Thursday, 15 December 2011

Richard Yeo resigning from the visitation?

The Times yesterday carried a report that Abbot Richard Yeo has offered to resign from his role in the Visitation.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Westminster said yesterday that Father Yeo had offered to resign after a meeting with Lord Carlile. “Father Richard Yeo felt that as he is the Benedictine Congregation’s Abbot he should offer his resignation to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF). Father Yeo has not yet received a response from Rome,” he said. “It is for the CDF to accept or decline Father Yeo’s offer to resign. Similarly, the CDF would determine if a replacement were to be needed.”

Lord Carlile said yesterday that Bishop Arnold and Father Yeo had met him in private after the publication of his report to discuss the conclusions he had reached.

“I suggested to Father Yeo that there would be at least a perception of a conflict of interest in taking part in any further Visitation,” Lord Carlile said. “Clearly following the discussion he felt that advice was appropriate and he would step down. It is the right and responsible decision.”
Abbot Richard Yeo should never have been appointed to the Apostolic Visitation in the first place. The conflict of interest is clear and obvious.

As the head of the English Benedictine Congregation and a member of the Cumberlege Commission, he should some years ago have been advising the Abbot of Ealing on safeguarding issues and making sure that the advice was taken. If any advice was given, it clearly wasn't taken. If the visitation is to be thorough and complete, he would have to investigate himself.

Bishop John Arnold, the other Visitor, also has a conflict of interest and should never have been appointed either. His immediate superior, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, has known for a number of years that there were significant problems concerning child sex abuse at Ealing Abbey, and he has done nothing as far as I know. He has said in public that he has no formal authority over Ealing Abbey, but he could at any time have requested an Apostolic Visitation. I did that, and my request was granted. A request initiated by Archbishop Vincent Nichols would have had far more authority than a request from a mere layman. So if the Visitation is to be thorough, it also has to review the inaction of the Diocese of Westminster, and John Arnold would therefore have to investagate the inaction of the diocese led by his own archbishop. That would include the appalling pastoral failing involved in Nichols' letter to "C", replying to C's description of the abuses he suffered at the hands of Pearce.
I am grateful to you for telling me something of your background. I was sorry to read of the harmful experiences you have had, and the continuing effects of these for you and your family. I am sorry that you feel that the Roman Catholic Church has failed your family.
So, no apology for the abuse. Just an expression of regret that C feels the church failed his family. Would Arnold have the nerve to criticise his own archbishop for this or any other failings? I very much doubt it.

You don't get a mess like Ealing Abbey without there being serious management failings at multiple levels. Obviously most of the responsibility has to lie with successive Abbots at Ealing itself, but the abuses could never have gone on for so long had there not been serious failings elsewhere as well. While the Apostolic Visitation is being run by Yeo and Arnold, it will always be suspected that its purpose is to find out as little as possible, lest it further embarrass the Catholic Church.


  1. The Apostolic Visitors made an appeal for information on the websites of the Abbey and the Old Priorians Association. My initial reaction was that I ought to contact them but as soon as I saw their names I realised that I would be wasting my time.

    I am glad to see that Yeo has resigned, if Arnold is replaced as well then I might reconsider my decision.

  2. So, 13:12, who are you nominating for the job? Who would meet your requirements? Please, name one or two candidates.

  3. I suggest that the Apostolic Visitation should be led by Archbishop Antonio Mennini the Papal Nuncio to Great Britain. After considering Jonathan West's evidence Mennini asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to investigate Ealing Abbey so it is clear that he takes the matter seriously. Mennini is not connected to the Order of St Benedict or the Diocese of Westminster, unlike Yeo and Arnold.

  4. Oh please - its all pantomime!

  5. While not connected to the Abbey or school , I applaud the efforts of Jonathan West in puruing this issue .
    It is only by being held to account will the RC church and some of its affiliated organizations change their ways .
    It is only 12 months or so since the Vatican was telling us that allegations of sexual abuse by its priests were " petty gossip "

    The cover-ups have meant that paedophiles have become serial paedophiles with more children being sexually abused .

  6. Where exactly and when did the Vatican tell us that all accusations were just "petty gossip"? Nice line, but please substantiate your claim, 04:58.

