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Why didn’t the Rosminian order tell us the truth about Fr Kit?

The order apparently knew the truth of the allegations at least a year before his death

By on Monday, 20 June 2011

Fr Kit Cunningham died last year

Fr Kit Cunningham died last year

I got a shock yesterday morning. I had been half-listening to the Sunday programme on Radio 4, with children’s author Philip Pullman explaining, yet again, why he is very fond of biblical prose and the culture of the C of E in which he was raised, but dislikes the “political power” of official religions; all well and good and mildly irritating.

This was followed by a news item about the Rosminian order of priests and the public accusations of priestly abuse they are now facing. Not another cover-up, I thought with a sinking feeling. And then the shock came: here was the voice of journalist Peter Stanford explaining quite simply and without emotion how one of the four accused Rosminian priests, whom he had personally known for 20 years and who had married him and baptised his children, was the late Fr Kit Cunningham, the much-loved former parish priest of St Etheldreda’s, Ely Place, unofficial pastor of Fleet Street and well known to the Catholic Herald staff.

I had not known Fr Cunningham personally but had been asked to write his obituary for the Herald when he died last year. In the obituary I quoted one of his friends, who described him as “a very caring, modest and deeply spiritual man”. I added my own estimate, based on all I had read and heard about him: “A man of energy and imagination, full of good fellowship, pastoral zeal and hospitality.”

Little did I realise when I briefly mentioned in the obituary that he “had spent 10 years as a missionary in Tanzania”, that it was during this period, in the late 1960s, that Fr Cunningham had not only regularly sexually and psychologically abused young boys, the sons of expatriate Britons, in St Michael’s School, Soni, in the then Tanganyika, but that he had also covered up for fellow priests who he knew were doing the same thing.

Full-page articles in yesterday’s Sunday Times and the Observer (the latter written by Peter Stanford) make it clear that these are not merely allegations of as yet unproven abuse. It appears that Fr Cunningham had quietly sent back his MBE last year, at the same time writing to his victims: “My conscience is deeply disturbed by the breach of trust that God placed in me as a Catholic priest. Many of you have suffered and been scarred by your experiences. After much reflection I have decided to return my MBE.”

So, an admission of guilt which tarnishes forever the memories his wide circle of friends have of him; which casts a shadow over the parish that he brought to life and where he was pastor for so many years; and which makes all the fulsome tributes written after his death now ring very hollow – not to speak of the long anguish and emotional scars suffered by his victims, now in middle age. And the worst aspect of all is what looks like a cover up in the Church; not just priests covering up for each other in a local culture of sinful complicity, but the Rosminian order itself: it knew of the truth of the allegations against Fr Cunningham at least a year before his death if not longer – and yet they still held a memorial service in January which duly echoed all the tributes paid to him on his death. This is appalling.

BBC One is broadcasting a programme about all this on Tuesday at 10.35pm. It is called Abused: Breaking the Silence, and I shall watch it with a heavy heart.

  • Jason Clifford

    The evil of child abuse can never be excused. That a man or woman is or has been a child abuser, however, is not the totality of that person.

    The truth of all of the good that Fr. Kit (who I have never met or heard of prior to this article) did remains even in the light of the evil he has also done and helped others to do.

    The love and mercy of Jesus Christ is greater even than this terrible sin.

  • Erubian

    Oh how the mighty fall, this man was my abuser and nothing anyone can say will make me think of him or the other three as anything but abusers of children and frauds. They stripped me of my childhood and the childhoods of many others!!!!!!!!!!

    There should hve been no glowing accounts of his life, his order and his superiors knew what he was yet they sought to glotyfy his memory… SHAME SHAME SHAME

  • Phil

    Jason, may I say that your attitude is a reflection of why these acts continue in religion along with a perpetual lack of responsibility and cover up.

    Jason, please enlighten me to where “the love and mercy of Jesus Christ” was when this man was getting his excitement and satisfaction from terrorising along with the physical and sexually abuse of children as young as seven year old. This was all being done whilst under the direct care of the Catholic Church and directly by the church building.
     
    Jason, please enlighten me of how “The truth of all of the good that Fr. Kit did remains” can possibly balance up against the trauma and mental anguish of all those hundreds of little isolated children that were in his direct care. Many if not most are still reliving and effected by their time spent in that hell on earth.
     
    Jason, do you think that those people who received “all the good” will look back now without embarrassment or a sick feeling in their stomach remembering the gratitude that they bestowed on this evil man.
     

  • PFH

    Erubian, as a member of the Church, of which Fr Cunningham was also a member, I humbly ask for your forgiveness, for we are one body in Christ.  What one member does affects the whole body so none of us can sit on the fence and ignore the deep harm Fr Cunningham and his confreres has done to you.

  • “intimately” involved

    @ Francis Phillips

    Please address the role of the media in this “covering up” of sexual and other abuse.

