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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church (EBC) Case Study: Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School Investigation Report

B.1: History and establishment

1. Ealing Abbey is an English Benedictine monastery, set up in 1897 by monks from Downside Abbey.[1] Ealing Priory, as it was then called, became independent from Downside in 1947.[2] It achieved abbey status in 1955,[3] becoming the first Benedictine Abbey in Greater London since the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Parish of St Benedict, Ealing, is under the care of Ealing Abbey and does not form part of the Archdiocese of Westminster. The monastery is home to 14 monks under the care of their abbot,[4] the spiritual leader of the community, who oversees the various works they undertake. The abbot is assisted by his prior, who acts as his principal adviser and deputises for him.[5]

2. St Benedict’s School, Ealing (St Benedict’s) – previously known as Ealing Priory School – is an independent day school and the only Benedictine day school in England.[6] It was founded in 1902 by the Downside monks and began as a boys’ school. St Benedict’s is now mixed[7] and accepts boys and girls from nursery age to 18 years old. It has approximately 1,000 pupils in a junior and a senior school. Both schools have lay headmasters. Since 2006 the headmaster of the senior school has also had overarching responsibility for the junior school.[8]

3. St Benedict’s is situated adjacent to Ealing Abbey. Monks from the abbey may serve as teachers and chaplains, and lead religious services. The number of monks teaching at St Benedict’s has varied over the years. Historically, nearly all junior monks were given an opportunity to participate in school life and to do some teaching. In 1980, nine monks were working as teachers at St Benedict’s. By 2000, there were only four, which reduced to one monk teaching at St Benedict’s in 2018.[9] As at September 2019, the school’s website lists no monks among the teaching or support staff.[10]

4. Dom Francis Rossiter was abbot between 1967 and 1991,[11] followed by Dom Laurence Soper between 1991 and 2000, and Dom Martin Shipperlee from 2000 to 2019.[12]

5. As outlined in our introduction, Abbot Shipperlee resigned after giving evidence to our Inquiry. His prior, Father Dominic Taylor, served as monastic superior between February and July 2019. On 9 July 2019, he was elected Abbot of Ealing Abbey.[13]

References

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