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The Rosminian order must face up to its past: what happened in Tanzania was a moral catastrophe

Last night’s programme was distressing to watch. The men who suffered abuse, though cruelly treated, have retained their dignity

By on Wednesday, 22 June 2011

One of the men who suffered abuse at one of two Rosminian-run schools in the 1960s (BBC/Blakeway Productions)

One of the men who suffered abuse at one of two Rosminian-run schools in the 1960s (BBC/Blakeway Productions)

After much hesitation, I feel I must comment on the one story that is causing great distress in the Catholic world this morning, namely last night’s television programme on BBC One, Abused: Breaking the Silence.

The programme was both sober in tone and sobering, even anguishing, to watch. The men who have suffered abuse have been cruelly treated, but they have retained their dignity; their testimony was both moving and convincing; they were clearly concerned for the truth to come out, and for justice to be done, as we should all be.

What happened at St Michael’s School, Soni, in Tanzania (as well as at Grace Dieu in Leicestershire) represents a moral catastrophe. There is no way around this. These things should never have happened. Even in those far off days, the 1960s and 1970s, schools were inspected, and teachers were supervised. In the religious life all religious had superiors, and those superiors answered to a chain of command. So – what went wrong there? Questions need to be answered about this. If the order did not know about what was going on, then the order was not doing its job properly. The alternative, that it did know and did nothing, is even worse.

As for the late Fr Kit Cunningham, who enjoyed so high a media profile, and who will now be seen as a child abuser forever more, I knew him; I lived with him for three years; during that time he was my religious superior; I wrote the obituary of him that appeared in the Tablet, that was written years before his death. There were an awful lot of people who liked Kit, and the obituary reflected this. His friends are now devastated, as one can see from Mary Kenny’s commentary in the Irish Independent.

One of the men in the programme talks of wanting to know why he was abused. I can understand his desire to know the truth, but that is an elusive truth. Why do people act this way? I doubt even the psychologists could tell us. I do wonder about what it was that drove Kit, and I now see that he was a driven man, but I very much doubt I will ever understand him or why he acted the way he did, even now that we know more of the story of his life.

A very level-headed friend of mine (who also knew Kit – I introduced them) had this to say to me: “My faith does not depend on an individual priest’s behaviour, luckily. It rests on something much bigger than that. But how I do wish that our clergy would stand up and do what we expect of them!”

What she wants, as do all Catholics, is something very simple: for a religious order (as it is in this case) to face up to its past, and to make amends to those who have been so badly hurt. That, surely, is not too much to ask.

  • IDesireMercy

    The “why” is that people who do not keep an eye on themselves sin as they breathe. The morally weak exploit the physically or emotionally weak. Silver-tongued men seduce 21 year old girls, use them and discard them like trash every day. 

    It is a tragedy that this man loved by so many will be remembered only as a child abuser, just as almost nobody remembers or knows that Cardinal Law of Boston was once a hero of the American civil rights movement. There seems to be a lack of balance. We are all sinners, no man but the Son of Man deserves hero-worship, and even a serial sex killer–which this man wasn’t–who sincerely and painfully repents may be redeemed. I have not read anywhere that this man continued in his foul deeds after leaving the school. For all we know, he spent whatever solitary hours for the next 40 years weeping, wondering if it would be better to confess in public or to remain silent. 

    When we say Christ came to save sinners, we don’t mean just those who cheat on their income tax. And  when we say God forgives sins, we don’t mean just harsh words uttered in anger, but all terrible crimes sincerely repented.  In the 1970s and 1980s, the Church erred when we handed out forgiveness to sinners without determining that they were actually repentant or levying a sensibly heavy penance, but we err now when we define a man entirely by the clearly regretted sins of his past life.   

  • Derekjohnson

    Dirty catholic paedophiles go to hell 

  • Disappointed

    I went to Grace Dieu in the 80′s. We were always aware that some staff there were paedophiles. We could do nothing. Cunningham though seemed to represent the better side of the Rosminian order. At least I thought so. He married me & he baptised my daughter. What a fool I was. I would like to see this order bankrupted and ended. 

  • IDesireMercy

    And what have you got on your soul that you don’t want on the cover of the Daily Mail?

  • Anonymous

    I fully agree that amends should be made, yes. But not to the extent that it bankrupts the order or harms its charitable activities. Surely there has to be some proportionality here. Parishioners who give to the Church today are not responsible for actions of dead or retired priests from decades earlier. I sometimes feel that all of us who give to the Church are being made to pay, now, for things for which we bear no responsibility, and that a spirit of vengeance motivates some of the litigation.

