Benedictines to hold Landmark Child Protection Conference in London
An Article published in ‘La Croix International’
By Elena Curti
Elena Curti is a freelance journalist and a parishioner at Ealing Abbey. You can register for the conference
There was a time when members of the Benedictine community at Ealing Abbey in west London felt too ashamed to leave their monastery. The seemingly endless tide of complaints of sexual abuse by former pupils at their school caused the community to close in on itself.
In a YouTube testimony, Father James Leachman OSB describes the monks’ reactions as they gradually absorbed what happened to former pupils at St. Benedict’s School. “We weren’t talking to each other,” said Father Leachman. “Some of the monks were not able to speak about it. Some were pretending it never happened, some could not go into the street because of the shame. Some were insulted and asked, ‘how can you belong to an organization like this?’ It was so very shocking.”
It is a measure of the changing atmosphere at Ealing Abbey that after more than 12 years of terrible headlines, the community is taking action and organizing a conference on child protection.
The conference — “Growing in Connectedness: Healing the History of Child Sexual Abuse” — takes place on Oct. 21 at St. Benedict’s. It is believed to be the first initiative of its kind by a religious order in England and Wales.
The keynote speaker is the Vatican’s foremost expert on child protection, Father Hans Zollner S.J., well known for the robust line he advocates for dealing with abuse cases and cover-ups.
Father Zollner congratulates Ealing Abbey for trying to do something to raise awareness of the issue in a situation that is “very difficult and very bleak.” He is President of the Centre for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the advisory group set up by Pope Francis in 2014. Father Zollner wants to see structural change that will institute a simple, clear procedure in Rome for handing abuse cases involving religious orders.
He said: “We need to be on top of things in terms of reporting, transparency and accountability and that requires a clear assignment of responsibilities. There is too much overlap with regard to who is responsible for what in the local and global Church when it comes to priests in Religious communities.”
It is impossible to know exactly how many pupils were physically and sexually abused at the independent day school founded by the Ealing monks more than 100 years ago. The majority of reported cases go back to the 1970s and 1980s when survivors describe a brutal regime. Five men have been convicted in connection with abuse: two monks and three lay teachers. But there have been complaints against several other monks, some resulting in financial settlements. The most high profile case concerns a former abbot, Laurence Soper, who jumped police bail and escaped to Kosovo where he lived for five years before his arrest in 2016. He is serving an 18-year prison sentence on 19 charges of rape and other sexual offences against 10 pupils.
In 2010, Abbot Martin Shipperlee OSB commissioned an independent inquiry by the barrister, Lord Carlile of Berriew Q.C., who recommended the monastic community give up control of their school. The abbot reluctantly agreed. The Vatican sent an apostolic delegation to conduct its own investigation.
Father Leachman is the driving force behind the safeguarding conference. He contacted Father Zollner two years ago and then won the support of Abbot Martin.
“We will be entering a conversation,” said Father Leachman. “It will be about how we keep children safe and move on into the future.” Facilitators with expertise in conflict resolution and various forms of abuse, will lead the sessions. A number of survivors will be present anonymously and others will read out accounts of their experiences on their behalf. There will be small group discussions, storytelling and music. It is an approach favored by Father Zollner, who is a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist. He describes a recent event hosted by the Centre for Child Protection at the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius in Rome. “There were 400 people there and there was music, and dance. People were very moved. Many cried. As well as changing norms and structures, you need to touch people’s hearts,” he said.
Five years ago, Abbot Shipperlee appointed facilitators to support the abbey’s 13 monks to help them gradually begin to talk to one another.
An experimental monks’ peer group operated at the monastery over the summer with members taking turns in leading, learning and accompanying as they went. Next month, Ealing Abbey will begin a service offering psychotherapy and counselling to survivors. Ealing Abbey and St. Benedict’s will be in the media spotlight again in 2019 when its abuse record is investigated by a national, statutory body, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The inquiry is examining why institutions, including the Catholic Church in England and Wales, failed to protect children from sexual abuse. In August, IICSA published a highly critical report about two Benedictine boarding schools: Ampleforth in North Yorkshire, known as the Catholic Eton, and Downside in Somerset. It concluded that there was a culture of acceptance of abusive behavior and the prioritization of monks and their reputations over the protection of children. As a result, many believe that the Benedictines’ involvement in schools must now end.
