Catastrophic Institutional Failures Can Be Fixed

Comments on the Recommendations of the Australian Royal Commission
by Kieran Tapsell

[Kieran Tapsell is a retired civil lawyer and the author of Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse and of a submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Canon Law, A Systemic Factor in Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church. He was also a member of the canon law panel before the Australian Royal Commission Feb. 9, 2017.]

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse spent five years interviewing over 8,000 survivors, their abusers and personnel from institutions that had covered up the abuse. The Commission found that 61.8 percent of all survivors within religious institutions had been under the care of the Catholic Church. The Commission’s 17 volume Final Report, released on Dec. 15, 2017, made hundreds of recommendations for change in structures, practices and internal laws of institutions. Many of the recommendations addressed to the church involved changes to canon law. Two of these recommendations received massive media attention: that celibacy no longer be obligatory and that civil reporting laws should not provide an exemption in the case of confession. There has been some pushback against these recommendations because they involve overturning long traditions in the church. But many other recommendations had more to do with church law and practice, and could be more easily implemented, if church leadership is willing to take up this challenge.

Recommendation 16.10: Abolish the pontifical secret
One important recommendation challenges the church to return to its long tradition from the 4th to the 19th century of requiring clergy child sexual abusers to be handed over to the civil authorities for punishment. The decrees of four church councils and three popes to this effect were abrogated by the 1917 Code of Canon Law, and in 1922, and thereafter canon law imposed the strictest secrecy over such matters. One of the most significant recommendations is that the pontifical secret should not apply “to any aspect of allegations or canonical disciplinary processes relating to child sexual abuse” (Rec. 16.10). The secret of the Holy Office was imposed in 1922 by Pope Pius XI on all information about the sexual abuse of minors, and that was extended in 1974 by Pope Paul VI’s Secreta Continere under which the pontifical secret covered even the allegation. It provided no exceptions for reporting to the police, and told the bishops that there was no room for the exercise of conscience in the matter. The Commission found that “the Holy See considered that bishops were not free to report allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy to civil authorities before and during the 1990s and early 2000s.”

The pontifical secret is still imposed by Art. 30 of Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela of Pope John Paul II, as revised by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. In 2002, the Holy See granted a dispensation to the United States to allow reporting where the civil law required it, and that dispensation was extended to the rest of the world in 2010. The Commission found that the pontifical secret still applies where there are no applicable civil reporting laws. The Italian and Polish Catholic Bishops conferences seem to agree, because they announced in 2014 and 2015 that their bishops would not be reporting these crimes to the police because their countries’ laws did not require it.

The recommendation to abolish the pontifical secret over child sexual abuse is in line with similar requests in 2014 by the United Nations’ human rights committees on the rights of the child and against torture. Pope Francis in his formal response of Sept. 24, 2014, rejected the request.

Recommendation 16.55 – A more balanced standard of proof
An equally important factor in the church’s failure to protect children is the dysfunctional nature of its disciplinary system. The Commission found that it is slow, “cumbersome, complex and confusing,” and that “the Vatican’s approach to child sexual abuse by clergy was protective of the offender.” The Australian Church authorities were reluctant to use it for these reasons. The result was that more children were abused than would otherwise have been had the abusers been quickly weeded out. Civil law prosecutions of abusive priests may fail because the criminal standard in Anglo/American law is proof beyond reasonable doubt. The church disciplinary system may have to deal with an acquitted priest who could still be a danger to children, but the standard of proof required for dismissal is “moral certainty,” the equivalent of proof beyond reasonable doubt. A practical illustration of the problem is the case of a Sydney priest who was acquitted of a criminal offence of sexual assault, and was then unsurprisingly acquitted by a canonical court over the same facts. The Commission found it was inappropriate to have such a high standard of proof for disciplinary matters, and recommended that canon law be changed to allow a test based on the balance of probabilities.

Recommendations 16.11 and 16.56 – Real zero tolerance
The Commission criticized a solely “pastoral approach”, as it was worded, embodied in Crimen Sollicitationis and Canon 1341 (for clerics) and Canon 697 (for religious brothers and sisters) of the 1983 Code which required superiors to rebuke, warn or try to cure those against whom allegations are made before subjecting them to a canonical trial. The Commission said that the “pastoral approach” had a negative effect in two ways on the church’s response: It encouraged the belief that child sexual abuse was a moral failure “rather than a crime that should be reported to the police”; and it inhibited canonical action for dismissal because the pastoral approach was a precondition to instituting it. The Commission found that the “pastoral approach” had led to “catastrophic institutional failure” in dealing with child sexual abuse and recommended abolition of the precondition.
The figures that Francis presented to the United Nations in 2014 demonstrated that only one quarter of all priests found to have sexually abused children had been dismissed. That’s 75 percent tolerance, not zero.

Another example of the “pastoral approach” can be found in the practice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to allow priests who admitted abusing children to “live a life of prayer and penance” rather than being dismissed. Pope Francis has claimed that he and Benedict XVI practiced “zero tolerance” for child sexual abuse. Zero tolerance in a professional context invariably means dismissal. The figures that Francis presented to the United Nations in 2014 demonstrated that only one quarter of all priests found to have sexually abused children had been dismissed. That’s 75 percent tolerance, not zero. The Commission has recommended real zero tolerance, the dismissal in all cases of child sexual abuse.

Recommendation 16.12 – No statute of limitations
Prior to the 1983 Code, there was no limitation period for canonical trials for child sexual abuse. Pope John Paul II in 1983 introduced a year-year limitation period, which meant that if a 10-year-old child was abused, and did not complain by the age of 15, the canonical crime simply disappeared, and no action for dismissal could be taken. A study in 2000 by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference of 402 cases of sexual abuse of minors indicated that the limitation period had expired in 96.77 percent of them. The Holy See extended the period in 2001 to 10 years from the age of minority of the victim and in 2010 to 20 years, plus a power to extend it beyond that. The Commission found that the average time in which the survivors told anyone of the abuse was 33 years. It recommended that the church return to its pre-1983 policy of no limitation period, and that such a change should operate retrospectively.

Recommendation 16.13 – Amend the ‘imputability’ test
Another discouragement for bishops wishing to dismiss a priest was the “imputability” defence in Canon 1321. Imputability means that the accused was responsible for his actions. Under the 1917 Code, imputability was assumed unless it was disproved by “moral certainty.” Pope John Paul II watered this down in his 1983 Code, whereby imputability was assumed “unless it is otherwise apparent,” thus creating a Catch-22 defence for abusers: a cleric cannot be dismissed for pedophilia because he is a pedophile. Two serial Irish pedophiles had their dismissals by Dublin canonical courts overturned by Rome because they had been diagnosed as pedophiles. The Commission recommended that the ‘imputability’ test in canon law be amended “so that a diagnosis of pedophilia is not relevant to the prosecution of or penalty for a canonical offence relating to child sexual abuse.”

