Thursday, 10 November 2011

Sins of the Fathers

The Times has an editorial today about Ealing Abbey (behind paywall) concerning the Carlile Report. It is worth quoting and commenting on a few bits of it.
It should be read, especially, by those few who may still believe that Catholic bodies have been unfairly tarnished these past few years. For it was commissioned, and published, by Ealing Abbey itself. And its findings are entirely shocking.
I think it worth noting that a number of people have suggested that this blog is merely a self-serving grab for publicity, that it is motivated by virulent anti-catholicism or violent secularism, and that I have been blowing things out of proportion. Well, think again.
This report is not only an acknowledgement of a catalogue of terrible abuse — which began in the 1940s and continued up until 2007 — but also of the long-running failure to address this abuse, or even to acknowledge it as being of suitable severity to be addressed. It was only commissioned long after The Times had begun reporting on a series of allegations of sexual abuse at St Benedict’s, prompting more victims to come forward.
It is inevitable that there will be even more victims who come forward, simply because even if we could wave a magic wand and absolutely guarantee no abuse happens at St Benedict's ever again (something I acknowledge to be impossible), because it can take decades for a victim to acquire the will and courage to come forward, there is going to be a trickle of cases which will probably last for the next 30 years or so.
Lord Carlile recognises primary and secondary fault, with the first belonging obviously to the abusers themselves, and the second being shared between the school and “the monastic community, in its lengthy and culpable failure to deal with what at times must have been evident behaviour placing children at risk”.
All perfectly correct. But I happen to be of the opinion that the secondary fault isn't all that secondary. Paedophiles will be paedophiles, and occupations which involve the care of children will inevitably be attractive to paedophiles. The Catholic priesthood is one such occupation. You can't recognise a potential child sex abuser at sight. As Catherine Pepinster has found out in the case of Father David Pearce, you can know an active abuser very well and still not realise. So, it is inevitable that abusers will get into the priesthood from time to time. The same applies to the teaching profession.

What matters is minimising the number of victims, and minimising the harm done to them. The only way that you can find out that somebody is an abuser is from actual reports of abuse. So these reports, from victims and witnesses are the primary weapon in the fight against abuse. They have to be taken seriously, they have to be passed to the authorities who have the knowledge and training to investigate them properly, and they have to be acted on in so that when abuse is discovered, the abuser is immediately and permanently removed from a position supervising children.

All this Ealing Abbey failed to do. Victims were accused of maliciously accusing their abusers, abusers were permitted to remain, when the complaints got too loud abusing priests were moved to different duties and abusing lay teachers were quietly sacked and sent on their way with a good reference so they they could continue to abuse elsewhere.

All these actions, carried out for the most part by people who weren't abusers themselves, could hardly have been better at maximising the number of victims and the extent of the harm done to them had they been designed with that especial objective in mind. And these action contributed hugely to the overall duration of the abuse and the number of victims, which just at St. Benedict's School must by now number in the hundreds.

Even when Lord Carlile began his report, he writes, another monk banned from working with children was still living there. “The Abbot has accepted that another dwelling has to be found for any member of the monastic community falling within the categories described,” he writes. “This must continue as a permanent policy.”

It stretches credulity that such a thing could even need saying. The fact that it does is indicative of the problems which Lord Carlile highlights, and sheds light upon the Church’s continuing inability to police itself.
In fact, when Lord Carlile began his work, there were two monks living at the Abbey under restrictions, Father Stanislaus Hobbs and Father Gregory Chillman. At the insistence of the Department for Education and over the energetic objections of the Abbot, Father Stanislaus Hobbs was moved to a care home outside the diocese earlier this year. But the Carlile Report lists Chillman as still living at the Abbey under restriction, and the Abbey website also lists him as a monk resident at the Abbey. I believe he has only very recently moved out.

It is this kind of obstructive, grudging response to obviously sensible suggestions for child protection which leave me of the opinion that the abbey and the school cannot move on under their present management.


  1. It's also well worth reading their interview with the Abbott. Pretty late in the day, to be sure, but this is the most contrite behaviour I've ever witnessed from the Abbey.

    He claims to have thought of resigning and even hints at considering whether they should all "pack up and go away".

    And Fr Kevin Horsey is openly named as a paedo. The Horsey Building is apparently to be renamed.

  2. The interview and write-up by the Ruth lady is indeed very good. She is a very good writer as Martin's personality does come leaping out of the page at you.

    I do have some symphathy for Martin. He has been placed in an impossible situation which is not of his making and has looked to deal with it as best he can whilst being continually vilified by the likes of West.

  3. 10:07 - "whilst being continually vilified by the likes of West"

    This, on the other hand, is way off the mark. One wonders how genuinely apologetic the Abbey would have been had pressure not been put on it to come clean and try to sort the mess out properly.

    I'll wager that, had it not been for the tireless work of this blog's author, we'd now be looking at another convenient cover-up and "promises" that all's well now, honest.

