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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

G.4: Transparency

Record-keeping

14. Abbot President Jamison has said that, since becoming Abbot President, he has obtained copies of all safeguarding plans currently in place at individual EBC monasteries. These are now held at the offices of the EBC Trust and will be reviewed annually by Praesidium. However, we note that there remains no centralised system for record-keeping of allegations against monks accused of child sexual abuse within the EBC. Abbot President Jamison has also told us that, in practice, individual abbots will continue to inform the Abbot President of any allegations against a member of the Community but that he “cannot assume responsibility for investigating allegations because that responsibility lies with the trustees of the charity of the individual monastery concerned.[1] However, he can of course enquire whether such investigations have been undertaken and their outcome.

Safeguarding policy

15. As of January 2019, there is a new EBC Trust Safeguarding Policy (Safeguarding Policy and Procedure for Children, Young People & Adults at Risk). This policy does not apply to each individual monastery (as due to the horizontal nature of the EBC this is a matter for which each monastery is responsible); rather, it is a policy for the EBC Trust itself and applies to those acting on behalf of the trust, such as the Abbot President.[2]

Selection and development of monks

16. The EBC is currently developing a new common process for the selection of candidates to train as monks, which will include a comprehensive application form asking for a complete life history and references as well as a psychological assessment. The process will take approximately a year to complete.[3] Abbot President Jamison told us that:

Whereas I cannot currently be sure that standards are consistent across individual monasteries, I expect that the adoption of the proposed common processes will ensure a more rigorous selection of better candidates for training as monks across the EBC. I believe this careful approach to the selection of candidates will enhance the protection provided to children against sexual abuse.[4]

17. In 2017, the General Chapter of the EBC created the Continuing Formation Commission with responsibility for, amongst other things, training monks on personal relationships and monastic life. Part of this training has involved issues such as: self-awareness, including sexual awareness; celibate living; and care for physical and mental health. In addition, in 2018, the Commission organised a conference at Buckfast Abbey designed to empower monks and nuns to engage more proactively in shaping the life of their community. A number of workshops were held, including: on the “culture of secrecy that had fostered child sexual abuse; on this Inquiry’s hearings into Ampleforth and Downside abbeys; and workshops with survivors of child sexual abuse themselves.[5]

18. Abbot President Jamison told us that the EBC is currently planning a follow-up to this conference and that:

As Abbot President, I aim to facilitate cultural and systemic changes within our communities … That is not something that constitutions, policies and procedures can achieve on their own; real change requires working together to enable what some monks and nuns have called ‘refoundation’, a new expression of a traditional way of life.[6]

References

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