Richard Scorer, of the lawyers, Slater and Gordon, who represents seven victims testifying at the IICSA inquiry into Ealing Abbey said: “It’s difficult given the revelations at IICSA to see how the Benedictine schools can continue to operate in tandem with monasteries. It seems to me that after everything that has happened, there has to be not only a legal but a physical and geographical separation.”
But Father Zollner said there is no evidence that child abuse is specifically a Benedictine problem: “If you look at the figures produced by the Royal Commission in Australia, the number of cases involving Benedictines was no different to cases in other religious congregations and in dioceses. “What we need is consistency of formation and screening for admission to religious life or seminary and ongoing formation. There needs to be a common agreed policy for everyone.”
Ealing Abbey is next door to St. Benedict’s School and Abbot Shipperlee is aware of the suggestion that the monks should move somewhere else. Rather than respond, he wants to concentrate on learning what makes a member of a religious community abuse children. He said: “Abuse doesn’t fall from a clear blue sky, it comes out of a context. The people abusing now, the people abusing in the 1980s did not invent it. They learned it somehow or other. “If you say it’s all about this particular problem, you can say, OK, you can send the malefactors to jail. And you can put the schools under independent management and you can move the monasteries to the Hebrides or get rid of them altogether but it won’t stop it. None of those things will stop it.”
Father Zollner is also convinced that structural changes alone will not make a difference.
“We need a change of attitude and a change of culture. We can say it is only by introducing guidelines that things turn around but people need to take personal responsibility for speaking out and not allow themselves to sink into a sort of complacency. “We cannot do that if we want to prevent abuse. We need constant and sustained attention and action,” he said.
What happened to the Catholic Church?
Money, sex and absolute power corrupting absolutely
by Arthur Jones
(A National Catholic Reporter Article)
“Lessons to be Learned from the Catholic Church,” a study of management practices by the American Institute of Management in the 1940s and updated in 1960 made the following recommendations:
• Avoid nepotism
• Haste in some directions, delay in other
• Use of elderly men in staff capabilities
• Operating efficiency: As of now the atmosphere of the Vatican exudes efficiency. From the time clocks for all personnel to the extraordinarily long hours of the pope himself, one senses an immensity of details is handled quickly and handled well. Great decisions are often made quickly despite the protocol and secrecy. Literally everything is kept under lock and key. The pope (Pius XII) carries the key to his own desk.
• Effectiveness of leadership: the church’s recent leadership (John XXIII) has been “extremely effective. The present pope has wisely selected bishops a step above the previous type.
• Fiscal policies: no other organization within our area of knowledge does so much with so little.
Ironically, the word “nepotism” comes from the action of those Cardinals in Rome who heaped benefits on their “nephews.”
What the two American Institute of Management reports reflect is a feverish pace inside the Vatican. From my own time as a reporter spent inside the Vatican in 1984, in the Secretariat of State in particular, that appeared to be so.
This, of course, flies in the face of the not unfamiliar and quite justified complaints of dioceses and archdioceses worldwide that they were not receiving prompt — or even eventual — answers to their queries and problems.
Slightly facetiously in the Forbes article in 1985, this comparison was drawn: the Roman Curia — which functions both as the administrative center and the church’s back office — had 1,800 employees. One bureaucrat for every 450,000 Catholics. Were the U.S. government administrative center and back office to adopt the same ratio at that time, there would have been 511 employees.
Looked at in reverse, the figures may well indicate that the Vatican, post-World War II, was and still is short-staffed, and — relying on the “free” labor of priests and women religious as it did — the staff is overworked. Understaffed and overworked. Neither of those is a recipe for efficiency.
Everything pointed to a Vatican in which the upper echelon was unconstrained except by the pope. The only hope of change inside is from the top down. Everyone else is too busy.
Working conditions inside the Apostolic Palace were cramped. There were no “personal” offices in the American sense, and meetings took place in small rooms. Most Western metropolitan archdioceses have more spacious quarters and many probably have, or had at the time, larger annual budgets.