  4. I'm afraid theres just one line that is appropriate for Abbot Martin:

    "welcome to the real World"

  5. I will say I asked here for balance, (I was 14.18 on 8th Nov)which seemed to be interpreted as a defence of what went on.I accept Mr. West you have achieved your aim and the fundamental is good, but it comes at a cost of opening up terrible memories for many of us pupils.The dillema is weighing pain against justice and truth. It is not something anyone can be asked to evaluate, you have to go the course.
    What I have been never able to fathom, looking back 60 years to my time under Kevin Horsley, is that no one, not the school, not the authorities, not the families took a blind bit of notice of us boys referring to what was going on.I think in this families and society is culpable, not just the school and abbey.
    Carlile draws a good link between physical abuse and sexual saying one was clearly perceived as safer manifestation than the other to direct sexual urges. I am glad he noticed. But 12 year olds are more perceptive than realised. We all knew KH was getting kicks as he beat and assulted us, let alone moving onto other things.Last night I had his leering face back in front of me. We often referred to this publicly. Parental attitude was to almost treat it as a joke. "Its what we are paying for" sort of thing.The attitude among parents was that that "hardening up" of young boys was what they were paying for. Dickensian maybe but a fact.
    I also find it hard to work out whether there was true cover up all the time or a more complicated picture. Why, in a community of monks hearing each other's confession, that awareness was not there. I suspect the confessors could not work out where the "sanctity of the confessional ended" and outside evidence began. However I also wonder whether it was never heard in the confessional because the perpetrators never regarded it as a sin, let alone a crime.
    Of course, I can already hear the sneering from some of your correspondents about confession, "pedos" etc , but I suspect the authors were not the ones there at the time. I do know there were some genuinly good men and efforts at the school.

  6. 12:42 - "Carlile draws a good link between physical abuse and sexual saying one was clearly perceived as safer manifestation than the other to direct sexual urges"

    An excellent point.

  7. Contrite? I went to the abbey yesterday after attending the press conference and a one-on-one interview of Lord Carlile by a BBC documentary crew. As I was speaking to the filmmakers about my time at the school, we were constantly harassed by security goons in the street outside the abbey.

    The headmaster today described them to me as staff members with a remit to prevent trespass on the school grounds and to protect the safety of the pupils. I am pretty sure I heard the same headmaster suggesting yesterday that the school and the abbey were separate entities, or perhaps I misunderstood.

    Whatever the case, the over-excited individual orchestrating this harassment and intimidation escalated the situation to the point where violence seemed inevitable before the programme director, himself an old boy of the school, lead me away. I have asked Cleugh to explain precisely what staff position the muscular Russian skinhead accompanying this swivel-eyed nutcase occupies. Perhaps he is the school's political sciences teacher?

    Standing in front of swivel-eyes as he squared up to me brought me back, just for a moment, to how I felt as a kid, before that place turned me into a violent sociopath, with some monk or lay teacher enraged by my resistance to their hamfisted, crude advances, towering over me as I realised that I was not safe in that school. For a few minutes yesterday, surrounded by the thugs unleashed by the "trust" for which swivel-eyes said he worked, I again felt rather unsafe.

    So much for Abbot Shipperlee's contrition. So much for Mr Cleugh's blandishments and offers to meet me to discuss things. I think I'd have to go there 'tooled-up' just to get to his office unharmed. As as for Lord Carlile's report? OK, so it's not a whitewash but Milord has certainly fulfilled his client's brief in producing a document "advantageous to the abbey" and, by extension, the school and its revenues.

    Oh sure, Cleugh invited parents to ask questions at the pre-press conference meeting at the school but he and his deputy, Oliver, made rather a point, I am informed, of requiring parents to recite the names and forms of their children before posing questions, details that were noted.

    Business as usual, it seems, with the sect-like climate of fear not only intact but enhanced by the varnish applied by Lord Carlile and his team of PR smoothies. Not that His Lordship lacks empathy for survivors of child abuse. The problem, as noted by others, is that the report was produced by the lawyer as opposed to the man and seemed aimed at preserving an institution for which, as His Lordship noted to winces from the more sensitive of those present, there is "consumer demand".

  8. Mr Cleugh, please think carefully before you rename the Horsey Building after another Ealing monk.

    You don't want to find out later that you have simply named it after another pervert.

  9. @ The Chap who felt intimidated by the 'Russian Security Guard'

    I believe all the East European guys who work at the School are Polish. I'd suggest you apologise for this remark immediately. Considering the provocation they were under they reacted with considerable restraint.

  10. Please explain how the Carlile report is anyway "advantageous to the abbey"? There is a distinct feeling on this blog of just condemning without giving anything a chance.

    15:55, truly I am sure that everybody is horrified and sorry for the abuse which you have suffered. It is devastating, terrible and inexcusable. However, I fail to see how Abbot Martin could apologise to you more clearly for what has occurred.

    Unfortunately, security is now required around the school thanks to Mr. West's action and the aggressive nature of some of the press. It is sad if you feel intimidated by this, but I am sure that you will agree with me that the safety and security of pupils is paramount and with much jostling going on there is a risk of a pupil getting caught in the cross-fire.

    I am again slightly alarmed by the continual description of the security team as "Russian". What is this supposed to imply? Again a description of an employee as "swivel eyes" is also not really appropriate.

    I would strongly encourage you to go and meet with Mr. Cleugh to discuss the report. I'm sure that he'll give you a fair hearing.