  Recommendations 16.15 and 16.16 – Keep tribunals local and transparent
The Commission recommended the setting up of an Australian canonical tribunal to hear complaints against clergy, with Rome being involved only as an appellate court (Rec. 16.15). It also recommended that Vatican congregations and courts publish reasons for their disciplinary decisions (Rec. 16.16).

Recommendations 7.8, 7.10 and 33 – Mandatory reporting laws
On the civil law front, the Commission recommended that state supervisory bodies be set up to deal with “reportable conduct” which would then allow that body to supervise any disciplinary proceedings instigated against the accused. It also recommended that all Australian states and territories have comprehensive mandatory reporting laws for child abuse in institutions. The Royal Commission found that the church was seriously out of step with community standards in dealing with child sexual abuse, and that it suffered a “catastrophic failure of leadership.” If Pope Francis does not accept these recommendations, the reaction may very well be the same as that of the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, in a speech to Parliament in 2011 after the publication of the Cloyne Report, an Irish government report on clerical sex abuse:

Cardinal Josef Ratzinger said: ‘Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church.’ As the Holy See prepares its considered response to the Cloyne Report, as Taoiseach, I am making it absolutely clear, that when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic. Not purely, or simply or otherwise. Children first!


Pope Francis’ trip to Chile & Peru Needs To Restore Trust In The Catholic Church by Joshua J. McElwee – Followed by a Commentary by Brian Mark Hennessy ( A member of the Comboni Survivor Group)

Pope Francis’ trip to Chile & Peru Needs To Restore

Trust In The Catholic Church


Extracts from a National Catholic Reporter Article by Vatican correspondent

Joshua J. McElwee


The pope is preparing to embark on a trip to Chile and Peru that may shift the focus from politics to problems inside the church community. Local observers and prominent expatriate voices say attention during the Jan. 15-21 visit may center on how Francis can help the Chilean church regain trustworthiness after a recent spate of cases of clergy sexual abuse. Complicating that possibility, observers say, is Francis’ own record on the abuse issue, especially his 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno, Chile. Barros has been accused of covering up abuse by a prominent priest in the 1980s and ’90s.

Mario Paredes, who has advised both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops on Latin American issues for decades, told National Catholic Reporter that he hoped the pope could help Chile’s hierarchy “restore the credibility that in recent years it has lost. No matter how you look at it, those cases have been horrendous, scandalous, and the church has lost credibility,” said Paredes, a Chile native who is now CEO of Advocate Community Partners, a network of primary care physicians in New York City. “I expect that he will make a strong appeal for a church that is really transparent and truthful.”

But Jesuit Fr. Antonio Delfau, the former longtime editor of the Jesuit ‘Mensaje’ magazine, said the Barros appointment undercuts what Francis might be able to achieve while in the country. “One of the bishops appointed by this pope is a bishop that is questioned not only by the people of the place, but also by most of the other bishops,” said Delfau, now based in Rome as the assistant to the Jesuit curia’s general treasurer. “That’s a big problem.” Barros, who served as the head of Chile’s military diocese until Francis moved him to the small southern city of Osorno in 2015, has been accused of protecting Fr. Fernando Karadima, who was sentenced by the Vatican to a life of prayer and penance in 2011. Though Barros was not implicated in Karadima’s canonical trial, victims say the bishop destroyed incriminating correspondence from the priest. Other victims claim Barros was even a witness to some of the sexual abuse.

Captured on video speaking to a Chilean in the crowd at a May 2015 general audience at the Vatican, the pope said people were judging Barros “without any evidence” and even said the allegations against the bishop were being orchestrated by “lefties.” “Osorno suffers, yes, but for being foolish, because they do not open their hearts to what God says, and instead get carried away by all this silliness,” Francis said. José Andrés Murillo, executive director of ‘Para la Confianza’, a Chilean foundation that helps survivors of sexual abuse, said people in Osorno were “completely shocked” when the video of that encounter was made public by a local news channel in October 2015. “They expected from the pope a reaction of compassion or comprehension,” but instead “received this very aggressive reaction,” Murillo said. “What the people are feeling toward the pope I think is not anger,” he said. “It is sadness. Why can the pope not comprehend the concerns of the people?”

Francis will be visiting Chile Jan. 15-18 before heading on to northern neighbour Peru through Jan. 21. His schedule in both countries follows a familiar format: He will spend his nights in the countries’ respective capitals of Santiago and Lima, but travel to different cities on successive days. As usual, the pope will meet with the nations’ presidents, Michelle Bachelet in Chile and Pedro Kuczynski in Peru; speak to the bishops in each country; and host encounters with young people and priests and religious. Murillo suggested that local attention in Chile may be drawn most to Francis’ Jan. 16 meeting with the country’s bishops and to a possible, but yet unconfirmed, meeting with survivors of sexual abuse. “The most important word I think the bishops should hear from the pope is to listen to the people, listen to normal Catholics,” Murillo said. “The bishops only hear people who say what they want to hear. They don’t accept the crisis that they are suffering. And they think they are not in a crisis.” Asked about a possible meeting with survivors, Murillo responded simply: “This is what Jesus would do.” The pope, he said, should “not only have a meeting with victims … but demonstrate that he is on the same side as the victims and not on the same side as the aggressors.”



Why Survivors Of Sexual Abuse By Priests

Doubt The Commitment Of The Catholic Church

By Brian Mark Hennessy – Comboni Survivor Group

(The ‘Comboni Survivor Group’ are ‘Core Participants’ in the United Kingdom Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse)

The above article raises specific concerns about Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno and thereby poses more wide-sweeping questions about the commitment of the Catholic Church to the challenging issues of child sexual abuse. For some victims it poses additional and worrying questions about the underlying true nature of Pope Francis’ position on that issue also. No one could reasonably doubt the Pope’s abject horror at the thought of the sexual violation of children. However, there has been a creeping suspicion amongst many victims of clerical abuse that this Pope’s early stance on the issue (at the time of and soon after his election) will not be followed through with any meaningful action. The most remembered comments of this Pope are his indictment, ‘There is no place in the Church for Clerics who abuse children!’ and his address on the same issue on the occasion of his visit to the United States, ‘God Weeps!’ Those messages gave hope to the survivors of sexual abuse that their suffering was understood and was about to be recognized. It has not worked out quite like that. The misery of their life-long psychological disorientation and their loss of Hope and Faith has not been assuaged – and they no longer look to the Catholic Church for a future that will be brighter.

