Monday, 31 October 2011

Bishop John Arnold's interview

Bishop John Arnold was interviewed by BBC presenter Jane Little on the BBC R4 Sunday programme yesterday. below is a transcript of the interview with my comments
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.

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.
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?

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?

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.
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.

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?

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.
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.

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.”

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.
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.

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.

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.
That "carefully designed to achieve nothing at all" is me, quoted in the Times. I stand by that statement. Consider the following:
  • 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!
What other conclusion could I reasonably come to on the basis of the evidence available to me so far? I'm very ready to be persuaded otherwise. John Arnold has my phone number, he can call me any time and arrange a meeting.
JL: When will you report, and will you make the findings public?

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.
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.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Ealing Abbey on "Sunday"

BBC Radio 4's Sunday will be carrying the Ealing Abbey story in the morning. This is from the programme schedule on the BBC website.

The Vatican has ordered an inquiry into child sex abuse at Ealing Abbey and the adjoining school in west London. Jane speaks to Sean O'Neill, Crime Editor of the Times on the paper's investigation into a number of high-profile cases at the Abbey. She also hears from Bishop John Arnold, the man appointed by Rome to conduct the Apostolic Visitation.
The programme starts at 7.10am. When it is available on BBC iPlayer, I'll provide a link.

Update: You can now listen to the programme on BBC iPlayer. Follow this link. The interviews with Sean O'Neill and Bishop John Arnold are the first item in the programme after the introductions.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Another case at St Benedict's

I've just turned up an article from the Times (behind paywall) from 28 July this year, which I completely missed at the time.

Former teacher faces pupil abuse charges

A former teacher at a leading private Catholic school appeared in court yesterday (Wednesday) charged with abusing an 11-year-old pupil almost 30 years ago.

Stephen Skelton is alleged to have abused the boy while he was working at St Benedict’s School in Ealing, West London, in 1983.

Mr Skelton, a maths teacher, is also accused of going on to abuse a 10-year-old pupil while working at West Hill Park, a day and boarding school in Titchfield, Hampshire, in 1993.

If Skelton is guilty of the West Hill Park charge, (and I stress that he has not yet been tried on either charge), then I would very much want to know the circumstances of his departure from St Benedict's: whether there was any complaint against him at the time, what action was taken, what reason was given publicly for his departure, and whether he was given a good reference by St Benedict's.

I have passed the details to Lord Carlile and requested that he look into it if time permits.

Sex abuse fears grow

That is the front page headline on today's Times, describing a story (behind paywall) of another Catholic abuse scandal, concerning another Benedictine monastery with a school attached.

Victims have come forward describing abuse they suffered while at Buckfast Abbey School, a boarding school attached to the abbey, since closed. In one case, the investigation was handled by Chris Jarvis, the diocesan safeguarding adviser for the diocese of Plymouth.

The investigation never went anywhere, and now we know why. Jarvis has pleaded guilty to posessing and distributing child pornography and will appear in Plymouth Crown court today, presumably for sentencing.

The Times also has an editorial on the subject today, Rooting out Evil (also behind paywall), in which they lay into the complacency and secrecy of the church in the face of numerous stories of abuse. The end of the editorial is as follows.
But when things go wrong, the response to calamity must never be secrecy. Those calling for rigorous investigation are not anti-Catholic; they are anti-abuse. From the Vatican down, that must be the response to these latest scandals.
Mr Cleugh, please remember that. In September last year, you used your prizegiving day speech to accuse me and others of anti-catholicism. Do you remember saying this? (It is recorded in the 2010 Priorian magazine, page 7).
Recent media and blog coverage seems hell-bent on trying to discredit the School and, at the same time, destroy the excellent relationship between School and Monastery. Is this part of an anti-Catholic movement linked to the papal visit? I do not know, but it feels very much as if we are being targeted.

What matters to parents most is that their sons and daughters are safe and happy. I promise I will continue to do everything possible to ensure this is the case and I know that, in this assertion, I speak for all my colleagues.
I have two questions for you Mr Cleugh.
  1. Are you now prepared to withdraw and apologise for those claims of anti-catholicism?
  2. If you are truly doing everything possible to ensure the safety of the pupils, why have you removed from the school's safeguarding policy the appendix which described the procedures for dealing with allegations against members of staff?
UPDATE: Chris Jarvis has been sentenced to a year in jail for his crimes.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A change of tone?

The publicity and pressure might finally be beginning to have an effect. On Tuesday, the headmaster included the following in his letter to parents
we will take into account any recommendations Lord Carlile makes to strengthen our policies and procedures.

But by the following day, his media statement said this:
The [Carlile] report will recommend how the school can implement exemplary child protection policies for the future and will move to adopt those recommendations immediately.

The emphasis in both cases is mine. There is a significant difference between the two statements. The first commits the school to absolutely nothing at all. They could take Carlile's recommendations into account and then having done so decide not to do anything. But the second is a commitment to adopt Carlile's recommendations immediately.

In the weeks that come, we shall see which version of Cleugh's statement is nearer to the truth, we shall see what the Carlile report contains, and whether the school is going to implement its recommendations immediately.

There is however one aspect of the second statement which gives rise for concern. In it, Cleugh states
we have strengthened our safeguarding procedures

I shall be detailing the latest version of the school's child protection policy in future articles, but for now I'll make just one point. In the version published on 22 September 2010, there was a long appendix describing the procedures to be followed in the event of an allegation against a member of staff. That appendix is missing from the current version brought into effect September this year. This is a strengthening?

Understandably, Mr Cleugh would like to consign the problems to the past, and assure us all that this is purely historical and of no relevance to the school today. But I'm afraid that won't wash.
  • Father David Pearce's restricted ministry was set up while Cleugh was headmaster, and Cleugh clearly thought that was sufficient, or at least didn't question it publicly. 
  • The ISI Supplementary report found that the central register of appointments (used to record the CRB and other background checks on all staff) was incomplete. This is Mr. Cleugh's direct responsibility.
  • The ISI Supplementary report also found that the school's safeguarding policy did not meet regulatory requirements. This is also Mr Cleugh's direct responsibility.
Shortcomings in the CRB and background checks recorded in the register of appointments mean that a known abuser could come to the school and the school not realise it. Shortcomings in the safeguarding policy and the way it is implemented means that abuse could occur at the school and go undetected and unreported.