  11. Given the climate of hostility (justified or not) and the need to hear real parents' views and questions as a priority,when anyone with a scent of a story wanted to get in there It is not surprising they asked the name and form of the child? The hostility against hearing any reasoned argument or accepting behaviour as justifiable in the circumstances is as closed in attitude as the original opposition to our complaints.We all have to take a step forward together now.Like it or not.

  12. I don't see the end of this anytime soon. A Panorama (or other TV?) special on the 60 year history of sadistic, power crazed sleazy sickos, bullying (like I said before: pupil on pupil, teacher on pupil, and pupil on teacher) and violence would not be surprising in the least, and many OPs will jump at the chance to air their grievances, whereas others won't like the idea one bit. It may further dent the prestige of the RC church and the school, and sadly, possibly further divide the community, causing more tension therein. Hopefully however, some healing will come out of it all in the long run. Like anonymous wisely said earlier up the page: "the dilemma is weighing pain against justice and truth." However, another relevant truism (or platitude?) here is also: "The truth will set you free." We live in an age where children are blessed with so much more care and good will than they had 20,30,40,50 years ago (particularly at St. B's), and the changes in attitude and values are so radical that people are naturally shocked (only with the benefit of hidsight!) to realise children could be treated so badly relatively not that long ago, or in the case of some of us who went to the school, IN their own lifetimes! One could do a (vaguely?) comparative analysis here with what has been dug up in Spain only recently, deeds that took place during the Franco regime, evil deeds wherein there was a collusion between members of both the church and the medical profession - the "disappearing babies scandal" - children born one day, taken away from their parents the next day if the parents were "politically or economically" disadvantaged, the parents being told that their babies had simply died, only for these to be trafficked to "good, but childless families" thereafter, who paid the doctors, nuns and priests good money to adopt. To maintain social harmony following the death of Franco, there was an amnesty for all crimes committed during the civil war, and the regime itself, but given the new legacies being unearthed now, letting sleeping dogs lie is obviously no longer easy. We may consider that we're witness to here is our own positive evolution, and the advance of civilisation. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

  13. I was impressed by the report and feel the school and the abbey should be allowed to move on now.
    I only came across this blog and much of the evidence and accusations yesterday (I have lived in Africa for 21 years). I read the entire blog from beginning to end as it was very disconcerting to have been taught by every one of the people accused, I think Mr West deserves great praise for keeping this matter alive and the debate informed but I do feel writing this blog has taken a toll on him too if you compare the tone in the last year with the tone in the beginning.

  14. Yes you did misunderstand. By the time the report is fully implemented they will be separate entities, until then the same Trust staff will continue to work on the Abbey and the school, with before you say it, adequate CRB checks and complete and utter vetting.

    Secondly, the safety of the children has been Mr West's aim on this site throughout his campaign and it was the aim of the Trust staff yesterday to make sure that people were not in areas that may jeopardize the safety of the children. That is perhaps why you were ushered away from the grounds of the school.

    Thirdly, your description of the member of staff as "Russian" can only be described as somewhat mis-informed and racist. Just because he has an Eastern European accent, you automatically assume he is Russian? My friend, that is not the society within which we live and such attitudes will not get you far within it.

    Fourthly, the school does not have "security goons". They are members of trust staff ensuring the welfare of the students, as outlined above. Your rather hilarious description of one such member of the faculty as "swivel-eyed" can only lead me to assume that you are again making rash judgments on a person without actually knowing the full extent of their character or personality; another mistake to make within the liberal world that Britain is today.

    Next I move on to the more outlandish statement that you appear to have made regarding Lord Carlile of Berriew. To suggest a man of his magnitude, learning and expertise "fulfilled his client's brief in producing a document "advantageous to the abbey"" is quite clearly wrong, and slanderous. I suspect a man of his standing, a member of the Upper Chamber, would not risk his reputation and career by taking, what can only be described as a bribe to write a report that glorifies the abbey. Furthermore, I would like to know where the quote "advantageous to the abbey" is from just so as I can ascertain who actually believes the report to be in support of the Abbey. If anything it attacks the Abbey's failing to handle the abuse that occurred and that is why the suggestions have been made. The report is complementary of the school however, because the school has done everything to make sure it is safe for children to learn and prosper in.

    Finally, the school does not offer political sciences.

  15. When Abbot Martin apologised for allowing Pearce back in the school so that he could abuse again, and spoke of his error of judgement, the only thing he was really sorry about was that he and the school were finally caught out. When he commissioned the report, didnt he think that by getting someone like Carlisle to report, the school and the monks would be exonerated. So it backfired on him bigtime. He and Cleugh should leave NOW. He is still in denial. It was written all over his face.

  16. 22:56
    Yes, it has taken a toll on me. I have become progressively more angry and determined, the more obstructionism I have had from the Abbey and the school. I originally wrote to the Abbot and the headmaster in November 2009 with a detailed description of shortcomings in the child protection policy.

    The policy has improved since then, but some significant and in my view dangerous shortcomings remain. That's not merely my opinion, I have consulted with experts in the field, people with far more experience of regulations and good practice in this field than Lord Carlile has. I have also compared the policy with those of other schools and with the London Child Protection procedures issued by the London Safeguarding Children Board.

