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Abbot Martin Shipperlee is saying that the allegation which led to Chillman being barred was withdrawn, and so the restrictions were lifted in July.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.