The appointment and later defence by Pope Francis of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno, Chile, is a matter of concern, but there have been other examples of the Pope going back on his promises. Most notably was the lack of follow through on his proposed establishment of a Tribunal to examine Bishops and Religious Superiors who covered up sexual crimes and who had given safe haven to clerics who had committed abuse. He allowed other prelates, including Cardinals, to quietly resign after a filial chat. I cannot recall any Bishops being removed from their thrones, albeit there may have been some of whom I am unaware. There was one Archbishop who was summoned to Rome to be tried at a Tribunal of the Holy Rota for his own contemporary abuse of children – but he died of a heart attack awaiting trial. The predictable conspiracy theories of Borgia-style malevolence have surrounded that incident.

From the standpoint of the Comboni Survivors, the Group is aware of at least 25 seminarians who were sexually abused by Comboni Missionary Order priests and a lay brother at the Stillington and Mirfield seminaries in Yorkshire and the London Elstree seminary between the early 1960’s to the beginning of the 1980’s. Not all the priests accused of abuse in those years have been named publicly by survivors, but their names are known to the Group and their movements to new locations are constantly tracked. One, named Padre Romano Nardo, is held at a secret location to prevent the knowledge of his whereabouts becoming known to the Comboni Survivor Group. Those priests openly accused of abuse have been the subject of credible statements which were provided by a dozen seminarians and other witnesses – some of whom are now ordained clergy. Additional statements were made to the West Yorkshire Police who determined the statements to be both credible and consistent. There are just over 40 such statements in all. The total number of individual sexual assaults on these seminarians has been calculated to have been in the region of 1000, albeit the precise figure will never be known. Admittedly, that is a frighteningly high figure, but as some of those seminarians claim to have been abused almost routinely night after night and week after week during term times over periods as long as two years, it can be understood that the final count will be very significant. Nevertheless, whatever the exact figure may be, each case was an undoubted serious crime in its own right. A document detailing this abuse was collated over a period of two to three years from those witness statements and by interviews. The Comboni Missionary Order’s response to the document and some subsequent civil actions was simple. They said it all happened so long ago that the truth cannot now be determined – if it ever happened at all.

The former Chair of the UK Catholic Safeguarding Commission approached the Order on a number of occasions to ask them to adopt a more conciliatory manner with the Victims, but the Comboni Order would have none of it and refused all dialogue. Ultimately, a copy of the document was taken by hand of Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster to Rome and handed by him in person to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). He did so, according to one source, because he considered the Comboni Missionary Order’s response to the matter to be ‘foolish’. That was two years ago – and there has been no response from CDF to date. Why? Well, apparently, there are so many other cases awaiting study at the Vatican that CDF cannot cope. They have been so overwhelmed that they cannot even acknowledge a receipt of the documents sent to them – besides which, the Prefect of CDF, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller once explained, he did not consider it necessary anyway. That was the moment, some readers will recall, when Marie Collins resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. (That Commission has since fallen into a state of temporary abeyance, I should add, and there is yet no sign of it being re-constituted). Moreover, the Pope has intimated himself in the last couple of weeks that the

Vatican lay ‘civil service’ is an immovable log jam of retrenched incompetence (my paraphrase). That inspires me with no confidence that I will receive a response in my natural life span – and so I am taking much exercise, have abandoned red meat and I am drinking no alcohol in an attempt to extend it. It is no secret that I firmly believe that the early natural death of Victims is what the Catholic Church hopes for – if you get my reasoning.

Whilst there is no answer to why there is a delay in the response in CDF responding that I can reasonably provide, there may be other factors affecting that delay. For instance, three consecutive Superior Generals of the Italian Comboni Missionary Order, based in Rome, have now had audiences with this Pope. One of those is currently the Secretary General of the Union Of Superiors General working within the Vatican walls (as does another Bishop belonging to the Comboni Order). I have to ask whether or not these Comboni hierarchs, three of whom have shown varying degrees of hostility to the Victims, have whispered into the ear of this Pope something akin to what they have also published in the UK press: “It all happened so long ago that the truth cannot now be determined – if it ever happened at all”.

Some readers might be surprised that I would even begin to suggest that a Catholic Order would abandon the charitable and caring Gospel message of Christ, but one member of the Comboni Survivor Group has suffered outright public hostility from the Order very recently. The circumstance, much publicized in the Italian press at the time, was the occasion of a visit of a former child Victim of abuse to see his abuser to gain understanding of the reason why he had been selected for the abuse. That Victim believed, hopefully, that his understanding and subsequent forgiveness of the priest concerned would put his own mind at rest. He did indeed meet the priest who apologized for the hurt inflicted on the former 14 year old – and the victim did forgive him in return. A ‘happy ending’ appeared to be the result of this interaction – until the former Victim opened his mail one morning in North Wales and was greeted with a Court Summons from the Criminal Court of Verona in Italy for ‘trespassing, stalking and interfering in the life of the priest’ (who had abused him when he was a young teenager)! The action had been taken, presumably, at the behest of the Comboni’s new Superior General – whose metaphorical finger prints were all over the wording of the summons. Ultimately, the Judge ruled that there was no evidence for any of the charges and dismissed the case. The hostile Comboni Order, suffering a large dose of unwarranted ‘chagrin’, appealed. The astute, wise and most judicious Appeal Judge again dismissed the case as baseless – adding that the Victim was to be commended for forgiving the childhood abuse perpetrated by the priest!

The implication of the Judge’s dismissal of the Appeal was that since the original charges were dismissed as baseless, the subsequent appeal by the Comboni Order was tantamount to making false allegations – and that was, ‘per se’ illegal. Nevertheless, the Victim ended up paying for expensive Court fees for his defence counsel at the two trial cases at Verona Criminal Tribunal. A third trial is now in the offing, but this time it will be the Comboni Order in the dock for making false allegations against the Victim! In due course we will see how that one is adjudicated!

The Comboni Missionary Order has some 1,500 members across the world – working mostly in Africa and South America. Historically, it is known that as far back as the mid 1900s it was the reckless custom of the Comboni Order to send priests, accused of child sexual abuse in Europe, to the mission territories where those priests again had unfettered access to countless minors. One was even placed in charge of the Ugandan Catholic Scout Movement! From observations of the movements of some other of their priests accused of abuse in recent years, that custom appears not to have ceased. Indeed, in the last decade, one attempt of the Order to send to Uganda a priest who had acknowledged that he had sexually abused a child was halted only following an intervention by a member of the Comboni Survivor Group itself.

Regrettably, experience has taught Survivors that the Comboni Missionary Order has learned nothing from the clerical sexual abuse scandal that has been revealed to the world in recent decades. Whilst the Order will be able to produce documents and Codes of Conduct that include child safeguarding policies, their words and actions demonstrate that those policies exist only to demonstrate ‘theoretical’ compliance. Indeed, their last Code of Conduct that I was able to read, clearly stated on multiple occasions that the reputation of the Order must be considered at all times in order to avoid ‘scandal’ – a word that appeared 19 times in the text. It is clear to see that far from any Comboni Order engagement with rectifying past errors relating to the issues of child sexual abuse, the hidden reality is starkly different.