    “I had not known Fr Cunningham personally but had been asked to write his
    obituary for the Herald xxxxxxxxxx In the obituary I
    quoted one of his friends, xxxxxxxxx  I added my own estimate, based on all I had
    read and heard about him …”

    Is this what you are paid to do ?
    Is this what a trained journalist does with the tools, privileges and responsibility the media has access to ?
    Did you ever consider calling his superior, the Rosminian UK Provincial ?
    I understand that the return of the MBE was not unknown on Fleet Street.
    Some journos. called around to ask why, AND WERE TOLD WHY, but decided to protect their own memory of the man for who knows what reason. (ps that might be a good route of investigation ?)

    I am sorry but you – the media – are a HUGE part of the conditions necessary for cover up.
    Once the news becomes blatantly obvious your very SHALLOW and sensationalistic / voyeuristic observations and commentary are of NO USE to anyone involved

     - physician heal thyself ….

  • No Longer Deceived

    Father Kit Cunningham seemed to me to be a good man. Requiescat in pace Domini. Christ alone is sure of the degree and depth of his reported repentance but in a church whose hierarchy in the past 60 years has habitually and shamelessly sacrificed Truth to expediency I am not surprised to hear that they have done it again. It is a frightful thing to hear this about a man whose appearance of goodness was sometimes quite striking. All those who knew him will die a little inside and pray God will have mercy upon his soul for there, but for the Grace of God, go all too many clergy.

  • Wayne

    This has now finally come to light after 50 plus years.
    I hope that we the “survivors” will finally be heard, and believed! There are just far too many of us to be ignored any longer. There is nothing good that Kit ever did or could have done to change the evil inside him.
    He had a black heart, he hurt “little people” But you see it was not just kit, he had the blessing of other priests there, I personally experienced their wrath. Kind of a tag team of torture. 
    There is no excuse, the order knew. 
    Look deeply when you see the documentary….
    Think if it was your child, would you be able to just forgive and forget?

    Considering all the traumas and horrors endured by us, I feel we have been very composed and patient, something that was never enjoyed at SPC.
    It is known as “Soni Prison Camp” not “Soni Club Med”
    I hope our voice will be the voice of the many children still trapped in desperation.

  • Anonymous

    Why do we always get this sanctimonious nonsense? These things have happened and are real! Why try to relate them to our Christianity: to do so will wreck the whole foundation of our belief. Do we have to accept that this is collateral damage or do we all give up? IE is there really a Christian Church?

  • Nemesis

    Kit will be rotting in Hell if there is any justice as will the other three swine who abused these poor defenceless children while cowering behind their front as unreproachable priests.
     
    And yet again the Church is in denial about it despite their all having written apologies to the children…
     
    What a disgrace!

  • Nesbyth

    I don’t think any journalist at the time Kit Cunningham died had any inkling of his faults. I realise that some in the Church knew but they didn’t release this information till after his memorial service. Even Peter Stanford didn’t know.

    And journalists aren’t all in Fleet Street these days. Many sit at home and write their columns from there. So I don’t think you can attack Francis Phillips for not knowing. Hardly anyone knew.

    I am in shock myself from this seedy and deeply nasty revelation. The Rosminians have let everyone down; those they abused they have damaged severely, ruining their lives. They have also let the Church down, Jesus Christ down, God down (same person, I know) and all those still struggling to be good and faithful Catholics. What a shower.

    I have every expectation that all who abuse children would prefer that a millstone would be put about his neck and then flung into the deep than what is coming to them. Jesus gave out this warning.

  • Patrick Heren

    I share Francis Phillips’ sentiments. Let us pray first and most fervently for Kit Cunningham’s victims. And let us also pray for his family, and for his many distraught friends.
    I would like to add a note about the Rosminians’ reaction to this. They emphatically did not hold a memorial service for Fr Kit. Many of his English friends had hoped that the Requiem Mass held at Ely Place in January would be a memorial service, but Fr David Myers. the Rosminian Provincial, made it quite clear that this was not a memorial but a Mass for the repose of his soul. There were no warm tributes and I for one was sobered by Fr Myers’ remark that Fr Kit now stood on the edge of the unimaginable gulf that separates sinful man from God. The congregation left feeling a little cheated. Now of course I understand. This not to say that I in any way approve or support any of the other actions of Fr Myers or his order.

  • David Armitage

    Francis Phillips might have asked: Why didn’t David Myers  denounce  Cunningham? Did he ever think of tracking back through all the places where abusers had worked. Douglas Rayner was at Grace Dieu in the late `40s where physical abuse was certainly rife where one Rev. Bro. had the bright idea of applying 4 strokes of the billiard cue to 94 bums, ages from 6 to 12. Physical abuse certainly.  Sexual abuse?  Did it occur to the other priests  in the boarding school to denounce  him? Abuse of authority explains why the lid has been kept on physical, psychological and sexual abuse? Financial sanctions are also a deterrent. What a paradox that in the same week that the Belgian hierarchy and religious superiors announced their moral obligation to acknowledge and compensate abuse the bishop of Middlesborough should announce his decision to appeal the High Court ruling holding  the diocese  liable for compensation.

