Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Father Raphael Appleby

This week's Tablet contains an article about how Abbot Aidan Bellenger dealt with the allegations of abuse of a vulnerable adult by Father Raphael Appleby. This is Bellenger's description of the matter.
I did not think that before 2010 there was a safeguarding issue, I regarded it as a pastoral issue. Now I think that was possibly not the correct judgement. I didn’t speak to the safeguarding people until 2010. If that was an error, I just don’t know. I accepted [the complainant’s] word, but Fr Raphael was a person whom many people idolised. He is not in denial of a relationship, but denies it was abusive.
In one short paragraph, this perfectly encapsulates why it is vital that all allegations should promptly be reported to the authorities. The Abbot has fallen into the classic trap of assuming that Fr Raphael was such a good person that he would never to anything like that. Fr Raphael after all was a senior monk and former headmaster of Downside School, and was "a person whom many people idolised".

And of course Fr Raphael would deny that he was an abuser. That is what abusers do, partly simply because they don't want to get caught, but also because they convince themselves that what they do is not abusive.

The Tablet's report goes on to say.
The victim maintains that from the first meeting with Abbot Aidan, a complaint of abuse was made against Fr Raphael. The victim also says that in 2009 a letter giving full details of the abuse was sent to the abbot. Abbot Aidan made no comment on reports that correspondence on the abuse was missing from Fr Raphael’s personal file when police officers from the Avon and Somerset force came to investigate the person’s claim. A force spokesman said they had to obtain duplicates from the victim.
Ah, the missing records malady! Ealing sneezes and Downside catches the cold. This unfortunately is by far from being the first I have heard about inconvenient records going astray. At the start of the Carlile inquiry, I learned that St. Benedict's School had no records of John' Maestri's employment. And during the trial of Stephen Skelton last autumn, it turned out that the school had kept no records of him either.

There are seven monks now know to have acted criminally or improperly. Two convicted, two cautioned, one given a police warning and two placed on restricted ministry because they are thought to pose a risk to children. Just imagine the strain it has been on successive abbots trying to keep all that quiet all these years.

And that is just the monks. At Ealing, only one monk has been convicted but also two lay teachers.As far as I know, there has been nothing looked into with regard to lay teachers at Downside. The abbot has passed over the records of the monks to the police and diocesan authorities, but not so far as I know those of the lay teachers. I wonder what nasties there might still be waiting to crawl out from under that particular rock.


  1. The strangest thing, for me, in Abbott Bellenger's statement as quoted is '[Fr Raphael] is not in denial of a relationship, but denies it was abusive.'
    Excuse me?

  2. I’m writing as a very angry and shamed OG. I’m angry that these things happened in the first place, secondly that they happened at Downside and thirdly that they’ve been covered up for so long.

    In the years 1945 to 1949, while I was at the school, the headmaster changed from the “Fox” to the “Bear,” from R. A. Butler to Wilfred Passmore. The former becoming Abbot (later Bishop) and the English equivalent of Bishop Fulton Sheen. The latter also an Abbot and while Headmaster achieved great improvement the university placements.

    Under the brutal rule of Passmore, all students who failed to achieve the Headmaster’s academic standards or were assumed to be “slackers” were flogged with a “tolley.” This was a 12" strap attached to a handle. Twelve strokes were the norm. This was applied by what Medieval philosophy? It is the one heard even in the halls of Downside, “Ships and boys are governed my their sterns.,” or perhaps, “ A jolly good thrashing never hurt anyone...It didn’t hurt me.” And of course to assuage the “Flogger’s” guilt he shook hands with the one who was flogged. As any first year university psychology major can tell you, the one who was flogged was put into fear that it could happen again which was reinforced by the hand shake. Now the victim having no possible redress psychologically, turns this fear into anger. Anger at whom you might ask? Why authority figures...all authority figures. This he carries on into his adult life. What nitwit would imagine that a jolly good flogging would have no psychological affect on some boys? Passmore was such a nitwit. Furthermore, much greater harm was done in the very same manner to boys who were falsely accused of wrong doing. Some, I know even left the Church as a direct result. This was his real legacy.

    There are other forms of gross and brutal abuse that have gone on at Downside other than pedophilia. To be continued.