The Comboni Missionaries, being the largest Italian Religious Order and being based in Rome, have a lot of clout around the world and in the Vatican. Victims have no similar avenue of outreach. Their faith in the Vatican’s ability to even acknowledge receipt of a document outlining countless numbers of the most abhorrent crimes committed by humanity was dashed long ago. They have, in their hearts and minds, only the truth and the psychological scars of the abuse that they suffered. Those same Victims have also come to doubt that any of the public words uttered by this Pope, once seen by them as their hopeful Champion, are meaningful or even part of a consistent, church-wide crusade against a dreadful evil that besets not just the Roman Catholic Church, but all humanity. Paradoxically to all expectations, it is the United Nations and the national, civil jurisdictions of the World that are leading the charge against the evil of child sexual abuse – and not any of the dominant world Religions – which have hardly started to play the game of ‘catch up’!







Arthur David Molesworth is a highly qualified professional with years of experience in all matters related to the protection of children from sexual abuse. It fell to him to take on issues of child protection at the Benedictine Monastic School at Ampleforth Abbey. When he took over that task there was an immediate issue requiring action that was already 16 months old. Ampleforth had arranged for a survivor of clerical abuse at their Abbey school to be visited by Father Dominic, who was a previous head teacher – and Moulesworth stated clearly that he shouldn’t interfere because it could be seen as tampering with a witness. He told the Abbey, in no uncertain terms, “If you were a safe organisation, you would not allow him to do this”. His advice was ignored and it would not be the first time.


In his evidence to the United Kingdom’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Arthur Molesworth’s testimony revealed that he was told by the Abbey, “An abbot’s first task, before all else, is the care of his monks.” Moulsworth stated that he did not have a problem with him caring for his monks, but not if it is in front of protecting children. In a sense, he stated “what we were trying to deal with was the power of the abbot, the duty of obedience to the abbot, the abbot’s will”. He continued, “Stepping further back, I find myself questioning whether the community has either the mechanisms, the understanding or even a basic willingness  to properly deal with child protection matters. I felt at that stage, you know, we have got to start shifting this”.


“This wasn’t as if it was an isolated experience with Ampleforth”, he said, “it was what had happened the year before. We are obviously talking about major concerns being expressed about the Catholic Church nationally, and we then had this extraordinary reaction. You know, it led me to write: ‘Child abuse is able to thrive in organisations where there is secrecy.’ I was being blocked, we were being blocked, I use rather pompous words: ‘Obfuscation, denial or downright obstruction’. If you are going to work with us, you work with us; anything less than that, it means you are blocking. I have to say, I think their lawyer was a part of this, talking about ‘Monks have rights, we need to protect them’. “That’s fine, but let’s protect the children first”, responded Moulsworth.


Prior to giving his evidence, Arthur Molesworth was confronted with correspondence written in 2006 by Abbot Cuthbert Madden. Moulsworth said, “I have to say, early this week, I read documents in the Ampleforth dossier written at the same time as a ‘getting to know you’ meeting which shocked me, because what was being said about social services was toxic. It was in stark contrast to their statement, ‘We are wanting to work with you’. Behind the scenes, it was something very different. My role was to provide external challenge on safeguarding matters, and I think they wanted people like me to go away, not keep on coming back and asking the hard questions”.


At one point in his testimony, Arthur Molesworth, detailed how the Abbey was in a rush to get their ‘own version’ of events at Ampleforth out to the press, whilst Moulsworth was trying to manage a number of issues that a press statement might inhibit and he asked them to hold fire. Moulsworth wanted a joint statement which involved co-ordination with the Police and Social Services. Nevertheless, the Abbey went ahead and in a telephone conversation with Arthur Moulsworth, a representative of the Abbey stated “Actually, I’m not concerned about you. You need to understand you’re dealing with a machine. The Catholic Church is well-organised, well-oiled, it is them who are doing this”. I was quite struck by the way he was telling me not to cross with him, just saying, “You need to understand what you are dealing with”.


Arthur Molesworth also discovered that whilst the social services and the police were talking with Ampleforth about significant safeguarding matters and risks to children, the Abbey had some other risk assessments that they had not divulged to the local authorities. Instead they had formed their own views on the risks and had, effectively, tampered, in one case, with a witness. This activity had excluded the police and delayed investigations – and eventually the complainant had stopped the case going any further – despite the strength and anger he had expressed previously to Moulsworth, who subsequently became convinced that the Abbey had talked him out of proceeding any further. In his view, Arthur Moulsworth also stated that in one case there were four abbots who had known about the behavior of one priest but those Abbots just “didn’t get safeguarding; they didn’t get child protection”.


As I write about this testimony of Arthur Moulsworth to the United Kingdom’s Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse – and having been born a Catholic and my dear parents having been devoted to Catholicism – I am dismayed and ashamed beyond belief. I visited Benedictine Abbeys with my parents when I was a teenager and I was in awe of the monks. I became a member of a Religious Order myself and took my first vows whilst at the Novitiate of the Comboni Missionary Religious Institute at Sunningdale in Berkshire, England. By then, however, I had already been abused for a period of two weeks at their seminary by one of their priests who had locked the infirmary door behind him twice a day whilst he proceeded to carry out “essential medical inspections to see if everything was working properly”. I did not then even know the word for what he did to me, but now I know it is called “masturbation”. It had taken place following my recent visit to hospital where I had undergone intrusive investgations.


I eventually left the Order after my further confusion, as a novice, of having to witness secret meetings between a Comboni Missionary priest and a nun of the adjacent Convent. I had to sit in a room with them whilst they held hands, played “footsie” under the table and expressed their love for each other. At the time that I left, I was unaware that long before there had been allegations throughout the period between 1958 to1967against the priest who had abused me at Mirfield when I was a seminarian. Some 10 reports to superiors of the seminary had been made between1966 to 1968 that I now know of, but they were not acted upon until 1969 – when he was moved, ultimately, to a parish in Italy. There he would have had access to more children. They told me many years later that this priest was dead – when they knew very well that he was not.


Another priest abused multiple seminarians at the same seminary that I had attended and was reported to priests of that Order on eight known occasions between 1965 and 1968. Again he was not moved until 1969. He was posted to Uganda where he was put in charge of the Boy Scouts.

A third priest was abusing boys at that seminary for a relatively short period in 1970. After he was discovered and reported, he was also sent to Uganda to work in a Parish – where, obviously, he had access to more children. He remained there for 27 years until, in 1997, he was recalled to Italy to answer allegations – which he then admitted. One of his Victims eventually, in adulthood, visited this priest in the Comboni Missionary Order’s Mother House at Verona in Italy to seek an understanding from this priest as to why the priest had abused him as a very young teenager. The Victim also hoped that by such understanding and by forgiving this priest, he would find peace to his lifelong torments. He did meet the priest who did apologise for the harm done – and the Victim forgave the priest.