  7. It would be inappropriate for Archbishop Mennini to lead an Apostolic Visitation as he is a diplomat and such an investigation may incorporate criticism of UK institutions as well which would be diplomatically awkward. I have made both him and the CDF aware of West's background.

  8. 10:26
    In contacting Menini you've probably broken your anonymity. I very much hope you have been restricting yourself to truthful statements about me.

  9. Also Mr. West, I notice that you make no comment on whom you consider should be running the Visitation, only who shouldn't be. Do you have anything constructive to contribute to debate or are you as usual just restricting yourself to damning and condemnation? Would be interested to hear your opinion.

  10. 10:47
    I don't keep up with the details of politics and personalities in the catholic church, so I don't have specific names in mind. But I can think of some key qualifications

    1. No current or significant prior connection with any of the houses of the English Benedictine Congregation.

    2. No current significant prior connection with the diocese of Westminster or Archbishop Vincent Nichols

    3. Prior experience of child protection issues and of reforming some significant church institution in order to implement effective child protection policies.

    The first two points are so that the Visitation can be seen to be independent of the people being visited.

    The third is to ensure that the people conducting the visitation are sufficiently knowledgeable that they can work out what needs to be done at Ealing to ensure that the dreadful events of the past are not repeated.

    I don't have any names in mind. Do you know of anybody who meets these criteria?

  11. 10:47
    By the way, how about some constructive comments from you? It seems to me that your only contribution is to suggest I should butt out. Do you think that all is now fine and dandy at Ealing Abbey and no further reforms are necessary? Or is there more work still to do?

    If the latter, what do you suggest still needs to be done?

  12. I think that you've worked yourself up so much over Ealing Abby that you'll never be satisfied until it's closed. You have crossed the line from 'concerned' to Crusader. Well done, at this rate you should make Fanatic before the middle of next year.

  13. Thank-you for your thoughts and I certainly wouldn't expect you to keep up with "politics and personalities in the catholic church". Thinking about your qualifications:

    1. This would initially rule out any members of the English Benedictine Congregation as well as any individuals who have attended Benedictine Schools or studied with the EBC. As the EBC is a member of the wider global Benedictine congregation, I would suggest that similar members of the Benedictine Congregation globally should be excluded under this criteria as well. This may be a serious error as this would exclude a wide population who have the best understanding of Benedictine structures and the Benedictine way of life which would be useful to get at the Visitation which you are seeking to happen.

    Building on this, the Benedictine Congregation is also a leading member of the Groups of Religious and so you could argue that it would be safe to exclude all religious of any order as they could be shown to have a link to the EBC.

    2. Now, I will split this criteria into two. One being the diocese of Westminster and the other being Archbishop Vincent Nichols (and extending your logic Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor).

    Excluding anyone with connections with the Archdiocese of Westminster, would effective exclude not only clergy and lay people of the diocese but also clergy from the Province of Westminster, which includes a number of other dioceses within England. Similarly, it could be argued that this would also exclude all clergy from member dioceses of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, due to Westminster's leading role in this Bishops conference and the fact that senior clergy within England and Wales who would be suitable to carry out such a Visitation would also be connected to Westminster through their work on the Bishop's Conference.

    The Bishops conferences of Scotland and Ireland are also closely linked to the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, so that would seem to be a conflict of interest due to the leading role of Westminster in the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales. Therefore, lets rule out all member of the Bishop's Conferences of Scotland and Ireland too.


  14. Continued...

    Now coming onto Archbishop Vincent and Cormac Murphy O'Connor. As a member of a major Metropolitan Archdiocese, Archbishop Vincent will have connections through curial meetings and other work with a large number of other Archbishops and Bishops globally, which would immediately rule them out. Similarly, those connected with Cardinal Cormac would include even more such individuals, compromising the whole of the College of Cardinals and presumably most of the Roman Curia, due to the large number of Congregations which Cormac has worked with.

    3. There are plenty of senior clergy and other individuals globally who could comply with this criteria. The problem being that they are almost completely ruled out by your criteria 1 and 2! As such, this leaves me with only being able to recommend the following individuals, who do still have some connections with the EBC, the Archdiocese of Westminster, Archbishop Vincent or Cardinal Cormac:

    Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, USA - Has been involved in reform in the dioceses of Palm Beach, Milwaukee and Boston and is one of the Apostolic Visitors to Ireland.

    Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin - Involved in reform in the Dublin Archdiocese and implementing the Murphy Report Recommendations

    Archbishop-Bishop Gianfranco Gardin, current Bishop of Treviso and former Secretary of the Congragation of Institutes for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life - A Franciscan, Archbishop Gianfranco has understanding of Religious Orders and with dealing with such issues from his time on the Curia.

    Sadly, I suspect that these 3 individuals still will not satisfy you as you will continue to claim "conflict of interest". In any case, these three are all in busy important jobs and I would suggest would have insufficient time to deal with what is after all an internal investigation.

  15. Mr. West,

    I have made many constructive contributions to this situation but simply not on this site. It is not the forum for it. I believe that now is the time to let the arrangements bed in and work effectively not to continual to heap negative criticism about past events which distracts from implementing the new arrangements. I am content with Safeguarding arrangements in the school as currently sits and think that they should be given a chance to operate and develop, free from constant sniping and minor non-constructive wording criticisms from yourself.

  16. 12:53
    So, you think nothing more needs to be done than to allow the current arrangements to bed in. Thank you for making that clear.

    We disagree of course, I think the existing safeguarding arrangements remain significantly less than was promised - for them to be made a model of excellence.

    Do you think that they already are a model of excellence, or do you think it is no longer important that this promise is kept?

  17. 12:44
    I don't know any of the three individuals you mention. But it seems to me based on your descriptions that they are sufficiently distant from the EBC and in no way dependent on the present or former Archbishops of Westminster nor currently part of the diocese.

    So, assuming that they have the appropriate knowledge of safeguarding issues and haven't been found to have covered up abuses in the past, I would welcome a visitation conducted by any or all of them.

    I accept that there cannot be a total lack of contact between either the present or past archbishop of Westminster and other senior clergy, and I accept that a visitation must be conducted by a team that includes at least one clergyman of sufficient seniority and authority that the visitation is taken seriously by Ealing Abbey and that it's conclusions are taken seriously by the CDF.

    So, as far as I can tell, you've made a constructive contribution with your suggested names. Thank you.

  18. Mr. West,

    I am satisfied that an appropriate and fully robust safeguarding process is in place at St. Benedict's and would be interested to know why you think that you know better given that you have no direct experience of it or any expertise in safeguarding. If you do have any direct exposure to St. Benedict's current Safeguarding procedures I would be interested to know how you came by this.

    So, it seems that you would only be satisfied with 3 very senior clergymen carrying out the Visitation who have insufficient time to be able to carry out an effective Visitation. I believe that this demonstrates your lack of understanding of the purpose of a Visitation.

    A Visitation is effectively an internal exercise designed to assist, to give the Vatican (in this case the CDF) the picture of what has occurred and to co-operatively find a way forward. As such, I believe that slightly more junior clergy, e.g. Bishop or Monsignors, should be involved so as to encourage the co-operation and allow the Abbey to get the most out of this review of their Apostolate and pastoral mission.

  19. Response to 9.33 , 16/12 re "petty gossip".

    Source : Faith section of The Times
    Article , May 9 ,2010
    Heading : " Archbishop of Vienna accuses one of the Pope's closest allies of abuse cover-up. "

    The article notes that Cardinal Schonburn [ AB of Vienna ] charged Cardinal Sodano [ former Vatican Secretary of State ] with causing massive harm to victims by dismissing claims of clerical abuse as "petty gossip "
    In the same article Schonburn also accused Sodano of blocking investigations into abuse crimes committed by Cardinal Groer .

  20. 09:33 Child abuse "petty gossip." The genesis of the remark is a senior cleric of the Catholic Church.

    Schonburn thinks the church is doing it wrong and so he told the 'emperor' he's got no clothes.

    He's unlikely to last, only sheep are welcome.