The declining Vatican workforce mentioned in the 1985 Forbes report is now omnipresent in the Western church. So, back to the “what happened?” element, and what did not happen.
After the earliest centuries, the full-blooded commitment to the poor that Jesus proclaimed did not continue. Poverty remained a major topic in church teaching, but in practice, a side issue. The great example of how far the church had strayed is St. Francis of Assisi, who also offered a solution.
According to biographer Adolf Holl, Francis took the virtue of poverty away from the involuntary poor, and gave it to the wealthy. He redefined poverty “in such a way that only Christians could really appreciate it and aspire to it.”
“That was a frightening message for much of the church hierarchy of the day,” writes Holl in his book, The Last Christian: A Biography of Francis of Assisi, “and remains a frightening one for most Western Christians today.”
Francis triggered “a violent ideological crisis in the Church” that “raged over his Testament and ideal of poverty, and its effects on a corrupt society,” Holl said. A century after Francis’ death, Dante hailed Francis as “the sun risen in Assisi.” Three years before Dante’s death, the first reformed Franciscans — those who had returned to Francis’ lifestyle and preaching — were burned at the stake in Marseilles.
How did the institution handle Franciscan poverty? In a manner of speaking, it buried it. The example is in Assisi itself. Francis’ humble little church, La Porziuncola, is wrapped inside a basilica filled with trappings Francis himself spurned.
Francis died as the Church-in-Rome was gearing up to become the premier financial power in Western Europe. By the 15th century — with plans for St. Peter’s Basilica underway — the church, according to the authors of Sacred Trust: The Medieval Church as an Economic Firm, would control 40 percent of Western Europe’s most valuable agricultural lands.
Francis had understood what was happening. Jesus had not come to found a community that within 1,500 years could take its place on the Forbes Rich List. Jesus had not intended the successors of Peter to be extolled as some of history’s finest corporate managers by the American Institute of Management. Jesus had founded a community of and for the poor, yet most of its top leaders were wallowing with the wealthy or in personal wealth. Meanwhile, the Church-in-Rome’s Vatican ended up as a stop on the Treasure Houses of the World Tour.
During the Middle Ages, the monasteries were manufactories. The profits from beer, wine and leatherware, created in the monks’ ingeniously water-powered factories, were funneled to Rome. The church controlled the wool market, a veritable monopoly, and set minimum and maximum prices. The monasteries created wealth at a rate unknown again until the Industrial Revolution.
Money was pouring into Rome, and Rome learned to treat its outlying sources of wealth as corporate divisions. No matter how much money arrived, Rome always needed more — for it was time to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica and create the modern Vatican vista.
Income from indulgences (guarantees of favors from God) became a cheap source of quick wealth with little outlay. Marketing pitches that today’s call centers couldn’t match scared people into donating money for indulgences to make purgatory less painful and possibly to sidestep hell itself.
In a classic case of market overreach, the indulgences debacle was key to disaster and led to the Church-in-Rome’s losing the Catholic Church’s dominion in Northern Europe. Rome had now lost most of its 400 southern Mediterranean dioceses to Islam, “lost” the Eastern Christian Church to Constantinople, and lost Northern Europe to Luther and Protestantism. Today’s losses in the Northern and Southern hemisphere are too much in the news to need discussing here.
The Church-in-Rome became accustomed to spending vast amounts of money. To ease its erratic post-Reformation cash flow, it increasingly relied on borrowing, from the Fuggers, who were renowned international bankers and venture capitalists, and then, as the centuries advanced, from the Rothschilds.
Internally, financial reward came for favorite bishops and cardinals through papal preferments: lucrative assignments to lucrative archdioceses, to highly paid sinecures in the Papal Army and other papal service.
Through the centuries, what happened in the Church-in-Rome stayed in the Church-in-Rome. Just as the basilica wrapped around Francis’ La Porziuncula, the Vatican wrapped its sheltering walls around its financial and sexual errants.
