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The Roman Catholic Church

An inquiry into the extent of any institutional failures to protect children from sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. (This investigation is now complete.)

The sexual abuse of children within the Roman Catholic Church has been a matter of national and international concern for many years: the Archbishop of Westminster’s calls for this Inquiry to be established reflected that concern.

This investigation considered the extent to which the Nolan and Cumberlege reviews of child protection in the Roman Catholic Church improved the Church’s policy and practice. Specific case studies have been identified by the investigation. The first case study examined the English Benedictine Congregation, which has been the subject of numerous allegations of child sexual abuse, including at schools run by the Congregation. The Inquiry has evaluated whether any failings identified within the English Benedictine Congregation and the Archdiocese of Birmingham are representative of wider failings within the Catholic Church.

Case study: English Benedictine Congregation 1. Ampleforth and Downside schools 2. Ealing and St Benedict’s schools

There are 10 English Benedictine Congregation (EBC) monasteries in England. Some of the abbeys have schools associated with them. Ampleforth and Downside are regarded as leading Catholic independent schools, each with acknowledged academic and sporting achievement, and both are now co-educational. St Benedict’s School, Ealing is the only Benedictine day school in England and is situated adjacent to Ealing Abbey. Although it started as a boys’ school, it became fully co-educational in 2008 and accepts children from nursery age to 18 years old.

The Inquiry has examined the relationship between Orders such as the Benedictines and the Catholic Church in England and Wales and considered how that relationship impacts on child protection. 

Case study: Archdiocese of Birmingham

The Inquiry has identified the Archdiocese of Birmingham as a case study. It serves a Catholic population of nearly half a million people and is one of 22 dioceses within the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. The Archidiocese of Birmingham has been the subject of considerable press attention due to the number of child sexual abuse cases that have come to light and concerns about the way they have been handled.

Next Steps:

This investigation has now finished. 

The public hearing for the investigation into Ampleforth and Downside schools (part of the English Benedictine Congregation case study) concluded in December 2017. A report was published in August 2018 and is available here

The public hearing for the case study on the Archdiocese of Birmingham concluded in December 2018. A report was published in June 2019 and is available here.

The public hearing for the investigation into Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School (part of the English Benedictine Congregation case study) concluded in February 2019. A report was published in October 2019 and is available here.

The public hearing into the overarching Roman Catholic Church investigation concluded in November 2019. A report was published in November 2020 and is available here. Responses to recommendations made in this report can be found here.

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