  • David Armitage

    De gustibus non est disputandum. If he seemed a good man, it meant that he was good at grooming. In 1947 my parents entrusted me to the likes of Cunningham, who sexually and physically abused us, while the hierarchy abused their authority to keep the lid on things. We still let them get away with it!

  • From NL

    He may have done some good, but that does not take away that he was a twisted man (along with the other priests). If he was really was such a “good and kind hearted man”, he would not have kept silence, live the good life, pretending to be something he is not, while the children kept suffering their whole life.

    He would have felt intense remorse. Even if it was hard, he should have acknowledged the horrors he has inflicted and that he helped out his fellow criminals in covering up, beg for forgiveness from the victims and should have come out with what has happened. Not because others tell him to, but out of his own guilt and genuine feeling of penance. He should have resigned, returned his MBE a long, long time ago.

    I can’t tell if he really felt remorseful, but why has it taken him so long to come to terms with it? He and the other priests destroyed lives. And he takes his sweet time to realize that it was actually “bad” what he has done.

    I am always a little sceptic when religious people (yes, I am religious as well) only become guilt ridden near the end of their life. It makes me wonder if he isn’t just asking for forgiveness, in fear that if he does not do it now (when he is might be at a age when death can come any time), that when he dies, he will not enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s not that uncommon that people suddenly get fearful of going to hell and quickly try to do what the Bible asks from them; confess their sins and ask forgiveness. But God sees the heart, so if it’s not genuine, good luck trying to get in.

  • “intimately” involved

    according to Damian Thomspon Telegraph – It WAS known on Fleet St.

    He claims Myers “kept them in the dark” when they inquired of him.
    (They could have looked a little further surely, what a lazy bunch .. )

    Maybe Myers will have sth. to say after the film has aired ?

    I hope so because the silence is deafening.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100093079/fr-kit-cunninghams-paedophile-past-heads-should-roll-after-the-rosminian-orders-disgraceful-cover-up/

  • Jonathan West

    Remember the wise words of Alastair Rolfe towards the end of the documentary Chosen in which he and two others described the abuses they suffered at a UK (non-catholic) boarding school.

    “The successful paedophiles are the ones that aren’t discovered of course
    and there are plenty of them around. They are people who have all the
    social graces that you might expect in someone of normal behaviour.
    They’re charming, they have good conversation, they’re caring, they’re
    intelligent, they’re interested, they’re committed to what they’re
    doing, they earn respect, they appear like any other member of society
    quite frankly and you just can’t tell. Sorry but you can’t tell.”
    By the sounds of it, that paragraph could have been written specifically about Kit Cunningham. There is no profile for sexual abusers, they can come from all walks of life, and you can’t tell one by looking at him.If abuse in the Catholic Church is going to be minimised (it can’t be entirely wiped out, and more than in any other large organisation), and the abuse crisis brought to an end, then a very important consequence follows: Nobody can be regarded as being above suspicion. Every allegation or report abuse must be immediately reported to the authorities, no matter who it concerns and how trivial. They can investigate and decide whether there is anything in it.It is vitally important that there are no exceptions, that nobody says “oh, so-and-so is such a marvellous fellow, he would never do a thing like that” and as a result fails to pass on a report.And the investigations must also be done by somebody who doesn’t know the alleged perpetrator, and who has no interest in maintaining the reputation of the church. Such things can seriously prejudice an investigation because of the preconceptions of the investigator.Unless and until the church knuckles down the hard work of getting all this done, parish by parish, school by school, then the crisis will continue. So far the church has been very good at fine words (The Nolan Report, the Cumberlege Report, the apology from the bishops) but many people seem to have been much less keen on rolling their sleeves up and getting things done.That’s not to say that no parishes or schools have good safeguarding arrangements, but the situation is still patchy.

  • http://towertales.tumblr.com/ Londonistar

    I wanted to write something on the Telegraph post but cannot because of the visceral nature of the comments and the utter utter hatred being dished out to all catholics as a result of this. I feel completely crushed and in a state of utter shock. We were married by Fr Cunningham in 2004 and I love that church. His sermons, kindness and so much of what he taught in the mass lifted me out of dark periods in my life. The wedding was all the better for this. I frequently left the mass thinking about life on a profound level not least when he told us of the wedding ceremony of one of the 7/7 victims whose wedding he oversaw, walking up the aisle to meet her husband. This will be a crushing blow to anyone who felt his solid kindness at such incredibly low or high moments in their lives. I find it hard to take in. I want to cut this out of the man who had such a positive influence over me and lifted me out of a darkness by his simple actions and wonderful words. Reading the hatred and anger over on the Telegraph from Damians article and the comments has a numbing effect. I feel numbly terrible for his victims. I still cannot quite marry these terrible facts with the man I knew, albeit not as well as so many others I have no doubt. Even the wedding and that joyous period of our life now feels tainted. I want to apologise to his victims and ask their forgiveness for what happened and for that I continue to keep the faith. Maybe that is what people want to happen? That we all give up and go away? That we are all evil people? What can ever put it right? I somehow cannot simply obliterate that good from my life and how it helped me. But knowing how much others suffered has indeed cast a dark shadow over everything that felt good and for that period of my life – briefly now it seems - put right. Reading about the misery endured and equally reading the hatred being levelled our way, frankly it makes me want to slit my wrists.