  21. I went to St Benedict's for my whole school life. While I made many good friends there and by and large enjoyed my time there, I find it utterly repellent what has emerged due to this blog. I will not be sending my children there and would advise all my friends to steer clear. There has been a fundamental abuse of trust by a group of men who were assumed to be pillars of the community, but who actually turned out to be a collection of career paedophiles. As someone put in a recent post, it's as if there was an advert placed in the national press to attract them. Shipperlee taught me RE and History and was the most useless teacher who had no control of the class. His spineless covering up of the Pearce debacle comes as no surprise- he would not have been able to tackle it head on. How no one has been prosecuted for the cover ups and failures to report astounds me, yet people still blindly defend these grubby old men. You must be really desperate for something to believe in.

  22. Sorry, 19:34, one of us must have difficulties with the English language. So, I repeat: Where is the evidence that the Vatican has dismissed charges of abuse as "petty gossip"? Looking forward to a reply.

  23. This is an ex-Vatican official, of which there are thousands, apparently having his say...but this does not amount, in any shape or form, to a statment from the Vatican!

  24. So, there's no evidence it seems that the Vatican has said anything at all about 'petty gossip'! It's a pity certain people feel the need to resort to wild and inaccurate accusations in an attempt to score points.

  25. That’s not really an answer, 19:34, it's an excuse.

  26. Groer blimey! What's happened to all the good old 'Yeo, yeo, yeo'?

  27. Response to 9.09 , 17/12 re Cardinal Sodano
    and " petty gossip "
    When Sodano made the remark about child abuse being petty gossip he was not an ex-Vatican official he was Dean of the College of Cardinals ,the group that assists the Pope in governing the church and the group that elects a new Pope .
    [ Source : Catholic News Service 28/6/10 ]

    Dean of the College of Cardinals !! How much higher do you want to go for a statement from the Vatican .

  28. 14:41 says:

    I am satisfied that an appropriate and fully robust safeguarding process is in place at St. Benedict's

    Without any committment to refer all allegations to the LADO, children at the setting have no rights and neither do their parents.

    St Benedict's makes no committment to refer all allegations to the LADO.

    The school (via Cleugh - rhymes with loo) says that allegations 'would' be referred [see transcript of the dear leader's television interview provided and commented on in previous postings] which is completely unsatisfactory.

    The school is squirming over this like a maggot on a hook. Any why? Do they know why, I rather think not?

    The current policy is a heap of sugar, but there is so much more that needs to be addressed to make this document credible. Timendi causa est nescire.

    Goodnight darlings , its been a long safeguarding day.

  29. 22:42, like Mr. West, I ask you what knowledge you have of the safeguarding processes currently being used by the school? Do you have any exposure to them? Again, I would be interested to know if you did and then would welcome your comment.

    As it is, you are largely restricting yourself to making minor wording points on a written policy document rather than concerning yourself with the adequacy of the process which is being practiced. Do you and Mr. West not agree that what is currently being practiced is far more important that the wording of a policy document?

  30. The administration of St Benedict's is not scurrying to get a safeguarding framework in order because I do not think they know how to achieve it.

    Few in education understand what creates a good and effective policy. Few understand what needs to be done to make an effective policy work.

    The cultural approach to safeguarding at St Benedict's needs to change. There are no signs of this happening under the current management which I am now convinced wants to change nothing in the hope that that it can leave it to the new trustees of the new school operating trust which has to be formed. The incumbents perhaps think face will be saved by being inert.

    It will not, and in the meantime children at St Benedict's will have no effective safeguarding protection on which reliance can be placed.

    The complacancy and misplaced priorities of the administration have been rumbled and are on show for all to see.


  31. So, darling 22:42 - nosce te ipsum!

  32. 12:37 - what do you say to the post at 16.37?

    Please approach an answer in the detailed way 16.37 has broached the question.

    You clearly think St Benedict's is doing no wrong and is unable to improve - but then you support your assertion with no evidence. Sadly this makes you posting vacuous in readers eyes.

  33. Cluegh rhymes with rough not loo, apt perhaps youse know what I mean ,no class at all !!!

  34. could somebody please link to the actual words of Cardinal Sodano re " petty gossip " ? thanks

  35. 12:37 – The questions in your posting (first Para.) are unclear as a result of being open to misinterpretation. Once you clarify the questions I will attempt to provide a reply to all the questions in both paragraphs but this will not be until the New Year.