  • Philip

    While I sympathise with your view regarding parishoners who give to the church today, based solely on what I saw in the programme last night adn press indications in the past I can not agree.  In this case at least one of the priest was moved from a school in UK after a parents complaint, to the school in Tanzania.  The church was responsible for this and the result.  The were at least three priest named in the programme, had the other two also been “moved” to Tanzania after a complaint or observed behaviour as well.  If the church had called in the police at the time and expelled them from the order, then your argument would hold, they did not.  Unfortunately not only did they fail to remove them then, but it seems that there is still a tendency to be less than 100 percent open about it.

  • Juan….

    These cases remind me of what was said at Garabandal on June 18th 1965 regarding some of our clergy. Worth looking it up!!

  • Phil

    I agree with you Nytor when you say “Parishioners who give to the Church today are not responsible for actions of dead or retired priests from decades earlier”.
    But what you are responsible for is not demanding loudly and continuously that this behaviour must stop, totally acknowledge what has gone on and be totally open and frank with any information that admits the truth in these horrific deeds. Most parishioners will know how the Catholic church has for decades now done everything in it’s power to keep this quiet and done its utmost to keep these dirty deeds hidden and continue to do so.
    Until this happens I’m afraid that existing parishioners will continue to be held and seen to be responsible.
    You say that the “spirit of vengeance motivates some of the litigation”. I feel that this is perfectly understandable in the meantime.

  • Richard

    I am a member of this same religious order. I have winessed that superiors enjoy great power and abuses it on others. Abuses happens in our formations houses as well. I had a painful life during my formation. Rosminians should analyse the past, before it gets too late. 

  • John Bowles

    Well said. The most impressive of the men on last nights program was the Australian who accepted the apologies and forgave. The others, one suspects, have many other “issues” in their lives aside from having possibly been abused at school.

  • Tagati

    hello John,
    I was at Soni.
    Has it occured to you that these other issues may be because of the abuse?
    Obviously you were not abused from the age of 7-13.
    When this happens the world seems a little warped, and one does not really trust the world,as those you trusted the most were the worst!
    I feel that the term “possibly” abused, is exactly the response we got from others, and some even use the word “alleged”, as if it didn’t happen.

  • ex ratcliffe and Grace Dieu

    Dear Alexander, 
    Your response is considered but rather misses the point. The point is that your level-headed friend is completely wrong. A single Priest can change a life for good or ill as we have seen. You are well aware, of course, that the Rosminians is an order filled to the brim with frustrated gay men – for those of us who know the order well, and who went to both Grace Dieu and to Ratcliffe as I did (you were at Ratcliffe as a boy and then went on to teach at Grace Dieu), there was hardly a priest or lay-brother on the staff who was not fairly self-evidently gay, not in itself wrong, but worrying when accompanied by an obsessive interest by a celibate clergy in the masturbatory habits of the boys in their care. Essentially, all confessions that took place in Ratcliffe and that I attended whether face to face or behind the laughable security of a grill, descended into an intimate interrogation about methodology and frequency which cannot have been healthy. I knew from personal experience and from conversations with others, of two elderly priests who were fairly famous for flashing in front of boys who went to their rooms for advice, one of whom had an obsession with circumcision. they both seemed relatively harmless. It is not worth naming names here and the worst that ever happened to me was some unwanted rubbing from behind during games. However, the important fact that emerges from this story is the special blend of sadism, mendacity and paedophilia alleged to have been practiced by Collins. Certainly, that was in evidence in Grace Dieu in my day and the mixture of terror and hugs put forward by Brian Galway must be seen in the shadow of what Collins allegedly did and that there seems fairly good evidence to suspect was true. He talks in the film of “being hated”, and the story of him firing a gun at little boys is truly horrifying. Again, in the person of Galway, there is evidence of a split personality- the man who terrorised children and the old man who clung devotedly to the latin missal. There was a climate of abuse in both schools and a climate of secrecy that came directly from the Rosminian order. It comes as no surprise to me that the then President of Ratcliffe had been informed about the Collins’ abuse at Grace Dieu and did nothing. Of the two possible candidates referred to in the film, Leetham and Morris, both were men of exemplary character and great kindness, and I know that you would have known Fr Morris personally. What happened here, then, must have been the consequence of a wealth of good intentions, some Rosminian mumbo-jumbo about humility and providence and a failure to admit failure where failure existed. More disturbingly is the story of Bill Jackson, another man who seemed to me to have been very kind and well-intentioned, but whose darker past was either hidden or discounted entirely by the order. Where Collins and Jackson differ, however, is that the former was a man who derived pleasure from children’s pain and the latter a man who seems to have been caught with his pants down. If Kit Cunningham is to be placed anywhere, it must be closer to Jackson than to Collins and for Jackson, I personally have some sympathy though what came across in the film suggests he has been badly advised and of course what he wrote to his victim was platitudinous. The tv documentary is remarkable in the way it allowed Collins the airtime to show just how depraved and horrible he really is. His transferrence of guilt from himself to the boy and his assumption that the person he speaks to might share his obsession with masturbation is utterly detestable, but… let me just reread what I have written, is it not really utterly in line with what we both know the Rosminian order was actively promoting and practicing?
    Rosmini was a major 19th century intellectual who fell foul of the Jesuits and found his work condemned. The order he founded, with a few notable exceptions, of which, Alexander, I do not doubt you are one, appeals to people who are happy to have their intellect blinkered by submissive conformity, as was their founder. But of course, what happens is that that all the darkness might emerge elsewhere. The Rosminians, almost by definition, is a frustrated organisation, and while it might aspire and deserve to be so much better, Fr Collins is a pretty good example of what it can create while Fr Kit Cunningham is one of the many sorry victims of such a blinkered, self-deceiving, stubborn and irrational institution.
    I don’t know how the Father Provincial, Fr Myers thought he could square this circle and I am afraid, Alexander, you cannot either. I trust, therefore, that as soon as is practically possible, you will follow in the footsteps of John Arnold and will make plans to leave the order.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Dear ex-Ratcliffe and Grace Dieu,
    I don’t think my level headed friend meant to express a universal truth in her comment; I fully acknowledge that the behaviour of a single priest can have a catastrophic effect on a person’s faith. I read your comments with great interest; there are certain aspects I do not agree with, but at present I am not quite sure what I think about this matter, as it is quite a lot to take in – I mean re the genesis of these actions. And I do not think a full explanation is ever likely to emerge. But I am not trying to square a circle, or at least I do not think so. I am by the way no longer part of the community of the Rosminians. This blog is entirely personal and in no way reflecting the position of Fr Myers. Best wishes, ALS

