Saturday, 5 November 2011

More in the press

The Daily Mail has a piece about Ealing Abbey today.: Predators at the Abbey.

The Mail describes the ghastly experiences of a boy it calls Jeff (not his real name), and then goes on to describe an even more shocking incident.
In an apparent fit of despair, one of his friends in the middle school, Lewis de Luca, shot himself in the temple with an airgun at 16. It took 13 months for him to die.

An inquest heard that he had become depressed after being accused — falsely, he insisted — of stealing a tennis racquet at St  Benedict’s, and expelled on the eve of his O Levels. Jeff is convinced it was the paedophile masters who really drove him to his death.

At 13, he says, Lewis had been one of the school’s most popular boys — outgoing, handsome and a champion athlete. Then he was summoned to a monk’s office where it seems he was violently assaulted. Jeff saw him emerge white-faced and trembling with his trousers soiled.

‘Lewis was terribly abused; broken down,’ he told me. ‘You just knew. I left the school at 13, and lost touch with him, and then one day I heard he was dead. I am absolutely convinced it had something to do with what happened to him at that school.’

Having followed the unfolding scandal at St Benedict’s, Lewis de Luca’s mother Rosalind harbours the same suspicions.

The experience of losing her teenage son was so devastating, she told me, that for many years she blanked out many memories. But now she remembers how he came home one day and told her someone, a teacher, had ‘made a pass’ at him, and he had made it clear he wasn’t interested.

She hadn’t thought this incident to be serious, but now wonders whether it was a hint of something far more sinister. ‘It’s very disturbing for a mother to think he might have been subjected to abuse and couldn’t tell me about it,’ she said. ‘It’s such a horrible feeling. In those days, I’d heard about Gay Dave, but I thought the boys were making it up. I didn’t think it was happening. They were priests. Men of God. I just didn’t believe they could go around doing that sort of thing.’
Mrs de Luca, I don't know if you will ever read this blog, but if you do, please realise that if Lewis was sexually abused, it is no surprise that he was unable to tell you at the time. Because of the psychological manipulations carried out by their abusers, many victims are unable to tell anybody at all for many years, and a significant proportion feel unable to come forward until both their parents are dead, because they cannot bear the distress it would cause to those they love the most.

If Lewis couldn't tell you it is not because you are a bad parent, almost certainly it is because you are a good parent and he was trying to protect you as well as he knew how.

I have heard of other suicides amongst pupils and former pupils of St. Benedict's. It is of course impossible to prove that those pupils were abused or that there was a connection between the abuse and the suicide. That is something known only to their abusers, and they aren't likely to admit it, even to themselves. It is to prevent more pupils going through the experiences described by Jeff, and to reduce the risk of suicides such as Lewis's that I will not rest until I am satisfied that the child protection measures at the school and Abbey have been made a model of best practice, and that there has been a complete change of culture there, from the denial that exists now to one of awareness and education in these issues.

54 comments:

  1. This is why this blog is necessary and why the Abbey should not be allowed to sweep things under the carpet.

    When you recall some of the pathetic Abbeyvista comments-"It didn't happen", "If it did it wasn't that serious", "It was all a long time ago", "Anyone who criticises the Abbey has an anti-Catholic agenda"- it makes it even more important that we establish the truth about what happened at St Benedicts, both to expose the perpetrators of abuse and those who sliently acquiesced in it and to ensure that it can never happen again.

    Those of you who identified the short stocky teacher are bang on the money but he was by no means alone, just the most obvious example of the sadists who ran that place.

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  2. There is a best-selling first novel by one of the world's leading popular horror novelists James Herbert. It is called "The Rats." This is a story of a global infestation of giant rats, and the problem is not resolved until a huge mother rat, in hiding, is tackled.
    I know and others ex-St B's know that there is one monk, the cleverest of the lot, who is behind all this, and once he is nailed, it will do more to smash the ring, its influence and its continued cover up than anybody else. Where is this guy and are people really looking for him?

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  3. Suicide, VIOLENT sexual abuse, naming Kevin Horsey... this is a huge piece in the Mail. Much more substantial than anything published in The Times so far. And on the eve of the Carlile report.

    Jonathan, yet again, thanks for all your tireless work. Hats off to you.

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  4. I am a lifelong member of the parish all my family went to st gregory;s and to st Benidedict;s and now a mother of children at the catholic schools I have to accept that there was a huge pedophile ring in the abbey which evidence shows us.and we must now fight to open every hidden secret that those poor children had to endure and fight to get rid of this dark evil that parades itself as a practising C.hristian.These pedophiles that hide behind the guise of their love of christ.

