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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church Investigation Report

Contents

B.1: Accounts of child sexual abuse within the Church

1. Throughout this investigation, we heard appalling accounts of child sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy and those associated with the Roman Catholic Church. The abuse covers a spectrum of sexual offending including acts of masturbation, oral sex, vaginal rape and anal rape, accompanied on occasions by beatings and other acts of violence. There have been many hundreds of victims and complainants over many decades.

2. During the English Benedictine Congregation (EBC) and Archdiocese of Birmingham case studies, we heard accounts of sickening abuse.

2.1. In the early 1970s, RC-A31 (then under 13 years old) met James Robinson, a trainee priest within the Archdiocese of Birmingham. Robinson took RC-A31 for car rides and began to sexually abuse him by touching him and masturbating. He also took RC-A31 to his (Robinson’s) mother’s house and sexually abused him. RC-A31 said that his family not only trusted Robinson but “worshipped him”,[1] such that Robinson would stay in their home and share a bed with RC-A31. The abuse became more severe involving acts of oral sex and, on a number of occasions, Robinson anally raped RC-A31. RC-A31 told us that as a result of the abuse he had weekly therapy for a number of years and suffered from depression. He told us that it had “destroyed” his life.[2] In 2010, Robinson was convicted of 21 offences against four boys, one of whom was RC-A31. When sentencing him to 21 years’ imprisonment, the judge said Robinson had abused his “position of authority and total trust” to commit the “gravest set of offences of sexual abuse of children” that were “unimaginably wicked”.[3]

2.2. Between 1972 and 1974, RC-A622 (then between 12 and 14 years old) was repeatedly sexually abused by Laurence Soper. RC-A622 was a pupil at St Benedict’s School in Ealing (run by the EBC); Soper was a monk and taught at the school. He used physical chastisement as a guise for touching RC-A622’s genitals. Over time the abuse progressed to making RC-A622 watch as Soper masturbated himself, forcibly masturbating RC-A622 and, on three or four occasions, anally raping RC-A622. RC-A622 was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol dependency syndrome. He also suffered two nervous breakdowns requiring hospital admission.[4] In December 2017, Soper was convicted of offences relating to RC-A622 and eight other boys and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment.[5]

2.3. At 10½ years old, RC-A117 was misdiagnosed with a mental illness. As a consequence, she spent much of her childhood in psychiatric units in hospitals. She described her childhood as “exceptionally traumatic and physically abusive”.[6] In 1984, aged 17, RC-A117 was diagnosed with a medical condition which left her confined to a wheelchair. Her parents took her on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. RC-F80 (aged 52) was a chaplain on that pilgrimage and RC-A117’s parents told him much about what RC-A117 had been through. The following year, RC-F80 sexually assaulted RC-A117 in the grounds of Downside Abbey. She told us that RC-F80 took her to a secluded part of the monastery gardens and touched her breasts and kissed her. He began to pay visits to her at home where the sexual abuse continued. In 2010, RC-F80 received a police caution for sexually assaulting RC-A117. She said:

the psychological effects have continued ever since, resulting in years of unbearable guilt, depression, nightmares, anxiety and PTSD symptoms”.[7]

3. The Inquiry also received accounts of sexual abuse of children (both alleged and proven) by priests and others connected with the Roman Catholic Church.

3.1. Between 1963 and 1967, Thomas (James) Kirby attended St Peter Claver College in Yorkshire (the seminary of the Catholic Comboni Missionaries). Mr Kirby told us that from about the age of 14, RC-F339 would sexually abuse him under the guise of a genital inspection, whereby RC-F339 felt Mr Kirby’s genitals, rolled his foreskin back and forwards, and after “washing” his penis applied vaseline to it.[8] This took place in the infirmary once a week for approximately two and a half years.[9] Mr Kirby said that there was no medical need for this ‘inspection’.[10] He told us about the “terrible confusion” he felt as a child trying to understand how a member of the clergy “could do the things they did”.[11] He said that the consequences of the abuse have “come right through with me … right through my life”.[12]

3.2. RC-A1 told us that during the 1970s he was sexually abused at his Catholic junior and senior residential schools.[13] He said that his junior school teacher, RC-F267, would touch his (RC-A1’s) genitals during reading lessons[14] and that this occurred every time he was asked to read for RC-F267. RC-A1 said that another junior school teacher, RC-F268, also sexually abused him when the boys had swimming lessons. RC-A1 told us that over the course of a two-year period, RC-F268 would touch himself as he put his hand down RC-A1’s swimming shorts.[15] At senior school, RC-A1 told us a teacher (RC-F270) sexually touched him on his bottom and legs[16] and that he was anally raped by another student.[17] RC-A1 said the abuse affected every aspect of his life. He said it led to him self-harming, “nearly wrecked” his marriage and “destroyed my trust, not just in the Church but in any authority”.[18]

3.3. In 1972, RC-A594 (aged seven or eight years old) joined St Benedict’s School, Ealing, which was linked to Ealing Abbey. In August 2009, Father David Pearce was convicted of indecently assaulting RC-A594 by beating and caning him on his bare buttocks.[19] Pearce would smile as he caned him and afterwards made the naked RC-A594 sit on his knee.[20] RC-A594 said that as a result of the abuse “he hated himself”, which “built up and eventually resulted in me having a nervous breakdown”.[21] His mother said her son was a “happy little boy, bright, good worker, gentle and very popular” when he started at St Benedict’s but began to play truant and was not motivated to work.[22] She said:

His father and I live with the guilt of sending him to St Benedicts, trusting a priest … and the guilt of not realising why the change in our son was not more evident to us.[23]

3.4. RC-A20 stated that in the 1970s and 1980s, she was sexually assaulted by a priest of the Salesian Order. She was under 13 years old when the abuse first started. The priest told RC-A20’s parents that she needed private counselling. At those counselling sessions, he insisted that she was naked. He massaged her body, hit her buttocks and penetrated her vagina with his fingers. The abuse occurred repeatedly over many years, during which time RC-A20 tried to jump off a bridge to end her life and took a number of overdoses. Years later, RC-A20 brought a civil claim against the Salesian Order. As part of the claim, she was assessed by a psychiatrist who concluded that the abuse was likely to have caused “significant difficulties” during her childhood and into adulthood and to have contributed to her lifelong problems with self-esteem, anxiety, self-confidence and her relationships with family.[24]

3.5. Between 1987 and 1991, RC-A704 (then aged 11 to 15 years old) told us he was sexually abused by a senior priest, RC-F352. He estimated that he was abused several hundred times and said the abuse included acts of rape. RC-A704 said that after each incident, RC-F352 required him to make confession. He also made it plain to RC-A704 that his sister’s place at the local convent school was dependent on RC-A704’s compliance with his wishes. RC-A704 said the abuse has had a “lifelong impact” on his mental health.[25]

3.6. While at Ampleforth College, in 2005–2010, RC-A30 was sexually abused by her music teacher, Dara De Cogan.[26] When she was 14 years old, De Cogan began to groom her, including by buying her beer at a party.[27] He would snap her bra strap in front of other members of staff and students.[28] When she was 16 years old, he groped her breasts, kissed her neck and put his hand in between her legs.[29] The abuse developed into regular incidents of sexual touching, digital penetration, and giving and receiving oral sex.[30] The abuse lasted for three years. She began to self-harm as a result and continues to have therapy for complex PTSD.[31]

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