    Click 'publish'

    Click 'shut down'

  36. Apologies if this is a repeat post but a sobering description of the school in the 1950s is given on pages 26-44 in this book:

  37. 11:21 - It is very easy to google as I did after the posting from 19.59 - also see Wiki.

    Happy New Year.

  38. @ 11.21 , 23/12 re request for Cardinal Sodano's actual words re sex abuse as petty gossip .

    The Catholic News Service provides an article from The Guardian [ 4/4/10 ] headed by
    " Pope receives Easter Day backing of cardinal amid sex abuse storm ."

    In the article Cardinal Sodano [ the Pope's most senior adviser & Dean of the College of Cardinals ] is quoted .

    The article suggests that :
    " In an apparent to the sex abuse storm ,and employing a term already used by the Pope , Sodano said that the church would not be intimidated by 'chiacchiericcio '---idle chatter or sometimes translated as petty gossip "

  39. 10.30 - It is interesting to note the publication date of the book, and how some of his descriptions chime with information posted on this site particularly about Horsey.

    This brings 16.37's post into sharp focus including his/her assertion that the current management needs to be changed in order to see a cultural improvement in safeguarding at the school.

  40. RE: 19:05 and 11:21

    According to Wiki what Sodano, writing to the Pope, said was as follows: "The people of God are with you and do not allow themselves to be impressed by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials that sometimes assail the community of believers."

    This can, of course, be read in several ways, but it does not necessarily relate directly to 'child abuse' and is, in any case, clearly not a statement on the child abuse per se. Like many statements, its interpretation lies in the eyes of the beholder.

  41. Lost or found in translation.

    My Italian is minimal but I would read 'chiachiericcio' simply as 'talk' or 'chatter'.

    Presumably the word 'reference' is missing from 05:52's quote from the Catholic News Service, but it's surely worse than 'idle' to interpret the Cardinal's words as in any way condoning child abuse. They merely state that, whatever attempts are made to undermine the Church or Papacy, the majority of Catholics will continue to give their support to an institution they see as divinely sanctioned and, ultimately, divinely guided.
    We may fundamentally disagree with the Cardinal’s stance - I personally do - but, nevertheless, that’s what the man was actually trying to convey to his boss in what we all must recognise as rather difficult times for the Roman Church.

    Happy New Year!

  42. Sodano's words are out there, even on Wiki, no one on this blog, however, seems prepared or able to quote them. Why, for heaven's sake? Here, in full, is the offending line: "The people of God are with you and do not allow themselves to be impressed by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials that sometimes assail the community of believers."

  43. 12:53 comments to West:

    ... you are largely restricting yourself to making minor wording points on a written policy document rather than concerning yourself with the adequacy of the process which is being practiced.

    A misguided comment to add to others made elsewhere in this strand by, it seems, the same poster. Following his/her theory, why bother committing rules to paper, why bother with the law or Bills which eventually become Acts over which every word is often argued? “Words” are critical and provide in this case, the ability for the 'user' to hold the 'provider' to account. Complaining about this appalling safeguarding policy is not a matter of minor non-constructive wording criticisms. The suggestion borders on idiocy.

    The poster’s logic suggests s/he prefers anarchy. In safeguarding terms St Benedict’s has been in a state of anarchy for decades and its administration shows little sign of changing. Anarchy assisted perpetrators who were moved out or sideways when their crimes could no longer be ignored. It assisted the school conceal the abuse which in turn attracts more perpetrators to a setting. These crimes mostly went unreported to police or social services, and never in the history of St Benedict’s was a statutory notification returned to the DfE misconduct team which would have enabled alleged/actual perpetrator/s to be tracked and barred from working with children. This illegality made St Benedict’s a desirable employer to those with an unhealthy interest in the young. The administration of the school was so desperate to protect reputation and income above pupil safety that their actions unknowingly hung a “paedophiles welcome” sign on the school gates. Exporting abusive staff such as Skelton and Maestri to other schools are just two examples of the ‘St Benedict’s way.’ News of this kind gets around the paedophile network and often causes ‘shoaling’ because the school is seen as ‘perpetrator friendly’. It follows therefore that the legacy of self-inflicted damage to the schools ability to safeguard pupils is incalculable because of course, perpetrators are so hard to identify.

