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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church Investigation Report

Contents

B.2: The Church’s response

4. The evidence heard during the EBC and Archdiocese of Birmingham public hearings revealed failings by parts of the Church to act in child sexual abuse cases and, in some instances, active steps taken by members of the Church to cover up or frustrate investigations. Some of the evidence we heard is summarised below.

Ampleforth and Downside case study

5. Ten individuals, mostly monks, connected with these institutions have been convicted or cautioned for child sexual abuse offences or offences of possession of indecent images of children.[1] At both institutions, allegations that should have been referred to the police were handled internally. We concluded that there was an overriding concern by both institutions to avoid contact with the police and local authority irrespective of the seriousness of the case. Abbots established their own procedures despite the fact that they lacked expertise in child protection and assessing the risks posed by a perpetrator. There were examples of alleged perpetrators being transferred to another parish or location, including cases where the recipient was not adequately informed of the individual’s risk.

6. At Ampleforth we heard that many perpetrators did not hide their sexual interests in and from children. There was fondling of children and instances of mutual and group masturbation both indoors and outdoors, such that there was a “culture of acceptance” of such behaviour.[2] One of those monks, Father Gregory Carroll, was jailed in 2005 for sexually abusing a number of boys in the 1970s and 1980s.[3] In 2020, he was sentenced to more than 20 years’ imprisonment for historical sexual abuse of an Ampleforth pupil and two boys at the parish he was sent to having left Ampleforth.[4]

7. In around 2012, the headmaster of Downside School, Dom Leo Maidlow Davies, burnt numerous files thought to contain personal records of monks and staff. It was said that the school needed the storage space. It is impossible to say whether these files contained information that might relate to past or future safeguarding allegations but as Dom Leo tellingly accepted, he “wasn’t thinking in safeguarding terms”.[5] The destruction of these records undoubtedly adds to the perception of cover-up at Downside and is indicative of a failure to embed safeguarding in the minds of those with responsibility for child protection.

Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School case study

8. Four individuals (two monks and two lay teachers) from Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School have been convicted of child sexual abuse offences. Those convictions alone related to over 20 children but the Inquiry also received evidence of at least 18 further allegations against these men and eight other monks and teachers.

9. We heard evidence that this abuse was facilitated by a culture of cover-up and denial. There were significant opportunities to stop abusers in the school which were not acted upon. When Martin Shipperlee became Abbot of Ealing Abbey in 2000, he made some improvements to child protection but he also failed to pass on information to the police and those undertaking reviews of safeguarding procedures. The deficiencies in his leadership were compounded by the failures of others around him. This included, for example, Christopher Cleugh, the headmaster of St Benedict’s from 2002 to 2016. Mr Cleugh repeatedly minimised questions of child sexual abuse to teachers, parents and external institutions to the point of misrepresenting significant facts. He was defensive when questioned by external bodies and did not address safeguarding issues openly.

Archdiocese of Birmingham case study

10. At least 13 individuals connected with the Archdiocese of Birmingham have been convicted of child sexual abuse offences. Those cases involved 53 victims. This figure is likely to be an underestimate as, in addition to the criminal cases, from 1935 to 2018, at least 65 other individuals were accused of committing child sexual abuse.[6]

11. There were repeated instances where the Archdiocese failed to notify the police when an allegation was made. Sometimes no action was taken against the perpetrator or the priest was simply moved to another parish. Little, if any, thought was given to the risk posed to children. In some cases we saw no evidence that the receiving parish was even made aware of the allegations. As the Archdiocese of Birmingham accepted:

This Inquiry has heard more than sufficient evidence to be satisfied that during the second half of the last century, the Archdiocese was responsible for a number of institutional failings which on occasions permitted the sexual abuse of children to continue when it might otherwise have been stopped.[7]

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