Monday, 16 January 2012

Brother Anselm

The Times has more on Michael Hurt, also known as Brother Anselm.
He taught at Downside during the 1960s but left the order because of “conflict” and worked in adult education in Liverpool before moving to Ireland. In 1996 he rejoined the Benedictines and was accepted at Glenstal as a novice.

He was cautioned by officers from Avon & Somerset Constabulary during an 18-month investigation into Downside. While a police caution does not amount to a conviction, by accepting it, a person acknowledges the offence.

Brother Martin Browne of Glenstal Abbey said: “The allegation for which Br Anselm was cautioned by UK police dates back more than forty years. It is a matter of public record (from many media appearances over the years) that Br Anselm left Downside Abbey in 1970, and was laicised. Many years later, having settled in Ireland, he began monastic life again, entering Glenstal as a novice in 1996.

It is understood that Hurt gave up his role in a chess club for young people after accepting the caution. Fr Bellenger did not name Hurt in his weekend letter to past pupils but referred to “a monk who left this country many years ago” receiving “a formal police caution for the abuse of a pupil during his time at Downside in the 1960s”.

Brother Anselm ran the Glenstal kitchens, feeding 40 monks and their guests with such panache that he published Brother Anselm’s Glenstal Cookbook to acclaim in 2009. The 65 recipes cover traditional dishes such as kedgeree, treacle tart and curries, with illustrations of monks at work and rest.

Brother Anselm and [his brother] John Hurt, star of the Elephant Man and the Harry Potter films, attracted a huge audience when they appeared together as guests on Irish television’s Late Late Show. British TV viewers saw them together on Who Do You Think You Are? when the pair, sons of an Anglican clergyman, investigated their possible Irish roots.
So, let me see if I understand this.

Michael Hurt rejoined the Benedictines in 1996, at Glenstal Abbey. Downside either wasn't asked about or didn't disclose his past abuses, and neither did Hurt himself.

Glenstal Abbey has a school attached. Until the police came calling Hurt had access to children. There was lots of publicity about Hurt's presence at Glenstal and still Downside kept schtumm, and didn't even slip a quiet warning to Glenstal about Hurt's past and suggest that he might be best kept away from children.

It seems to me that Downside has been wholly concerned about its own reputation, and wasn't even prepared to mention a problem to fellow-Benedictines.

I'm not sure what is the word to describe such behaviour, but I don't think "Christian" comes anywhere near it.


  1. I am Michael Hurt's ex-wife. I discovered papers in the 1980s (when I was divorcing him) which revealed that he had been exclaustrated in 1969 or there a bouts, following his sexual abuse of a pupil. The monastery did not take it to the police as 'the parents didn't wish to'!!! he was placed on the DES 'blacklist' and sent to Oxford (which was full of Downside alumni!) He applied for laicisation in 1970/1 and they couldn't get shut quick enough! He then entered his first marriage. I was his second wife. Once I knew about the abuse I did everything I could to bring it to light and have someone act upon it most particularly as he was fighting me for custody of our children. I have never suffered such hate and abuse directed at me. I was called a liar and a bitter and twisted soul.

  2. 12.38 - thank you for your posting.

    I cannot imagine the impact of discovering that a husband or wife is a paedophile.

    You may find this Spectator article about the convicted ‘establishment’ paedophile Roger Took helpful. Took’s wife Pat Cleary spoke out because the media was so disinclined to report his trial.

    She explained this when she was interviewed by Woman’s Hour. The effects of the discovery and its impact on her family are clear.

  3. Roger Took
    I see the Spectator article has been made unavailable for instant connection - I read it and it was the most horrible thing I have ever seen. I am not suggesting that it shouldn't be read, but that most of us have no idea how terrifying these monsters can behave. Awful as it is, Jonathan, please continue.

  4. So that we all get it - here are pictures of the establishment paedophile Mr Roger Took before his conviction.

    Do we all now recognise the features of a pederast?


    So perhaps it is clearer why robust procedures are needed to protect children.

  5. I was a pupil at Glenstal for six years in the late 90's. I came into contact with Br Anselm on a regular basis and he seemed to be a wonderful man. He loved the monastry and in my time there I never heard any negative comments made by monks, staff or students. Children are cruel, particularly in a boarding school environment, and if his behaviour had ever been inappropriate the whole school would have known, including the parents, and he would have been hounded out. While his "secret" past is certainly cause for concern, I think it is important to remember that people can change and that forgiveness is the backbone of the Catholic religion. Perhaps a little more of this article could have been dedicated to the more positive aspects of his life as supposed to allegations made 40 years ago.

    Also, what's all this about the parents not wanting to prosecute? Seems very unlikely that the police would listen to such a request unless there was some doubt over the allegations themselves.

  6. I too was at Glenstal and like you I never came across any inappropriate behaviour. I too was pretty confident that I would have heard about it if it had been occurring. I read on line in the Irish times May 12th 2014 link here that there were other cases of abuse in Glenstal and I was amazed. Shows how wrong one can be.

    It is obvious that Paedophiles thrive because of silence and children's fear of speaking out. For that reason alone it is important to discuss their modus operandi even if it is 40 years since they were last caught! I am not suggesting that we should not forgive but that must not be at the expense of protecting children from their like in the future. We can learn from the past.

    IMOP Downside had a duty of care to alert Glenstal that this monk had previously abused those in his care. The monk in question should also have “come clean” before he joined Glenstal. Perhaps he did and Glenstal chose to say nothing accepting that he was “no further risk”. We shall never know as I doubt anyone in authority would admit to that now. Glenstal should have made enquiries from Downside as to why this monk had previously left the order. That would seem like an elemental, prudent and very obvious step to take with any person’s application to re-join any organisation they had previously been a member of, particularly that of a Christian Monk, normally considered a commitment for life . At worst I wonder if such enquiries were made and the results ignored? I do hope not. Either way there was an obvious failure in care. I know tennis clubs that vet potential members more thoroughly!

    As to your comment that “Also, what's all this about the parents not wanting to prosecute? Seems very unlikely that the police would listen to such a request unless there was some doubt over the allegations themselves.” Doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Firstly the monk, (Anslem) from what I understand, does not deny the charges and did not deny them at the time either so he was guilty of the accusation therefore a prosecution would probably have been successful. Forty years later he “took a caution” which apparently means you admit the offence took place. Secondly the church was held in a higher reverence and even some fear, 40 years ago, indeed even 15 years ago, than it is today. It is quite probable that if the headmaster of Downside suggested to the parents that “they had everything in hand” and that pressing charges was not necessary “and may cause more pain for the boy”, (their son still wished to school there I assume), then it is quite logical to assume, given the times that were in it, that neither the parents or the police would wish to go against that suggestion. Indeed they may all well have breathed a sigh of relief that the matter was over and dealt with so quickly. The monk was gone, the boy could get on with his studies, and the police could go and catch “real criminals”. Look how many times we have discovered it happened with other members of the clergy in the intervening and prior years that we now know of! Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing?

  7. The evidence given my Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard to the Child Abuse Inquiry on 8th December suggests that Downside did tell Glenstal all about Michael Hurt when he wa seeking admission there in the 1990s

    1. Well, the information obviously wasn't clear enough for Glenstal to ensure Anselm realised what they were dealing with and to keep him away from children. When the police came calling he was involved in the school chess club.