  • ex grace dieu and ratcliffe

    I am delighted genuinely that you have left. This is not to say that the Rosminians is wholly bad or corrupt or whatever, but I think that, for whatever historical and personal reasons, they are unnecessarily authoritarian and thoroughly anti-intellectual. As you know, there are major exceptions especially in the person of Fr Tom Deidun, (Have I spelt that correctly?)- who I think has succeeded Fr Cunningham at Ely Place; but on the whole, it is good to know you have left! My rant about Galway may come as a slight shock, for you would only have known him as a colleague. I knew him as a boy and therefore as a victim and certainly I would never have visited the school again while I knew he was alive. I also know that I am not alone in this assessment. 

  • Anonymous

    Of course any form of preying on the weak and vulnerable should be rooted out of society, from people in positions of authority to the sex tourism in the 3rd world.
    Being in the same year as ALS at RC, he might remember I had little time for RC, GD or most of the teachers. No doubt the feeling was mutual. However in defence of the 2 schools it was always known there were a couple of ‘funny bgrs’ that you didn’t let them close the door when you were in their room. Yes they do need to know why they were targeted, but I dont think they will like (what I think is) the answer. As John Bowles said, maybe some of these people have other issues in their lives. Why is it folks seem to be constantly looking back and blaming others, in the past you would be told to get on with it, toughen up.
    As for the order being filled to the brim with paedos and pooftas, boad of lollocks. OK maybe I was just too ugly to be a target and didn’t see it.
    As the saying goes ‘a lie travels 3x’s round the world before the truth has even got his socks on’. We need to be very careful before airing dirty laundry, Provide proof when they are alive, not allegations when they are dead.
    Julian Coker

  • ex-ratcliffe and Grace dieu

    just to clarify, I alleged that most of the order was gay. I certainly did not suggest that (therefore) they were also paedophiles. There is a big difference. What was unfortunate, I think, is that there was insufficient support for the clergy and too much secrecy and “obedience”. I think the accent on this story should be placed on those people who abused their position still further with violence  against children which is certainly what Collins is alleged to have done, and that legacy of violence was certainly an important aspect of what I witnessed as a boy in Grace Dieu. And as for the gay issue, well- I can think of some excellent priests who have been excellent precisely because they were gay — as indeed there are excellent poets and singers who found themselves drawn to this work because they are gay. I suppose Gerard Manley Hopkins probably falls into both camps! I think the general assumption is that 33% of most catholic priests are gay (in 2006, there was an American attorney who claimed that 90% of priests in Miami were gay, but he had probably been watching “the Birdcage”). So 1 in 3. I think that percentage is rather higher in the Rosminian order and I suggest that the cult of secrecy in the order probably explains this. I can think of few members of the Rosminian order in both Ratcliffe and Grace Dieu when I was a boy there who I could honestly say were not gay and I witnessed quite a number of the order “camping around”. With hindsight today I have no hesitation. then, maybe I would have considered some of this eccentricity. I did not feel any of them were dangerous or would abuse me sexually. I was not at Grace Dieu when Collins was in control.