    The old parish members must stand united with the young and move forward to honour those poor lost boys that nobody wanted to hear. Their pain and anguish which they could not, would not dare say. Everybody who goes to mass at the abbey must realise that for the last twenty years we were housing a huge Pedeophile ring and until you accept that nothing will change.These were children , little boys, that adults really hurt and after they hurt them they stilll called themselves priests. you decide.




    there must be radical change today, to help those lost boys who will never have their screams and torment heard. we must

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  5. This is a really moving article. It brings home the real-life horror of what has happened.
    And Chillman? How can he have denied the accusations when we know from this blog that inspectors found them to be substantiated at St Augustine's?
    It's still never been explained why Gumley Mason continued to have him there even after he was put on restrictions. Looks like a lot of mutual back-scratching, if you ask me.

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  6. How can ANY one still support the abbey after all this? It beggars belief.

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  7. ps If people voted with their feet and their wallets instead of just following with blind obedience, the school/church would not be able to act in such an unacceptable manner.

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  8. These poor boys ... don't forget the little girl at St Gregory's too now (as has just been alleged). It is not just homosexual abuse, apparently.

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  9. .
    ’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.’

    Christopher Cleugh - Prizegiving September 2010


    ‘All those associated with the school have been shocked and horrified by what’s occurred. We do know very serious abuse did take place and for that I wholeheartedly apologise on behalf of the school.’

    Christopher Cleugh - Daily Mail 5th November 2011


    It seems Mr Cleugh will say whatever his audience wants to hear. This identifies him as a Chameleon which is great for his boss, but of absolutely no use for the pupils of the school and their parents.

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  10. The abuses have been awful. There is no doubt about that, but there has been a network of people around these abusers who just seem to have at best turned a blind eye for the sake of their own comfort, or at worst like Gumley Mason who appear to have built their own careers on associations with these people.

    Look at Gumley Mason - her early career built on associations with Kit Cunningham allowing her to move up in the Catholic writers' guild and he then married her and baptised her children, then her association with Soper and Pearce who appointed her Head of St Augustine's, where she then went on to support Chillman and allowed him there even when on restricted ministry. The email she sent out was total rubbish. I saw him at the Christmas service. Add to this the problems with CRB checks and then Teacher A and Teacher B where she had failed to act decisively, as well as all the allegations of bullying made on this blog. And the lies.

    I will never understand how someone who is a mother could allow children to be put at risk.

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  11. The accusation against Lewis de Luca seems to follow a pattern. Some of you will recall that Pearce always had a group of favourites around him, mainly boys from the lower educational stream and usually from poor homes. Pearce used his boys to bully, harass and beat up other boys by proxy. False accusations of theft made by these boys against other boys whom Pearce had singled out for special treatment seem to have been a feature of this aspect of the bullying culture extant at the school. I was subjected to similar treatment, accused of stealing a raincoat. It went on for weeks and was a grim experience. I can understand Lewis de Luca's despair. It is a method of bullying prevalent in the armed forces. When a Senior NCO or an officer wishes to make life particularly hard for a soldier, for whatever reason, he uses 'proxies'. Pearce was a former army officer.

    Like the sexual abuse of boys at the school by what was clearly a paedophile ring in existence since at least the late 1940s to present times, with clerics and lay teachers joining and dropping out over the decades, the bullying by staff, directly and by proxy, followed quite a dinstinctive pattern, easily recognisable with hindsight. As I have told the current school and abbey authorities, I consider them morally worse than the men who did this to us as children because they have continued, cold-bloodedly, to aid and abet these men after the facts. Cleugh is even on record as accusing us of being part of some sort of anti-Catholic plot. And then we have the emails between Carlile and the solicitor who commissioned him on behalf of the abbey and the school to produce a report "advantageous to the Abbey". The same solicitor worked with Carlile on a gangland trial in the 1990s and was also representing Pearce at the same time as arranging this "independent report". In fairness to Carlile, we must wait to read his report but I am not impressed by His Lordship's attempt in a couple of emails to deny having seen the email about an "advantageous' report when, in fact, he replied to it some twenty minutes after receiving it.

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  12. "The most dramatic and explicit condemnation of forbidden clergy sexual activity was the Book of Gomorrah of St. Peter Damian, completed in 1051. The author had been a Benedictine monk and was appointed archbishop and later cardinal by the reigning pope."

    This relevant quote in light of events at St Benedict’s and Ealing Abbey, is provided from Father Tom Doyle’s paper AVERY SHORT HISTORY OF CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH for the website CRUSADE AGAINST CLERGY ABUSE – please refer to paragraph #7.

    Father Tom Doyle describes himself as ‘the most reviled priest in the US’ because of his advocacy for those who have been abused by priests, and his detailed understanding of the methods used to conceal abuse from public view whilst doing little to improve child protection or crack down on the perpetrators.

