Recommendation 1. The Catholic Church in England and Wales should become an example of best practice in the prevention of child abuse and in responding to it.All very good in principle. The problem with the Nolan report is that the principle isn't followed up with properly effective practice. For instance, this is recommendation 61 of the Nolan report
3.1.8 The 1994 Guidelines concentrated on the response to allegations of child abuse. In the present climate, much more emphasis is placed on child protection and it is worthy of note that almost all dioceses have in fact adopted policies and practices that are designed to prevent abuse occurring in the first place. Whilst the proper handling of allegations is important, it is much more important that the opportunity for abuse does not occur because awareness is high and an effective regime of good practice is in place, and is known to be so.
Recommendation 2. The top priority is to have preventative policies and practices operating effectively in parishes, dioceses and religious orders that will minimise the opportunity for abuse.
3.1.9 It is necessary, however, to face the reality that no organisation which has dealings with children can eliminate the risk of child abuse completely. It is therefore important to complement prevention policies with a clear understanding by those in positions of responsibility that abuse of their position in any way will inevitably have the most serious consequences for them.
Recommendation 61. When there is a disclosure, the statutory authorities should be brought in straight away, without any process of filtering, to take the lead in investigating and assessing the situationIf that "should" had been a "shall" then it would have been the basis for an effective policy - if followed. But having "should" there allows people at the local (parish or school) level to subvert the intent of the recommendation by writing exceptions which neuter it. Nolan reported in 2001, but eight years later, the child protection policy for St. Benedict's was so far from implementing the Nolan recommendations that it was essentially one long excuse for never reporting anything. As the ISI stated in its 2010 supplementary report:
The school did not have a fully established policy for reporting directly to the Department for Education and Skills (later the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and currently the Department for Education) or to the Independent Safeguarding Authority, responsible for such referrals since 20 January 2009.But as Nolan only said "should", the abbey would have been able to claim if asked that they were complying with the Nolan recommendation, even though they didn't have an effective policy for reporting anything to anyone.
Carlile mentioned that the Cumberlege commission reviewed the situation after 5 years, their report being published in 2007. In paragraph 39, Carlile notes that
One of the members of the Cumberlege Commission was the Abbot President then and now of the English Benedictine Congregation. To objective observers it will be a disappointment that the governance of Ealing Abbey, St Benedict’s School and other related schools were not subjected to a governance review within a short time.The Abbot President is Richard Yeo. At the press conference, Carlile criticised the appointment of Yeo to conduct the Apostolic Visitation, arguing that he had too close a connection with Ealing Abbey for any review by him both to be independent and to be seen to be independent.
All of Carlile's criticisms are entirely valid, and yet he has still missed the key point. It's not the governance that had to be reviewed, it was the existence sand implementation of appropriate and effective child protection policies. The school's was useless, and the parish in fact had no policy at all.
In fact, as far as I can tell, the parish still doesn't have a child protection policy. The Ealing abbey website has a child protection statement, and a link to the CSAS procedures, without actually stating that the CSAS procedures are being implemented in the parish. I have my criticism of the CSAS procedures and its extremely unfriendly website, but that's a story for another day. For now, it is sufficient to say that even after all the publicity, the Ealing Abbey website still doesn't have an unequivocal statement declaring what (if any) child protection procedures it is following. I would have hoped Carlile might have noticed that, but there is no mention of it in the report.
Carlile ends this section of his report with the following.
43. The above comments should not be seen in any way as implying that the Abbey Community should now, in 2011, be seen as a failure. My meetings with them suggest that is not the case. The vitality, academic success, community reach and diversity of the school are evidence of the positive aspects of the Abbey and St Benedict’s School. As one of my interlocutors put it:It may well be true that the school is awash with "vitality, academic success, community reach and diversity. That doesn't for a minute excuse it for its shortcomings in safeguarding. In any case, Carlile is no more an expert in education that he is an expert on safeguarding procedures, and he's completely unqualified to make that statement.You can give it whatever weight you think it deserves.
“Any community of Christian men and women who take their Christian vocation seriously is going to be grappling all the time with the consequences of human sinfulness and our natural backsliding tendency.”
This very realistic person recognised that there are ‘backsliding tendencies’ so unacceptable that there can be almost no limit to the level of vigilance required. The outcome of the events under consideration, and of this Report, should be to provide assurance that the lessons have been learned.
In this section, Carlile has noticed that Abbot Richard Yeo (who was a participant in the Cumberlege Commission) failed to ensure that governance of the school was reviewed post-Cumberlege, but hasn't noticed the far more important point, that safeguarding at the school and parish were also not reviewed, because it is those policies which provide the primary protection against the backsliding tendency which Carlile's correspondent so correctly identifies.
You don't get a mess like Ealing without there having been management failures at multiple levels. Three such failures are now clearly visible. The headmaster should have been implementing an effective policy and proposing improvements in it for the Trustees' agreement and approval. The Abbot should have been taking note of the Nolan and Cumberlege recommendations and taking action to see to it that they were effectively implemented. And the Abbot President should have been conducting a review of all the English Benedictine houses to ensure as far as possible that Nolan and especially Cumberlege were getting implemented.
But none of this happened. This isn't a mere historical tragedy, this a serious failure of the duty of care on the part of the current management. Had even one of these three levels of management been doing their job properly, then the school's and probably the abbey's child protection procedures would have been in a fit state. And we know that at least one child suffered as a result of that failure.