However, the abuse allegations are not confined to one priest, The Times can disclose, and two other Downside monks, also former teachers, received police cautions during an 18-month criminal investigation, which is continuing.It is clear that Fr Nicholas was not the only abusing priest who was being permitted to live at Downside Abbey on restricted ministry.
Detective Constable Mark White, of Avon & Somerset Constabulary, said: “As a result of our inquiries a 79-year-old man living in the Irish Republic received a caution and an 80-year-old man, resident in the South West of England, was also cautioned. The second man was removed from Downside Abbey following our inquiries.”
He added: “We identified a number of offences by a number of offenders. However, there is no evidence that offenders were co-operating together to victimise particular individuals. A lot of the victims in these cases have not wanted to give evidence.”
Rob Hastings is White's victim, he has waived his right to anonymity to be interviewed in the Times today. This is what he had to say.
“I believe now he singled me out as someone who was vulnerable to grooming,” Mr Hastings said. “I had an interest in old books and maps and he used to take me to the library in the abbey. That’s where the abuse happened, and it went on for 18 months.”I'd like to commend the courage of Rob Hastings in coming forward and being willing to waive anonymity and be interviewed. I have spoken to a considerable number of victims of the abuses at Ealing Abbey, so I am aware of how very much courage his actions required.
Mr Hastings said: “I didn’t know how to deal with this when I was 12. I was told then that the Church knew how to handle it. I am aware of one boy abused by White before me, but the Church dealt with that by allowing him to carry on teaching in the junior school.
“I believe there are other former pupils out there who suffered similar experiences and I would encourage them to come forward to the police.
I echo his call for victims and witnesses to come forward to the police. I know it is difficult. I have spoken to enough victims of the abuses at St Benedict's to understand how very difficult it is. But those who have gone to the police almost without exception tell me that once they have got over the exhaustion and emotional stress of actually giving the statement, it has helped lighten the load on them, that they feel better for having grabbed a bit of power back from those who would keep them silent and helpless.
It is also extremely powerful for abuse survivors to come forward and tell their stories, and even more so for them to be prepared to show their faces. It helps to lift the sense of shame from other victims. Abusers depend on everything remaining hidden so that few people realise what is happening and even fewer realise its effect. I think it very likely that Mr Hastings' willingness to go public will prompt others to come forward. He has made a real difference.
The Press Association has an extremely interesting twist in one paragraph of its article on the subject.
White's court case in Taunton heard that the school received legal advice in the early 1990s that they were not required to tell the police what happened. Instead White was sent to a number of monastic retreats in England and Scotland over the next 20 years.
Though it might beggar belief, their legal advice was correct as far as I know. Even if a pupil is raped by a member of staff, the school has no statutory obligation to report the matter to the police.
But I will leave it to you to decide on the moral status of an organisation that relies on legal advice to justify putting its reputation ahead of the welfare of the children in its care in this way.
With this most recent conviction, monks at five out of the six English Benedictine monasteries in England have been convicted in recent years of offences against children. There have been convictions at Ealing, Ampleforth, Belmont, Buckfast and now Downside, all since 2005. Only Worth has so far not had any monks recently convicted (at least, not that I have heard of). What is it about the Benedictines?