  • Thaddeus57

    This scandal and debauchery will not end until the Superiors of the Priestly orders and the bishops are held not only accountable but removed from office. What’s happened in the US, Ireland, and all the other countries reflect these ‘CEO’s protecting their office and having no concern for the victims or the crime committed. The priest-superiors and the bishops are the last vestige of absolute autocracy in this world. They answer to no one!. And Rome basically cannot ‘compute’ this issue and moves like a glacier. (It took Rome 15 years to remove the Bishop of Tawoomba, Australia for what appears to be heresy beginning at his ordination as bishop!!!). All the rules and guidelines in the US penalize the priest but you see no mention of discipline or accountability for neglient bishops.
    My suggestion is to put all schools, hospitals, churches, training facilities under lay ownership and control (e.g. EWTN network). Money corrupts faster than power.

  • Martin Shaw

    Like Mary Kenny, I was horrified to find that the genial old Kit I thought I knew well was merely another shyster, charlatan and worse. Jim Flynn sent me his obituary card and I suppose I should burn it now. Jim wrote to me today “Like so many others, I am sick at heart about the whole thing and would prefer not to talk about it just now. I am just back from a visit to East Africa and preparing to go North very soon, then heading off to Ireland for a holiday before heading off to Venezuela. Until a more propitious time”. One wonders what is the point of the globe-trotting by the septuagenarian Father General of the Rosminians? I don’t think Jim Flynn and David Myers are on the same planet as the rest of us judging by their utterances. I was paid £5k by the Diocese of Westminster to sign off on an abuse case in 2008. It included a gagging order but as I am not resident in the jurisdiction I don’t suppose it holds. The grubby deal was put together by an ex-Rosminian by the name of John Arnold who is now a Westminster functionary and hatchet man. It is not only the Rosminians who have questions to answer : Vincent Nichols should be asked how much the diocese knew and for how long. I wish the abuse survivors group well and the way I feel tonight, I hope they sue the Rosminians for every penny they have. Afterwards they should adjourn to the Bleeding Heart and see if they have any of Fr Kit’s choice claret (Fr Kit MBE pic on label) to drink a toast “To Charlatans and Shysters”. The Institute of Charity indeed. The Strawberry Fayre and all.       

  • Martin Shaw

    Kit Cunningham used to facilitate an old pervert called Monsignor Antony Howe by allowing him to offer Mass at St Etheldreda’s. Mgr Howe was convicted of cottaging in 1985 with a previous offence to be taken into account. Howe was the boss at the Marriage Tribunal for years and was responsible for questioning petitioners’ about their sexual lives. He had little taste for pastoral work and lived privately in a flat at the Barbican. He was for years the Chancellor,  Westminster Director of the Guild of St Stephen for Altar Servers and Diocesan MC until he was arrested in the public loos at Oxford Circus tube station. Oh yes. 

  • Martin Shaw

    I wonder what that old poof house Norman St John of Fawsley has to say about all this.

  • maryp

    Couldn’t agree more!

  • Roryodonnell

    Am proud to have been educated by the Rosminians (Institute of Charity) and to have attended Fr Kit Cunningham’s Requiem (St James, Spanish Place, (24 ii 2011)

  • Jonathan West

    Martin, the gagging clause in the agreement you made is illegal and unenforceable even within the UK. They were relying on your ignorance of the law in order to keep you quiet. If you want to talk about this, you can, and the church can do nothing about it. But be prudent, don’t take my word for it, consult a lawyer.

    You aren’t the first person I have heard of who has been shut up in this way. £5k seems to be the going rate paid out by the church.

    I would be interested to learn more from you, I’ve been looking into the abuse scandal at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School. My email address can be found on my blog.