  17. I totally back what Jonathan West is doing.I consider him a selfless hero.
    The last time I entered St Benedict's, more than 30 yrs ago, they had carved my name in gold letters on some Oxbridge panel as the only person they had managed to get into Oxford University in the year 1978. Which of course was economically what the school was all about.
    If my name is still there I want it erased. I add my name to those calling for the school to be closed down.
    The climate of abuse, bullying and even racism, was suffocating.
    My Greek teacher Gilbert Harrison would racially abuse me on the basis that my mother was Irish. Think of it: at a Roman Catholic school!
    It was a climate of fear and oppression.
    Close that school down and if you agree please email me

  18. Could you detail what these shortcomings which still remain are? It is not entirely clear what you still have a problem. Furthermore as a recent leaver in my experience you couldn't be more wrong with regards to Mr Cleugh, he has done his utmost to improve conditions in the school, he is dedicated and honourable man. He has never baulked at sorting out and bringing to light passed abuses which incidentally no one is excusing (least of all Mr Cleugh himself) Hopefully now a line can be drawn under this terrible chapter and the school can move forward.

  19. I'm an old boy and I still remember the surreal horror of that school. One the one hand I recieved an excellent education in many ways, and had a great time playing rugby, doing drama etc that I'd never have had the opportunity to do if I hadn't gone there, but on the other hand the pure evil of some of the staff and the abbey that supported them.
    The worst thing about it for me was being given the knowledge by the older kids about which monks were dangerous and to be avoided, but not actually really understanding what we were being warned of, and then later passing that knowledge on to the kids below, and this being seen as utterly normal as in "That side of the football pitch is for Third Form, the bit over there is for the Forth and don't go near Fr. X on your own." We were almost completely desensitised to the sheer horror of it all. Children having to protect themselves because the school would not. And then when complaints were made by familes, any leverage would be used, any weakness exploited and any promise made so that the monsters could keep operating and the abbey wouldn't be hauled through the dirt. I wasn't sexually or physically abused at the school but to even think of that place makes my sick with loathing. I cannot begin to say how delighted I was to read of Jonathan West's campaign, just to know that people weren't going to let them get away with it anymore, and with the latest news I can only hope that this will be the point that St.Benedict's actually becomes a school, seemingly for the first time in it's history.

  20. Miller, stop being so selfish. Why should your bad experience, unfortunate as it is, dictate that the school should be closed down? I suppose an Oxbridge education doesn't give you common sense...

    St. Benedict's really is nothing like you describe, in any way, shape or form. I was there for the full fourteen years from 1995 and I can assure you that St. Benedict's has, does and will do wonderful things for young people, notwithstanding the mistakes of a few. I cannot begin to say what a good impact my Benedictine-inspired education has had on my life - I'm saying this as a twenty-year-old and I know I will continue to say it until the end of my days. Many things have been addressed and still need to be addressed as regards Child Protection but it is completely insular of you to promote the closure of the school based on your own, antiquated experiences without considering the wider picture of marvel that the school exemplifies the majority of the time.

  21. Jim Miller, I left the school a few years ago. There is no (longer a) climate of abuse, bullying, and racism. And, out of nearly all of the independent schools that I know, it has the least Oxbridge-focused teaching philosophy; if anything, the school's main focus is now sport.

    Most recent leavers had a great time; at university, I have noticed that very few schools create the number and diversity of lasting friendships that St Benedict's has for people in my school year and the other years with which I am familiar.

    I really cannot believe that someone intelligent enough to have attended Oxford would argue that the school's history and past failings justify the closing of what is now a thriving school. Firstly, it would only harm those currently there, and it does not consider their wishes. Secondly, I really should not need to point out that, while they should always be remembered and prevented from reoccurring, past grave errors and wrongs should not condemn any school, person, country, etc. for the rest of its/his/her existence.

  22. Mr Miller, I don't know if you remember but having Irish parents myself, racial abuse was common in England. I believe the slogan was "No blacks, No dogs, No Irish", so are you suggesting that if we are following the mantra of closing down everywhere who was racist towards Irish, we should systematically close down every Post Office, public house and hotel that was open in the 70s?

  23. I agree with Jim Miller's experiences of St Benedict's, and completely identify with his description of a suffocating climate of fear, oppression, bullying, abuse and racism. I attended the school in 1984-91, and they were easily the worst years of my life.

    However, I don't share his view that the school should be closed down; that would be an unprecedented and extreme overreaction.

    The reason the school was/is the way it was/is is entirely due to the infuence over it of the Abbey. If anything, it's the Abbey that should be closed down, not the school (although one questions the purpose of a school existing without an Abbey of which it has always been an annexe and with which it has been inextricably linked for over a century.
    Indeed, this makes me wonder to what extent a separation of school and Abbey is possible, either in the physical or spiritual sense, and I have made this point elsewhere.)

    However, having said all the above, I don't think the need to close anything will arise, for the following reason: the tide of claims, both civil and criminal, that will be unleashed now that this story has become front page news will be huge and unstoppable. If the recent High Court ruling about the Church's vicarious liability for crimes committed by its priests is upheld, this will open the floodgates to a new tide of claims against monks now dead, and the Abbey will either have to settle these or fight. How long will it be able to afford to do this?

    The Abbey is now, effectively, finished. It will be bankrupt within a very short time.