All this was possible because the Church-in-Rome was and is essentially an all-male cult: costumery, ritual vesting, a preoccupation with minutia, the aim of total control — plus misogyny and secrecy. For centuries the errant cliques prevailed, or lived on in the Vatican shadows. Overall, with sloppy or non-existent internal accounting and the acceptance of sexual predators, the Old Boys Club generally found ways of looking after each other, or looking after themselves, or looking the other way — except for those courageous and obviously generally ignored members who sought change and yet, given the system, could be disregarded or even rebuffed.
Making the transition in this article from money to sex returns the topic to pedophilia. That topic was hard to write about in 1985, and no less so now; it also was essential to cover in 1985, and no less so now.
One way back into the topic is through Leo X, the de’ Medici pope at the time of Martin Luther’s Wittenberg 95 theses. There is a debate among historians about Leo’s character and conduct. Historian Michael Mullet contends Luther said Leo had vetoed a restriction on the number of boys that cardinals could keep for sexual purposes.
Raising the Mullet-Luther-Leo charge makes the point that pedophilia in the upper circles of the Rome-centered hierarchy was not unknown then or down the ages and was always an equally difficult and inflammatory topic.
Now add celibacy to the mix. The century before Francis of Assisi was born, Rome had imposed mandatory celibacy for priests (Second Lateran Council, 1139). Why celibacy? Money, as usual.
Celibacy had previously been a gift the potential monk or cleric could offer to God. It had not been a requirement. The first pope, Peter, was a married man, and married priests and bishops existed for the first 1,100-plus years. With celibacy a requirement for ordination, the Church-in-Rome had imposed a limit on sexual activity that many (or, perhaps most?) men find extremely difficult in practice.
The issue was money because, under primogeniture, the sons of bishops and priests had a legal claim on the land and holdings of the priestly “living.” Celibacy scotched that at a stroke — and contributed further to an existing problem of clerical sexual activity.
Outside of Rome, throughout the centuries, in seminaries — as in many religious and secular boys’ schools and orphanages — the situation was rife for abuse and an attractive possible career situation to those attracted to that form of abuse as a sexual-psychological outlet.
I was a Catholic in a 16th century Anglican boys’ school. It was a day school, not a starched-collar, black-jacketed boarding school. But even there one heard Anglican boys — regarding their own parish churches — occasionally utter cautions such as, “you don’t go into the choir loft alone with the curate.”
The issue, however, is not avoidance. It is abuse, the abuse of many thousands of boys and girls, young men and young women, by Catholic priests worldwide. The abuse robbed victims of their innocence, their trust and their self-worth, while inflicting them with confusion about their own sexual development.
As grotesque as that abuse is, the cover-up by the bishops is “a sin that cries out to Heaven for justice,” though not on the list. It reveals the rot at the protect-the-church’s-image center. The revelations have hurled a rock through the church’s stained-glass-window opaqueness. That window that needs to be replaced with plain glass.
Outside of our Anglican school, Catholics had the Benedictines. We knew we were a minority religion (8 percent), that Catholicism had been proscribed until the previous century, and that we didn’t have bishops until the mid-19th century (1850).
What we also learned was that in addition to Saint Benedict as a model, we had three 19th century English Catholic stalwarts:
• Cardinal John Henry Newman: “conscience first.”
• Cardinal Henry Edward Manning: “the poor and dispossessed.”
• And, to return to the point made at the start of Part One: historian and equerry to Queen Victoria, Lord Acton, who correctly declared: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Which gets to the heart of “What Happened to the Catholic Church?” High and low, from pastor to pope, across the centuries “power tended to corrupt, and absolute power corrupted absolutely.”
It is as it was, a culture of power and corruption. Like a pox, there are large and small pustules of power and corruption. The malignant gene runs through almost two millennia. The way the system is set up makes it possible, makes it flourish. Corruption flourishes according to the degree of secrecy — and protection.
That’s it. That’s what happened to the Catholic Church.
Many voices can contribute to the how of banishing the secrecy in the Catholic Church. Most banishments would take but several strokes of the papal pen.
Mine, for starters:
Transparency at every level. Decision-making by the broadest available spectrum, lay and clerical.
Publish all church accounts everywhere, especially in Rome, and certainly in their entirety. Add in the requirement that cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests must submit an audited account of their own worth and holdings prior to retirement. Most of the money they handle is not theirs, though many treat it as such.