I pointed out shortcomings in the school's child protection policies two years ago. At the time, I got the brush-off from Mr. Cleugh. He could have saved himself an awful lot of trouble by listening to me at the time.

I would much have preferred that the children of the school could have been made safe two years ago by effective changes taken then. It would have saved a great deal of trouble all round.

The Visitation: the Vatican view

According to the Catholic News Service, the Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has issued a statement about the Apostolic Visitation to Ealing Abbey.
Auxiliary Bishop John Arnold of Westminster and Abbot Richard Yeo, president of the English Benedictine Congregation, conducted the apostolic visitation at Ealing Abbey and the neighboring St, Benedict's School during September.

They have already made their report to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which ordered the visitation.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, confirmed to Catholic News Service Oct. 25 that Bishop Arnold was asked by the doctrinal congregation to conduct the apostolic visitation.

The congregation, he said, has competency for handling "questions regarding the sexual abuse of minors."

"When the final report of the visitation is ready, it will be given to the congregation, which will take the appropriate steps," Father Lombardi said.

The purpose of the visitation was to ensure that the English and Welsh church's stringent and updated child protection and safeguarding procedures -- put in place in 2002 and revised in 2007 -- have been followed to the letter, said an Oct. 25 statement emailed to Catholic News Service by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

"In accordance with the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission's procedures, all allegations of abuse are passed onto the statutory authorities as has happened with the historic cases at Ealing Abbey," the statement said.

"The Catholic Church in England and Wales is determined to ensure its robust safeguarding procedures are followed, and this visitation is consistent with that aim," it added. "Any person with an allegation of abuse is urged to report it to the statutory authorities."
Well, that's all right then. If this is true, then the visitation has already finished and its report has been written. It was very nice of Bishop John Arnold to tell me so.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Visitation - the church's description

The following statement has appeared on the Diocese of Westminster website.
An Apostolic Visitation is a meeting with the superiors and members of a religious community. It provides an opportunity to examine community and religious life. An Apostolic Visitation to the Benedictine Community at Ealing Abbey has been conducted by Dom Richard Yeo OSB and Bishop John Arnold  who visited and met with the community in September 2011. The effective safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is a priority for the Catholic church and Ealing Abbey’s safeguarding policies and procedures formed part of the remit of the Apostolic Visitation.
The last sentence is a flat contradiction of what Bishop John Arnold told me in his email. Or perhaps it was just a lie by omission - they reviewed Ealing Abbey's procedures but not those of St. Benedict's School.

My reply to Bishop John Arnold

This is the email I sent in reply to Bishop John Arnold.
Dear Bishop

In essence, it seems to me that you are saying that the only safeguarding improvements that you would expect to see made are those insisted on by the statutory authorities to bring to school to the minimum standards of regulation. Note that in practice, what you are suggesting might not actually meet the minimum statutory requirements, if it turns out that that the statutory authorities do not notice some noncompliance for some time.

In the circumstances, don't you regard this is being rather a weak approach? Would it not be better to make safeguarding policy at the schools a model of best practice, exceeding the minimum requirements of legislation and providing the best possible degree of protection to the pupils of the schools? Doing so does not require the intervention of the ISI or the DfE, and I understood that this was one of the stated objectives of the Cumberlege Commission, which both you and Abbot Richard participated in.

Doing this would not in the least bit interfere with the powers of the statutory authorities, and would in fact enhance the co-operation with them.

As for investigating individual instances, even if you intend taking no view about individual guilt or innocence, there are two things you can still do.

1. Forward any allegations to the police or social services

2. Establish whether the incidents reveal any shortcomings in child protection policies and procedures, whether those shortcomings still exist, and what changes need to be made to remove those shortcomings.

Of the two, the second is far more important for the future safety of pupils at the schools and the parish.

From your description, it seems to me that you are not looking to investigate child protection procedures, and you are not going to look into past allegations for any reason. So it remains something of a mystery to me what (if anything) you are trying to achieve. Your report will not be disclosed to parents, public or Ealing Abbey, so there is no means by which anybody can see whether it is going to achieve anything at all. So much for the transparency you have referred to.

Also, I consider it a matter of considerable discourtesy that the Visitation was started without me being contacted ahead of time by either the Nuncio or yourselves, despite the promise on this point made to me by the Nuncio. This discourtesy has been compounded by you in as many words telling me that in your view since my son was not a victim, the matter should be none of my business.

Might I remind you of the words of Edmund Burke "For evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing."

Could you at the very least let me know whether the file of information I provided to the Nuncio at my meeting in July has been passed to you?

The Apostolic Visitation

You'll see in the Times today (article behind paywall) that an Apostolic Visitation has been ordered into Ealing Abbey.

Not everything I do gets published in this blog, or at least not at the time. In June, I wrote to the new Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Menini, summarising the situation at Ealing Abbey as I then knew it. I described the situation with regard to Father David Pearce, Father Stanislaus Hobbs, John Maestri, Abbot Laurence Soper, Father Gregory Chillman and Father Kevin Horsey. I described the Statutory Inquiries by the Charity Commission, the inspections by the Independent Schools Inspectorate, the Parental Forum that occurred in September last year, the Carlile Inquiry, the conflict of interest by the school's solicitor, commissioning Lord Carlil'e inquiry into (amongst other things) Father David Pearce's criminal activities while at the same time acting as Pearce's defending solicitor in the forthcoming criminal trial. I described the previous "independent inquiry" where Abbot Martin Shipperlee quite deliberately misled the person he commissioned concerning the extent of the Father David Pearce's activities.

I also described the issues which have occurred at St Augustine's Priory School, the fact that Father Gregory Chillman remained a Governor even though he had been placed on restricted ministry. I described the criticisms of the school's safeguarding measures as described in the ISI report, and the school's decision to contest this in the High Court rather than make the necessary improvements immediately. I also described the school services conducted by Father Gregory Chillman while under restrictions which supposedly meant that he had no public ministry.

I said that in my opinion, Ealing Abbey was incapable of reforming itself unaided, and so to ensure the future safety of the pupils of both schools and of the children of the parish, I requested an Apostolic Visitation or other inquiry.

Archbishop Antionio Menini invited me to a meeting at the Nunciature on 29th July. At the meeting, he announced that he had been making inquiries following my letter. He had consulted with Rome, and Cardinal Levada, the head of the CDF, had decided that there should be an Apostolic Visitation into Ealing, that it would start in September, and that it would be conducted by Bishop John Arnold (auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Westminster) and Fr Richard Yeo (Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation).