It was at that point that the Vice Superior of the Mother House appeared. He called a solicitor, threatened the Victim with calling the Police – and as the Victim left – the Vice Superior shouted after him that all the Victims of the priests of the Comboni Missionary Religious Institute were “money-grabbers”. The Comboni Religious Institute, soon after, laid charges against this Victim of trespassing, stalking and interfering in the life of the Priest who had abused him when that Victim was a child. The Judge of the Criminal Court of Verona threw the charges out as unsubstantiated. The Order, in an act of callous vindictiveness, appealed to the Court. The Judge of the Appeal Court threw out the Appeal as false on the basis that the original charges had already been determined to have had no justification. The Comboni Missionary Religious Institute made no offer to the Victim to pay the very high costs of his defence at the Verona Criminal Court. Such an addition of insult to injury is what other Victims of clerics of that Order have come to expect – but the list is too long to repeat here.


The Comboni Missionary Religious Institute in the 21st Century pays lip service, but has complied with the spirit of none of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child. They have not complied with the Catholic Church’s own Canon Law which requires that all acts against the 6th Commandment are reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They have not complied with any recommendations of the Nolan and Cumberlege Reports in dealing with the numerous historical allegations of child sexual abuse reported to them. They refused to listen to the former Chair of the Catholic Safeguarding Commission when he tried to counsel them on a number of occasions to adopt the measures of the Catholic Hierarchies document, “Safeguarding with Confidence”. They did not, at the time of the original abuse and, nor have they subsequently, made any reports to the Civil Authorities of the United Kingdom. They have not even followed the measures concerning clerical child abuse that are written in their own Code of Conduct.  That is unsurprising to me having read that Code, for the emphasis of the Code was to avoid “Scandal” – a word which appears in that Code on 19 occasions. When dealing with the matters relating to crimes of child sexual abuse within that Code of Conduct – the words “sin” is used. Stealing sweets is a “sin” – stealing the innocence of a child is a heinous, inhumane and depraved “crime”.


What the Comboni Missionary Order have done subsequently is refused to meet the Victims abused by their clerics, they have issued press reports suggesting that the events took place so long ago that the truth cannot now been determined. In doing so they seek to suggest that the many victims of sexual abuse committed by their clerics are false. For my part, and I know that others who were abused would say the same, I can say to them that the abuse inflicted upon me is not a figment of my imagination – and I know that because it happened to me – and I have not forgotten the details of that abuse – and nor will I forget.


The perennial wall of unconscionable silence constructed by both the Benedictine Order and the Comboni Missionary Religious Institute to defend their sense of clerical superiority and to protect their establishments from critical oversight will eventually crumble. Indeed, those walls of Catholicism are crumbling around them already. The Orders of the Catholic Church will have a natural, embedded and instinctive reluctance to believe me, of course, but perhaps, instead, they will at least wish to pause for a moment. In doing so, they should look at their contribution to the enormous confusion in the Catholic Church today and the role that they have played in the alienisation of historic Catholic lay communities. Those diminishing communities’ natural distrust of clerics today has been caused by what the Catholic Church itself has done in the name of Catholicism. For their meditation I suggest that they dwell upon those few prophetic words uttered by Pope Benedict XVI, many years before he ascended the Throne of St Peter, as he envisioned the Catholic Church of the future:


“It will be a restructured Church – with far fewer members – that is forced to let go of many places of worship it worked so hard to build over the centuries. It will be a minority Catholic Church with little influence over political decisions, that is socially irrelevant, left humiliated and forced to “start over.” But a Church that will find itself again and be reborn a “simpler and more spiritual” entity – thanks to this “enormous confusion.””


Seattle Archdiocese Settles Suit Alleging It Helped A Serial Sex Abuser Get A Public School Job – by Dan Morris-Young – with a question from Brian Mark Hennessy

Seattle Archdiocese Settles Suit Alleging It Helped A Serial Sex Abuser Get A Public School Job


by  Dan Morris-Young – National Catholic Reporter – 29 September 2017


The Seattle Archdiocese has agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a sex-abuse lawsuit that charged that church authorities had not only neglected to report a known abuser to authorities, but helped him secure employment in the public school system. In a release on the website of the Seattle-based law firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, attorney Jason P. Amala stated: “Our law firm has represented hundreds of abuse survivors, but I cannot think of another case where the defendant removed a known abuser from their private school system and then actively helped him get a job in the public school system.” Listed as “M.R.” in court documents, the plaintiff was a student at now-closed Parkland Elementary School in the Franklin Pierce School District headquartered in Tacoma. He was abused as a sixth-grader there during the 1981-82 school year by Edward Courtney, a former Christian Brother of Ireland, it was stated in a brief August 29th archdiocesan media release. According to the release, “the bankrupt Christian Brothers” were also named in the suit.

Courtney has a well-documented history of sexually abusing children, and his name was among 77 priests, brothers, deacons and a nun named in January 2016 by the Seattle Archdiocese as having been credibly accused of child sex abuse. While the settlement closes the suit by “M.R.” filed in 2015, a second suit by a former Parkland Elementary student was filed in 2016 alleging abuse by Courtney during the same period as M.R. That proceeding is ongoing, according to the law firm and other news reports. According to a February, 2016 Los Angeles Times story, Courtney, who would now be 82, “sold his Seattle-area home in 2013 and signed a sales document notarized in Honolulu. His phone number and address are listed in the Honolulu phone book.” “According to court records,” the Times reported, “the Catholic schoolteacher was a cross-country serial molester, accused of abusing at least 50 children and teens from New York to Chicago and Seattle over three decades.”

While admitting “no direct knowledge of the allegations in these lawsuits,” a Sept. 28 statement by the Seattle-area leader of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said the organization applauded “the two victims who filed suits for pursuing these claims” and underscored the importance of mandatory reporters. “Mandatory reporters are on the front lines of defending children, and when they fail to do their job, they should be held accountable to civil and criminal law,” stated SNAP’s Mary Dispenza. In the Seattle archdiocesan statement, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said he hopes the settlement will bring closure and assist the survivor in his healing process. “The safety of children and all vulnerable populations in our care is our highest priority,” Sartain is quoted as saying.

Query by Brian Mark Hennessy of the Comboni Survivors Group:

How can Archbishop Sartain find the gall to say that “The safety of children and all vulnerable populations in our care is our highest priority,” – when his Archdiocese found a new appointment for this known serial sex offender at a school? It beggars belief!