    1. Guess who was also on the receiving end of Passmore's brutal beatings? Why none other than young Raphael Appleby also a boy in the school in the late 40's. Makes one wonder about the longer term effects of such child abuse does'nt it?. Speaking from experience (at the gentle hands of Passmore successor Aelred Watkin aka. Bush) I shall never forget the grin he had on his face as he beat me with my trousers down. As for issues with authority you may ask? Case closed. I have been a lifelong pain in the neck.

  3. The continuation.
    With such a legacy and tacit approval of Passmore’s philosophy the Downside monastic community, elected him Abbot (1966 to 1974) several times. Now what does that say about the Downside Community? In the best light they were naive or stupid or both.

    After Passmore’s reign, in 1974 till 1990 was the reign of Abbot John Roberts during which time the sexual crimes of Fr. Nick were committed. So Abbot Roberts was potentially the one who first covered them up. All subsequent Abbots till Fr. Nick’s arrest did the same as they must have been told by the previous Abbot. All these Abbots are guilty of being, “accessories after the fact” and yet none have been prosecuted...why? Their performance parallels that of the Vatican’s in responding to victim complaints – deny, obfuscate, transfer the perpetrator, apply Canon rather than English civil law, i.e., prescribe ‘three Hail Marys and a firm purpose of amendment’ rather than risk revelation of the offense followed by a trial and real punishment for all concerned. When tried and if found guilty they should be imprisoned.

    As to Ralph, he sat beside me in the then new Smythe Refectory for four years. He taught me how to serve Mass. So he’s been sent to Outer Mongolia, monastically speaking, till he dies. Yet why is he still a priest and monk? Fr. Nick’s sentence was far too lenient it should have been 20/25 years. As far as I know he’s still a priest and monk...shame.

    Downside has now met the minimum standards of governance from both the ISI and OFSTED agencies. They should have met and exceeded them.

    It used to be that anyone with warm hands and a modicum of intelligence could become a monk and priest. What are Downside’s policies regarding the acceptance of new applicant for the novitiate? If it doesn’t include an in-depth psychological profile done by an outside agency then more of these problems will ensue.

    The Vatican hasn’t got it and neither has Downside. They wont get it until they’re hit where it hurts most, the jailing of those found guilty, followed by their de-frocking and the suing of the Abbey by the victims for compensation and counseling. No compensation or free counseling has been offered to the victims to my knowledge...shame. Unfortunately, many of them can’t afford to bring suit.

    Would I send a boy to Downside now....certainly not!

    Would I send a boy to any Catholic boarding school anywhere in the world...again certainly not!

    Would I trust a priest or monk to be alone with a boy...once again, certainly not!

    What I would recommend is that every OG and Downside benefactor withhold all donations for 10 years.

    These are grave and mortal sins that have brought shame and disgrace to the Catholic Faith, the Benedictine Order, the clergy in general, the School, all English Catholics. No concern, or succor has been offered to those most affected, the victims.

    1. Write to the Abbot. He needs to hear the anger of OGs. That is what I have done (C 92). His letters contain no admission of responsibility or guilt on the part of the school for the cover up that allowed abuse to continue. Safeguarding at Downside is still not up to scratch - as you say, it should exceed minimum standards. Call him out on it.

  4. Would I send a boy to any Catholic boarding school anywhere in the world...again certainly not!

    Catholic or not I agree!

    It's a very British form of child abuse.

  5. I believe that those who seek admission to the Novitiate at Downside these days have to undergo a rigourous psychological assessment, lasting days, carried out by a renowned, external, psychologist. At the end a report is written based on the outcome of tests and interviews as well as an account of the person's sexual development written by the postulant. This won't guarantee that history doesn't repeat itself, but it does suggest that the few who enter are being screened and also have more self-knowledge than those of yesteryears.

  6. I was an OG leaving in 1983, I agree with the comments above. Dom Aidan has been very badly advised. The problem with Downside is that it is such a big institution, at the other end of the M4 it thinks that it is immune to the very requirement of behaving decently. It has fallen into the cultural behavioural syndrome that has befallen all of those who enter the Abbey. Sadly, the entire collegiate of Monks need to be disestablished and completely replaced with CRB checked individuals and strong leadership from within. Power corrupts and without proper checks and balances we are now seeing the result.