  24. My letter was published in the Times to day, I find on this blog, for whatever reason, only annonimity gets published. That is not a criticism and we will see if this gets put out.
    So, in the sixties as a 12 year old I endured Kevin Horsley.Like many. I was, then, flabaghasted to revisit earlier this year and find a building named after him.
    It seemed there were two planets of reality.But then I rather suspect many of us pupils used the same technique to live a life at the time. I know I did.However after all the horror I had shut the mental doors and got on with my life only to have to relive the school days all over again now. I have been making the point previously here that there really seemed to be a venemous attitude on the blog towards the abbey of "damned if they do, damned if they don't" . I repeat my view that the perpetrators are either behind bars or dead and no amount of anguished appeals will get them back. On my return I saw a happy school and a healthy school. We are history.A great deal of the continued calls for more action seem more like a call for revenge than cure.What possible good is served by shutting a school in which there is absolutely no evidence of the crimes and noone there who was associated with them?The witchburning has swung to the perceived coverups rather than the perpetrators and comments here are often of the attitude that if you express any call for balance you are masquerading as a former pupil or somehow are culpable.(an original sin... now that is very catholic!). I have no connection with the school or abbey at all, indeed with my academic record, they would never value me. The report was criticised for having been paid for by the school but I saw noone else stepping forward to cough up.The criticism has moved on to current hapless people landed in a situation not of their own making.Well crisis management with a school to continue running is right, not wrong.Whatever errors they may have committed there, I really am not convinced that I, instead of them, could have done any better given the circumstances in unravling what was happening as boys came and went and teachers too. How easy it is to put 50 years under the microscope now!
    I am increasingly of the opinion that these abuses would not have continued if society and families had not turned a deaf ear and did not want to know at that time. There was a prevelant attitude to treat our tales as a joke and as a sound endorsement of a "manly" regime. So I blame a lot more than just the school and abbey.

  25. @ 01:19 you ask, "Could you detail what these shortcomings which still remain are?"

    The two biggest remaining "shortcomings" are Shipperlee and Cleugh, they should leave immediately.

  26. perhaps the horsey building should be renamed the "jonathan west building?" then they could never move on...

  27. It is great to hear from more recent pupils, come on boys and girls lets shout out loud for our great school.
    ps Mr West let this one through

  28. Goodness - he did, 16:39! Having censored many contributions over the past month, his claim, not to have done so, notwithstanding! But yes, it would be good to hear now from present pupils of St Benedict’s who value their school and are proud to belong to it.

  29. .
    Multiple postings regarding closure

    This subject has been raised on this site - December 2010 in fact.

    Here is the link which I hope you find interesting.

  30. I work in a supporting deptartment at St Benedicts and I WILL NOT let anyone slag it off lightly!!! I accept that things happened many moons ago, but don't you DARE point anything at the current setup of which is one of the safest and most pleasant places for children to learn. So someone hurled a racist insult at you a long time ago? Unfortunately this was just society in general back then. Theres stil examples of it nowadays, such as anyone with an East European accent being called 'Russian', but nowadays it is not acceptable.

    I suggest you come and meet some of us who actually work in the school. From the new breed of teachers, the IT Dept, property services and various other people who live in the real world, come from all sorts of background and would not tolerate any kind of bullying or maltreatment of children.

  31. Are people forgetting that the last reported abuse was only a few years ago under the nose of teachers that are still working at the school.

  32. @14:45
    You are correct Abbot Martin should step down, he failed utterly in his duty to protect those in his overall care. Indeed i believe he plans to fall on his sword in the not too distant future. As many others (16:39) have stated the current SCHOOL management have inherited this terrible legacy and have done all in their power to shed light upon the events and importantly have brought forward the investigation undertaken by Lord Carlisle QC. Mr Cleugh has done a fantastic job at St Benedict's School, as a recent leaver i was at the school for the entire time that Mr Cleugh was and can attest to his professionalism and dedication. There is absolutely no need for him to go and you will have to give an actual reason rather than just demanding his removal. I'm confident in saying i speak for most the people in the years around me that we support Mr Cleugh and we take a lot of happy memories from our time at St Benedict's.

  33. I have two children at the school, I feel that the head master and the abbot have a huge weight on their shoulders . The main incidents happened a long time ago and if course were horrific for those involved. It was wrong of Fr abbot to accommodate David Pearce in the abbey after his known abuse. The monks were nieve , they are or were not aware of the reality of what was happening.they thought they were doing the right thing , sadly it was proved to be the wrong decision. I was at last weeks parental forum and will be there at next weeks with lord Carlisle. I think there is more positive support for the school as it is now than ever before. Most parents have a lot of confidence in the future of the school and are very supportive of the plans for the future.

  34. I was one year above Jim Miller and studying latin and greek like him and he understands some truths. I am sorry everyone else, I am really sorry, but it is too important to brush all this under the carpet. Jim, I would very much like to discuss things with you.

  35. Mr West , as you know so much about Safeguarding Policies put your words where your mouth is and publish what you believe to be the definitive policy rather than allude to it. Interesting to see if this is posted with an attached policy.

  36. @22:40 - Are you forgetting that the teacher in question was completely exonerated from any accusations as there was no substantial evidence to support the claims made against him?

