From Torch of The Faith, Friday 10 August 2018
The major news here in the UK yesterday related to the shocking findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), led by Professor Alexis Jay, relating to a ”culture of acceptance of abusive behaviour” in the Benedictine schools at Ampleforth and Downside.
Even though the violently abusive sexual content of the report already makes for brutal and disturbing reading, the Inquiry has added that the true scale of the sexual abuse of children, some as young as 11 years of age, over a period of 40 years is likely to be considerably higher than is reflected in the number of perpetrators who have been convicted.
As it stands, ten people, mostly monks, connected with Ampleforth and Downside have been convicted or cautioned in relation to offences involving sexual activity with a large number of children, or pornography.
Apparently, men at the schools did not hide their sexual interest in boys from as young as 7 years of age.
In terms of safeguarding, the report states that: ”Both Ampleforth and Downside prioritised the monks and their own reputations over the protection of children, manoeuvring monks away from the schools in order to avoid scandal… Those who received them would sometimes not be adequately informed of the risk.”
That is simply outrageous behaviour.
However, given the disgusting nature and sheer scale of the abuse, what is even more reprehensible is the fact that, as the report notes, ”Downside in particular tried to pave the way for the return of abusive monks after the boys who might have known them had left.”
Professor Jay has noted that, ”For decades, Ampleforth and Downside tried to avoid giving any information about child sex abuse to police and social services… Instead monks in both institutions were secretive, evasive and suspicious of anyone outside the English Benedictine Congregation.”
And further: ”Even after new procedures were introduced in 2001, when monks gave the appearance of co-operation and trust, their approach could be summarised as a ‘tell them nothing’ attitude.”
As to whether there has been any improvement at these institutions, the report acknowledges the troubling fact that, as recently as 2016 to 2017, information was not passed on to the local authority safeguarding lead regarding four suspected paedophiles who remained at Downside.
In the words of the report: ”The whole incident, having occurred so recently, gives no cause for confidence that the attitudes at Downside had changed enough to put children first over threat to reputation and embarassment to senior members of the monastic order.”
Fr. Ray Blake issued a poignant tweet yesterday in relation to this massive scandal and a video of Michael Voris’ about the ongoing scandals in the USA: ”In the UK today fresh revelations about abuse at Downside and Ampleforth schools. I have taken part in the Requiems of boys from these schools who killed themselves. Voris is right, any toleration of abuse leaves blood on our hands and the Church.”
Whilst the content of the Inquiry’s report is so foul, impure, violent and extensive as to invite reader discretion, it is good that this filth is at last being brought out into the open and exposed.
I am also glad to see that Fr. Christopher Jamieson, the Abbot General of the English Benedictine Congregation, has welcomed the IICSA’s report, has apologised unequivocally to anyone who has been a victim of the abuse and is in the process of developing the English Benedictine community’s first ever Safeguarding Charter.
Let us hope that changes will be made in both the hearts and exterior behaviours of all who should have protected children from these monstrous evils.
At the same time, I am reminded of an article which I posted here just a few weeks ago, about a priest with an Ampleforth background who was as rude as Hell to me in 2006. This was because I had challenged him after Mass one Sunday, when he had spoken from the pulpit during Mass in favour of homosexual civil-partnerships and also of divorce and re-”marriage”.
What I said in summary of that errant priest and his behaviour obviously needs to be taken on board by others in his religious community.
I refer to my phrase about, ”the kind of toffee-nosed arrogance which, forgetful of the origins of its treasury of education, sophistication and wealth, has too often marred the Benedictine vocation in latter years.”
To that, alas, it seems that we must also add the sins of sexual abuse, violence and the disgraceful covering up of such abuse.
Whilst it is good that the Benedictines seem willing to clean up their act, the word ”repentance” does rather seem to have been lacking in their public communications on the matter.
And let’s face it, a number of guys there must have known about this grave abuse of minors. Those who have colluded with this evil must repent and confess their sins and make restitution as far as they are able.
We must pray that the exposure of this culture of abuse will help to bring justice and healing to the victims and their families. Lord have mercy on them, they have suffered immensely.
At 02:50 am this morning, I awoke to hear a strange thunderstorm developing a few miles away from here. As the lightning flashes came with increasing regularity, I discovered that the whole household was already awake.
Now, we have lived through some tremendously violent thunderstorms during the two years from 2004-2006 which we spent in Ohio; most notably those during the two consecutive months of May in that period.
There was one night back then when the thunder was so bad that we and our Ohioan neighbours were up through the night watching.
As lightning had flashed and torrents of rain had poured down, a crowd of young people who were huddled under a shop-front canopy had been crazily cheering each of the thunder strikes! The next day, we discovered that a hairdresser’s shop, a couple of miles away, had been burned out by a direct hit from one of the immense lightning strikes.
In May 2009, we also spent a scary day and night in Kansas, during a day of tornados that was so bad that – with sirens blaring and a warning issued that a tornado was on the ground and headed our way – we were evacuated to an underground storm shelter with dozens of other people.
By the end of that day, one man had been killed, barns had been devastated, cars had been picked up and scattered like toys and fields in the area had been wrecked.
In the lead-up to that dramatic storm, we had been sitting with beverages in hands along an open-sided first-floor corridor, with a group of experienced Kansan Catholics, watching magnificent forked lightning strikes searing down from the purple skies all around us.
As the wind kicked up, and downward-pointing cones began to form worryingly from the rapidly twisting clouds in the not-too-distant formations, I asked a wise looking older woman if we ought not to be heading down to the shelter. She smiled knowingly and replied that the time to worry was when the sky turned green and a noise like a runaway diesel train came along the ground. ”That’s when you run and don’t look back or stop for anything, Honey!”
When the time to move did come, you can rest assured that we were not found lacking in the alacrity department…
Anyway, compared to those American storms, the one we had here last night was in a certain sense nothing to write home about.
Nevertheless, there was such a strange quality in the rumbles of thunder, something like a low and weirdly menacing grumble that I’d never heard before in my life, that I whispered over to Angie about the 3-Days Darkness and the Chastisements.
Perhaps it was just the early hour, maybe it was the charged atmosphere, or even the fact that the dark room kept lighting up with dazzling flashes of white light, but I felt a distinct chill when Angie whispered back that she had just been thinking about all of that too.
When one looks at the state of the Church and the world, we think it worth bearing these things in mind.
After all, it is only a few days since Francis attempted something with his Catechism stunt which, even the day before it happened, few would have believed possible.
And the unfolding scale of sexual abuse by priests who are sacrilegiously saying Mass every day across the globe is just unprecedented.
We keep thinking here of Our Lord’s warning about the millstone for those who cause one of His little ones to stumble (Mark 9:42).
May God give us the grace to always live with, for and in Him, for His greater glory.
Repent, Confess, Pray and Always Be Ready.
St. Benedict – Please pray for all faithful Catholics, for the children who have been harmed and for a restoration of the Order that bears your good name!