A Message to IICSA from Brian Mark Hennessy of the Comboni Survivor Group

A Message to IICSA from Brian Mark Hennessy

of the Comboni Survivor Group:


The United Kingdom Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) must be clear and steadfast in it’s goals. The effects of the Inquiry must be felt far into the future. In order that that goal is achieved IICSA must be certain that the Information they gather now will achieve the purpose for which it was devised. They are not constrained by a monetary budget. The United Kigdom Government will pay the cost whatever the cost. Time is no Constraint. That is set out in the Constitution of the Inquiry by Parliament. If they fail to cover all aspects of the history of child abuse now, then they will fail children in the future. Any area of abuse today and in the past will continue unless investigated now. All Civil organizations, Religious Creeds, Civil and Religious Institutes must be investigated and put “on notice” now that they will be watched into the future – that they may be called to give evidence and to be examined – and that if they ever fail in years to come – the recriminations of the Judicial processes of the United Kingdom will be most thorough and severe – and ultimately – their very survival will be questioned.


The Royal Commission – Australia’s Inquiry – An Update


Distributed by Australia’s BLM Abuse News Blog


As Australia is the news through the IICSA child migrant investigation, the work being undertaken by the Royal Commission (RC) in considering issues relating to abuse across many different organisations in Australia should not be forgotten. We summarise below its most recent work, much of which is of relevance irrespective of the jurisdiction in which an organisation finds itself.


A series of final hearings are taking place to inquire into the current policies and procedures of 10 institutions in relation to child protection and child-safe standards, including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse. These hearings will, amongst other matters, consider the responses to and implementation of, recommendations which have been made to date by the Royal Commission. It is reasonable to expect the inquiries in England & Wales and Scotland to ask similar questions, and to expect to see consideration being made by UK based organisations of the recommendations made in Australia. These are all available on the Royal Commission website.

A further hearing will meanwhile commence on 27 March to consider the nature, cause and impact of child sexual abuse in institutions. This will consider the nature of child sexual abuse and related matters in institutional contexts in Australia, and how community understanding of abuse has changed over time. It will also look at the extent of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts historically and in contemporary Australia, and challenges to identification and prevention. It will consider if the factors that contribute to the risk of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts are:

  • Factors that make all children vulnerable to sexual abuse and heighten the vulnerability of particular groups of children to sexual abuse
  • Factors that may contribute to people sexually abusing children in institutional contexts
  • Institution-specific factors that may contribute to child sexual abuse.


It will also consider the impacts of child sexual abuse and institutional responses on survivors, both in childhood and throughout their adult lives, their families and supporters, and the wider community.

Research reports

Many good reports have already been published and we have previously commented on some of these in our blogs. The most recent are:

Disability and child sexual abuse in institutional contexts – The most reliable data suggests that between nine and 14 in every 100 children with disability are likely to experience sexual abuse. Children with a disability can be vulnerable to sexual abuse due to various factors including the locations and people with whom they spend time, the need for greater physical assistance and attitudes that children with disabilities are less competent and less likely to tell. The report includes recommendations for strategies to prevent future abuse.


The role of organisational culture in child sexual abuse in institutional contexts – This report looks at literature and some of the RC case study reports. It found that cultural factors associated with “total institutions” and “macho cultures” may be more conducive to the perpetration of child sexual abuse. This was because they were more likely to conduct their own investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse, rather than referring alleged perpetrators to authorities; to forbid children from retaining personal items and discourage the building of relationships with peers; to promote secrecy and withholding of information from children, staff and others, and/or command children to engage in or refrain from behaviours that make abuse possible and reporting less likely.


Children and young people’s views about their safety in residential care – Most of the children and young people who participated in this research described feeling unsafe in residential care due to bullying, harassment and the threat of sexual assault. The report’s conclusions include that children felt safest in residential care when it felt like home, for example when they were in a clean and welcoming environment, where they were able to celebrate events, and were well supervised by adults. To be safe, participants needed their residential care to offer stability and predictability. Many of the young people interviewed described their time in residential care as chaotic, found it difficult to feel settled and spoke of the high turnover of staff. Children were provided with a sense of safety when their residential care provided routine, fair rules and the ability to be heard during decision-making. Residential care felt most safe when adults and institutions took children and young people’s safety seriously and had proactive strategies in place to protect children from harm.


Grooming and child sexual abuse in institutional contexts – This report concludes that grooming can involve a range of behaviours that target not only children, but also others involved in gaining access to the child’s life including parents and caregivers and staff in institutional settings. Grooming is often an incremental process which involves three stages – gaining access to the victim; initiating and maintaining the abuse; and concealing the abuse. The best way to identify and prevent grooming and child sexual abuse may be through the development and implementation of policies and procedures, particularly codes of conduct, to prevent and identify such behaviours and through developing an organisational culture that prioritises child safety.




Criminal Justice – Submissions to a consultation on criminal justice have been published and a seminar heard to discuss the content of the submissions. As part of this consultation a draft Bill has been published which address some issues relating to evidence. The benefit of cross jurisdictional considerations can be seen by the fact that this bill is based in part on laws in England & Wales which allow for much greater admissibility of tendency and coincidence evidence and for more joint trials.


Records and record keeping – Following a consultation last year, 40 submissions have been published which comment upon this issue. Five key principles have been determined, they are:

  • Creating and keeping accurate records is in the best interest of children.
  • Accurate records must be created about all decisions and incidents affecting child protection.
  • Records relevant to child sexual abuse must be appropriately maintained.
  • Records relevant to child sexual abuse must only be disposed of subject to law or policy.
  • Individuals’ rights to access and amend records about them can only be restricted in accordance with law.



Case study reports

The following reports have been published:

Jehovah’s Witnesses – Although the RC only heard evidence from two victims as well as institutional witnesses, it examined evidence from case files held which recorded allegations, reports or complaints by 1006 members of the organisation. The RC found children are not adequately protected from the risk of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness organisation and it did not believe the organisation responded adequately to allegations of child sexual abuse. It considered the Jehovah’s Witness organisation relied on outdated policies and practices to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse which were not subject to ongoing and continuous review. This included the two-witness rule in cases of child sexual abuse which, the RC considered, showed a serious lack of understanding of the nature of child sexual abuse. It noted the rule, which was relied on, and applied inflexibly was devised more than 2,000 years ago.


Yeshiva Bondi and Yeshivah Melbourne – This inquiry looked at the response of the Yeshivah Centre Bondi and the Yeshivah College in Melbourne to allegations of child sexual abuse. In particular, consideration was made of the influence of Jewish (or ‘halachic’) law on the responses of the institutions to child sexual abuse allegations and the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse and their families and the community’s response to them. Consideration was made of the impact of a Jewish law, known as mesirah, which forbids a Jew from informing upon, or handing over another Jew to a secular authority (particularly where criminal conduct is alleged). Even though there had been an advisory resolution in 2010 noting this did not apply to child sexual abuse there was some discouragement within the community to report abuse and a lack of supportive leadership for victims of abuse.


