Tuesday, 26 December 2017

IICSA Benedictine hearings day 2

Unfortunately, Day 2 did not achieve very much in terms of questioning and holding people to account.

The day's proceedings started at 10:30 with the counsel to the inquiry reading excerpts from several statements, those of Fr Luke Beckett (Ampleforth's canon lawyer), Rev Christopher Thomas (secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales), Fr Paul Smyth (president of the Congegation of Religious), Mr Christopher Pearson (lay chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission), Ms. Colette Limbrick (director of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service). This took until they broke for lunch at 1pm.

It was mostly pretty dry stuff, details of how the Catholic church is organised - details of canon law, the organisation of its safeguarding bodies and so on.

There was something gruesomely inefficient about the way the inquiry went about its business. The panel and about 30 lawyers (most paid for by IICSA) spent a morning listening to one lawyer read excerpts from written statements they had all read already. There must be (and in fact is) a cheaper and more efficient way of declaring these statements to be in the public domain and taken into account by the panel. This was wasted time that should be being devoted to questioning witnesses. The inquiry had only 3 weeks of hearings in this round. The trial of a single child abuse offender often takes longer than that, and the trial of Abbot Laurence Soper took 10 weeks. This would become critical later in the hearings.

The  most important part of the read statements was a part of Colette Limbrick's statement describing the role of CSAS.
The primary role of CSAS is one of coordination, advice and support to the Catholic Church in England and Wales in respect of safeguarding children, young people and adults at risk.  The role and tasks in CSAS include, but are not limited to:
  • providing advice to members of the church about safeguarding issues;
  • providing advice to lay people about safeguarding issues;
  • developing and supporting the delivery of safeguarding training within the church;
  • ensuring that the national safeguarding policies and procedures are contemporary, relevant, comply with best practice and are published for implementation across the church in England and Wales.
  • undertaking a role in quality assurance of safeguarding activity within dioceses and religious congregations;
  • identifying and disseminating good safeguarding practice within the church;
  • being the national safeguarding point of contact for national stakeholders, by example, other churches and secular organisations;
  • being the registered body for the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
As one might surmise from its name, the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service in fact can only advise. As far as being able to "ensure" anything, all it can do is ensure that its own policies are "published for implementation", which is a telling form of words. As we later found in evidence, CSAS (and its predecessor COPCA) lacks any power to ensure that its policies are actually implemented.

The afternoon was spent taking evidence from Abbot Richard Yeo, specifically in the organisation of the English Benedictine Congregation and his role until recently as Abbot President thereof. (He gave evidence again later in the hearings on his role and actions as Abbot of Downside).

Yeo described how each monastery or convent (there are 10 in England an Wales) is largely autonomous under its own Abbot. Formal and permanent transfers of monks between monasteries are rare, through for one monk to visit another monastery for a period is not that rare. The Abbot President has more or less no powers to direct an abbot to do something, he can only advise. The Abbot President's primary role is to carry out a Visitation of each house every four years to ensure that the monastery is still following the Rule of St Benedict as interpreted in modern times in each monastery's "customary" or constution. There are no central safeguarding records and the role of the Abbot President in safeguarding matters is very limited.

They spent the afternoon meandering round the Rule of St Benedict and the rules of the EBC without anything of any great note being uncovered.

And that was the end of Day 2. I was beginning to wonder whether the hearings would ever get down to anything important.


  1. St benefits school/ abbey have lied they say they have apologised to victims, but they have not.
    I vainly wait for the apology in the post . Yours child 'H'

  2. Sounds like the IICSA has gone native! Rome's default position of do nothing and to cul-de-sac issues until the matter passes over seems to have reared its head here on Day 2!!

    Running issues into a dead end and exhausting everyone in the process is a classic from Rome's armoury.

    CSAS as purely advisory is no surprise; Nolan, Cumberlege et al we have gone around in a big circle.

    I read Ealing's "Offical Response" to Soper's conviction. They stated they would be referring Soper to Rome. I am assuming to have him formally laicised. What about Ealing and the other abbey's referring themselves to Rome for dissolution!! Given what was said by the canon lawyer on Day 2 it appears even Rome would have little authority to suppress these foundations.

    I read of 'reports' regrading Soper's conduct prior to sentencing - holding cell. Is any of this true?

    1. It is true. He wasn't going to show any weakness in front of us.
      However he seems to think being a sniveling wretch in front of his new carers will somehow warrant sympathy.
      At isleworth magistrates court . He thought there was none of us there ( just officialdom) due to him being at court via video link from the scrubs .
      He was crying like we did when he had hold of us.shaking like a leaf. All an act . He has no emotion he is a cold void. He will act in which ever fashion is best suited to FOG ( fear obligation guilt) ie manipulate whomever.
      I nearly walked out when I heard Humphreys trying to suggest he shouldn't be dehumanised by other prisoners in transit calling him names and saying the most horrible things to him.can you believe that bit ?