  37. quoting: Anonymous said...
    perhaps the horsey building should be renamed the "jonathan west building?" then they could never move on...
    11 November 2011 16:14

    Well why not? In fact, that right there my friend, is exactly what the school should do in order to REALLY move on. Boy, did you hit the nail on the head. Speaking as a former pupil who has far too few good memories of my years there, such a gesture would make up for a lot - a building named after JW in honor of his efforts, and some kind of plaque on the school property in memory of the probable many hundreds of children who were victims of the bullsh*t so called "way of living" back in the day. If it were up to me, I would take the religion out of the school altogether, turn it into a secular, but still private school of deservedly higher calibre, not unlike Latymer Upper. I would also do away with the patronising motto "teaching a way of living". That's a big arrogance if ever there was one. It's downright patronising. Who needs to be taught "how to live?" It reminds me of the story of Tarzan. People aren't savages are they? Obviously pastoral care is not a simple subject, but essentially I don't need anyone teaching my kids anything except academic subjects, and some basic human kindness and decency as part and parcel of simple common sense, certainly not with a religious or ideological coating. The rest they should be able to figure out for themselves, based on what they learn at home, and the experience of life itself, because we give them credit for being intelligent human beings, distinct individuals, not some herd animals, to be beaten, coerced or shouted at. The fact is that in the context of this scandal, we realise that for many people living in our times, religion has become a crutch and a cloak of deception if they're lacking in ... one thing or another - things like a greater knowledge, a social harmony, money, basic morals, basic civility, or even, worst of all as we now know, the opportunity to express their illegal sexual deviance. Having got that off my chest, I can only wish our wonderful community a better future after all this is over, and I mean everybody, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. People need to heal, but it will take time. Well done to you younger people also who are standing up for what is/was good in the school. I'm sure this isn't an easy time for you or your families, but in reality none of this reflects on you except in a peripheral (though still unfortunate) way. You are entirely blameless in what seems for the most part, but not entirely by any means, "historical skullduggery", so don't feel bad. Maybe try and see some benefit to all these skeletons jumping out of so many closets, as it can only serve your purpose too, that of having some respect as a human being, and as a pupil at what seems nowadays to be not only a decent school, but one trying hard to be even better.

  38. -
    23.39 - Do you have an extensive understanding of the legal landscape in which safeguarding policies operate? Would you be able to recognise an effective policy?

    Sadly very few safeguarding policies are effective This link to a posting highlights some of the issues.

    Within the body of the post the book
    ‘Child Abuse Law and Policy Across Boundaries’ by Professor Laura Hoyano and Dr Caroline Keenan
    is mentioned and I provide a link.

  39. I am pleased to see some recent op's have had good experiences at St Benedict's but their youthful positive energy towards the school fails to miss some points more obvious to other o.p's like myself.

    The sexual abuses have affected less and less people over the years. In the 60's it was 10's per year. In the 90's possibly 2 or 3 per year. Perhaps it only happens once every few years now? Victims, from what I understand, rarely admit to being abused straight away. Recent leavers may be completely unaware of any abuses. The fact it could still happen means that every conceivable effort to make child protection procedures without any flaws.

    Jonathan West has exposed something very terrible that has happened for very many years. He deserves massive recognition, although I have the opinion that is not what he would like.

    On Martin and Cleugh. Both should go.

    Martin looked to protect David Pearce against "unfounded allegations" when he had been abusing for decades! Stan was protected despite his crimes. Greg ditto. Cleugh, as the school's head, would have been very aware what was going on and do not kid yourself that he didn't. He never made a stand.

    Hopefully, with more adjustments to the child protection procedures at the school, abuse will become extremely rare.

    The Abbey? Like another poster alluded to I would not be surprised to see a huge amount of victims coming forward, making it impossible for them to deffend. And I don't blame them!

  40. Thank you for making out like the recent OPs are so naïve. That was very kind of you, though this is not the case at all. I know exactly the situation that the Abbey and School are in and I am very aware of what has happened in the past, particularly from this blog but also from talking to Old(er) Priorians myself.

    What I am trying to eliminate is everybody else's ignorance, especially people who either know nothing about the school at all (i.e. most of the public) or who know nothing about the school in recent years, which certainly includes Old Priorians such as Jim Miller. It is, and was in my very recent experience, a wonderful place in which to learn and develop as a young person, notwithstanding the abuse of a few, most of which, as you say, took place in your day. Only the ignorant would advocate the closure of the school

  41. The very sad thing about this whole business is that wonderful education can exist alongside abuse. Laurence Soper was a wonderful maths teacher, have no doubt about it. He was brilliant - clear, razor sharp explanations, talented and humour filled analogies, and student empathy. Father Gregory was a brilliant RE teacher. As Jim Miller is aware, the latin and greek teaching at St B's was in many respects outstanding. Let me ask a question preying on my mind - where does abuse cross over with discipline, absolute authority benefit children as well as allowing abuse? I am not trying to exonerate abuse in any way. I am only trying to show that absolute discipline and unquestioned authority, the very qualities that create outstanding education if the teachers are outstanding, also provide unchecked opportunity for abuse. Unfortunately the old education system allowed abuse, but it also had standards. Jim Miller had a very fine classics education.