    Tom Doyle's qualifications in canon law are:

    - M.A. in canon law at University of Ottawa
    - J.C.L. Pontifical Licentiate in Canon Law, St. Paul University
    - J.C.D. Pontifical Doctorate in Canon Law, Catholic University of America,
    - Eight years as a tribunal judge
    - Canonist at the Vatican Embassy
    - Lecturer on canon law at Catholic University
    - Faculty member at two Tribunal Institutes
    - Consultant to Canonical Affairs Committee at the US national bishops'
    - Member, Board of Governors of the Canon Law Society of America
    - Three books on canon law, and countless expert commentaries and articles in publications like Studia Canonica, the Concise Catholic Dictionary and the Concise Catholic Encyclopedia.

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  13. I was tought with Lewis de Luca in St Benedict’s from the day he arrived in 1976 (in Mrs Wilson’s class) until the day he left. Although I wasn’t his closest friend, I remember how he changed after entering the middle school, the incident when he left the school after leaving the monk’s office with his trousers soiled and the day we heard that he had shot himself. More than anything I remember the difference between the more supportive atmosphere in the junior school and the culture of bullying, aggression and often survival in the middle school (and the first two years of the senior school). This culture didn't help Lewis, who was always one of the more vulnerable pupils in the class. Academically the middle school gave me almost nothing, despite the high financial cost to our parents. Maestri was highly eccentric, striding around in his black gown and somehow it became accepted when he selected boys for additional tuition after school and on Saturdays. I’m almost sure I remember seeing 11 year old boys sitting on his lap during these sessions. Pearce was outwardly charming and highly intelligent but he could also be aggressive and demanded respect. They and Soper had the full trust of our parents and we (aged 11 and 12) didn’t know that other schools could be any different. St Benedict’s middle school (and St Gregory’s primary school) left me with very deep scars.

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  14. 08.20

    Mrs Gumley Mason obviously turns a blind eye when it came to furthering her career, well the past has certainly come back to haunt you, I hope your life is now a misery and you understand the pain you have afflicted on others with your lying and cruelty, thank God you are going as you have been the most unsuitable Head ever.

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  15. St Benedict's School RE lessons, upper fourth (13-14 yr olds) Sept 1972-July 1973. Our division master, prolific beater and well-meaning bully Father Kasimir said some words of prophesy, in our RE classes, perhaps reflecting the personal stress he might have been experiencing in the abbey from mingling with those who did not share the standards he was attempting to inculcate:

    "One day," Father Kas thundered, glaring round the class, "you will find you have people you think are good, really good friends, and then they will let you down.

    "You will realise then," he screamed, eying many a boy personally, on the look out for a grin or a lack of attention, "That people are not what you said they were."

    Another of his lessons was "false ruining of reputation" and he told the story of how a man went to the priest and asked for forgiveness for spreading false rumours, and was told by the priest. "Of course I forgive you. But I can't get my reputation back - it's like the feathers in a pillow that has been opened, when they have scattered to the wind."

    Father Kas also warned about "Bullying" which he said he abhored, and would crack down hard on in the school (He was a bully himself).

    He warned against "breaking the rules" and told of a man who crossed the road away from the crossing always, and, "sure enough", he got run over.
    Why am I
    relating this about the man who, the school secretary would tell parents, "his bark is worse than his bite."

    I am telling it because his prophecies and warnings came true dramatically forty years later, ie now. Given the extreme stress with which he had delivered his moral tales and warnings, with angry face, glaring round at everyone etc, and given the history of what has gone on at the abbey (Father Horsey and others then), I suspect we are looking here at a priest who is riddled by his own conflicts, an honest man who does not dare, however, to denounce his colleagues in Ealing Abbey, out of his conception of loyalty to the church, but who is disgusted.

    Father Kaz was concerned to teach the right way to the pupils perhaps to avoid the wrong way that he was observing at the abbey.

    Father Kaz warned us, in no uncertain terms, that "there is a hell" and that if we misbehaved, we would end up in it, and that there was no mistake about this - an eternity of suffering did await us if we did any of these wrong things. He screamed at one boy that he would end up in hell and would often beat him, and I hear that boy ended up in a mental asylum.

    I still think Father Kaz was a good man, but I think he may have been torn by conflicts that he did not resolve in the right way. I think that many other teachers, lay and monk, who were not direct offenders, at the school, were possibly torn by the same conflict - do they stay loyal to the school and keep their jobs and positions and the approval of the church and Abbey, or do they do speak out?

    I think some parents were torn by a fundamentally similar conflict - bask in the approval of the establishment, with its self serving corruption, and for which, in their case, they pay fees, or make trouble. Obviously some parents, probably a majority, were simply (and understandably) trusting rather than so conflicted.

    Perhaps this conflict and the way it was handled was why and how abuse has been allowed to continue unchecked at the school for decades.

