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More evidence of Church Establishment cover-ups

Children's champion STEVEN WALKER shines a light on the culture of covering up child abuse in Britain's religious orders

THE latest revelations about Roman Catholic Church cover-ups of child sexual abuse at two of its boarding schools, Ampleforth and Downside, adds to the evidence of how the religious Establishment, like the political one, defends the powerful against the weak and vulnerable.

As far back as 2001, Tory peer Lord Nolan published a report into paedophile abuse in the Catholic Church. He, together with the inquiry vice-chair were both former students at Ampleforth College.

Then Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy-O’Connor ordered the inquiry after years of complaints, yet he himself had covered up the paedophile activity of a priest in Arundel & Brighton when he was bishop of that diocese.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), set up in 2015, has found that the Nolan report was a whitewash and none of its recommendations properly implemented.

Father David Pearce, former head of the junior school at St Benedicts and Ealing Abbey, was charged in November 2008 with 24 counts of indecent assault, sexual touching and gross indecency with six boys aged under 16.

The conduct of the Ealing monastic community, as trustee of the St Benedict’s Trust, was examined by the Charity Commission, which found that it had failed to take adequate measures to protect beneficiaries of the charity from Pearce.

Other Catholic institutions revealed to have paedophile abusers were Buckfast Abbey, Belmont Abbey, and Douai Abbey.

In the Anglican Church, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey recently admitted under cross-examination his role in protecting the predatory paedophile ex-Bishop of Gloucester Peter Ball after he was provided with compelling evidence of the crimes committed by the clergyman.

Ball was successfully prosecuted and jailed in 2015 after a career of physically and sexually abusing and exploiting  boys and young men, including some who were particularly vulnerable.

A report into the cover-up of child sexual abuse within the church in 2017 concluded that the Church establishment colluded with paedophile priests, failed to investigate allegations and ignored the needs of traumatised young men over a period of 20 years. 

Ball was first accused in 1993 by a 17-year-old man who took his own life in 2012 when the police accused him of lying during a botched investigation.

Fellow Establishment stalwart Lady Butler Sloss published a report in 2011 into the way the Church of England handled previous allegations against two ministers in Sussex who had sexually abused young boys. 

Eight months after her report was published, Butler-Sloss had to issue a six-page addendum in which she apologised for “inaccuracies” which, she admitted, arose from her failure to corroborate information given to her by senior Anglican figures as part of the inquiry.

She had failed to test the evidence presented to her by senior Anglican figures keen to whitewash the scandal.

As the first IICSA head, Butler-Sloss, a devout Anglican and failed Tory general election candidate, quit following the above revelations, together with the news that her brother Michael Havers, who was attorney general under Margaret Thatcher, limited the scope of an inquiry into child sexual abuse at the Kincora Children’s Home in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

Cabinet minutes from 1983 reveal that Havers ensured that MPs and other prominent public figures were protected by restricting the terms of reference of the inquiry.

In the early 1980s, Havers was accused himself by campaigning MP Geoffrey Dickens of a cover-up when he refused to prosecute Sir Peter Hayman — a diplomat, former MI6 deputy director and member of the Paedophile Information Exchange lobbying organisation for child abusers.

In 2014 the Archbishop of York apologised for previous cover-ups of child sexual abuse by Robert Waddington, a former dean of Manchester cathedral who was once in charge of church schools.

Then Archbishop of York Lord Hope admitted he did not report the matter to the police or other child protection agencies even when evidence was shown him in 1999 and again in 2003. Waddington had begun abusing boys in the 1960s when he was headteacher at a school in Australia.

In 2015, the Methodist church made a very public apology after a wide-ranging independent investigation unearthed nearly 2,000 reported cases of sexual abuse dating to 1950.

Evidence reveals that ministers or lay employees had been involved in a quarter of the cases, which included sexual, physical, emotional and domestic abuse as well as neglect. In the 200 cases concerning ministers, 102 were of a sexual nature.

There are multiple police investigations currently under way into historic allegations of child sexual abuse by church staff throughout Britain and Northern Ireland.

• Steven Walker is Unicef children’s champion and author of Safeguarding Children and Young People, Russell House Publishers.


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