So, it seemed as if I was hurling my whole weight against a door to force it open, only to find that it was ajar all the time. I provided a file of information to the Nuncio to pass on to the Visitators, and explained what each item was. I said that this was a small subset of all the documentation I had available, and that I would welcome the opportunity to meet with them to pass across the rest of the information and to explain my concerns in more detail.

I was requested not to make any public mention of the Visitation until it was announced by the church itself in September. The Nuncio promised that my information would be passed to the Visitation and they would be in touch with me in due course.

September came and went. No further word from the Nuncio, no contact from the Bishop or Abbot, no public announcement. So in October, I wrote again to the Nuncio. I told him that I wanted to pass the additional information I had to the Visitation, and asked if he could tell me when it was due to start, what were its terms of reference, and how I could make contact to provide my additional information.

The Nuncio replied saying that the visitation had already started, and said that in the circumstances I should direct my questions straight to them. He provided me with postal addresses, but no phone numbers or email addresses.

I managed to find an email address for John Arnold, and wrote to him asking the same questions. He provided a couple of "I will reply fully later" responses, before sending me the following more substantial email
Dear Mr West,

Thank you for your email of 20 October, and for your patience.  Again, I apologise for not getting back to you earlier, but both Abbot Richard Yeo and I have rather heavy schedules at the moment.  As you have been informed by the Nuncio in London, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has requested us to conduct an Apostolic Visitation of Ealing Abbey.

You ask about our terms of reference.  The role of Apostolic Visitors is to inquire into a given situation and report back to the Holy See.  It is up to the Holy See (and in this case the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) to decide when the Apostolic Visitation should be concluded.  As visitors, we do not have the power to impose our views on Ealing Abbey. Rather, we make recommendations to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which then decides whether to implement those recommendations or not.  For that reason, Apostolic Visitors do not publish their recommendations, either to the institution being visited or to outsiders.  It may be that the Congregation will want to publish its decisions but that is not up to us to determine.

We cannot speak in the name of the Congregation.  Nevertheless, in order to give a response to your queries, it may be helpful to give some thoughts of our own, even though I expect some of them will be obvious to you.

The general policy of the Catholic Church in this country in regard to safeguarding is that it is extremely important not to interfere with, nor in any way impede, the work of the statutory authorities.  In making our visitation, we wish to be sure that the Church’s safeguarding policies are being properly carried out and that the Church’s safeguarding authorities are playing their proper part, and to be able to tell the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that they are doing so. However, it is not for us to interfere in their work or take over their role. This, as you know, was the recommendation of the Nolan Report which was reinforced by the Cumberlege Report. By insisting on the role of the statutory authorities we have the best guarantee that there is transparency and accountability.

You mention that you have examined the child protection policies of St Augustine’s Priory School and of St Benedict’s School, and that they fall short of best practice, and that you wish to discuss with us how improvements can made.  We understand that the Independent Schools Inspectorate is responsible for ensuring that these schools have appropriate policies. We would suggest that it makes more sense for you to approach this body. The Inspectorate is currently monitoring those policies with the schools. If you were to speak to us about this, there is nothing we could actually do except pass on your suggestions to the Independent Schools Inspectorate.

Given our role, it is not for us to judge whether allegations are well grounded. We would not be equipped to make such a judgment and we are not empowered to do so. Therefore it would be wrong for us to receive details of offences which are alleged to have been committed by the eight individuals you name; these should (indeed must) be given to the police.

All this means that we are not sure that a meeting with you would be helpful to us or to you.  We fully agree that it is important that any restrictions imposed by the Church’s safeguarding authorities should be appropriate and should be properly observed, and this has been an issue which we have examined.  You sent a long letter on the subject to the Nuncio on 11th October; a copy of that letter has been passed on to us.  It contains some information that we did not previously have, and we are grateful for this.

We have asked at Ealing Abbey what is your interest in this matter, and we have been told that you are the parent of a former pupil in the school.  However, when we asked whether your son was a victim of abuse, we were told that this had not been alleged.  If this is correct, then we wonder whether we could say anything to you beyond what we have written in this letter.

I am sorry to sound rather negative but, while we are not ruling out a meeting, we would invite you first to reflect on what we have written in this letter. I believe, and think you would agree, that we share the same concerns for the proper implementation of best practice with regard to safeguarding at Ealing but I think that you will understand our particular role and our need not to appropriate the role of the statutory authorities and the Independent Schools Inspectorate.

Please let me know what you think

With all good wishes,

So, he didn't answer my question about the terms of reference of the Visitation. He just talked about how visitations in general are carried out. Score 0/1 for transparency.

Then he explained that Visitiations don't publish their reports. The reports go back to Rome, and Rome decides what (if anything) to do. The public, parents and even Ealing Abbey itself doesn't get to see trhe report. Transparency score 0/2.

He then waffled a bit about the role of the statutory authorities, and how it is important not to interfere with their role. This seems to miss the point that good safeguarding practice should be pro-active and go beyond the minimum statutory requirements. It involves such things as education and institutional awareness.

The next bit is really troubling. I'll re-quote it in full.
You mention that you have examined the child protection policies of St Augustine’s Priory School and of St Benedict’s School, and that they fall short of best practice, and that you wish to discuss with us how improvements can made.  We understand that the Independent Schools Inspectorate is responsible for ensuring that these schools have appropriate policies. We would suggest that it makes more sense for you to approach this body. The Inspectorate is currently monitoring those policies with the schools. If you were to speak to us about this, there is nothing we could actually do except pass on your suggestions to the Independent Schools Inspectorate. 
WHAT!!!! They are conducting a visitation in response to serious safeguarding failings at Ealing Abbey, involving criminal activities that went unreported for decades. All John Arnold proposes to do in response to information about continuing shortcomings in policies and procedures is to pass it on to the ISI. If that is so, what on earth is the purpose of him being there? Because for sure it isn't to ensure that safeguarding is actually improved at Ealing!

Then the next paragraph is even worse.
Given our role, it is not for us to judge whether allegations are well grounded. We would not be equipped to make such a judgment and we are not empowered to do so. Therefore it would be wrong for us to receive details of offences which are alleged to have been committed by the eight individuals you name; these should (indeed must) be given to the police.
This betrays an illiteracy about safeguarding that should be shameful in any churchman. In somebody whi participated in the Cumberlege Commission, is it nothing short of an absolute scandal.