    I have wondered about Father Kas's lessons for us in the upper forth for 40 years, and why I at that time felt very reluctant to go along with the school's beliefs and rituals, and why I resented his approach, and what was the missing link in these moral homilies - where is the truth? Now I think I see some illumination.

    If anyone has any comment on this, and whether they think I could have it right or not, I would greatly welcome it. I want to piece together some truth here.

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  16. I never thought I would say this but "Thank God for the Daily Mail". The article seems to have unlocked or released all sorts of dreadful memories. But however painful the process is, and I am strugling very badly even though it is 27 years since I left, it is a necessary process. We will expose the lies, depravity and corruption at St Benedict's. They will not be able to call all of us liars, fantasists or anti-Catholic conspirators.

    If Carlisle proves to be a whitewash and we should give him the benefit of the doubt for now we cannot let the matter drop.

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  17. very telling that only the smug self satisfied " casters of the first stone" have their comments posted here. i am not surprised at the one sided blog this diatribe has become. go on west be a "man " and post all comments. otherwise you are the bully you claim to despise.

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  18. I’m almost sure I remember seeing 11 year old boys sitting on his lap during these sessions.
    "I am almost sure I remember?" mass hysteria. false memory syndrome? dare to publish this west?

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  19. 15:40
    I can't and won't publish all comments, for the reasons I have described in the sidebar of the blog.

    I'll give more latitude to comments published with a name attached. And if you think your comment has been unfairly deleted, then you are welcome to email me to query this.

    As far as I remember, I have only had two people email me querying my failure to publish a comment. One was last week, and in fact I had published the comment but the commenter had forgotten which article he had commented on. The other was some months ago, when I deleted a comment which I felt might possibly prejudice the forthcoming trial of Pearce and Maestri.

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  20. Here they come "Mass hysteria" "False memory syndrome". Why don't you reveal yourselves so we can all see you you for who and what you are.

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  21. It's not a witch hunt6 November 2011 at 16:26

    I just wanted to say that I am one of the victim's of Ealing Abbey. For the record, I was a passionate missionary for the Christian church for many years, so it would be most unfair to accuse me of being some part of anti-church plot just because I have finally acknowledged some of the horrors of my childhood that came through Ealing Abbey's perverted hands. My abusers have yet to be named and shamed publicly, as far as I am aware. It extends beyond (in my and my sibling's experience) to other clergy and also 'lay' members of the church too.

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  22. A refresher course for the Abbeyvistas:

    Pearce: convicted child sex offender
    Maestri: three times convicted child sex offender
    Soper: on the run, wanted over allegations of child sex offences
    Stanislas: acquitted of child sex offence on the basis that whatever happened took place outside the jurisdiction
    Chillman: sidelined for inappropriate behaviour

    In fact of the monks who taught at the school while I was there only Fr Benedict has not been investigated

    The Abbey: years of denial and cover up

    The School: just ask anyone who was there about Horsey, Flogger Edmund, Stirzaker and the rest of the ghouls

    People who have been abused may not wish to reveal their identities but you Abbeyvistas have no such excuse. Let us see who you are: former teachers, current teachers, members of the clergy perhaps?

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  23. abbeyvistas? what a quaint childlike club. i am an op; not a teacher, former or current; not a member of the clergy, former or current and i know and knew ALL those mentioned and many more besides. but i choose to reflect calmly not with the hysteria that this blog promotes.

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  24. And having reflected then what?

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  25. i fully support a proper, workable child protection policy at both the abbey and school. but i am not out to destroy nor seek revenge for past wrongs. hatred breeds more hatred and revenge is only a momentary satisfaction, leaving an emptiness in its wake. why not try to build up rather than tear down? the children of today are looking forwards, not back. support them as well. what is done is done.

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  26. 16:47 said "In fact of the monks who taught at the school while I was there only Fr Benedict has not been investigated."

    An interesting comment. Fr Benedict had something like a mental breakdown, and was removed from the school overnight. The rumour among pupils was that he went bonkers and started scrawling satanic slogans on the walls (just a rumour, I stress). I thought he was a good man, and his sudden departure was never officially explanied.

    How do you know he hasn't been investigated, or are you suggesting that he should have been?

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  27. First let me say ‘Well done’ to you JW.

    I was at that horrible place called St.Benedicts between 1958-1968 and I truly hated every single second of my time there.
    Each day as I got nearer my fear grew & grew until I reached the entrance to the Junior School.

    I was scared there all the time having come into such a harshly disciplined atmosphere after being taken away from my local primary school where I was happy.

    The situation escalated when I went to the Middle School with constant beatings and being in trouble for the slightest ‘offence’ virtually every day.

    At morning assembly being called up by Fr. Kevin to see him in the break ensured the fear factor was kept at maximum. The beatings from him and the Saturday detentions were plentiful.

    But this is not all about the priests as we know.