  • Oliver

    Usual Da Vinci Code hysteria here! Isn’t it rather more likely that Fr. Cunningham wrote his letter of apology and sent back his MBE because he was ordered to by his superiors? No doubt the men in charge of the Rosminian order just assumed that the gang making the allegations were telling the truth. Or, just as likely, they didn’t care whether they were telling the truth or not. The thinking seems to have been that if Fr. Cunningham and the others confessed and apologised then somehow that would get the Order off paying heavy damages. Unfortunately forcing your priests to admit their guilt is not a smart strategy if you’re hoping to avoid paying up. And the more money changes hands the more allegations will continue to be made.

  • David Lindsay

    So much for public schools as centres of traditional moral values. They are just about the most anti-family institutions imaginable, founded on the premise that children should be brought up with as little parental contact as possible except when it comes to paying the bills, and organised towards the acting out of adolescence in single-sex residential environments.

    No wonder that their products, stalwart defenders, and users as parents, gave us Thatcher’s Children Act. No wonder that they cheered on as the economic basis of paternal authority was destroyed – initially in working-class families and communities, but then very rapidly throughout society as a whole – by their heroine, who had left her own small children to hired help while she pursued first her legal and then her political ambitions.

    Now, when are we going to have a high-profile television documentary on the numerous Social Services Departments that ran homes in which sex between men and teenage boys was absolutely endemic, with major figures in that world publishing academic studies, used for many years in the training of social workers, which presented it as positively beneficial to both parties and therefore actively to be encouraged? Or on the Police, who long ago stopped enforcing the age of consent from 13 upwards; as with their non-enforcement of the drugs laws, one really does have to ask for whose benefit that is?

    Or on the war in Afghanistan, our military defence of the endemic abuse of such boys, an abuse to which, whatever else may be said of the Taliban, they were very actively opposed and not without success in seeking to eradicate, whereas the regime that we have installed in their place actively colludes in it as surely as in the heroin trade?

    Among many, many, many others.

  • Martial

    Jesus, Eternal Priest, keep Thy priests within the shelter of Thy Sacred Heart, where none may touch them. Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch Thy Sacred Body. Keep unsullied their lips, daily purpled with Thy Precious Blood. Keep pure and unworldly their hearts, sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood. Let Thy holy love surround them from the world’s contagion. Bless their labors with abundant fruit, and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here and their everlasting crown hereafter.O God, Thou didst raise Thy servant (Father Kit Cunningham) to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, according to the Order of Melchisedech, giving him the sublime power to offer the Eternal Sacrifice, to bring the Body and Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ down upon the altar, and to absolve the sins of men in Thine own holy Name. We beseech Thee to reward his faithfulness and to forget his faults, admitting him speedily into Thy holy presence, there to enjoy forever the recompense of his labors. This we ask through Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord. Amen.
    Praise to you, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, source of all consolation and hope.By your Son’s dying and rising He remains our light in every darkness, our strength in every weakness.Be the refuge and guardian of all who suffer from abuse and violence.Comfort them and send healing for their wounds of body, soul and spirit.Rescue them from bitterness and shame and refresh them with your love.Heal the brokenness in all victims of abuse and revive the spirits of all who lament this sin.Help us to follow Jesus in drawing good from evil, life from death.Make us one with you in your love for justice as we deepen our respect for the dignity of every human life.Giver of peace, make us one in celebrating your praise, both now and forever.Amen.

  • Jonathan West

    You have done nothing wrong. You have been deceived by a very clever career paedophile, There is no shame in that. The shame is in those who know of his activities and did nothing either to stop them or report them.

    You placed your trust, not only in Fr Kit himself, but in the Catholic Church as a whole, that they would keep abusers out of ministry and away from children. It is not your fault that this trust has been betrayed.

    Damian Thompson in the Telegraph is scathing about the Rosminians and particularly about Fr Myers.

    “You won’t hear any excuses from me for this cover-up by the Catholic
    Church. My understanding is that other allegations will soon be made
    public. If the Rosminian order goes bankrupt and Myers is forced out of
    office as a result of these revelations, then so much the better.”

    There is something you can do to put this right. Get involved in safeguarding in your local parish.become the safeguarding governor of your local school. make sure that the child protection procedures are well defined and rigorously implemented. You can’t heal the whole world, but you do have the power to improve your own local corner of it.