For Bishop John's benefit as much as anybody else, let me explain the real basics here. There are two entirely separate issues to be considered. The first issue is whether there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed, that a person should be convicted and punished. Once an allegation is passed to the authorities (a duty of the church and school), the investigation of this is the job of the police and courts.

The second issue is whether, on the balance of the available evidence, it can reasonably be concluded that a person may pose a risk to children, and that for the safety of children, it should be considered whether that person should still be permitted to supervise children. For instance, if a teacher makes sexually suggestive remarks to children, then you wouldn't want that teacher to remain in charge of children. It isn't a police matter, because no crime has been committed. Something less than a crime still needs to be reported to the authorities, because of the duty of care the school has towards the pupils.

If something less than a crime is not properly reported and investigated (generally by social services) then there is the risk that abuse may continue and escalate until a crime is committed. Nobody wants that. But if the school's policy is inadequately clear about reporting allegations and incidents to the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer for child protection), and is unclear about what to do thereafter, then there is a risk that abuse will go unreported and escalate.

On the evidence of his email, the Bishop seems to think that nothing need ever be done except to pass on reports of crimes to the police.

He went on as follows:
All this means that we are not sure that a meeting with you would be helpful to us or to you.  We fully agree that it is important that any restrictions imposed by the Church’s safeguarding authorities should be appropriate and should be properly observed, and this has been an issue which we have examined.  You sent a long letter on the subject to the Nuncio on 11th October; a copy of that letter has been passed on to us.  It contains some information that we did not previously have, and we are grateful for this.
So, let me understand. He's received information in my initial letter which he didn't previously know, and which has been helpful. But he doesn't think there is any purpose in meeting me to see if there is anything further that I know that might be useful. The strong impression he gives is that he doesn't want to find out too much lest it require the church actually take some action!

The next paragraph is nothing short of a straight insult.
We have asked at Ealing Abbey what is your interest in this matter, and we have been told that you are the parent of a former pupil in the school.  However, when we asked whether your son was a victim of abuse, we were told that this had not been alleged.  If this is correct, then we wonder whether we could say anything to you beyond what we have written in this letter.
So, they are investigating Ealing Abbey, as a result of information I have provided. But they ask Ealing Abbey about my interest, but they don't bother to ask me about it! And they are saying that they think they can't say anything further to me. The idea that there might be something it would be worth their while to listen to has been dismissed out of hand.

I have been corresponding recently with another highly experienced campaigner against child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, who has been chasing this issue for many more years than I have. His opinion is as follows.
I am most grateful for all of your information about the abbey and the so-called visitation.  To be blunt but realistic, such ventures by the church are a total farce.  I do not know of a single internal investigation that has been honest.  The older and more established the entity the more dishonest the investigation and with some of the old English abbeys you can bet for sure that they have no intention of getting at the truth.
On the evidence of Bishop John Arnold's email to me, I have to conclude that this is quite correct. This visitation has no intention of getting at the truth, end even less intention of making any attempt to reveal the truth, and no intention of making any serious improvements in safeguarding at Ealing. The sole purpose is to impress that Catholic laity by showing that Something is Being Done. But because that something is being kept entirely secret, the laity have no way of knowing that it is designed solely to protect the reputation of the church, and will not in any way address the safety of children in the church's care.

I go by evidence. If Bishop John Arnold or Abbot Richard Yeo wants to contact me and demonstrate that my conclusion is wrong, I will be very ready to hear them.

But I'm not optimistic.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Chillman and St Augustine's

This email has been sent to all parents of St Augustine's
Dear Parents,

Yesterday an article appeared in the Times (p.27) about Fr Gregory who was our chaplain for many years until he formally retired on October 3rd 2010. He had retired as Chair of Governors in June 2009. Fr Gregory was made aware in April 2010 of an historical accusation against him made by a past pupil of St Benedict’s School. He immediately informed this School and from that time on ceased to undertake any teaching activity at the School or to celebrate the regular weekly Mass. From that date on I had contact with the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), Ealing Social Services, the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and the Charity Commission regarding both this allegation and an historical allegation from St Augustine’s concerning inappropriate comments made by regarding Fr Gregory in 2004. Although we were advised by the authorities that he could have supervised contact and access to the School

I, together with the Board of Governors, decided for the sake of clarity to bar Fr Gregory from the premises while school was in session. He did participate in the School Carol Service and the Feast Day Mass both public events held at Ealing Abbey. The School has co-operated fully with all relevant authorities regarding these events and will continue to do so as required.

Please note the Central Register of Appointments (CRA), which includes all pre-employment checks and CRBs is regularly updated, is audited every term and was recently comprehensively and positively reviewed by the ISI at their follow up inspection.

Yours sincerely

Mrs F J Gumley-Mason MA (Cantab) Headmistress
This communication is more remarkable for what it doesn't say than for what it does. It was in March 2010 that Chillman resigned as a trustee of St Benedict's and was placed on restricted ministry because of allegations.

I would be very interested to see the minutes of the meeting of the Governors from that time at which it was decided that Chillman should be permitted to continue formally to act as chaplain and governor, and what for what reason they decided against a clean break by simply asking for his immediate resignation, as appears to have occurred with his role as a Trustee of St Benedict's. That hasn't been stated. I'm also curious about how it can be an assistance to clarity that the reasons for the measures taken weren't communicated to the parents at the time.

I also think parents have a right to know more about this incident in St Augustine's in 2004. Did Mrs Gumley Mason know about it at the time? If so, what was done about it at the time? When was a report made to the LADO? What was the advice of the LADO? The relevant correspondence should at a minimum be provided immediately to the governors so that they can discuss it and decide what course of action should be followed.

As for the contact with the Charity Commission and everybody else mentioned, I can and will check that out. The Freedom of Information Act is a wonderful thing. The Charity Commission and Ealing Social Services are both government bodies covered by the Act, and although the ISI is a private organisation, all its papers on St Augustine's have been passed to the DfE since the DfE was added to the court case where the school sought Judicial Review of the ISI's report. The DfE most undoubtedly is covered by the FOI Act. So if it turns out that there has been a little bit of terminal inexactitude in that aspect of Mrs Gumley Mason's email, we will find out in due course.