  • ex-ratcliffe and Grace dieu

    I tried to respond to the previous blogger only to find his comments had been removed. Here is what I said anyway: It is disturbing that the head of the order feels he is entitled to a holiday. Maybe it should be extended and become a resignation. Equally, I am sorry to hear that John Arnold has got mixed up in this. He struck me as a level-headed and good man, bright, hard-working and capable. Maybe he has proven too capable in his current position and gagging orders have proven fairly hard to enforce recently as we know! 
    The damage these people with grubby ecclesiastical power can do is astronomical. With the power is self-righteousness, a very dangerous combination that leaves even the most pernicious individual with a sense of virtue. ENOUGH DAMAGE IS DONE BY ACCIDENT, and the clergy should make extra effort to avoid doing more damage by design. For those in the Rosminians, this is the time you have been waiting for- this is the date of your own personal crucifixion. It’s now time to stop talking about huimility and face the very real public humiliation and potential ruination that awaits you- I suggest Fr Myers and the General stop pussyfooting around and lead by example. there could be some nobility in the way they face their destruction after all. For those who you have abused or for those whose abuse you ignored, that period of torture has gone on long enough. It is not over by a long stretch, but it is now there are many who will listen kindly at last and who will symathise. It is time the Rosminians woke up to reality. It is no wonder their priests respond top the charges with coy platitudes and evasions- this is the language they have been taught but the words they use, the words indeed of their founder Antonio Rosmini- the call for humility and honesty and forgiveness are words that should be taken to heart, not parroted. Every day in the Rosminian community, the order reads about the founder’s trials and how he embraced each misfortune with resignation as the will of God. God has spoken repeatedly through parents, superiors and the law but it took the full might of the fourth estate to make the rosminian clergy sit up and take note. It is time they took proper responsibility.
    I am truly sorry for the children who have been abused. I count myself at least in part as one of them, albeit mostly by men who taught in their school and under their direction, so I share that sense of outrage, and I would like to see it extended to cover these further issues for which I believe Collins must be held responsible. I am shocked that he should be hidden away in the motherhouse in Surrey -maybe the order have ferreted him away somewhere else by now. 
    But equally, I am sorry that Kit Cunningham is the centrepiece of this expose. What he did was shameful, and like Collins he seems to have inspired others, especially Jackson, but this was essentially a good man whatever harm he did, and a simple review of the tv programme will show the difference between how he appeared at the end of his life and how that self-justifying perverted monster Collins appears now. If we need to vent and if we need a target for our bile and resentment, then it must be directed to Wonersh or wherever he is hiding now.
    Long after the alleged incidents, Bill Jackson was promoted from lay-brother to priest. Why did no one prevent this? Again, my sympathies extend both to his victim but also to Jackson himself who has not been helped by the order or by his religious superiors. My great fear is that he will find himself carrying the can for all this while the odious toad Collins walks free.
    Finally, let me make my own position clear: I know the Rosminians well and what I saw led me to reject the Catholic Church quite, quite firmly. I see nothing to encourage me here to make me change my mind, but I see much that causes me great sadness, and this can of worms is already creating a very nasty far-reaching stink.

  • Timothyjowens

    I am an ex-Soni pupil. In 1962 nothing in my very happy seven year old life could have prepared me for the next two years. Bro Rayner made no secret of his attraction to “tiger” Tim (Father Cunningham’s nickname for me) being tiny, cheerful and innocent was no asset, it attracted Bro Rayner’s attention. He groomed me and severely beat me in very quick succession, never ever giving a reason for the very extreme canings, his one concession to me as a pet was to allow me to choose the cane for the beating (a really cruel trick) from his large collection. Is it possible that this man of the cloth (in loco parentis) was punishing me for making him sexually aroused by my being a child, and then becoming further aroused by inflicting the pain, then followed it with the unwanted petting business (was this remorse ?) for it to all start over again. I would have liked to ask Bro Rayner directly about this but I think he may be dead. I never made a single friend at Soni, I think I was too busy trying to be invisible, so until yesterdays BBC documentary I was in the dark about all the other victims. My brother and I attended at the same time so we do share our own individual experiences, however he was very traumatised and says he does not remember me being there, it’s same for me too. Those were the most wretched times, to be so lonely and scared as a child will have shaped my development no doubt. I am relieved both my parents have died before this dreadful story emerged, they like all the other parents were duped by very convincing priests. However part of me wishes that they could finally see that we were telling the truth. I salute all the Soni survivors, to paraphrase the brave Australian man in the film “don’t let them rent space in your head”I posted this on the Tablet in response to watching the BBC documentary Abused: Breaking the silence, I have now discovered that Bro Rayner is still alive, can I press charges?

  • Celtes

    It would be a different story if he’d cruelly abused your child.

  • Alistair Macdonald

    Eloquently put. I too am an old boy of Grace Dieu and Ratcliffe so nothing in the film really surprised me. Collins left about a year before I went to Grace Dieu in 1960. I now know why. I wasn’t aware that he sexually abused boys but his sadism was legendary and he was talked of in hushed tones.

    Perhaps one small surprise was that there was no mention of the infamous Brother Gibbons, who sexually abused scores of boys – possibly hundreds – including myself and my brother. He was another thug who was much admired by my father and other parents because he coached rugby…..therefore he must be a good egg.

    I can’t honestly claim to have suffered from the abuse because I suspect it was of a different order from that experienced by those in the film. I congratulate them all for their courage.

    A couple of issues remain. There has been a huge cover-up by the Rosminians for half a century. And it’s still going on. But now we know the facts – and Collins is a self-confessed sadist and paedophile – has a dossier been presented to the police? I cannot see any reason why this devious and mendacious old man should not be prosecuted. I would also like to see the police question Fr Myers who would clearly like to see the debate die a death. Has he committed a criminal offence in protecting Collins and Cunningham? Did the school governors know and, if so, why did they do nothing?

