Thursday, 20 October 2011

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Abbot Martin Shipperlee is saying that the allegation which led to Chillman being barred was withdrawn, and so the restrictions were lifted in July.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


  1. Mrs Gumley Mason tried everything to stop the truth coming out regarding Father Gregory, why is she still at the school, she has proven herself not to be trustworthy, she is deceitful, incapable of telling the truth, and yet the Governors are allowing her to remain at St.Augustine's till the end of term.

  2. Why were the trustees and governors of St Augustines together with the headmistress Mrs Gumley Mason allowed to retain Chillman in such a position?. Cover up after cover up. I sinceley hope that no girls at St Augustine's have been effected by the managements apparent disregard of the evidence and allowed Chillman to remain insitu.
    It has been said many times on this blog but the trustees, governors and Gumley Mason should all diciplined for their failures.
    Thank goodness that, at least, they are kicking Gumley mason out, but they should all be made to answer for the failings.

  3. I agree the Governors and Trustees have to take responsibility for the dreadful wrong doings at the school. Who are they answerable to?

  4. This is a crazy situation. It would appear that Abbot Martin Shipperlee has over ruled Peter Turner (Diocese of Westminster Safeguarding Advisor) and lifted the restrictions on Father Gregory Chillman.

    As far as I am aware, Abbot Martin has no particular training or expertise in safeguarding, in fact he clearly demonstrated his lack of competence in this field when he failed to supervise Father David Pearce when restrictions were placed on his ministry.

    In spite of everything, Abbot Martin seems to think that he knows better than the experts. What breathtaking arrogance!!

  5. Abbot Martin and Gumley are obviously bosom buddies!

  6. What are the 2 parent governors, we elected, doing about this farce?

  7. Nothing obviously, somethings never change, all Governors should be elected by the parents why haven't all her friends been asked to stand down and replaced by Governors elected by the parents.

  8. That womans skin must be as thick as a rhinocerous skin, how can she hold her head?

  9. I find it interesting that you have such a vendetta against St Benedict's and have appointed yourself Saviour of all these poor souls. You are blighting what is an amazing school for some personal gripe. Perhaps your time would be better spent trying to portray an UNBIASED and balanced view of the circumstances. This is clearly the work of a wannabe journalist. Perhaps you should've worked for Murdoch.

  10. 21:05 - If you think that anything I have written is factually incorrect, then I would be grateful if you would put me right.

    Otherwise, I can only conclude that you regard what I've written as being true but unwelcome. I'm wholly biased in favour of the truth.

  11. 21.05 - safeguarding is everyone's business according to the DfE, Ofsted, ISI, NSPCC,and many others including the children's minister.

    It is a simple fact as the DfE will confirm, that the only people that can hold an independent school to account for its performance on all matters including safeguarding are the parents. Sadly few parents ever read safeguarding policies, and they know almost nothing about the statutory framework, or the subject. Most believe they don’t need to know because child abuse always happen to others. Wrong!

    At yesterday's Select Committee meeting on child protection Jim Gamble the former boss of CEOPS emphasised the need for parental training - something that CEOPS was rolling out until the foolish move by the Home Secretary to remove its independence by including it into the National Crime Agency. As a result of the move CEOPS is no longer the ‘specialist’ child protection operation it was because officers can now be drafted from their dedicated child protection role onto other duties for the NCA. And since the move the extensive ‘in school’ parental training has been dropped.

    The coalition government is vandalising the very limited statutory framework, that is meant to but fails to protect children, a view common among many child organisations in the third sector. This makes it even more important that parents engage with safeguarding by dropping the complacency so elegantly expressed by 21.05.

  12. I believe everybody is failing to address the fundamental issues here. Firstly, this is a private school, parents are paying lots of money. They should all be sacked immediatly. Failing to protect the pupils from a potential child predator
    Is unacceptable. Parents should not endorse this and pay for it.

    Secondly, some of us who decide to send kids to catholic schools are catholics
    What is wrong with the church? How can these monsters still be allowed anywhere close to churches, let alone kids. The church should adopt a zero tolerance policy and immediately sack any priest suspected of misbehaviour

  13. Grief - the answer to firstly the misconception and then the question would require a forest!

  14. As a former pupil of St Benedict's, l entered dubious of private education, and left convinced of its failures. This whole saga would not have been allowed to drag on for decades in the state sector. St Benedict's is a business which acts solely in its own interests.

    Thanks Jonathan for starting this site and the laborious process of holding these bastards to account. You're doing a great job.

    l knew most of the teachers referred to in this scandal, and though l was unaware at the time, l'm not surprised by the allegations about them. The only exception would have been John Maestri. He was one of the two or three decent teachers at the place and l would have trusted him. How does that happen?

    To my mind, the problem with St Benedict's is that those supporting the institution are trying to buy protection and privelege for their children from the harsh realities of life. This gives those in charge the power to hold parents/pupils to ransom. The separation of St Benedict's from the rest of the education system is its weakness. l can't believe that there are no parents on this site who are threatening to remove their children from either St Benedict's or St Augustine's. After all, this has been going on for more than two years.

    Perhaps someone can tell me if there have been similar scandals in the state sector, and if so, how many?

    l would also be interested to know how often the state scools inspectorate visit schools as opposed to the independent schools inspectorate.

    For myself, my education started when l left that exam factory and started nursing.


  15. l must amend the previous post. Although his name is familiar, l don't remember John Maestri. l was confusing him with another teacher.


  16. I am a former pupil of St: augustine´s and these stories fo not surprise - particularly in relation to Father Gregory Chillman. He was rather predatory towards the girls and we would all comment that his attitude and approach towards us was wrong. However, as we were so young, we could not put into words or even conceive the extent of what his actions might actually mean. I was a pupil there from 1994-2001. Therefore, this gentleman´s actions in the school went on unreported (undetected?) for nearly two decades at St. Augustine´s. That is horrendous. Any teacher and or headteacher involved in turning a blind eye to such allegations should not be allowed to work with children.

  17. Okay may i please say that i was a pupil at St. Augustines until last year when I left because I thought it was time to try a different school. I grew up watching Fr. Gregory do our masses and he was always lovely, agreeable and sad things in a way that we would all understand. He compared life in the Bible to things that happened then and he made us laugh.
    I was an altar server as soon as I was allowed and the only one in my entire year. He was always kind to me, listened and never did anything to make me uncomfortable.
    My good friend's family are very good friends of his and alway see him. He is a lovely, kind and agreeable man. If you haven't met him then don't judge him.

  18. I believe in Father Gregg. He is a lovely man. I don't care what is said about him. I refuse to believe it. Whether you think I'm stupid or naive, I don't care. Everyone has a right to their own opinion and this is mine.