This bit of Mrs Gumley Mason's email is fascinating: "From that date on I had contact with the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), Ealing Social Services, the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and the Charity Commission ...". Note that she "had contact with" them. She's not saying that she "made contact with" them. It leaves entirely unstated who initiated the contact. Did Mrs Gumley Mason contact the authorities to report the issue and ask for advice, or did they contact her to ask what on earth was going on? If Mrs Gumley Mason had initiated the contact, I'm sure she would have wanted to say so very clearly.

Again, it seems to me that the relevant correspondence should be provided immediately to the Governors, so that the truth of the matter can be established.

I already have reason to think that Mrs. Gumley Mason's account may be mistaken on certain points. Here is the relevant part of a letter sent by the ISI to Mrs Gumley Mason on 6th December last year, part of the letter describing the outcome of the school's complaint against the ISI.
We would point out that, during the period between the end of the inspection visit and the issuing of the report on 29th September, concerns relating to the role of this individual and the school and the correct reporting of these were raised with ISI by more than one individual. It was necessary for ISI to consider these alongside the issues which arose during the inspection, as agreed with DfE. ISI liaised with Ealing Social Care on these matters, and attended a strategy meeting.

We agree that during the period of time in question, it was not necessary to refer Father GC to the Independent Safeguarding Authority. As Father GC has now resigned rather than resume his posts as Chaplain and Governor, the school should consider whether a referral is now required in line with its own safeguarding policy and the ISA's published guidance.
That indicates that, according to the ISI, it wasn't the school who raised the issue of Chillman with the ISI, but instead it was "more than one individual". I was one of those individuals. It also indicates that the school did not make any reference to the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) at the time.

I'll probably find out anyway via the FOI requests I intend to make.
And when I do, I'll publish it here.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


From today's Times
The Department For Education was asked by the Independent Schools Council (ISC), the current owners of ISI, for the extra powers to be transferred to the private school inspectors.

The change would allow ISC boarding schools to have a single inspection of their education and welfare instead of two separate visits by inspectors from the ISI and Ofsted.
This change would hand over the job of doing welfare inspections on ISC boarding schools from OFSTED to the ISI. The article says:
Ofsted, which monitors the work of the ISI in day schools, said ISI inspectors needed more training on reporting of safeguarding.

The watchdog said more evidence was required in ISI reports to “explain convincingly why aspects of a school’s work have been judged ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ despite the presence of regulatory failures which have the potential for significant impact on pupils’ welfare”.

The conclusion, in a recent report on the work of the ISI, has raised fears about the inspectorate’s capacity to take over the inspection of welfare in independent boarding schools from Ofsted, a transfer planned for January.
This proposal to extend the powers of the ISI is a section of the Education Bill currently going through Parliament. This is the ISI that inspected St Benedict's School in November 2009 and said the following about safeguarding at the school.
The trustees and advisers are fully aware of, and diligent in discharging, their responsibilities for the welfare, health and safety of pupils, including taking proper steps to review and evaluate the effectiveness of their child protection policies and procedures.
And in saying this, ISI managed not to notice that since their previous inspection there had been
  • Three criminal convictions of John Maestri, all for indecent assaults against pupils at the school, dating from the time he was a teacher there.
  • The conviction of Father David Pearce for a series of indecent and sexual assaults on pupils of the school over a 36 year period.
  • A civil court judgement against the Abbey and Pearce in favour of an abused pupil, to the tune of £43,000.
  • Two Statutory Inquiries by the Charity Commission.
And that at the time of the inspection, there was:
  • A central register of appointments (where the CRB and other background checks on all staff are supposed to be recorded) which was incomplete.
  • A safeguarding policy that was one long excuse for avoiding reporting incidents or allegations of abuse to the authorities.
This is a failure on a  truly epic scale. And we know that abuse, known to the Abbot of the time has been going on for a great many years and has gone unreported all this time. If it weren't for the failure of the ISI and its predecessors over decades, the abuses at St Benedict's would in all probability have come to light a great many years ago, and many boys would have been saved much suffering.

I'm particularly troubled by the fact that one of the inspectors on that November 2009 visit to St. Benedict's was Mr.Gino Carminati, the headmaster of Worth School. Yes, that's Worth School attached to Worth Abbey, also run by the Benedictines!

There was no mention in the report of the connection between Mr. Carminati and the school he was inspecting. I'm not suggesting any wrongdoing by Mr. Carminati. I don't suggest that he in any way deliberately contributed towards the school getting a better report than it deserved. It is just that if the reports are to be regarded as independent, then the inspectors must also be independent of the setting they are inspecting. In this case that was patently not so, and Mr. Carminati should quite frankly have been nowhere near St. Benedict's School for the purpose of inspecting it.

If you have children at private boarding school, may I suggest that you get in touch with your MP immediately, and lobby him or her to vote for the proposed amendment to the Education Bill that will remove the provision for ISI to take over welfare inspections of private boarding schools.

I have severe doubts about the competence of the ISI to do adequate welfare inspections even on day schools. To give them additional responsibility for welfare inspection of boarding schools is the sheerest folly. Perhaps if you have a child at an independent day school, you should also lobby your MP on this subject, with a view to ensuring that an effective welfare inspection scheme is put in place for all independent schools, both day and boarding.

Father Gregory Chillman

The Times has an article (behind paywall) about Father Gregory Chillman. Banned monk investigated over school services.

The essence of the article is that Father Gregory Chillman was put on restricted ministry and barred from access to children in the spring of last year. Despite this, he remained as Chairman of governors of St Augustine's School for a further six months.

Abbot Martin Shipperlee is saying that the allegation which led to Chillman being barred was withdrawn, and so the restrictions were lifted in July. (This is how Shipperlee was able to tell the Parental Forum in September last year that "almost all" the restrictions had been lifted, and so there was no need for Chillman to be removed from the Abbey.)  According to Shipperlee, Chillman apparently agreed to avoid unsupervised contact with children and to visit St Augustine’s only to conduct mass.

There are a number of things about this that are deeply fishy.