  42. >>Anonymous said...
    I was one year above Jim Miller and studying latin and greek like him and he understands some truths. I am sorry everyone else, I am really sorry, but it is too important to brush all this under the carpet. Jim, I would very much like to discuss things with you.<<
    My mum who lived in Greenford died yesterday & so I will have to commute past St Benedicts in the next fortnight arranging her funeral.
    I will go past St Benedicts thinking of it as a vile place of abuse, bullying & certainly not a place of christian values (I am still a practising Catholic).
    I am surely entitled to my opinion. Some people above have anonymously attacked me. That saddens me as I have openly declared here who I am and they could have emailed their abuse so I knew who they were.
    I'm very happy to confer with any victims of the St Benedict's abuse machine. Drop me an email!

    11 November 2011 23:07

  43. Peter

    I was at St Benedict's at the same time as Jim and it has taken me a suprisingly long time to recognise how different the education we received was. I have been a teacher myself for nearly 20 years and am currently at stage 3 of a complaint about safeguarding practices at a school my children attended and were allowed to suffer at. I suppose I would not have had the courage to fight for them in the high court, with social services and at their old school if I had not fought constantly even against the regime at St Benedict's. I did suffer beatings at the school but not anything sexual but it did make friends a lot closer at the time. I really hope that things are much better but I do fear that some of the posters above are a tad nieve. Having worked in some excellent public schools and grammar schools as well as some comprehensives and academies I can tell you that St Benedict's was very different indeed. I do not know what it is like now but I do think that Mr West has done what is right and confronting the truth can bring forward a true forgiveness. I think what angers so many people is that far from the example set to all of us by sissolu and Mandela it appears that St Benedicts and the abbey, school and parents deliberately lied repeatedly and were quick to forgive themselves but slow to admit so that others could forgive them. As forgiveness is a key precept of all faiths it is easy to misinterpret how it can be achieved but hopefully it can begin now.

  44. It seems this blog is entering a more open debate reflecting, therefore, a more realistic spectrum of opinion and observation. Life, especially human life, isn't one thing or the other – black or white, how could it be? We are all a vast mixture of feelings, ideas, hopes, fears, doubts and certainties. In the real world, beyond our ivory towers, these factors play out in kaleidoscopic profusion. Some of the impact we can control, some of we cannot. This is how we ARE and how all things ARE, though we might, of course, wish things to be otherwise. In the words of a great sage: ‘Who would follow the Way must go beyond words. Who would know the world must go beyond names’.
    • Forgive or don't forgive. It doesn't matter. It won't change the past - that's been and gone.
    • Forgiving or not forgiving maintains the illusion that events can in some way still be changed.
    • Dwelling on past events will bring you no benefit, it won't change anything - it will only take you away from the present and hamper your ability to find harmony.
    • Everything "good" and "bad" has brought you to this point. Both are of equal value in making you who you are.
    • What to do? Give yourself a break.
    • Accept the past for what it is - something that has been and gone.
    • Make the decision to live the life you have now, not one that has ceased to be.

  45. I think most people who were schooled in the independent sector in the 70s, especially boarding schools, would not find beatings unusual. Of course it is not right but it was allowed in the 70s. What was the motivation of those people who carried out the battings, who can say?

  46. quoting 13 November 2011 09:52:
    Make the decision to live the life you have now, not one that has ceased to be.

    This is the entire problem - people CANNOT live wholesome lives purely by decision. They end up living with anger, hate, or other negative energies as a direct result of what they had to endure at St. Benedict's, without even knowing why. It's only by closely re-examining the past and holding criminals and evil-doers to account that we are given the opportunity to grow, transcend these traumas and really let go of the (ultimately useless) ballast, as individuals and as a community. For some, maybe it "makes them stronger" to "accept the past", like Nietzsche might [?] have said, but if that's the case, I'd rather be weak. Of course that's not true though, as it takes greater strength to confront demons then to keep them in the closet. I reject all the points made in the posting at 09:52 as self-serving balderdash. The agenda there is not about victims "giving themselves a break", it's about giving a break to those who made them victims, because they continue to be blind to their own evil. Victims don't need a break. If anything, keeping a grudge is a healthy, natural thing (to a certain extent), and acting on one is even healthier still. I'm sure Jesus himself would be happy to cast the first stone at some of the sickos.

  47. Your assurance, 13:01, is misplaced. The decision spoken of 09:52 is that, for example, of Jesus and Meister Eckhart, to name but two. It is the decision to 'let go', to live by 'wu wei', 'gelassenheit' or 'the way of letting be' - a way that is light years from your perspective 13:01. You may not understand it but, nevertheless, the way is open for you to try!

  48. difficult to cast stones at ghosts....

  49. Good point, 14:03, but some people's anger and resentment transcend time and space, it seems. They are, if they did but know it, actually at war not with others but with themselves!!

  50. What a load of theoretical tripe @ 52 & 36

    Go watch Chosen in peace and quiet.

    You will need 1.5 hrs

  51. @ 13:59 - Meister Eckhart was brought up on charges by the inquisition and tried as a heretic, yet another example of an innocent victim of church terror. Jesus got nailed to a cross (if indeed he didn't survive this and escape to France, as the alternative theory has it), also a victim of the conservative religious powers of his epoch. Either way, I don't think he'd be happy about kiddy fiddlers, shower room oglers, sadists, and their coterie of deniers and sanctimonious spinmasters hiding behind his good name. Lest our philosophical debate turn into a diversionary sideshow, let's try and focus once again on children's welfare. If there are ghosts around, they're not so much in the vicims heads as they are in the school and the abbey, and these need to be expunged, the institutions radically cleaned up, or, if that proves too difficult, perhaps in the case of the abbey, removed from the premises altogether.

