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.”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 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.
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.