    I want to know why our cruel Maths teacher was never caught for his treatment of his class.

    A man who would throw with full force his wooden handled black board rubber at the heads and faces of boys who were not keeping up or paying attention.

    The man who nearly knocked me out with a thick dictionary which he brought down on the front of my head nearly blinding me. Oh how, over the years, I wish I had been strong / brave enough to retaliate but at our age we were too scared.
    Anyway this continued for a while until a new teacher came in one day and announced that this man was no longer at the school and he would be taking us for Maths in the future.
    I wonder why?

    Although a young man whilst taking our class our original teacher above is probably dead by now but if he is not, all I can say is ‘Shame on you, you are a bully and a coward’
    I hope I have disturbed your retirement.

    The Upper School?
    More of the same I’m afraid.
    How about watching one of our masters freely masturbating at his open fronted desk whilst we were given tests or essays to write? The desk banging as his knee frequently hit it just before his climax. Mercifully everything was kept inside his trousers.

    Where is he now?
    I would add that this was a regular and well known occurrence.

    The beatings continued and life for me got worse after being enlisted into the stupid and petty C.C.F. where older boys who towed the line were given the power to make your life more of a misery by putting you on a ‘charge’ when ever they felt like it. There was nothing you could do when you were stuck in an Army camp in the middle of Scotland for two weeks.

    Fr. Flood we all knew was a ‘terrifying figure’ (a former pupil’s apt description) being about 6’ 6” tall and extremely thin with black hair. You knew that if you were called in to see him in the break it was for a beating of immense severity. You would not easily walk out of the room after the ‘whack’ even if it was only three strokes instead of the more usual six.

    Finally I would like you JW, to carry on rattling the cage until some shred of good can come out of it.

    I am now 60 years old, I may have not got exact dates for everything but events I have described are true.
    I thought I was handling the St.B’s experience OK and keeping it well buttoned down inside but since following your blog I had to speak. I feel better now that I have.

    I do not consider myself to be in anyway special as there were plenty others in the same sort of trouble as I and certainly the poor devils who were sexually abused must come first.

    I am not looking for revenge, compensation, counselling or sympathy but just a chance to make some of these ‘men of God’ feel uncomfortable and drown in their shame.
    I wonder what they say in the Confessional Box and more importantly for them, what speeches they have prepared for their inevitable visit to the Pearly Gates?

    I’ll leave you with this thought, what kind of religion has its Priests wear a belt around their waist with a rosary on one side and a leather strap on the other?

    Good luck to all affected in any way over the years by St. Benedicts and I wish them the strength to finally overcome their years of misery and sorrow.

    PEACE BE WITH YOU.

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  28. oh yes and i was flogged by fathers clement, dunstan, edmund, george (you have forgotten him), kasimir, kevin et al. how many of these affronted bloggers were at st. b's? i had board rubbers thrown at my head, ears twisted blah blah, even had the slipper from female teachers in the junior school. but i have friends who had far worse done to them at their schools, home etc. and YET have moved on and don't navel gaze in a self indulgent way. AND we are balanced successful people who enjoy life and our families.

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  29. interesting. i know all about father b. but won't reveal confidencies. married my wife and me, baptisied our children and was a true friend. your schoolboy tittle tatle shows the level of intellect on this blog.

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  30. 18:03
    Even if you happen to have come through your experiences unscathed, that doesn't mean that what has happened was right.

    It just means that you have been more fortunate than those who were seriously damaged. I'm very glad for you. I hope that you will avoid the sin of self-indulgence and instead show some compassion towards those less fortunate than you.

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  31. 17:56

    I'm not suggesting that he should have been investigated because to my knowledge (obviously I can only speak for myself) he was never part of the fiddling/beating tendency.

    As to the comment about looking forward not back and ensuring a proper safeguarding policy for the future: it is only through a proper investigation of past abuses and abusers and an understanding of how matters could get to this state that we can safeguard today's children.

    Some people will want revenge. I can't say I blame them but what comes across clearly from the various postings is how much people have repressed over the years. Many of us now have been forced to question so many aspects of our childhood; why did friends suddenly disappear from the school, why were certain children singled out for punishment, was there anything we could have done to stop it, could not our parents see what was happening.

    The fact that the abuse seems to have persisted for 40-50 years makes it impossible simply to look to the future.

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  32. thank you. if you actually read my posts, i do show compassion to those who were abused. indeed i witnessed at first hand abuse by father k et al on a friend of mine and more (not to be published online)but hate eats one up. let's try and help as those who are dead are dead. the thrust of this blog seems to be "lets close it down, make them pay!.

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  33. i disagree. investigate the past but the current pupils need support to. a pretty impossible senario but there are 750+ current pupils. what about them and what they are going through with all this blogging?