    Does the poster at 12:53 understand the importance of a safeguarding policy to the pupils, parents, and indeed the school? It is more than just a document which is meant to have the express purpose of protecting children. Does the poster understand this extra role?

    The answer is likely to be 'no' because it appears the same poster @ 14:41 states that there is an “appropriate and fully robust safeguarding process" at the school. Total bunk.

    If s/he had the slightest understanding of these matters this nonsense would not be written. Does the poster understand that featuring the safeguarding policy on schools’ websites became law for independent schools only, last year? Does the poster know which Act and why this statutory requirement is so important and what motivated the government to engross this requirement into the Act? The answer once more is likely to be no. The scale of your non-appreciation of the subject is unknown to you.

    If you have anything to do with safeguarding at the school then I fear for the welfare of pupils. I hope that parents finally awake from their comatose complacency which is so common among (fee paying) parents who mistakenly believe that child protection is included in the cheque they pay each term.

    If a child is raped by an adult member of staff at St Benedict’s, and the crime is discovered by another member of staff, and it is reported ‘up the line’ as the policy intends, the victim of abuse does not have the right to have the discovered abuse reported by the school's administration to the LADO, police or social services.

    This makes for an “appropriate and fully robust safeguarding process" according to 12:53.


  44. @ 9.33 ,30/12 re Sodano & "petty gossip".

    Your suggestion that Cardinal Sodano's words do not necessarily relate to child abuse is one obviously not shared by Cardinal Schonburn , the Archbishop of Vienna.
    As The Times article [ May 9 , 2010 ] notes Schonburn commented that Sodano's words caused massive harm to victims by dismissing claims of clerical abuse [ as idle chatter or petty gossip ] .

  45. A nice piece of editing, 20:00; you seem desperate to make your point. Nevertheless, whatever the good Archbishop of Vienna or indeed you may imagine, there's actually nothing - nothing at all - in Sodano's statement that allows either of you to jump to your conclusion. Sodano’s words were obviously ill chosen, but they do not add up to what you wish them to.

  46. 22:12

    Well, a bit closer to home, you might care to remember Mr Christopher Cleugh's words in his September 2010 headmaster's address.

    "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."

  47. Well, again, you might be doing some good Mr West and, who knows, you may even be doing quite a bit. But, it is, at the same time, obvious that you will not be upset if, along the way, you discredit or even destroy an institution which, like you and perhaps even more than you, can be credited with having done not a little good.

  48. 00:08
    You say that the institution has done considerable good. And that may be true.

    And Gary Glitter had some good songs which gave a lot of people a great deal of innocent enjoyment. As far as I'm concerned, that doesn't mean he didn't deserve to go to jail for his crimes, nor does it mean that he shouldn't be regarded as a continuing danger to children.

    The good that Ealing Abbey has done is what would have been expected of an institution of that sort. One ought to be able to expect that sort of good to come from the institution unaccompanied by the vile and evil abuse and bullying and oppression which has been so eloquently described by victims here. The fact that the institution has done some good along the way does not in any way excuse or mitigate the evil which has occurred.

    For instance, consider all the activities that Father David Pearce engaged in which led to him being regarded as a monk, priest, teacher, headmaster, TA officer. All the things which led to him being regarded as a pillar of the community. Were they for the purpose of doing good, or were they for the purpose of deflecting suspicion? And if they were at least in part for the purpose of deflecting suspicion, then can any credit be given for them?

    And remember that Pearce remained at the Abbey for at least 15 years after it first became known that he was an abuser. Fifteen years! Do you think that those running the abbey and the school allowed that because of the good that he did, or rather to deflect suspicion?

    I intend ensuring that the institution cannot in future continue to do the considerable harm it has done in the past. I would prefer to achieve that by ensuring that the institution is reformed. But if it proves irredeemable, then what would you suggest be done instead?

  49. 00.08 - Has the institution not discredited itself and along the way had a destructive impact on the lives of an unknown number of pupils?

    Despite this it shows no signs of reform.

  50. 'it shows no signs of reform'

    Please elucidate 07:51. What signs are you specifically looking for?