    I’ve got news for you, Fr Myers. This issue won’t just go away. Time to read the tea leaves more carefully and look at the massive compensation which has been paid by the Catholic Church in the US and Ireland. I have great sympathy with Disappointed’s view that the Rosminians should be bankrupted.

  • ex soni and ratcliffe

    JC (tinhatter) and ALS I too was in your year at Ratcliffe, I was also ex Soni and sided with JC on many occasions in sharing his view of the priests and teachers. However in my time at Soni there were six priests three of whom have turned out to be child abusers – an alarmingly high percentage and that rises to four out of six or seven if I include Jackson who had been moved on two years prior to my arrival.  I hope and pray that this statistic was/is an abberation – but I can’t be sure.

  • Lindi

    ‘ They answer to no one.’

  • Anonymous

    There were only about 3 exSoni boys in our year, I apologise if my reply was flippant in any way. There is no excuse for paedophilia or these abuses. Abusers deserve to be named, shamed and punished in their lifetime. The Church also needs to be honest that they knowingly put more children at risk.
    Any system where power is concentrated into a few hands leads to corruption, the church is slowly facing up to its past – solely due to a free press and communications in the West. Thank God for separation of Church & State, and an independant media & judiciary. That said, we should not forget the horrendous practices accepted in the poorer world right now.
    The inet is a very powerful tool of communication, my worry is that it can also be used anonymously to destroy blameless people we might not have liked. These allegations need to be proved in a proper fashion (and not by internal RC enquiry).
    My Best Regards

  • A survivor of GD

    I attended Grace Dieu Manor from 1971-1975 it was Hell. I was not molested but I was beaten, beaten and terrorized by Fr. Gervase Duffy. I also had to resist Mr Galway who was a serious … problem. He was sadistic towards children. He had his ‘boys’. 
    Terror and deprivation was the education at Grace Dieu Manor. Does anyone remember Mr. Borrington?
    The PE teacher who enjoyed ‘obliging’ the boys to remove their underpants when doing sport. He would personally check each boys pants just to make sure we all obeyed…remember this anyone? 
    Lastly, He enjoyed touching our bottoms or hand spanking us. Great school. Great education, fine frustrated freaks.

  • A survivor of GD

    I will state a few points here. The boys at Grace Dieu whose parents came regularly on weekends, half terms etc to see their boys and take them out ‘saved’ their boys hides. Grace Dieu was a place where terror and brutality was ‘installed’ since the early 1960′s until even the 1980′s. Julian Coker can say that he had a big family tie with Grace Dieu, from Dominic and his elder brother the parents came regularly, and this saved them from being brutalized (no good having too many complaints). I lived abroard and my parents rarely came to see me. So, the punishment could continue week in week out. I have mentioned names below, and others have mentioned names from different decades. I will say that the headmaster at Grace Dieu in 1971 was Father Fox (who left the orders), the discipline master was Fr. Gervase Duffy (who left the order). 
    Young boys from 9 to 12 some even 8 where beaten everyday. Fr. Duffy was a brutal man, he was a terror to children. In todays society he would be doing ‘time’ in a cell for physically abusing children.
    Fr. Duffy became headmaster eventually at Grace Dieu. It seems that Grace Dieu has had a long tradition of paedophiles, frustrated brutalizing priests. 
    The sick thing is that a lot of ex GD pupils actually consider the brutality as a positive part of the ‘education’, that it made us strong and capable of taking the blows life throws at us. Nonsense. 
    I have carried the scars since I left Grace Dieu, this explosion of testimonies has in some manner given me more understanding. I actually considered myself maybe a bit weak, why did I keep mentioning the Grace Dieu years…? to hear these witnesses is truly enlightening. 

  • Ptjones

    That’s a very odd reaction to all the previous comments in this discussion, Rory. Are you saying that because you benefited from your education at Grace Dieu and Ratcliffe (and I too acknowledge the good things I derived from my four years at the schools, when we were contemporaries and friends) that the wicked deeds that have now been uncovered should be overlooked?

    Peter Jones

  • Chris Stanley

    This was not confined to a Catholic Order. I attended Lime House School, Holm Hill, Dalston, Carlisle UK between 1956 and 1961 under the headship of a pedophile, Mr. Anthoy Osborn Lovelock. The place was one of terror with so many crimes punishable by beatings that it was almost impossible to avoid them. Lights out when he went round the dorms was a fondling session for many of us. It was 5 years of Hell and when I told my parents they said it was my fault because I was a naughty boy and needed to behave better.