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  34. 18.03
    I am very pleased that you are 'balanced',
    successful and enjoying life.
    You are indeed fortunate after all you say has happened to you.

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  35. ha ha ha. balanced? if i were i would be the first person in history. like most people i just get on with it and thank God for what i am and what i have. nil desperandum. stuff happens. inshalla i will finish the race

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  36. 18:03 and other times: You are indeed lucky. And not alone. I'm sure there are others who came through St B's and out the other end without trouble. I am jealous of you! But you seem to feel that since *you* are OK, then no one else should care about their own pain and suffering? Of course we should ensure a focus on the future and the present, and the thrust of this blog seems to be just that: improve the still inadequate policies at the school. But that main desire is not at all incompatible, nor compromised by, the desire that those who inflicted such pain and humiliation be themselves punished too.

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  37. This is getting like Facebook bullying pick a name turn on the fan and see if the stuff you throw at it sticks on him or her.Perhaps you would be better served by investigating who covered what up and who in the trust signed the cheques to keep those who complained quiet?

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  38. 22.21 - what a fatuous suggestion.

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  39. Is there a current investigation into Father Gregory Chillman?
    I have evidence against this disgrace to the Catholic church & would be quite happy to give it.
    I also think our former school should be closed down; it's moral position is no longer tenable.
    James Miller, St Benedict's 1971-77

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  40. Jim Miller

    There is a posting about 'deregistration of schools' which is the Department for Education’s ultimate ‘threat’ to settings that have gone irrevocably wrong which you can read by following this link which takes you to Part1. of three postings. The posts outline the framwework in which independent schools operate.

    Deregistration is Part 2.

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  41. SeanG @ 19:04, well said. I too had to suffer the unsavoury barbarism of corporal punishment on a couple of occasions, as part of what was unfortunately a legal and accepted manner of dealing with children at the time, and "a way of life" at St. Benedict's. I also suffered having my hair pulled for no good reason by Stirzaker (we called him "stircrazy"). I was also once "supervised" in the shower after rugby (ostensibly to make sure everybody took a shower because some of us including myself initially refused to do so), in what these days is a completely illegal and unacceptable practice: FORCING children to take showers. I won't name the teacher responsible here as to not besmirch his good name in case the "obligation" to take said shower was in his own mind completely innocent and "part of the rules and customs of rugby at the time" [?], although this could also technically be construed as abuse. It's interesting though how that was the first, last and only time we were ever "obliged" to take a shower, but then again my class were quite an unpleasant bunch, so perhaps our refusal struck some kinf of chord. Apart from that, I also suffered a 1 hour detention with the entire class on account of a classmate writing "DAVID IS A BIG GAY BASTARD" on the blackboard, as punishment for nobody giving up "the evil doer". Ironically now, the "big gay bastard" is still serving his own detention (no homophobic sentiments intended). Anyway, none of the incidents mentioned here construe any actual serious abuse, and I was never personally aware of any actual serious abuse (except in the sense of "rampant rumor" among pupils). Even so, lately, on account of this big scandal surrounding the old school, I do indeed find myself "navel gazing" and "comparing notes" with other former pupils more than I'd like. On a purely personal level, I believe the reason for this is that I wish I'd enjoyed my time at the school more than I did. Speaking to other former pupils who actually maybe did have their butt squeezed by a priest, or witnessed open, outrageously inappropriate behavior by a priest (or lay teacher?) in the locker room (or elsewhere), it seems that, as a general rule, most people do prefer to "move on" and not dwell on these negative aspects, even in the slightest. Some of them even say that despite this immorality and corruption at the heart of the school, that they had a great time! Of course everyone has a different way of dealing with past adversities, however by saying "I had a great (or even bad!) time, but so what! we should all try to get on with our lives", the thing is that you don't do any justice whatsoever to those who had a REALLY BAD time. With that attitude, we're also not helping to protect present and future pupils, not only at Benny's but other Catholic schools. Of course there's a danger now of people jumping on a bandwagon and creating a witch hunt, but to some extent, the genie is out of the bottle, and that too mostly on account of the inadequate way these problems have been handled over the years by the people who were in a position to really make a difference: the responsible parties at the Abbey and the school. It starts to dawn on me that what makes people really want to stand up and talk about this more than others, or even to try and make a difference and "shake the system" by the collar is simply that they are caring parents. At the end of the day (and here I'm sure even the Vatican would agree), this entire scandal is centered on the welfare of children, those of the past, the present, and the future, and not about the reputation of the school, the prestige of the Roman Catholic Church, or even ... my navel!