  51. 15.44 - See posting @ 08:56 for example

  52. The 08:56 posting is, as far as I can see, calling for foolproof regulations that will, without the least ambiguity, allow parents to hold the school to account. Well and good! But, as so often,to make his/her point he/she feels obliged to resort to the most extreme of examples: "If a child is raped by an adult member of staff at St Benedict’s ..." The implication being that this is the level of abuse that just might take place at any old time in such a monstrous place. Then,again in extreme terms, 08:56 imagines that this act of rape might very well - thanks to the school’s villainous safeguarding policy - remain unreported and "unknown to LADO, police or social services". What sort of world does 08:56 imagine this is? Will the abused child, thanks to his/her innocence say not a word about this 'rape', it having being reported 'up-the line' by some member of staff who happens to have 'discovered’ the incident? I may, at times, be a tad over credulous but really 08:36/16:35 (!) I can assure you I'm never, never, never that credulous! Who, in God's name, is?

  53. 18:59
    The world that08:56 imagines is all too real. It is very common for the victims of child sex abuse, up to and including rape, to be so ashamed of what has happened to them that they do not tell anybody, not their parents, not the authorities, for years or even decades afterwards.

    This is one very important reason why it is so vitally important to ensure that reports of abuse get into the hands of the authorities. There are so very few of them, and it is very likely that one reported incident, if properly followed up, will result in many other incidents being uncovered.

    And if you think that is hypothetical, remember that is exactly what happened with Father David Pearce. Once incident in 2007 being reported led the police to uncover a great many other cases, and Pearce eventually pleased guilty to eleven of them.

  54. Okay, Mr West, you make a reasonable point, but can you tell me, for the record, exactly how many children have been raped at St Benedict's? It is, after all, this particular school - not schools in general - that you are specifically dealing with.

  55. 22:46
    In the light of what I have described, it is impossible to know the number, on the record or off it.

    My aim is to ensure that the school's policies are made such that future abusers are deterred from trying anything on, and if an abuse - up to including rape - were to occur in future, the environment of the school is such as to make the victim feel sufficiently supported by the school that the victim feels he or she can come forward.

    Best of course if for deterrence to be effective, so that abuses don't happen in the first place. That requires two things: first, that there be an absolutely unambiguous and effective policy of always reporting everything to the authorities, and second that that there is sufficient of a culture of awareness regarding abuse that pupils and their parents have no hesitation in coming forward even for relatively minor matters.

    For instance, if a teacher were to make a sexually inappropriate remark to a pupil, that ought to be reported, even though such remarks are not a crime. It might be that the teacher just forgot himself for a moment, or it might be an indication of an unhealthy sexual interest in children. You have to look into it, and make it clear to the teacher that this kind of remark can't be allowed.

    If something as relatively minor as that gets reported up the line to social services, then it will very much deter that teacher (if he is sexually interested in children) from acting on that interest. Problem solved - and a potentially much bigger problem prevented.

    A really good policy will deter abusers from trying anything on in the first place, so you don't get many reports. The thing is, you can't look at the number of reports and deduce a good policy from a small number of reports. The small number might be because a good policy is deterring abusers, or it might be because a bad policy is covering up abuses.

    St Benedict's was operating a very bad policy until I got involved, and as a result they school might as well have put an "Abusers Welcome Here" sign at the front gate. In fact, known abuser were made welcome at the monastery.

  56. Thank you Mr West. What you‘ve written is, given your goals and particular understanding, reasonable and generally unobjectionable. However, the word 'rape' keeps popping up on this blog and several contributors give the impression that this is something that has occurred at St Benedict's, more than once, and is likely to go on occurring. Given that, as you say, no one knows of any such assault at St Benedict's perhaps you would do your best to censor such inaccurate and misleading statements?

  57. No, I will not censor such comments. The reason is that it is exceedingly difficult for victims to come forward with accounts of abuse, the oppressive culture of the school has made it even more difficult for victims to come forward, and even though nobody has been convicted of the rape of a child at the school, I am not prepared to discount the possibility that it has happened.

    Once the school has implemented a policy which meets the objectives I described above, and once I am satisfied that implementation of the policy is secure, then I shall stop talking about St Benedict's on this blog altogether, and neither you nor anybody at the school need worry about comments concerning rapes, hypothetical or otherwise, at St Benedict's.