The first is that I know for a fact that the diocesan safeguarding authorities knew nothing of the lifting of restrictions on Chillman. I have quite a recent email from Peter Turner, the diocesan safeguarding adviser, which quite unequivocally states that the restrictions on Chillman remain in force on the same terms as they were first applied. I suspect this is why the diocesan spokesman was so keen to distance the diocese from the Abbey in last week's article about Abbot Laurence Soper being on the run from the police. The diocesan spokesman said "Abbot Soper, a member of a Religious Order, is not a priest of the Diocese of Westminster. On safeguarding issues his Religious Order retains primacy in dealing with the police". The diocese is doing a serious Pontius Pilate job on the Abbey. 

The second is that if the allegations against Chillman were sufficient to justify his resignation in March 2010 as a St Benedict's trustee and for him to be placed on restricted ministry, they were surely sufficient to justify requiring his resignation at the same time as chaplain and chairman of governors of St. Augustine's. Do the girls of St. Augustine's matter less than the boys and girls of St. Benedict's? After all, if he's a danger to children, then he is the greatest danger to the children with whom he has an active pastoral role. That is at St. Augustine's.

The third point is that there seems to be a discrepancy between the stated and actual reasons for Chillman's final retirement from St Augustine's in September 2010. Either he retired for reasons of ill-health (the reason given by Shipperlee to Peter Turner and passed to me), or he resigned because of further allegations concerning his conduct at St. Augustine's, which apparently is the reason Shipperlee has now given The Times for the resignation and re-imposition of restrictions.

The fourth point is that the withdrawal of an allegation (which essentially means that the alleged victim no longer wishes to press criminal charges) is no justification for considering the allegation no longer to be a piece of evidence to be taken into consideration when assessing whether a person forms a risk to children.

The ISI Supplementary Report into St. Benedict's doesn't name Chillman (it doesn't name anybody), but I have had it confirmed by Peter Turner that the following passage refers to Chillman.
A monk who had taught in the school a long time ago has recently come under investigation by social services. At the time of the follow-up visits he was living in the monastery under a restrictive covenant barring him from contact with children.
Note "barring him from contact with children". Not "barring him from unsupervised contact with children" which seems to be how Shipperlee has interpreted it.

This all reminds me very much of Shipperlee's modus operandi with respect to the restrictions placed on Father David Pearce. Few people knew that he had been placed under restrictions at all, and those who did know were told that it was "to protect Father David from unfounded allegations", when in fact the allegations were all too well-founded, and had resulted in a civil court judgement against the Abbey and for a victim of abuse to the tune of £43,000.

And we see the same techniques in use again. Chillman resigned as a Trustee of St. Benedict's in March 2010, but no reason for the resignation has been given in the Trustees' report to the Charity Commission. He wasn't required to resign as Chaplain or chairman of governors of St Augustine's - that would have been too noticeable. As soon as the ISI were safely off the premises, the restrictions were lifted and the parents told there was no need for Chillman to live away from the Abbey.

And even after Chillman's resignation as chaplain and chairman of governors of St. Augustine's in September 2010, he still officiated at the school's Christmas Carol service in December 2010 and the school's Centenary Celebration Mass in February 2011. I know he was there, I have copies of the order of service for both occasions. Both of them mention his name, and witnesses have told me he was there. He read the 9th lesson at the carol service, and he gave the homily at the mass. This is after the restrictions were supposedly re-imposed by Shipperlee in September last year following allegations of misconduct in St. Augustine's School itself.

Those services both took place in Ealing Abbey, clearly with the knowledge and consent of Shipperlee. The terms of the restricted ministry, according to the information from Peter Turner were "no public ministry". Saying Mass in Ealing Abbey in front of several hundred parents and pupils of St. Augustine's is most definitely public ministry.

The ISI Supplementary Report into St. Benedict's contains the following recommendation.
Ensure that any staff or members of the religious community live away from the school, if they are subject to allegations of misconduct related to safeguarding or convicted of wrongdoing.

The reason for insisting on this was as follows:
the use of restrictive conditions is not altogether convincing, since the restrictions were not adequate in the case of Fr DP and the failure to implement them occasioned serious criticism in the Charity Commission report of 15 December 2009.
To put it bluntly, the ISI noticed that restricted ministry while a monk remained at the Abbey wasn't in fact an effective safeguard.

It is now high time that the Abbot implemented the ISI's recommendation. He should remove Father Gregory Chillman from the Abbey, and place him in a location which is not associated with an educational institution. This has already been done with Father Stanislaus Hobbs, who now lives in a care home outside the diocese.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Carlile Report

The following has appeared in the latest edition of the Headmaster's Newsletter.
The Carlile Report
Fr Abbot expects to receive the final report in the next two weeks. Initially, he will be sharing the report with both the Monastic Community and the Board of School Advisors, but he is keen to publish the report in full as quickly as is practical.

The report will be presented to parents at the next Parental Forum on Tuesday 8th November at 7.15pm. Fr Abbot and I will set out the main findings of the report and its recommendations and how we will go about implementing them. We will be happy to take questions at the meeting.

The report will then be made public on Wednesday 9th November. A Clarion Call will be sent to parents alerting them that it will be available on the School’s website. It will also be sent to the ISI, the DfE and the Charity Commission. An official press statement will be made at this time.

Please note that the Parental Forum will be a closed meeting and entrance will be restricted to current parents and members of staff. Refreshments will be available from 6.45pm, so do come along early.

This is all rather dreadfully transparent. The report will be provided to parents at the Parental Forum on 8th November. They won't have had time to read it and so won't know what questions need to be asked. But questions will be invited at the forum, and then the report will be made public. The Parental Forum is going to be a closed meeting. What this means is that there will be security on the gates with the specific intention of keeping me out so I can't ask awkward questions and embarrass the Abbot. And the wine they will serve at 6.45 and which they encourage you to arrive early for will put you in a good mood and dull the edge of your concentration.

No subsequent meeting has been scheduled, or at least no subsequent meeting has been announced. As far as we know, there will be no opportunity for parents to ask questions once they have had an opportunity to read and understand the report. It seems that you're going to have to accept the Abbot's proposals for how they are going to implement whatever reforms they intend, and then you're supposed to shut up and accept it without further ado.

I can think of lots of very good questions that need to be asked. The most obvious and important one is to ask whether there will be a further opportunity to discuss the report with the headmaster and Abbot and ask questions about it once parents have had a chance to read and understand it.