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  42. Too many of these comments are written by persons apparently never pupils at the times in question and catcalling from the safety of annonimity.Those that profess good memories are howled down. I was a pupil at the time of Fr Kevin. Yes we were beaten and abused, yes his behaviour was, personally experienced, appauling.But I was taught values by good teachers that other schools don't bother with.The howlers cry to bring the whole ediface down when I know that at that time pupils, my siblings included, suffered worse and deep psychological abuse at other schools. There were many good things at St Benedicts.I regret nothing. This has all the hallmarks of a witchhunt where the witchfinder is more concerned with his self esteem as a crusader for the wronged than for the ongoing good of pupils today and past.There are remarkable parellels with the medieval in seeing everymove now by parties to do right in difficult circumstances pointed at as proof of guilt.
    What sort of harm do you realise you are now doing, opening up the psychological wounds of tens of hundreds of old pupils in the name of accusing the imprisoned and the dead? So the old Abbot's on the run, the headmaster's doing time,his underlings in the clink, Fr Kevin was until recently a hero and priests touched us up and we were hurt and abused.It is our affair, our pain and most of us had moved on. I see today a well run and happy modern school. What harm are you doing in the name of your profession?What sort of justice are you meting out that causes us so much anguish now? For what reason?

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  43. As somebody from the era of Pearce, I wish to echo the comments of 09:32 and say that they are spot on. This blog has been doing more harm than good to victims of what has undoubtedly occurred and does have a very strong feeling of anti-Catholic witchhunt about it, which can easily be shown with West's connections to a certain Mr. Dawkins, which he is strangely very quiet about. Yes, Mr. West, I can prove your violently atheist tendancies and back it up with evidence. How you can claim that your motivations are not anti-catholic bigotry is just hypocrasy of the highest order.

    What occurred at St.Bs was a disgrace but it must be emphasised that this does not reflect the silent majority who like myself and 09:32 took values and life lessons from our time at St. Bs which just wouldn't have been taught elsewhere. Often, it is a case of he who shouts loudest gets heard most. Whilst not in any way lessening the trauma suffered by these victims, it is worth emphasising that this was not the majority experience of St. Bs and a sense of perspective should be employed.

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  44. 11:13
    If I was as violently anti-catholic as your imagination would have it, then I wouldn't be in the least bit concerned about the abuses done to catholic children. I would be leaving them to the devices of the monks and not attempting to ensure that measures are taken for their safety at the school.

    I'm not calling for the school to be closed or the monastery to be dissolved. I'm not suggesting that the Abbot should be strung up from the nearest lamppost.

    If there are parents who want to pay for a private Catholic education for their children, then there will be a need for independent Catholic schools. But the children there deserve to be as safe as children in any other school.

    Wouldn't you agree?

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  45. Well, Mr. West you are skilled in making yourself appear reasonable aren't you? But lets take a look at your true motivations:

    - What are the origins of this blog from February 2009?

    - Do you deny that you are a supporter of Mr. Dawkins and his violent brand of secularism (maybe you do not see it this way...)?

    - I suggest that you take a look at the comments which you make on the Guardian's Religious messageboards before you again claim that you are not anti-Catholic.

    Where is your concern for abuses which have been occuring in other schools which are not Catholic? Indeed, it may come as a shock to you but there are some local schools in Ealing and the area which have problems which are at least as bad if not worse than those at St. Benedicts. Yet you do not take any interest in these schools, many of which have Child Protection Policies which genuinely contain severe weaknesses.

    Nobody is denying the abuses which have occured nor feels anything but deep sympathy for the victims. I also have no doubt that many posters on this site are genuine in their concern to ensure that appropriate procedures and safeguards are in place. However, I'm afraid that in your case, Mr. West, there is something much more sinister behind your actions as you well know and are being deeply dishonest to any victims which you have dealings with in denying.

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  46. 11:55
    In what way is Dawkins violent? From what I've seen of him on TV he is the most mild-mannered of men.

    I've never tried to hide my views, anybody can look at the blog articles I wrote before the Ealing Abbey scandal became known. Anybody can see the articles I have written for the Guardian website.

    You seem to be suggesting that because I'm an atheist I have no right to be concerned for the safety of children at my son's old school. That's a very odd view to take.

    I went to my meeting with the Papal Nuncio accompanied by a devout and practicing Catholic. We were both of the same mind regarding the need for an Apostolic Visitation, a view shared by the Nuncio himself, Archbishop Antonio Menini. On the basis of having met me (which as far as I'm aware you have not done), he made it perfectly clear that I was right to have contacted him, and that there was nothing anti-catholic in what I have been doing. If he had thought I was motivated by anti-catholicism, he would hardly have passed on his concerns to Cardinal Levada, and he in turn would not have ordered the Visitation.

    I will give you one further opportunity to reply if you wish, and after that I will permit no further diversion onto the topic of my atheism, and subsequent comments from you along these lines will be deleted.

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  47. Ah, a unwelcome return of a lesser brained Abbeyvista known for its bile spewing characteristics and myopia.