    So, if you have any influence with the Abbot or the headmaster, and if you wish to see no further comments about rape here, then I suggest that you use that influence to ensure that what you have described as my reasonable and unobjectionable ideas are put into effect.

  58. Part 1

    It is challenging for a school to reform when its supporters are so determinedly resistant to much needed change as 18.59 demonstrates. His reply to an example of the school ‘showing no signs of reform’ (which was my posting at 08:56 – 01 Jan) is cast in such florid and emotional terms that it renders his posting almost irrelevant. What triggered the emotion? It seems the hypothetical example of abuse at the more serious end of the spectrum which used the word ‘rape.’ This caused the poster irrational emotional dysentery which is spread over several subsequent postings in the strand.

    Unless child protection can be discussed in mature and emotionally neutral terms, then safety in any setting will be compromised. The thrust of my posting at 08:56 was to demonstrate that even at the more serious end of the abuse spectrum, a child at St Benedict’s has no right to expect discovered abuse to be reported by the administration to the LADO police of social services under the ‘protection’ s/he is afforded by the current safeguarding policy. So, for example, what chance does a child have of seeing a less serious allegation referred to the LADO?

    The single noteworthy point in the 18.49 posting is that the poster has not controverted that a pupil at St Benedict’s does not have the right to have the discovered (rape) abuse reported by the school's administration to the LADO, police or social services. Why does a St Benedict’s pupil not have this right? You are invited to inform us.

    The current safeguarding policy shares similarities with the Eric Morecombe and Ernie Wise sketch featuring André Previn which received a nostalgic review over Christmas. When Eric, who was playing the piano, was told by ‘Preview’ that he was playing ‘all the wrong notes’ his reply was, “I am playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.” I hope that St Benedict’s firstly acquires Eric’s good sense to recognise the same shortcomings in its safeguarding policy, and secondly sets out to break its demonstrable resistance to change with the objective of creating a policy and culture which delivers best safeguarding practice. This involves getting the right content and the right words in the right order, and then getting safeguarding into the blood of the institution with effective training and delivery.

    The current policy is deficient in so many ways. I read about the Skelton trial, and it is clear that matters arising from his case need be considered by the school in order to see what, if anything is relevant to the school today. Here once again it is reasonable to speculate the school is looking in the opposite direction because ‘there is nothing to learn from the past.’ This is a common error among most schools in which crimes against children occur, they all adopt the cliché of “looking forward” often because looking back and learning from unpleasant facts is just too uncomfortable. Schools are very far from safeguarding literate settings principally because schools are naturally populated by educationalists. The cultural chasm between education and social care makes delivery of credible safeguarding a challenge.

    Add this to the lack of good practical ‘hands on’ child protection advice and assistance, and it is not easy for schools to assemble credible policies and practice. There is no ‘one stop shop’ to assist schools. Add to this the fact that St Benedict’s is a private setting with all the additional challenges this presents when creating a credible policy and finding the right assistance becomes even more difficult.

  59. Part 2

    I am informing you about the independent school element because safeguarding guidance is designed to apply to the 93% of schools in the country which are maintained settings. Almost no consideration is given to how the ‘rules and guidance’ are applied to independent schools. The answer is they are largely hopeless and being weakened on an almost weekly basis by the coalition government. Nonetheless it is possible to find independent schools operating extremely good safeguarding policies and protocols that exceed NMS’s, are ‘tight,’ and benefit the school, its staff, and the pupils.

    The scale of the St Benedict’s case came to our attention in Christmas 2009. Now two years later how much improvement has been made to the safeguarding policy? It’s immeasurable. Here is a school showing no sign of reform.

    Such inertia defines an institution that is resistant to change. The very thing that was useless at the time of the abuses against pupils, is just as useless today.

  60. 10:31 your posts prompt no comment from defenders of the Abbey. I'm sure you've noticed.

    This is because you appear to have a close understanding of the subject which naturally alarms defenders who probably think you will shred them if they challenge you.

    Until a few months ago I was a 'defender', but no longer. There is unpalatable information to consider.