I don't think the Abbot or headmaster should have too many of the questions telegraphed to him in advance. If you are a concerned parent and want to be as well-prepared as possible for the meeting, feel free to email me, and I can provide you with a few more questions to ask.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Abbot Laurence Soper

The efforts to address the child sex abuse scandal at St Benedict's School yesterday descended from tragedy into farce.

Abbot Laurence Soper has gone missing.

He is wanted by police in respect of allegations of child sex abuse. He was due earlier this year to return to the UK for a police bail appointment. He did not make that appointment. According to The Times (article behind paywall) prosecutors are preparing a European Arrest Warrant for him.

So we have a monk on the run. Where's Robbie Coltrane when you need him?

The Times article is full of quotes from eminent churchmen, all saying that they don't know where Soper is, and that they are giving all possible assistance to the police. But consider this: Soper is in his 80s. He has been a monk for most of his adult life, he hasn't lived independently for at least 40 years. He's going to need help, and he's going to need an income. The only possible place that help could be coming from is within the Catholic Church. So somebody in the church knows where he is. Somebody, somewhere, is protecting him. Somebody within the church is knowingly shielding a fugitive from justice. Somebody in the church is putting the welfare of an abusing priest ahead of his abused victims.

The police are certainly of the opinion that he is an abuser. You don't go to the trouble of issuing European arrest warrants without a pretty good case. This is far more serious than Father David Pearce. Soper was Abbot of Ealing from 1991 to 2000. It is one thing for there to have been a paedophile monk at the Abbey, it is quite another for there to have been a paedophile Abbot running the place.

It is inconceivable that there would have been no rumours at all within the monastery concerning Soper when he was a teacher at the school, inconceivable (if the evidence in the hands of the police is strong enough to justify a European arrest warrant) that there were no complaints at all from parents or pupils at the time. And yet, even though there almost certainly were these rumours, the monks elected him in 1991 to be their Abbot. What on earth were they thinking?

As Abbot, Soper was in a position to shield other abusers. He was Abbot when David Pearce "retired" as Junior School Headmaster in 1993 as a result of complaints about abuse, Pearce being appointed Bursar instead. Soper was also Bursar when John Maestri quietly departed the school in 1984, ostensibly on grounds of ill health, but in fact because of complaints of abuse. It's not conceivable that he didn't know the real reason for Maestri's departure. Maestri was Soper's deputy when Soper was Master of the Middle School.

There is a name for a group of two or more paedophiles who know of each other's activities and protect each other. That name is a paedophile ring. It looks increasingly as if there has been a paedophile ring in operation at Ealing Abbey for many years.

Things are still not right at the school. I have had a detailed look at the latest version of the school's safeguarding policy, which came into effect in September this year. I shall be blogging about it over the next few weeks, going through it paragraph by paragraph, as I did the May 2010 version. It has been tweaked here and there, but it is not the comprehensive start-all-over-again rewrite that is necessary. It still contains weasel words concerning whether and how abuse will be reported to the authorities.

Over the last 18 months or so, the school has had fairly unremitting publicity and official attention on its safeguarding, both in terms of its past failures and its present procedures. And yet, they still haven't managed to come up with a written policy that actually makes it clear how allegations and incidents will be reported. In the circumstances, I have to say that there could still be abusers at the school or the Abbey, with the abuse going unreported. I don't know whether there is any abuse happening now or not - if I knew there was abuse going on, I wouldn't be blogging about it, I would be telling the police, without delay.

Mr Cleugh has written to all parents, pointing out that in his prizegiving day speech he had said that "it was likely that further allegations would be forthcoming about historical safeguarding matters here at St Benedict’s", knowing that Soper had missed a police bail appointment. You might care to recall that at the same time last year, Mr. Cleugh in his prizegiving speech had this to say about the publicity surrounding the scandal.
Recent media and blog coverage seem hell-bent on trying to discredit the School and, at the same time, destroy the excellent relationship between School and Monastery. Is this part of an anti-Catholic movement linked to the papal visit? I do not know, but it feels very much as if we are being targeted.
I think Mr. Cleugh owes me an apology. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for it though.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Fr Kevin Horsey

John Burke (OP 1949-56) has been in contact with me and has provided me with some recollections concerning St Benedict's School. He has given me permission to publish them with his name attached.
I was at St Benedict's from 1949 to 1956, and even then one of the monks was odd. Dom Horsey once made a remark round about 1952 when I was in running-gear that could have been suggestive, but he never did more than beat me among others.

In my time, a boy who was (a) in Powell House (b) did geography (c) played Rugby (d) was in the Cadet Corps (e) was in the Fifth Form (f) lived in Ealing (g) was a Boy Scout ... would never get away from Dom Horsey at all!

In about 1968, one of my many cousins there later told me that Horsey had been moved from the school to parish work for an alleged sexual assault.
According to his obituary on the OPA website, Fr Kevin Horsey was transferred from the school to the parish in 1965. But he continued his work with the Scouts (supervising young boys) until 1970.

The school has a building named after him. When I told John Burke this, he was highly unimpressed.
Buildings should be named only after saints anyway - quote me on that. Otherwise, it does no good to the dead or the living.
In our correspondence, John Burke initially put the blame for the abuse scandal on the loss of discipline in the priesthood following Vatican II. But I pointed out that Fr Kevin's abuses had largely predated Vatican II, the same could be said of much of the abuse in Ireland that has come to light in recent years, and that I doubted that reversing Vatican II would do much to reduce abuse. He was gracious enough to write and concede the point.
You are right that there was abuse before Vatican II - reading the papal encyclicals of last century, it is obvious that there was a rebellious climate that then used Vatican II to put through its liberalism. ... Use this information as you wish, and even to the present monks at St B's. I wish you well with your campaigning.
I thought that very fair of him. John Burke is obviously a good man who is horrified by the abuses that have occurred.

This is by no means the first I have heard of Fr Kevin Horsey's transgressions. Another former pupil has given me permission to describe his experiences in 1965. And I have received an account of abuses of boys in the scout troop dating back all the way to 1949.

We can now tentatively reconstruct the sequence of events of 1965. I suspect that some parents complained about an assault on their son. The matter would have come to the attention of the Abbot of the time, Dom Rupert Hall. Only he would have had the authority to move Fr Kevin from school to parish work.

I expect that it was an extremely credible account (possibly including physical evidence) of quite a serious assault. In those days, the authority of the clergy and especially the Abbot and monks among the laity was even greater than it is today, so anything less than wholly credible could easily have been suppressed with a threat to the effect that the family risked excommunication if they persisted in an "unfounded" complaint against such a distinguished monk.