  • Bill Allen

    As regards the clerics of Soni – the diocesan authorities were supposedly advised of these guys at the beginning of 2010 by the UL Provincial, Fr David Myers.  Supposedly the civil authorities were as well, in accordance with existing UK protocol regarding the discovery of abuse.  Those bringing the complaint to the Rosminians in late 2009 did specifically say that they preferred the 3 elder abusers not be charged. Kit Cunningham was in poor health and deteriorating, Bernard Collins was 94 and blind, Douglas Rayner had lost his marbles.  Doesn’t excuse the crimes, and apologies had been issued from the Rosminians as well as the 3 named here.  For most of us at the time we were accepting that the church was acting in good faith on a shared journey of truth coming out, justice and reconciliation.  Sad to say, we fell apart on the justice bit and the human stuff took over.  As posted in many of the wise statemnets in this blog, it is fair to say there are some very different agendas at play.  History will no doubt judge us accordingly, as it will certainly judge the Rosminian leadership for their handling of this tragedy.

  • ex ratcliffe and grace dieu

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say. I was also terrified, and genuinely terrified, of these people you mention. Our years pretty well coincide so I suspect we would have known one another. Certainly, there is much to talk about. The terror and the sadism is the flip side of the sexual abuse and that was certainly in the air and indeed there were always rumours often linked to Galway. I wonder whether the priests we have mentioned thought the brutality was expected of them? The threats to beat the whole dormitory come to mind, and the influence of Collins’ regime cannot be underestimated even at this time. It seems possible, but there were also priests on the staff who were genuinely kind -Scanlan and Canavan for instance. I notice you have posted twice here. I had the same experience. I thought there was a very limited number of things I could say, but once I began writing, there were innumerable memories, and most of them bad. It was a horrible way to start our education and a horrible introduction to the Church. Fox in particular, I hold to be responsible for giving me a fear of maths- on the few occasions he attended the lessons he was scheduled to take, he terrified the life out of me. I can say the same for the art teacher, who sadly turned up for every lesson and our french was a non-starter. This was a school that did not even get the basics right. Against that, I would have to say that I survived. Remember also that this was a time when it was considered appropriate to beat children. But to appoint one man to a job where his primary responsibility lay in beating children is abhorrent. Thank God that is gone. 

  • Marlenebaylis

    But the r’osminians could dispose of their palatial Derryswood where these priests reside in pampered luxury, all funded by loyal parishioners that would rather, I am sure, have their money channelled to people more worthy.

  • Roryodonnell

    Peter How good to hear from you, if under such sad auspices.I don’t doubt the testimonies being given, but there is danger of a witch-hunt, and totally disproportionate penalties are being called for. Fr Kit was lionised in London, but now many who supped at his table kick his hearse.

  • Survivor

    My heart goes out to you, Tim.

    As for pressing charges; take professonal legal advice. There are statutes of limitation but there are also circumstances in which they are waived. The Courts seem to be tolerant where abuse is concerned and the fact that you were unaware the perpetrator was still alive could be in your favour. However, as your experiences were in Tanzania, I can’t say exactly what your situation will be. But good luck to you.

  • Suzan

    I too was sadden, angered and torn when watching this programme.  When pictures of these young boys was shown it sickened me that grown men hurt them in that way, furthermore how many other young boys were abused that have never come forward.  I am a female who was sexually, physically, emotionally abused by adults as a child and from this experience can say when you violate a child in such an intimate way the wounds left can take a life time to heal (in some cases where the pain remains raw, suicide is sometimes the only way out).  You can only really have an understanding of sexual abuse, rape, etc if you have experienced it, when this happens to a child it is an act of evild.  Those who perpetuated these crimes can often show a persona of a kind well adjusted person, as seen in the documentary there were some who were monstrous in their physical abuse towards these children in their care – so try to avoid words such as ‘alleged/possibly’, you were not in those children’s shoes.

    I also grew up in the Christian religion and never doubted that God loved me, wondered why he was allowing those to hurt me in this way. I went through years of anger directed towards God as well as the abusers, but now know for a fact that they and I will face judgement. We will all have to answer to God including me for sins that I have done, whether it be for stealing that 10pence piece as a child (which I did) or whether a priest takes advantage of a young innocent vulnerable powerless child.  Those who are truly sorry for what they have done will admit this not only to God but to those they assaulted, asking for forgiveness, this is the start of repentance.  Admitting your sins is the first step towards asking and gaining forgiveness – typed letters for me was not good enough.  Those who keep on doing and covering up these heinous crimes rest assured God has his plans for you, do not fear what the media or the law on earth will do to you, fear what Father God has in store for you. 

  • Anonymous

    May all the goodness and compassion that can possibly flow your way, reach you, Suzan.