    Safeguarding is everybody’s business. I’ve learned a lot about it in the last 2 years, since Father David Pearce of Ealing Abbey was convicted of multiple indecent assaults against boys at St Benedict’s School. I’ve made myself a right pain in the neck there, but improvements have started to happen. Not enough yet, but improvements nonetheless. You can do the same.

    http://scepticalthoughts.blogspot.com/

  • Martinsweetland

    Martial – This must be a wind – up  . How can you ask for forgiveness for a man who hid behind the auspice of priesthood to systematically abuse innocent children?.If you believe in Heaven and Hell , this vile despicable man deserves to burn in Hell for eternity. Faithfulness ? – what a joke. You obviously do not understand the meaning of the word . Yet another case of paedophiles collectively protecting one another, and doing untold harm to the most vulnerable of all societes – young children . Totally unforgivable. Only cure for paedos is death, not absolution. Sadly too many fanatics and nutters of all religions out there, abusing and killing in “the name of the Lord”.

  • Bmac

    We have now been confronted with clear evidence of a Church cover-up. 

    As a practicing Catholic I feel ashamed at the behaviour of all concerned especially Fr David Myers, whose sin of denial is the worst of all.  Shame on you. 

     I ask that the Cardinal take immeadiate action in this issue.
    I also wish the victims every succes in their legal persuit of Justice, and shall pray that they gain peace after so many years of anguish.  May God bless you and grant you Justice.

  • Jaya222

    Well done to all the men who spoke out on this documentary. It’s so sad the suffering they’ve endured. Well done to them for finally exposing these abusers.

  • Jonathan West

    Paedophiles will be paedophiles. The inability of the abusing priests to come up with anything more than half-hearted and self-justifying apologies is as clear a demonstration of this as you could ever hope to see.

    It is entirely true that if paedophiles were to stop abusing, the crisis would go away. True, and utterly useless, because they won’t. So if the church is going to put an end to the crisis, then it must work to minimise the damage they can do. It must ensure that paedophiles, once they are discovered, are permanently kept away from children thereafter. The safety and interests of the children must be paramount.

    The is the lesson which will have to be learned, over and over again until it finally reaches every corner of the church. The root cause of the crisis is the abuse, not the publicity surrounding it. To try and limit the publicity is just to prolong and magnify the problem. Fr David Myers has tried to keep the lid on the publicity surrounding this case. He has failed, and deservedly so.

  • PK

    Thank you for clarifying this. I had wondered what was fully said at the ‘memorial’. It is a shame that Fr Myers aborted his peace and reconciliation process as it seemed to have brought peace to the victim now in Australia. That the Rosminians haven’t realised that until their house is in order, the skeletons removed from cupboards, whatever they do will always be tarnished and suspect. It is terrifying to think the victims as children were in a school with a clutch of paedophiles. This is the Winterbourne of the church but as in the secular example there are many Winterbournes. We must in the church publicly acknowledge the pain, express remorse and work towards the healing. What the Pope said on behalf of the church isn’t being carried through. I pray for the victims that they will heal one day. Suing the Rosminians is a good idea – it is talking in their language – it would seem the Rosminians still value their ‘reputation’ and purse. Was it Austen Invereigh who wrote that in this global scandal the church is poorer and better for it? We do the Church and the family no good by this conspiracy of silence.

  • Anonymous

    My wife and I, like so many others married by Fr Kit Cunningham, loved and admired him and found him to be an excellent priest.  As with most priests I have known, I knew nothing of his personal life, whether he had ever sinned or betrayed his priesthood nor would I have expected to be told by him.  I cannot accept that this could be described as in any way deceit.  I pray that he did confess his sins to God and that he now rests in peace.  The ludicrous reductionism that would impose on sinners a perpetual public stigma of uncleanliness fits ill with my concept of christianity.  Although the sexual drive may have evolved as the most powerful drive in most human beings, whatever its direction, it does not help discussion to transform particular manifestations into a totally taboo subject or one justifying the abandonment of all tenets of faith.  In the light of the hysterical reaction, which does not seem entirely centred on comforting those abused, I am not at all surprised at the temptation to cover up.

  • IDesireMercy

    You know what, though. As horrible as what he did in the 1960s was, over 40 years have gone by in which he repented, made amends (in his fashion), and lived the sincerely impeachable life his friends and parishioners knew. The memory of his despicable activities may have made him humble, to say nothing of someone with a good notion of the depths to which human beings can sink and how to help them out of them.

    When Catholics say that all men are sinners, and that Christ forgives the repentant sinner, we are not just talking about people who sass back to their mothers and cheat on their income tax.  

    The man who tried to rape and then stabbed St. Maria Goretti to death went to prison but was also at her canonization.  A serial rapist who raped and murdered a 16 year old girl and her 17 year old boyfriend was executed but was also the charge and the subject of Sr. Helen Prejean’s “Dead Man Walking.”  These were nasty, awful people, but the Church teaches that there is redemption even for them.  

