Child Sex Abuse Inquiry Finds “Appalling” Abuse At English Catholic Boarding Schools

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“The abhorrent and disgraceful abuse in the Catholic church has once again been laid bare"

“The abhorrent and disgraceful abuse in the Catholic church has once again been laid bare” according to The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)

The inquiry found that two leading Catholic schools in the UK “prioritized monks and their own reputations over the protection of children” who were sexually abused.

It revealed how pupils at Ampleforth, in Yorkshire, and Downside, in Somerset, suffered “appalling” treatment stretching over decades amid a “culture of acceptance of abusive behaviour”.

Children as young as seven were sexually abused at Ampleforth, and eleven at Downside, but both institutions attempted to cover up the allegations.

The report also said that neither school has established a redress scheme for victims and “no public apology has been made” outside of the context of the inquiry.

The Independent reports: Professor Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, said: “For decades Ampleforth and Downside tried to avoid giving any information about child sexual abuse to police and social services.

“Instead, monks in both institutions were very often secretive, evasive and suspicious of anyone outside the English Benedictine Congregation.

“Safeguarding children was less important than the reputation of the church and the wellbeing of the abusive monks.

“Even after new procedures were introduced in 2001, when monks gave the appearance of cooperation and trust, their approach could be summarised as a ‘tell them nothing’ attitude.”

The report found that the true scale of sexual abuse at the fee-paying schools, whose alumni include politicians, aristocrats and celebrities, was likely to be “considerably” more widespread than conviction figures reflect.

Both schools are linked to the English Benedictine Congregation, which has 10 monasteries in England and Wales.

IICSA found that “secretive, evasive and suspicious” church officials had avoided reporting misconduct to police and social services.

The report said allegations stretching back to the 1960s encompassed “a wide spectrum of physical abuse, much of which had sadistic and sexual overtones”.

So far 10 individuals linked to the schools, mainly monks, have been cautioned or convicted over sexual activity or pornography offences involving a “large number of children”.

One alleged offender at Ampleforth, which currently charges £35,424 a year for senior boarders, abused at least 11 children aged between eight and 12 over a “sustained period of time”, but died before police could investigate.

“Many perpetrators did not hide their sexual interests from the children,” the report found, allowing abusers at Ampleforth to prey on entire groups of pupils both outdoors and indoors during communal activities.

“The blatant openness of these activities demonstrates there was a culture of acceptance of abusive behaviour.”

Victims and witnesses who gave evidence during weeks of inquiry hearings last year said the culture was fostered by abbots leading the schools.

In 2001, the Nolan Report recommended all sexual abuse allegations within the church must be referred to police, but many allegedly felt the position was “neither obligatory nor desirable”.

“For much of the time under consideration by the inquiry, the overriding concern in both Ampleforth and Downside was to avoid contact with the local authority or the police at all costs, regardless of the seriousness of the alleged abuse or actual knowledge of its occurrence,” the report said.

“Rather than refer a suspected perpetrator to the police, in several instances the abbots in both places would confine the individual to the abbey or transfer him and the known risk to a parish or other locations.”

But details of the monks’ predatory past was not always passed on to their new residence, where “children were then abused as a consequence.”

Niamh Harris
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