Sporting clubs – This report looked at allegations linked to certain football, tennis and cricket clubs. The RC heard evidence from a female football player who had been repeatedly raped by her coach; from a female tennis player sexually abused by her coach in the late 1990s; and from three male cricket players who had been sexually abused in the 1980s and 1990s. The RC gave its opinion on the steps taken by each of these sports clubs in response to the allegations and also looked at the wider policies and procedures of national sporting organisations. It singled out the website ‘Play By The Rules’, which is administered in part by the Australian Sports Commission and which promotes child protection in sport, as a very valuable and effective resource. It provides information, tools and free online training to assist administrators, coaches, officials, players and spectators to manage child safety issues in sport.


The Church of England Boys’ Society and the Anglican Dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney – The report concluded that most CEBS (a boys youth group) branches could operate in an autonomous and unregulated way and that abuse often occurred on camps, sailing and fishing trips as well as overnight stays at rectories and private residences. As a result a culture developed in which perpetrators had easy access to boys and opportunities to sexually abuse those boys. There were networks of sexual perpetrators at CEBS who had knowledge of each other’s sexual offending against boys and in some instances facilitated the sexual abuse of children. Systemic failures were also identified including child sexual abuse being treated as one-off offences, or isolated incidents of aberrant behaviour and historically, allegations of child sexual abuse not being reported to the police either at all or in a timely way. There was limited information-sharing between the dioceses about allegations of child sexual abuse; a lack of child protection policies and procedures within CEBS; and a lack of consistent record-keeping about complaints in CEBS at a national and state level. The report also identified minimisation of the offending, a focus on protecting the reputation of the church, dioceses, CEBS and individual clergy and links not being made at a national level in the Anglican Church regarding the possibility of a network of perpetrators within CEBS.


Geelong Grammar School – Evidence was heard from 13 former students who reported sexual abuse between 1956 and 1989. The report comments upon the different acts or omissions of the school at the times of reporting of abuse. It also concludes that before 1994, Geelong Grammar had no formal systems, policies and procedures in place dealing specifically with child sexual abuse, or to prevent child abuse. Although policies are now in place, there is no system to either monitor the success of the policies or capture how often teachers are reporting allegations, in accordance with the policies and procedures.


Brisbane Grammar School and St Paul’s School – The report considers specific incidents of abuse and the response, or lack of response to disclosure. Amongst other findings are that the head teacher did not achieve his most fundamental obligation, which was to ensure that students under his care were kept safe.

RG Dance and the Australian Institute of Music – We have already commented on this report in our earlier blog.

Submissions in a number of investigations have also now been made publically available.









I appear on behalf of F12, a Scottish survivor of the English Benedictine Congregation. I also represent 12 core participant survivors of the Comboni Missionary Order and F44, a survivor of the Christian Brothers. Together, they represent 20 per cent of the victim/survivor core participants in this latest  investigation in a very long line of investigations into the Roman Catholic Church, but of course they are not a mere percentage, they are individual humans imbued  with dignity, bravery and fortitude. They, like the other core participants in this investigation, hope and pray that this is the last time a public inquiry will have to be called into the Catholic Church. I echo counsel to the inquiry’s submissions: there are almost a million children in Britain who are educated in institutions run by or in which a church is significantly involved, and, therefore, this inquiry must determine what has been and what is the scale of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Britain; are there cultural inhibitors in the Catholic Church that prevent effective child safeguarding; are there structural inhibitors in the Catholic Church and its separate law that prevent effective child safeguarding? A line must finally be drawn, and this inquiry must answer the question: can children be safe in the care of the Catholic Church?

Those I represent are men who were, and in some cases still are, devout Catholics. It is very difficult to explain to someone not brought up in a Catholic community the power and depth of influence the Catholic Church exerts over its members. Counsel to the investigation has alluded to this, and it is a chilling aspect of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church that the abusers are not only men in positions of trust who wielded authority over children, they are also seen by the abused and their families as being spokesmen for the God they worship, men who are supposed to be the shepherds of their souls, men who hold the very keys to heaven. It is hard to imagine a greater hold that a child abuser could have over its victim.

F13 was abused at his Catholic primary school by Catholic brothers. He was abused by members of the English Benedictine Congregation at Pluscarden and Fort Augustus Abbey. We have heard of the movement of a paedophile from England to Fort Augustus this morning from counsel to the inquiry and Mr Scorer. On 8 November 2017, this November, the National Crime Agency’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit issued a conclusive grounds decision finding that F13 had been a victim of modern-day slavery. This finding by the National Crime Agency in relation to participant F13 demonstrates the seriousness of the issues before this inquiry. Two days after the National Crime Agency issued this finding, the inquiry’s first witness, Dom Richard Yeo, visited F13 at his home, along with Bishop John Keenan. We would hope that counsel to the investigation will  explore with Dom Yeo the reason for his visits to F13’s  home in the wake of this finding and the immediate  run-up to this hearing and, indeed, what the English  Benedictines hope to do for F13 to bring him comfort and closure.

F1 to F12 are 12 core participant survivors of the Comboni Missionary Order. They attended a Catholic  seminary school in Mirfield in Yorkshire run by that order, an order that specialises in missionary education  around the world. They are a striking group of men, highly educated and articulate. They include among their number  a retired senior officer of our armed forces, a retired executive of an international PLC, teachers, academics, businessmen and a highly regarded classical performer. Those men, or boys, as they were then, were   hand-selected as some of the brightest and most devout  children of their communities. They were selected also  because, as 10- and 11-year-olds, they dreamed of  becoming missionary priests. Quite a number went a long  way down the road to taking religious orders.

One, F3, became a brother of the Comboni religious order and  undertook missionary work in the most difficult circumstances of Idi Amin’s Uganda. All were abused by Catholic priests and brothers. In most cases, they were abused repeatedly over many months and, in a number of cases, years. They had led very sheltered lives in the Catholic families and communities they came from. They had no understanding of sex other than it was wrong, it was dirty, it was a sin. The culture of their school, their church and their faith was of obedience and, in particular, obedience to Holy Fathers. Over time, and as abuse continued, and as they grew, they came to have doubts. But as F6 explained his childhood dilemma to me, and he has flown a very long way to be here today, how could the hands that held the host, the body of Christ, aloft every morning in mass possibly do wrong? His words. F4 could also not bring himself to accept that the kindly Italian priest who tended to boys when they were ill could possibly do something wrong. He just couldn’t accept it. F4 described this to me, with tears in his eyes, how, as an adult, he would watch old-fashioned war films and the hero would be captured and subjected to torture and, gritting his teeth and taking his mind to another place, he would endure. F4 told me that every time he saw a scene like that, he was catapulted back in time to the infirmary at St Peter Claver Seminary College.