    I can understand sorrow that a beloved figure did terrible things 45 years ago, but not despair and the rage I’ve been reading on the internet. Children in Catholic institutions in 2011 are not subject to the danger children in Catholic institutions were in 1969 nor to the danger children are in in other, less self-examined institutions in 2011.

    I hope Londonistar and other people who loved Fr Cunningham (whom I have never met or heard about until yesterday) can hold both the ideas that Fr Cunningham did horrible things 45 years ago and that Fr Cunningham was ALSO the good man they have known in the past few decades.  

  • Nesbyth

    On the programme last night there was a picture of the Service sheet for Father Kit Cunningham’s Memorial Mass and it definitely said MEMORIAL MASS. It  did not have printed that it was his Requiem Mass.

  • Nesbyth

    The sexual abuse of the boys by some of the Rosminians was admitted in their letters of apology but if physical abuse of schoolboys by beatings is going to be challenged then the whole school system from Eton downwards would have to be challenged. It was the norm, the custom of punishment in schools. No-one would have been denounced by other teachers for carrying out the rules….although those getting pleasure from it should have been if it was obvious.
     My brother went to a boarding school in the early 1960′s and was regularly beaten on his bum, as were a huge percentage of boys in every boarding school in the land. That it gave some of those doing the beating a sexual thrill is well-known. They are called sadists.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697126564 Paul Halsall

    What the Church can do.1. Allowed married men to become priests and priests to marry.2. Allow female priests.3. Stop terrorising children in confession that they will go to hell if they masturbate.4. Stop thinking that ludicrous Roman statements, such as the recent one (one the right of this page as I write) that girls cannot serve at old rite masses have nothing to do with the culture of sexual repression that encourages abuse, and terrifies the abused.

  • ttcarlisle

    I was also abused at the age of 14 by a Brother at Ratcliffe College, another Rosminian school and when I reported this matter to, the presumably late, Fr Harwood (my ‘spiritual advisor’!), nothing was done to bring the matter to light. The gym master there, another Rosminian, was also a well-known predatory, serial sexual abuser of boys and was, at least required to leave the school, but only after many reports of his abuse.

    The problem was rife and the Rosminians did not deal with is honestly, being more interested in protecting the reputation of the order than in protecting the boys for whom they were acting in loco parentis. They are called The Institute of Charity, but the perhaps The Institute of Self-Interest would be a better handle.

    In my last year at the school I and a group of boys who were being instructed in how to behave in the outside world, were told by another ‘spiritual advisor’, that it was ‘ a mortal sin to kiss a girl, unless you intended to marry her. That is if you derive pleasure from it’!  Luckily for most of us, this was the mid-60s and we were able to prove this nauseating dictum completely wrong when we left school for the sane outside world.

    Shame on them all.

  • http://towertales.tumblr.com/ Londonistar

    I am sick to death, or sick at least, of men and their disgusting stupidities about sex wrecking faith, families, society and lives. This week I have read countless stories about rape, sex trafficking and now this. That such men find their way into a church is a disgrace. That they are desperate to not be undone by it all and so cover it up and hope it goes away is a disgrace. But I have to wonder what is wrong in society that in every corner of our lives some very sick men are unable to control themselves or happy to use their power to abuse. From what I can gather the church has put in some very credible safeguards to prevent these men, from gaining access to children. But what is being done what is being challenged in society more widely to bring shame and stigma on men who abuse our trust, who make our streets unsafe, who wreck society with their cavalier attitude to sleeping around and never wanting to marry. It’s all part of the safe massive issue and it makes me suspicious of all men quite frankly. It seems you can trust noone.

  • IDesireMercy

    Londistar, I too am sick of how the actions of the very few Catholic priests among the very many men who sexually use and abuse those in their care have led back to a near-Gordon Riot situation. The fact is that sexual use and abuse of the weak by the morally weak is an EPIDEMIC, not in Catholic rectories, but throughout the world. 

    The reason why the RCC is seen as a sink of iniquity in this respect is that most other institutions (to say nothing of thousands of incest-suffering families) are either still under the radar or simply just not as newsworthy.  The Sunday papers have been full of morally weak Anglican (for example) choirmasters and rectors for decades, but that doesn’t fit the current Catholics-are-Evil narrative. Neither does the horrific abuse of children in institutions run by the state, although we recently saw a program on the BBC about abuse of children in state-run care. Neither do hundreds of accounts of public school graduates (including C.S. Lewis and Evelyn Waugh) about the sexual violence meted on the smaller, weaker boys by the elder or by staff in public schools for heaven knows how long. 

    Not much good has come out of all this mess, but I will list two: 1. Thanks to the new awareness and self-examination, Catholic institutions are now safer for children and teens than they were between the 1950s and 1990s, and 2. we are beginning to understand the extent to which the young and vulnerable are exploited by adults (and older teens) everywhere. Thus, even non-Catholic kids might become better protected, and even non-Catholic adults with such temptations prevented from committing their soul-destroying sins.  

