A REPORT detailing evidence of ‘appalling sexual abuse’ at two Catholic schools in England has said the reputation of monks was prioritised over the protection of children.
The report, compiled by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), focused on schools associated with the Ampleforth and Downside monasteries in Yorkshire and Somerset respectively.
The monasteries are two of 10 within the English Benedictine Congregation (EBC).
It highlights accounts heard by the Inquiry, dating back to 1960, of abuse inflicted on children as young as seven at Ampleforth and 11 at Downside, for which a number of people have been convicted.
Culture of acceptance
“The true scale of sexual abuse of children in the schools that occurred over 40 years is likely to be considerably greater than numbers cited in the convictions,” the report states.
“There were 10 men at Ampleforth and Downside, mostly monks, who were convicted of, or cautioned for, offences involving sexual activity towards children or pornography.”
Detailing the evidence heard, the report says: “The accounts that we have heard have encompassed a wide spectrum of behaviour, including excessive physical chastisement, sometimes for sexual gratification and sometimes as a precursor to further sexual abuse, grooming, fondling of genitalia, oral, anal and vaginal penetration, buggery and rape.”
The report claims the abuse was so widespread that it created a “culture of acceptance of abusive behaviour”.
However when police and social services investigated abuse claims, the report says both institutions avoided giving information and were “secretive, evasive and suspicious of anyone outside the English Benedictine Congregation”.
“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,” the report says.
'Tell them nothing'
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.
“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 co-operation and trust, their approach could be summarised as a ‘tell them nothing’ attitude.”
A public hearing on a third EBC abbey and school (Ealing and St Benedict’s) will be held in early 2019, following which a further report will be published which will include recommendations arising from the overall case study.