The authorities were not called in, and Fr Kevin was quietly moved to parish work. Of course, this didn't remove him from contact with boys, and the Abbot didn't take the trouble to require Fr Kevin to retire from his activities as a scoutmaster.

And later, once memories of these events had faded, the school named a building after him. St Benedict's School has a building named after a known paedophile monk.

The Catholic Church is good at symbolism. I think it would be an appropriate symbolic gesture for there to be a ceremony at which the Horsey Building is renamed and rededicated.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Ealing Abbey Trustees' Report

The Accounts and trustees' Report for the year to 31 August 2010 is now available on the Charity Commission website.

I have no doubt that the financial figures are all justified, having been through the auditors and all. But other aspects of the report are thoroughly dishonest, although the lies are mainly lies of omission.

Lets start with the list of Trustees on page 1.
Rt Revd Martin Shipperlee OSB – Chairman
Rt Revd Francis Rossiter OSB (resigned 30 April 2011)
Revd Alexander Bevan OSB
Revd Gregory Chillman OSB (resigned 29 March 2010)
Br Matthew Freeman OSB (appointed 30 April 2011)
Revd Timothy Gorham OSB (appointed 29 March 2010)
Revd Thomas Stapleford OSB
Revd Dominic Taylor OSB
Nowhere in the report is it mentioned why Revd Gregory Chillman OSB resigned as trustee - i.e. that he had been placed on restricted covenant, and barred from public ministry and from access to children. I would regard that as a significant lie by omission.

The report mentions the following about inspections carried out during the year.

The School was inspected in November 2009 and the results were highly successful. The published report stated that the School was highly successful in achieving its aims of providing good quality education and “teaching a way of living”. The pastoral care and personal development of the pupils are excellent. Teaching is strong, often excellent and at times inspirational.
No mention is made of the Supplementary Inspection carried out by the ISI in April 2010, which highlighted severe shortcomings in safeguarding procedures. Nor is any mention of the report of the Charity Commission's own two Statutory Inquiries, published in December 2009, which was highly critical of the trustees. This is a disgracefully partial report.

Then, the report makes this passing mention of safeguarding issues.

The School community was saddened for those affected by historical safeguarding issues. There were failures in the past and the School co-operated with the relevant authorities to help expose or punish those involved.
To be blunt, this is an insult to the victims and to the intelligence of all  those associated in any way with Ealing Abbey or St Benedict's School. The failures resulted in the conviction of Father David Pearce during the year being reported on, and this is apparently not considered worthy of any mention in the report at all. Second, it suggests that the abuse is "historical". Not so, incidents occurred during the year, which resulted in Social Services investigation, albeit not in any prosecutions. Thirdly, I notice weasel words in "the School co-operated with the relevant authorities", without mentioning whether the co-operation was pro-active, continuous or voluntary.

Later on, the report makes mention of the "Independent Review"
Independent Review
As a result of the historical safeguarding issues mentioned above, and due to the hurt and damage that they have caused and continue to cause, the Abbot commissioned a full independent review of the Monastery and School by Lord Carlile of Berriew QC. As well as looking at the history of abuse allegations, the review is considering policies for dealing with such allegations and other reassurance. This is likely to include a recommendation to strengthen the governance of the School by separating it from the overall governance of the Trust. It is hoped that this review will report in the summer or autumn of 2011.
The report is dated 24 June 2011. It seems that even back then, they had seen which way Lord Carlile's mind seemed to be working, and they have as a result resigned themselves to a split in the governance between the school and the rest of the trust, as I recommended in my evidence to Lord Carlile.

But the paragraph is still lying by omission. It has neglected to mention the other "Independent Review" commissioned by the Abbot during the year being reported on, and especially has failed to mention the circumstances under which it was prepared.

It seems as if the Trustees are still operating in denial mode. They are minimising the extent of the problems, omitting as many inconvenient facts as they think they can get away with, and seem still to be liberally throwing whitewash in all directions. In view of the huge scale of the failures and the widespread damage to children at the school which has resulted, this is a pathetically inadequate report.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Abbot Francis Rossiter

I've been in correspondence with the police concerning certain aspects of the recent trial of Pearce and Maestri. I'm not in a position to disclose the entire correspondence, but the following piece of information can be published.

According to the police, the circumstances of John Maestri's departure from the school in 1984 were as follows: A parent made a complaint to Fr Francis Rossiter, who was Abbot at the time, concerning alleged sexual abuse by John Maestri. Rossiter arranged for John Maestri to leave the school "on health grounds".

This is a classic case of what is known as a "covert departure". The parents are not informed of the true reason for the departure, there's no investigation to find out whether there are any other victims. The authorities are not informed - even in 1984, it was against the law to make an arrangement like this and not report the circumstances of the departure to the Teacher Misconduct Section of the Department of Education.

And worse still, we know from his own evidence in court that John Maestri went on to teach elsewhere, at a school in Berkshire. I find it hard to believe that he was not given a reference by St. Benedict's. I sincerely hope that Maestri did not abuse at the school in Berkshire. If he did, then a large part of the responsibility would lie squarely on Rossiter's shoulders.

Had the Teacher Misconduct Section of the DoE been informed, it would have been their duty to decide whether Maestri should have been placed on List 99, the list of those considered unfit to work with children. It is reasonable to think that Maestri almost certainly would have been placed on List 99 had the proper report been made. In that case, reference or no reference, Maestri would have been unable to obtain another teaching post anywhere in the UK.

Fr Francis Rossiter remained Abbot until 1991. He has remained a Trustee of Ealing Abbey (and therefore of the school) until his retirement from that post earlier this year. I have no doubt that even in old age he continues to wield considerable influence within Ealing Abbey.

I understand from Lord Carlile that his report will be published "very soon". It will be interesting to find out whether any mention is made of this incident, and if so, the circumstances under which Lord Carlile was made aware of it.

The ISI Supplementary Report's Recommendation 1 is as follows.
Ensure that any staff or members of the religious community live away from the school, if they are subject to allegations of misconduct related to safeguarding or convicted of wrongdoing..
I think that arranging the covert departure of an abusive teacher counts as "misconduct related to safeguarding". It is for Abbot Martin Shipperlee to decide the proper course of action.