    As for the predictable outbreak of anti-Catholic hatred, same old, same old, so we’ll just have to put up with it or stop reading the papers. The people who enjoy hating us may also be redeemed.

  • Patrick Heren

    Yes it did say Memorial Mass on the sheet, probably printed up by the staff at Ely Place. And as I said in my post most of us doubtless went along in that spirit. But my point stands: Fr Myers made it starkly clear that we were praying for the man’s soul, NOT celebrating his life and achievements.
    However, in light of what we all now have seen on TV, perhaps Fr Myers should have cancelled the whole thing. Fr Kit had already had a jolly good send-off at the Rosminian base in Dublin, attended by a fair number of English mourners.

  • Antichrist

    Typical!  As having been to several catholic schools in the 1950′s this is no surprise. I last went to Mass in 1959 after a priest at Brompton Oratory attempted to seduce me. I have since left the Church and consider Catholic priests to be a bunch of hypocrits and perverts who only use their so-called faith as a means to further their own ends. That goes for the Pope too.

  • Karen

    So glad to hear of his ‘jolly good send-off’ which you were obviously a part of. He always seemed to be surrounded by sycophants and having a good time. Whatever happened to to the concept of the humble priest?

  • David Armitage

    I’ve just posted my personal account of Grace Dieu from 1947 – sanitized  – in the Guardian in reply to the positive TV critic of last night’s broadcast.

  • Phil

    I do understand and appreciate what you are saying Nesbyth when you say “the norm, the custom of punishment in schools”. But I must correct your misunderstanding of went on at St Michaels, Soni. It went far beyond what is considered normal punishment in boarding schools or schools in general. We are basically talking about a prep school with children as young as seven years old. Most of the children being at least eight hours drive along rough potholed roads from a normal loving family life. The punishments were often awarded for little or no infringements or even a lack of academic success. A morning greeting by the priest in class with one teacher involved every child holding out their palms to be solidly hit with two wooden rulers kept together with rubber bands. A knuckled smash to the back of unsuspected heads, thrown wooden chalk dusters aimed with malice. Heads pounded in to the blackboard. Leaving aside the 6 of the best with an electric flex which some children received the ultimate punishment was a note that the child had to hand in to receive at least 6 strokes (holding onto that note for hours, sometimes days was not the height of fun) of a large bat or cane delivered at the run, often leaving blood congealing and sticking to your underpants and sometimes dribbling down your legs. To some unfortunates this was delivered again the next day. Every day was a life in terror with the only sanctuary being to climb into bed at the end of the day. To some poor unfortunates even the night was not an escape.

  • David Armitage

    Congratulations. I didn’t go to Ratcliffe, but the Jesuits in Leeds were free with the ferula, which was astonishingly painful. The J’s seem to have confined their ardour to boarding schools in the UK, but they caused a tsunami in Germany:
    students were sexually abused  at Berlin’s private Catholic Canisius Kolleg, the school’s director Father Klaus Mertes helda joint press conference with Stefan Dartmann, the head of the Jesuit order of Germany, and announced he was sending a letter to alumni asking them to come for ward with information. David Myers take note.

  • Martial

    We can only pray that Father Cunningham was able before he passed from this life to make amends and to trust in the mercy of God. We can only pray for the victims and their healing and being made whole in the blood of Jesus. Our Lord is the great and awesome judge of justice and HE is in no need of our our help in meting it out. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23  “For the just man falls 7 times a day” Proverbs 24:16  “Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved; but give place unto wrath, for it is written: Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” Romans 12:19  “Christians believe everything is reversible, any sin even any crime. While man is alive he can understand and repent. The result of your crime cannot be repented. It is the past. There is nothing to do only to grieve and to change….this renewal of the soul whenever it happens, even at the very end, this is Christianity. Otherwise one follows assuredly one’s wrong path. The age tells him, “go on everybody does this” It ossifies the soul completely. People condemn themselves to complete perdition. The punishment is that man cannot repent anymore, he’s lost in the stream.  And in this stream he is not even a person. This is a most terrible idea.”  MY JESUS MERCY!
    Alexander Solzhenitsyn

  • DvD

    This is a disgraceful comment – utterly unChristian. Shame on you.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FWDUY3XBGKJWBEKYIBJJ6BX63E Jeannie

    Christ forgives, but that does not relieve one of the worldly consequences of one’s sins.  At least this priest had a conscience, at the end of his life, and perhaps out of fear that his eternity would be spent in hell with other abusers, this priest confessed. Now, the Church, as well as his order, needs to deal with the coverup and the consequences of the actions of his superiors.  As far as the Survivors of the Abuse are concerned, they need to deal with a way to find peace and a healing.  His suffering is over, but unfortunately the suffering of his Survivors will last, in some measure, throughout their lives.