What else? Admit women to the highest offices. That would end the male cult, and create sufficient chaos for a couple of Councils to sort out.
Finally, male or female, permit priests to marry.
Will this, or anything, happen?
I have a young friend who recently left to study for the priesthood. Seated next to him in a church pew the day of his leaving, I said to him in this time of uncertainty in Rome, plus the rise of Catholic fundamentalism in the United States, and elsewhere, “You, and those like you, may have to live as latter-day 5th and 6th century monks, glimmers of light in a new Dark Ages, surviving in the modern equivalent of the earlier islands and edges of the inlets, keeping the true flame alight and alive.”
[Arthur Jones is a former editor and publisher of NCR.]
Mark Stephen Murray
New information revealed on the serious scope of clergy sexual abuse in Italy
Italian survivors demand open investigation by the United Nations on clergy sexual abuse.
Three events are being organized by Rete L’ABUSO to demonstrate the serious scope of clergy sexual abuse in Italy.
Ending Clergy Abuse – Global Justice Project (ECA Global) is supporting these events and will be represented by three of its founding members: Matthias Katsch, spokesperson with ECKIGER TISCH (Squared Table) and member of the board of ECA Global from Germany, Marek Lisiński, President of the Foundation Nie lękajcie sie from Poland, Lieve Halsberghe, activist from Belgium.
2nd October, at 10.30 am, the Press conference organized by Rete L’ABUSO and by ECA Global will be held at the Foreign Press conference room in Italy, in Via dell’Umiltà 83C. All press, included Italian press are invited.
During the conference the President of Rete L’ABUSO, Francesco Zanardi, will illustrate the scope of the Italian situation regarding clergy sexual abuse. The serious extent of the crisis in Italy has a much larger dimension than in other countries due to the total absence of effective interventions and preventive measures by the last Governments in power, which until today seem disinterested in the phenomenon.
During the meeting Rete L’ABUSO will present recent initiatives promoted in the last few months. Rete L’ABUSO will outline the parliamentary issue on the phenomenon of pedophile priests filed by the Honorable Matteo Mantero last November and the warning to the Government last February and we will also detail the open investigation we hope the United Nations will spearhead towards our country.
The President of Rete L’ABUSO and the lawyer Mario Caligiuri will illustrate the new complaints about pedophilia against Italian institutions which have failed to properly address the situation. A report will also be sent to the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations in Geneva, which will mainly affect the Prosecutor’s offices of the Republic of: Rome, Milan, Como, Verona, Naples, Pavia.
3rd October, 2018
Meeting of victims and sit-ins at the Vatican
The program of this meeting is divided into two phases;
9 am at the Radical Party conference room in via Torre Argentina 76 (Rome), there will be a meeting between the Italian victims, open to the public after 10.30 am. Those present at the meeting will be the President of the Rete L ‘ABUSO, Francesco Zanardi, representatives of ECA Global who will arrive from Germany, Belgium, and Poland and representatives of the Association Sordi Provolo of Verona. Also attending the meeting will be Maurizio Turco, radical exponent who has been dealing with the case in Italy in the last 20 years, the lawyer Mario Caligiuri, consultant of Rete L’ABUSO for the Lazio region, and the Public Prosecutor of Rete L’ABUSO. Mario Caligiuri has been instrumental in promoting the initiatives against the Italian Government, which includes the warning issued on February 18, that will be sent to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. At this event, attorney Caligiuri will also illustrate the complaint against the Government, accused of aiding pedophilia. A complaint that will affect several Public Prosecutors in Italy, including that of Rome, Milan, Como, Verona, Naples, Pavia.
During the meeting the former students of the Institute Antonio Provolo of Verona, will be presented who are the victims of presbyter Pius X in the Vatican and those of the priests: Don Silverio Mura, Don Marino Genoa, Don Mauro Galli, Monsignor Angelo Pio Loco: all cases currently in the attention of the Italian Judicial Authority, as well as other victims of Italian priests who have already been judged or prescribed. The meeting will also be attended by representatives from the Association Sordi Provolo.
3 pm, there will be a sit-in of the survivors,also open to the public, which will take place in front of the Vatican, in the gardens of Castel S. Angelo.