  52. What we think someone would or should think cannot be the issue. In cases like Jesus or Eckhart 22:59 we can only rely on what they actually said and did. You're entitled to your point of view but that is all it is, your opinion. My own reading of what these two guys said and did, leads me to very different conclusions, in fact, the very opposite of yours!

  53. I was the one who reported the former teacher John Maestri to the police in 2001 and got him finally locked up. At the court case I met a chap from Birmingham which Maestri had previously taught in his early twenties who had reported him then but the CPS felt they did not have enough evidence. He had travelled down with a CID officer to watch him get locked up after more than twenty five years of waiting!
    Since then many other cases have come to light of abuse at the school by Maestri and others as I'm sure you are all well aware. I believe that there are many many more cases that have not been reported as the victims I'm sure just wish to forget those experiences and bury them. The Abbey have an awful lot to answer for by way of years of covering up and sheltering peadohiles as far as I'm concerned.
    In terms of the school now. As long as the Abbey have nothing to do with it then of course it should remain. As a few OP's have said they had a great time there, as I did in many respects and the camaraderie agmonst OP's is stronger than in any other school I know of. As far as I'm concerned the attitude of the boys themselves made St.Benedict's enjoyable due to the nature of the teachers and the monks - it was laughable in many ways.
    May the watershed begin of many more guilty paedophiles and shelters being locked up and being publicly shamed.

  54. Ex Benny Boy:
    I thought at first; whats the point after 30 years. Certainly hasn't been a happy time reliving the past. But now after all these years my Father finally recognises that what I've been saying for years was all true! Never wanted him to feel guilty as I said to my Mother before she passed away. But overall for me it's better that all of this has come out whilst myself and my Father have still got the chance to talk about it. And then I thought 5 years for Fr David, not nearly enough! They're all sick, but I think most Benny that experienced the man will agre that he stands out as pure evil. Perhaps he was Horsey's Protégé. So on the basis that someone like that, still living, will quite likely go for a grand finale before finally meeting up with Satin, so ultimately him and the others have to be stopped along with the others. Fr David beat me at least once every week in year 9 (must have been 40 plus times in one year for NOTHING. A weekly report was the tool, 1 wack for a any satisfactory, 2 for a poor, 3 for a very poor. Oh dear I'd been struggling since I joined in year 7. I stood up to Fr David and paid for it. Fr David also told me that he'd put down on my school record that I was violent. Every week we'd go through the same routine, at the end I'd say "thankyou Father" and he'd say "Friends again?". I'd never reply, he really did have agreat sence of humour! The previous year I was molested in the middle school by Fr Lawrence, the old padding routine. Had a good fondle of my young firm buttocks whilst bent over his lap, up in the attick room away from everyone else, before I broke down in tears and he backed off. Still had to go back for a proper beating when his cains arrived over from the upper school. I wet the bed until I left school, hardly surprising really. Anyway, spare me the violins as I'm just so glad Maestri didn't get me in those additional Saturday Maths classes I attended!! Thanks Mum for all your proactivity, I was a pretty boy!! I left school with no qualifications, illegally, I should have always been in the year below (that's hoe Fr David got away with beating me very week, I was so scared of being put doen a year). They couldn't wait to get rid of me (I was in Upper Five 2 ((be removed), as it was known). My parents put everything they had into paying for that education for me and my brother, just for us to leave with nothing. It turned out that my brother had special educational needs, but that's was just an excuse for being lazy at Benedicts. After leaving Benedicts (one of the best days of my life) I avoiding anything academic, until after 10 years and still with no formal qualifications I gained at place at University to study my first degree. I graduated with a first class honours in Mech Eng. Went on to become a chartered engineer, completed a masters degree and later after studying for a PGCE became a Teacher, and have been for the previous 10 years. No thanks at all to St Benedicts. Now I just want to do my bit to make sure that these people can't ruin anyone elses lives, and the only avaiable option seems to be detainment. So I must do my bit to make sure that that's as long as possible, so that I don't have to think later that I didn't do anything. There's definitely no revenge involved. Thanks to those of you that went through school and whilst perhaps being less interfered with, you've still taken the time out to say how bad it was for the unfortunates who got the star treatment!

  55. Ah. A lightbulb moment. My 2 brothers attended St B's. My sister and I
    attended St Augustine's. Could that explain the beatings and sometimes
    sexual approaches I endured from my siblings? Re-enacting what they
    learned at school? And our parents paid for the privilege. Hmm.

  56. "This is the entire problem - people CANNOT live wholesome lives purely by decision. They end up living with anger, hate, or other negative energies as a direct result of what they had to endure at St. Benedict's, without even knowing why. It's only by closely re-examining the past and holding criminals and evil-doers to account that we are given the opportunity to grow, transcend these traumas and really let go of the (ultimately useless) ballast"

    Quoted from 13/11/11 @ 13:01

    Very well said, very true and very incomprehensible for the fortunate ones who haven't had to live with shocking memories....

  57. Hear Hear - well said "ex-benny" @13:01 13/11/11
    and fortified in the last blog