  • Patrick Heren

    “Jolly good send-off” is an ironic English way of saying that he had a proper funeral attended by many grieving friends and relations – all of them unaware of the disgusting facts that we learned this week and therefore not blessed with perfect hindsight. And, like the mass at Ely Place in January, Fr Myer’s conduct at the funeral was notably uncelebratory.
    I don’t regard friendship as sycophancy.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FWDUY3XBGKJWBEKYIBJJ6BX63E Jeannie

    Your post was very enlightening. As far as I’m concerned the entire Catholic Church, particularly the Vatican, should have it’s name changed to “The Institution of Self Interest.”  That just about sums up the coverups: Self Interests and Self Justification.

  • ex grace dieu and Ratcliffe

    I was at both Grace Dieu and Ratcliffe a while after Father Collins had left, and I also knew Bill Jackson and Kit Cunningham. While I encountered a good deal of kindness from many of these, I was certainly also touched by priests within the order while I was a boy at Ratcliffe and found myself in confessionals that were clearly giving the various priests alot of sexual entertainment. In one case, an elderly priest exposed himself while I was in his room seeking confession while another urinated in the sink in front of me. I know this happened to other boys too. I do not know if this qualifies as sexual abuse but it left its mark on me. As for the touching,- well it seemed to involve rubbing up against me, often when my back was turned. I simply pretended it had not happened, and the two men who did this were both genuinely good and kind individuals. I also had knowledge of the mother house in Surrey, St Mary’s and there is no doubt that, despite the few well-meaning clerics, it was certainly at that time a closed society of predominantly frustrated gay men.
    When wrongs took place, and in my case, my grievances were certainly not sexual, thopugh I took them right to the top, I was exhorted to offer them up to God and to be more humble. The culture of protection went along way and did me no service at all. To this day, I cannot understand how I got so caught up in the hoax and indeed how today I can count only two boys from my whole school experience with whom I remain in contact. Ratcliffe and Grace Dieu taught me how to hide and how to be utterly ashamed of myself. It has taken years to get over the experience of these two schools and for many years I did not even know that the experience that had so wounded me had even been a bad one. I would not want to do to a child what these men did to me and to others like me.What I was concerned about in seeing the film was the mention of violence which certainly persisted after Collins and I remember on a few occasions his name was evoked as an icon of terror many years after he had left. I spent hours in tears and fright not only of the Rosminian priest charged with discipline, a man called Duffy, but also because of the calculated and endless terror devised by the latin teacher, Brian Galway, a man who similarly aspired to some form of sanctity as a layman within the Grace Dieu community and continued to live there long after he retired. I know of one boy whose hair whitened during his prep-school days and who attributes this to a fear of Galway and I can remember being reduced to tears in public on at least two occasions by this man. That Galway also hugged and kissed the same boys he shouted at during lessons and that we sought his affection perhaps as a way of avoiding the terror makes this doubly dreadful. To learn of the Collins’ abuse in detail is to see where Galway was inspired and just how pervasive and terrible this form of abuse can be. I have no doubt at all that the terror of the early 1970s in Grace Dieu was conducted with a belief that these various men were doing what had already been done and that they believed they were doing was good.In the knowledge that both Galway and the art teacher are now dead, I visited Grace Dieu again and was touched by how beautiful a place it was. I remember many happy times there, but I also remember a great deal of confusion and misery. I would like to think that I now know where this came from. If the Rosminians had acted on this at the time, then I believe our schooling would have been happier and I for one would not have had these demons to carry on what now seems to have been a daily basis. So, thanks for bringing this up.

  • frangipane

    I was horrified by the revelations in last night’s programme. I lived in Dar and my brother went to Soni during those terrible years.  He has never discussed this but to this day he recalls the brutality and sadism of this terrible place.  He speaks of how they were beaten and of Fr Rayner in particular. Phil’s comments echo exactly what my brother has said in the past. As a little girl I used to pull faces when he told me that he had been made to eat slimy spinach with raw eggs as punishment (he was 7 years old).   My brother is a gentle person with a quiet demeanour.  He was always timid and never did well at school (at Soni or later).  Now I wonder if he was one of those poor little boys.  My heart goes out to all of them and I have the greatest admiration for those of  you that were brave enough to speak  out.  If winning this case means the disbandment of the Rosminian order then I, for one, will applaud!

  • Tagati

    You know, we asked the Rosminians as a group to apologise, and they said it was not up to them as an order to apologise, and we never got an apology from Fr. General or the Rosminians. They felt it was not the order that was at fault but the individual priests who should apologise. Fr Myers himself did a personal apology, but not on behalf of the Rosminians.

  • Kibirleey

    All I can say is….these priets that abuse young boys deserve the penalty of death….if anyone disagrees with me…..just imagine it was your kids that got abused…..I know id want to carry out some SAW or texas chain massacre on him……..(wont sleep tonght after watching that documentary…..my blood is boiling…and not only at those men…..but at the church…..holding a blooody memorial…the world we live in today……pure disgust!!!)

  • Frank

    I think the priests involved in abusing young boys will not be cured by marriage.