  • anxGDM

    Well… they will answer to God as He is the final judge

  • anxGDM

    I survived 8 years of GD and RC.. I say “survived” because like Julian, we not of the flavour (or favour) of the likes of Galway.  Always knew there were terrible things going on by both the lay and the priest teaching fraternity.  Having had all this come to light so recently scares the #$$% out of me as I hated all 8 yrs there although do not believe I was subjected to the sexual abuse, I know I was to the physical.  I say that but there were some strange incidences at RC that give me cause for reflection and grave concern…I only heard about all this from family members as most of us boys in our generation went to both schools. I was the first in 1963, pity I was not able to warn the others, but hopefully they escaped as kit was much later.

    Are we going to benefit from this exposure, maybe not. Are future generations, hopefully, but I do not believe so, but that should not stop us.  I never trusted men who became priests then pretend they are running schools for boys only and are straight…. but that is my view.  However, I empathise deeply with those affected and hope and pray that they can ovecome.. In the end these men have to face God, and He will be the judge of all

  • GD30

    Interesting comments.  I was at Grace Dieu for one year only, 1959-’60,  before going on to Ratcliffe, and probably because I was an older boy experienced none of the appalling sexual attacks while at GD that have been reported by others .  On the other hand, I suffered the same sadistic beatings as were routinely administered to all and sundry.  I distinctly remember being asked by the saintly Fr. Bell, the Prefect of Discipline, what I found so funny while we were standing in line one evening waiting to go to the “Cottage” (I had risked a smile at one of my friends).  That got me three strokes with the infamous jokari bat.  Come to think of it,  why was it considered necessary to have a “Prefect of Discipline” in the first place?  We were small boys, for heaven’s sake.  By halfway through my first term, I had received 16 whacks with the same bat - after that I didn’t bother to count anymore.

    My overriding memories of Grace Dieu are of Bell (who I understand seems to have reinvented himself in later years), the utterly weird Galway, and the appalling food that was dished up (remember the small plate of gruel and half a slice of bread for supper?)   Oh, yes, and Moggridge, the lay French master: (“I’m…going…to…write…you…a…note”), which note said something along the lines of “Please punish this child for looking out of the window” and guaranteed another close encounter with the jokari bat.  Ironically, my parents later discovered that I could have gone straight to Ratcliffe in the first place…

  • Josephinedunn

    My grandfather & his brother went to Ratcliffe College around 1897-9001. Edward Salt was a prize winner, Frederick Salt, the elder brother & my grandfather, was not a great scholar but I have a picture of him as goalkeeper of the school football team. He turned into a violent alcoholic who hung his wife from a 3rd floor window by her ankles, threw her down the cellar stairs and beat her in front of their 4 boys – there would have been 5 but 1 died immediately after birth. I suspected that he was dyslexic or “lazy” as it is still stupidly described. I suspected he may have had a “bad war”. Now I’m sure he would have been brutalized and beaten for not “trying harder” and so learnt to hit anyone smaller and weaker than himself – the classic training for a bully. I think my grandmother – a devoted catholic, my father and his brothers and I deserve an apology. My father would have left the faith if it had not been for my mother. I left it in 1971 after my father died. I have great spiritual belief but I despise religion for the all the reasons above and those stories told by others. Please will anyone who has records of this period contact me. Josephine Dunn

  • JH

    I have just watched the documentary on youtube – and as an ex-Sonian, I feel appalled and saddened – and I feel for all my fellow students who have had to deal with these awful experiences. And it really grates that the problems have just been exported to Tanzania. Unbelievable and totally unacceptable. 

  • John Holland

    I was a pupil at Grace Dieu from 1955 until 1962 – I arrived at the age of seven and the next three years were the worst of my life. I was beaten almost daily for such offences as biting my finger nails, talking in the dormitory after lights out - or for my schoolwork. I was assigned to the lowest level academically -  the name of the class was Remove. The masters I feared the most were of course Bernard Collins (the discipline master), Mr. (Gab) Galway (latin master) and Keith Tomlinson (maths master). I was constantly given ‘notes’ for unsatisfactory work in class and the punishment for each note was a beating. I remember Mr. Galway would write in his note: ‘Please punish Holland for stupidity’  and the note would indicate the number of strokes to be given – four or six. it was not unusual for me to receive two notes in one day. I grew up convinced that I was indeed stupid and it was only when I reached my mid twenties that I realized I wasn’t quite as stupid as I had been told I was.

     I have no memory of being sexually abused although I don’t know if Collin’s private interrogations counts as sexual abuse. I do remember being subjected to prolonged questioning by Collins in his office about things that totally baffled me. He would want to know if I had had any intimate contact with any other boys, what that intimate contact involved and with which boys. I was eight years old at the time and I had no idea what he was talking about but he just repeated the same questions again and again until I would start crying. In order to end the ordeal I would confess to anything.

    I am 64 years old and I have never spoken to anyone until very recently about those times. Certainly I never told my parents because I new they would not believe me.

    John Holland