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  48. I am not for one minute suggesting that you do not have a right to be concerned for the safety of children at your son's school. However, I do strongly doubt that this is your true motivation and you need to be honest about this.

    Being economical with the truth about you true motivations can get you very far, can't it Jonathan? You are very skilled at making yourself appear to be respectable whilst having views which would be quite abhorent to the people whom you are having dealings with, quite the politician, aren't you?

    "I will give you one further opportunity to reply if you wish, and after that I will permit no further diversion onto the topic of my atheism, and subsequent comments from you along these lines will be deleted."

    This is far from a "diversion" but getting at the real essence of your motivation which I believe that people who have dealings with you have every right to know the full picture of. However, as usual whenever the discussion gets onto this topic you decide to suppress dissent.

    Let me stress, I feel every sympathy with the victims in this case which is absolutely where the focus should be. Clearly, there are some serious issues which should be and hopefully will be addressed by Lord Carlile.

    The concerns which I am expressing are genuine concerns about your motivations Mr. West, which I think deserve airing amongst those whom you purport to act for. You atheism and support of Dawkins is particularly relevant in a campaign where you have chosen to single out catholic schools and one catholic school in particular for action. What about other schools Catholic and otherwise which you have not given attention to, including those which you son may have attended following his departure from St. Bs? Have you reviewed their policies?

    I have absolutely no issue with the motivations of the vast majority, particularly the victims, in pursuing this issue which are entirely genuine and understandable.

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  49. 12: 50
    Well, all we can do is have you say that I have dark motives, and for me to say I don't, which happens to be the truth.

    In any case, if there is a need for improved safeguarding at St Benedict's and I am doing something effective about it, then all sorts of dark motives could be inferred from your trying to change the subject rather than cheering me on.

    See how easy it would be to play that game? Well, I don't play it, and neither will you.

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  50. "Well, all we can do is have you say that I have dark motives, and for me to say I don't" - Agreed. We will have to let your readers decide for themselves.

    Thank-you for giving me the opportunity to post which was more than I had expected.

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  51. The poster who finished a criticism of this blog with: "So the old Abbot's on the run, the headmaster's doing time,his underlings in the clink, Fr Kevin was until recently a hero and priests touched us up and we were hurt and abused."

    ROFLMAO! That's excellent dude! You're not in PR by any chance are you....? I couldn't help but hear in my mind a Pythonesque "OK, but apart from THAT, what have the monks ever done to us?"

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  52. Why, Mr John West, are you focusing only on the many mishaps of one school when 46,700 children in the UK, right now, are being abused? I am not trying to say that you have a personal vendetta against Ealing Abbey, however it does seem odd that you choose to focus on this single place. Surely it would make much more sense for you to make a blog about stopping child abuse or get a job at child line? Instead of scarring Parisians from their parish. Also I must ask do you mention the same issues at your son's current school or do you only abuse (if you'll pardon the pun) the school that your son formally went to(for a relatively brief amount of time)? Finally I do not understand how the BBC let you be interviewed when they were trying to give a balanced argument; I quote'theoretically there could be an abuser at the school(St Benedict's) right now', how dare you say that when 'theoretically' there could be an abuser at any school 'right now' or maybe 'theoretically' no abuser there 'right now'. In conclusion: Yes bad things have happened in the past, yes they must, I repeat must, be dealt with and the correct people must be brought to justice; but these events happened in the past, 2 years, 30 years, 40 years, and things have changed. Not every monk that has ever been at Ealing Abbey is an abuser nor can they be accused, by you, just for being at Ealing Abbey. Not every monk at Ealing Abbey will be an abuser; I know so because I have met monks that have recently joined there.
    I could almost guarantee that if you researched enough and if you collected enough information, any school may have had a hidden past, by that I mean child abusers or any kind of law breaking, so I ask you again, why just Ealing Abbey?

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  53. 20.00

    Not every monk at Ealing Abbey will be an abuser; I know so because I have met monks that have recently joined there.

    Monks are either now wear badges or uniquely you have the ability to identify pedarasts.

    You also seem not to understand that safeguarding is everyone's business and denial is no longer in fashion.

    It might be a good idea to go and glue the chip back on your shoulder.

    Good night.

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  54. Please read my blog on the "Sins of the Fathers" page on 16 November 2011 12:53

    I have no idea who Jonathan West is, but personally I would like to thank you for carrying on the quest to open up "this can of worms" at St. Benedict's. As a victim I would like to inform everyone that it is, and is helping me to get some closure on the past. I'd like to think that I kicked this whole episode off - not for self gratitude, but to hopefully STOP further abuse and to HELP those who were abused to also get some closure and truth out of what happened. The truth is always the best and only way in life (however many people it hurts) - so lets have some more of it. To quote Tolstoy, "There can be no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent".

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