Other members of this group and F44 have similar accounts of how they were abused again and again and the terrible dilemmas and conflicts of their mind they suffered: how can this be happening if this holy man is doing it? These bright boys grew and so did their doubts and they began to speak up and, when they did, they did not stop speaking up. It is incredible the number of times these boys spoke up seeking support and protection, not just for themselves, but often to try to protect younger boys in the seminary college. It is incredible, also, the responses they received. After years of systematic abuse, F4 took a delegation of boys to see the college’s spiritual adviser and told him of the sexual abuse. The other boys were crying during that interview, but F4 was angry and he spoke out. The spiritual adviser stated he accepted the accounts of abuse were true. He told the boys he would look into the matter. He then swore them to secrecy and told them never to speak of it again. He did nothing. As F4 and the other boys turned to leave his room, the spiritual adviser stopped them and he reminded them that their abuser, this prolific abuser, may have availed himself of the sacrament of confession and, if he did, his sins were washed away and they, as good Catholics, must accept that.

F8 also reported the abuse he was suffering at the hands of the seminary’s vice rector to the seminary college’s spiritual adviser. The spiritual adviser told F8 to forget about the incidents and not discuss it anymore. F4 also went to a priest he trusted and admired. They went for a walk in the playground. He began to open his heart and, as soon as he did, that priest, his friend, told him, “Stop there” and would hear no more. F12 was also abused by the vice rector of St Peter Claver College. He told the father rector of the seminary about the abuse. The father rector asked no questions and took no action.

F6, who I have already mentioned, who has come a long way to be here today, attended the seminary college. Priests of the school abused him repeatedly as a young boy. Despite this, he was bright, he had a deep faith, he excelled and became the school captain, the head boy of the seminary school. When he was appointed to that position, he felt a huge sense of responsibility for the other boys, particularly the younger boys at the seminary, whom he knew were being abused just as he was being abused, and he felt, as school captain, he must act. So, once again, he led a delegation of older boys to see the spiritual adviser to tell him that the younger boys were being abused and that he felt a duty to protect them. The spiritual adviser did not take up the complaint on their behalf but he told the delegation of children that “You must go away, you must gather statements from the younger boys, you must take them to the Father Rector, but don’t tell him I told you to do this”. This priest, this spiritual adviser, sent a boy to do a man’s job, his job, but the boy he sent was up to it.

F6 gathered the statements of the abused boys and presented them to the Father Rector of the seminary. The Father Rector said that he would deal with the prolific abuser. He did not call the police. He did not launch an investigation. He did not inform the parents of the abused boys. He simply moved the abuser from the school and sent him to the oldest provincial house in London. From there, he was sent to Uganda,  where he worked as the bishop’s secretary and was then  appointed as the chaplain to secondary schools in Northern Uganda and became Scout Commissioner for Northern Uganda. The Father Rector to whom this report was made currently lives in the order’s house in Glasgow, he is in his 80s and is mentally well.

F5 was abused by a lay teacher employed at St Peter Claver Seminary College. It is believed this teacher was previously employed at Ampleforth. That teacher was removed from the school by the priest who was then the rector and who is now the financial director of a London province of the Comboni order and who lives in London.

F3 was repeatedly abused by another priest of the order. Despite this, he became a brother himself. But was always troubled by the abuse he and others had suffered. He raised it again and again with the order nationally and internationally. In legal correspondence, the order made clear admissions as to that abuse. Despite this admission, this priest was permitted to return to active ministry. When F3 challenged this fact with the Wrexham diocesan safeguarding officer and the Comboni Order’s safeguarding officer, he was assured the priest would  not be allowed access to children but remained in the order’s other house looking after the sick and dying. However, the evidence shows this priest continued to work with children until as recently as 2014.

Later in life, these 12 men repeatedly sought to engage the Catholic Church over the abuse they had suffered and feared that children might still be suffering. They contacted and spoke to the most senior members of the order, all of whom had been at St Peter Claver College with them as fellow seminarians and as teachers. On one occasion, F4 was invited to the order’s provincial mother house in London for a meeting. He was told by one of the senior order members who had been at the school at the time when they were being abused that the abusing priests had hurt the Catholic Church as much as they had hurt the children. No, they did not.

The priests at the Catholic Church abused my clients, caused them wounds that never healed. They have never healed because the Catholic Church never admitted what happened fully, never apologised truly and never atoned. Of course it must be remembered, and it has been touched on today, that the abuse of my clients along with many of the other victims of abuse by Catholic priests was widely known of because they were reporting it regularly in the confessional, as indeed were the abusers. Why, then, was no action taken by the Catholic Church in relation to regular reports of abuse that were being given in the confessional and presumably still are?

The sacrament of confession is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. It is fundamental to the practice of the faith. Catholic priests are also required under Canon law to undertake confession. The Australian Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse recently recommended that persons could be charged if they know, suspect or should have suspected that members — that a child is being abused. That recommendation included members of the clergy. The Archbishop of Melbourne was asked about this and if he would go to gaol rather than disclose matters disclosed to him in confession and he said, “I have said I would go to gaol. I believe this is an absolutely sacrosanct communication of a high order”. Why would the archbishop say he would go to gaol rather than reveal matters including child sexual abuse? Because, again, it is the law of the Catholic Church that he cannot. The Canon law states very clearly that a priest is wholly forbidden to use knowledge acquired in confession to the detriment of the penitent. That is to say, the sinner or the abuser. Furthermore, matters revealed in confession, including child abuse, cannot be used for the purposes of governance. Again, Canon law directs this. A person who is in authority may not in any way, for the purposes of external governance, use the knowledge about sins which has come to him during the confession. One could not think of a more serious example of a structural obstacle embedded in the law of the Catholic Church to child protection.

There have been many public inquiries here, in Australia, America, Ireland, Scotland, and it demonstrates that the Catholic Church has a modus operandi. It fails to report or record child abuse. It often shields abusers and simply moves them to another place. Often, the evidence has shown that this permits abuse to continue again. We have heard of this today in relation to Nicholas White. My clients seek truth, justice and accountability. But most importantly, they want to know that children in Catholic institutions now and in the future are safe from abuse.

So in conclusion, I return to the three questions that we and counsel to the inquiry say this inquiry must seek answers to: first, how big is the problem? Currently, we do not know, because the church has not, will not, or possibly is not capable of providing us with that information. However, in order to fulfill the terms of reference of this inquiry, the church must be compelled to produce the fullest picture possible.  Secondly, are there structural inhibitors to child protection in the church? The answer to this appears to be yes. The refusal to divulge or act upon reports of child abuse in the confessional is an obvious example of a most serious structural inhibitor to child protection. But there are others. Finally, is the Catholic Church capable of enforcing good governance and high uniform standards of child protection? The answer appears to be: no. The Catholic Church is so opaque, so disparate, so full of separate bodies which are not answerable to any central authority, it is hard to see how, without huge reform, it can provide good governance and the high uniform standards of child protection. So the question this inquiry must answer is: can the many strands of the Catholic Church, culturally, structurally and inherently, provide a safe place for children in Britain