WHO WE ARE
Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) is a global justice organization of prominent clergy abuse survivor leaders and human rights activists from over 18 countries and 4 continents. ECA compels the Roman Catholic Church to end clergy abuse, especially child sexual abuse, in order to protect children and to seek justice for victims.https://www.ecaglobal.org – @ENDCLERGYABUSE –firstname.lastname@example.org
Rete L’ABUSO “Associazione dei sopravvissuti agli abusi sessuali del clero”
Rete L’ABUSO è un’organizzazione no profit che combattere gli abusi sessuali su minori, in particolare quelli commessi dalle confessioni religiose.
Creata dalle vittime nel 2010, oggi, oltre a fornire assistenza gratuita alle vittime, sul suo blog ospita un dettagliato database dei casi raccolti in una mappa che rende davvero l’idea del fenomeno in Italia.
“QUENCH NOT THE SPIRIT”
(St Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Thessalonians 5:19)
A message to the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in these troubled times of Sexual Abuse Allegations.
by Brian Mark Hennessy.
Truth is an eternal constant. It has no hues, nor tints, nor shades. It cannot fade, nor change, nor disappear, nor dwindle over time. Nor can Truth be weathered by wind and rain, nor dissolved and nor replaced. Truth shines in the darkness. Even a diamond of hardest stone has no light of its own in the darkness of night. A diamond can be cut and multi-faceted only to reflect and steal its glints and hues from the myriad lights of God’s own day. Truth has no malleable form. It is not like iron in a blacksmith’s forge where a muscled arm and hammer and anvil can bend or twist and turn its shape or flatten it, or plump it out or pierce it with an eye.
Truth has an unearthly quality. Truth humbles the great and enriches the poor. It cannot be bought with money nor power, be altered by Popes or Bishops, or Kings or Queens, nor Emperors, nor oligarchs, nor strength of numbers, nor generals with armies bristling with swords. Truth cannot be concealed by robes and britches or gowns and cloaks, nor by cassocks and vestments and fancy dress. Nor can it be hid beneath crowns, nor mitres, nor scarlet tassled Cardinal’s hats, nor Judges wigs . It is without blemish and distortion. Truth cannot be changed by lawyers words and legal arguments, by a comma here, a semi-colon or a full-stop there in documents and legal writs and lengthy briefs. Truth is never daunted or dimmed, nor will ever be overwhelmed with fears, nor bought by gifts or gold.
Truth is healing. It is the balm that soothes a wound and assuages pain. It refreshes like the first raindrop to fall on a parched desert. It is the Bearer of peace, the Forgiver of enmities, the Reconciler of adversaries and the Announcer of new beginnings. It is the Hand of friendship and the Bestower of joy and grace to aching hearts and the Comforter of the dying man. Truth is consolation. It wipes away tears, calms anxieties, steadies a racing pulse, relaxes the tensions on a traumatised face. Truth dispels the agonies of a heart and the tortures of a mind. Truth casts out doubts and fears and dries our weeping tears. Truth is Justice. It is a victory, both for those who bore ill and those who were maligned. Truth heals rifts and discords and forgives wrongs, replaces stolen innocence with contrite tears and restores the treasures of the heart that were taken forcibly by trespassers and thieves.
Truth is the Light in darkness. It blesses him that speaks it and those who hear it. Truth brings Hope as does the distant shine of a lighthouse in a tumultuous sea. It sparkles in the eye of a blind man. It is the sudden glimpse of dawn in a dark night, a sunbeam escaping from a clouded sky. It is the first day of Spring at the end of a bitter winter or the first spark of a fire in a cold room. It is that lingering glint of sun on a shimmering sea and more constant than a distant star in a spiralling galaxy.
Truth is Godly. It welcomes God into our hearts. Truth is God’s gift to man: for the man who utters Truth shares in a moment of the goodness of His godliness, senses a brief second of God’s infinity and absorbs one smallest jot of His wisdom. When Truth is said a man will grasp it in his hand and never let go. He will store it in his heart, stare at it when it is writ down. His fingers will trace its letters on a page over and over again and others seeing it will point to it in recognition, bow their heads before it and repeat it aloud to teach their babes. God demands that Truth be spoken and not hid.