitor. Really, if was in a way a rebuke to either, then there would be a much more senior official from the Vatican coming in and doing the Apostolic Visitation.
And Abbot Richard Yeo is in an even more invidious position. As Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation, he had a role in advising Abbot Martin Shipperlee how to address the crisis in Ealing, and has the benefit of his own participation in the Cumberlege Commission. If he has failed to give the proper advice, then his own personal actions are ones which reasonably ought to be considered by the visitation. So, it is quite possible that Yeo will have to investigate himself as part of his visitation duties. This is madness.
And it is worse. There have been allegations of abuse at Downside, dating from the time when Yeo was Abbot there. So it may yet happen that Yeo will be found to have covered up abuse. Also, the English Benedictine Congregation isn't all that big, the senior monks all know each other very well, they have been colleagues for years. For instance, Richard Yeo has known Abbot Francis Rossiter for many years. Rossiter was Abbot of Ealing from 1967-1991, a time when it seems that Father David Pearce (convicted of abuses), Father (later Abbot) Laurence Soper (on the run from the police) and John Maestri (convicted of abuses) were all teaching at St. Benedict's. Who knows how many oher abusers Rossiter was allowing to run around unhindered? Can we reasonably expect Yeo to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of an old friend and colleague? He might be able to, but we can't have confidence that he actually will. So somebody who really is independent needs to be appointed if the visitation is going to be remotely credible.
A mess like Ealing doesn't happen without multiple management failures at different levels within an organisation. The immediate responsibility lies in the Abbey itself of course, but there are further levels of responsibility in the diocese and in the wider Benedictine Community, in that the mess in Ealing ought to have nbeen noticed and dealt with many years ago. Both in the diocese and the English benedictine Congregation (EBC) failed to do so. And yet the diocese and the EBC are conducting the visitation! Is there any reason to think that they are going to look into any of this?
JL: Critics have suggested that the Visitation has been carefully designed to achieve nothing at all.That "carefully designed to achieve nothing at all" is me, quoted in the Times. I stand by that statement. Consider the following:
JA: Well, we have our remit. The scope was the monastery to make sure safeguarding procedures are there and being followed, there is a pastoral concern for the monks, and for the victims of past abuse. I think that’s the scope we hope to complete and to achieve in your report to the Congregation.
- Who has been chosen to conduct the visitation
- The visitation started without the public announcement by the church which had been promised to me by the Nuncio
- The visitation has started and issued an interim report without attempting to contact me to obtain the information I told the Nuncio I had available for them.
- Bishop John Arnold has been very vague about the terms of reference of the visitation
- Bishop John Arnold is supposedly investigating Ealing, and yet he's asked them about me, and as a result has decided it seems that he doesn't need to ask me about them!
JL: When will you report, and will you make the findings public?What's the betting that the report will sit on a desk in the CDF for several months, and then quietly get forgotten about? They didn't even voluntarily announce that the visitation was happening, the Times found that out for themselves.
JA: Well, an interim report is already being made. We don’t make a final report yet, we want also to see Lord Carlile’s report. He was invited in to consider the whole governance of safeguarding between school and abbey.
JL: And that’s coming out in a couple of weeks.
JA: That’s right, so we’ll want to consider that too. As to publication, we don’t actually own the report, the Congregation does. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they choose to make it public given the circumstances, but it is their report.