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Rosminian order admits ‘inadequate’ response to abuse

By on Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A boy at St Michael's school in Tanzania. The photo is taken from the BBC documentary Abuse: Breaking the Silence (BBC/Blakeway Productions)

A boy at St Michael's school in Tanzania. The photo is taken from the BBC documentary Abuse: Breaking the Silence (BBC/Blakeway Productions)

The Rosminian order has admitted that its response to revelations of physical and sexual abuse of boys by four priests in the 1960s was “inadequate”.

Fr David Myers, leader of the Rosminian order in Britain, which is facing a multi-million-pound lawsuit, said today: “I apologise without reservation on behalf of the Rosminian brethren in the UK to all those who have suffered. Such abuse was a grievous breach of trust to them and to their families. We are appalled by what was done to them.

“I and all my brethren are deeply shocked at what has happened and acknowledge our inadequate response. We are committed to the pastoral care and support of those who have suffered abuse and to the procedures laid down by the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission.”

Among the priests guilty of abuse was Fr Christopher Cunningham, the popular rector of St Etheldreda’s in Holborn, London, who died last December aged 79.

Fr Kit Cunningham, who taught at St Michael’s school, in Soni, Tanzania, in the 1960s, is alleged to have sexually abused six boys as young as eight, alongside three other priests from the order, officially known as the Institute of Charity: Fr Bernard Collins, Fr Douglas Raynor and Fr William Jackson. All confessed to abuse in signed letters witnessed by the Rosminian provincial Fr David Myers. Fr Collins and Fr Raynor also physically abused the children, who described them as “sadists”.

The victims spoke out in a BBC documentary, Abused: Breaking the Silence, broadcast last night.

The 22 men who have taken legal action also include 11 former pupils of the Rosminian-run Grace Dieu Manor prep school in Leicestershire.

Fr Collins had worked at Grace Dieu where he sexually abused nine-year-old Donald MacFaul. When Mr MacFaul’s father raised his complaint with the school, he was told that Fr Collins would not return after the holidays.

Instead, he remained for another term and was then transferred to St Michael’s in Soni.
Mr MacFaul, now a barrister in Newcastle, said that until 2009 and the revelations from Soni he had assumed that Collins had been sent away from children. He said: “I found that to be appalling that was quite distressing. Essentially they harboured this nest of vipers.”

Francis Lionnet, a former Grace Dieu pupil, recalled that Fr Collins used to sexually, whip and on some occasions fire a rifle at boys. He said: “I have spoken to men in their 50s and 60s who have broken down in tears talking about what happened. There have been suicides linked to these schools.”

Mr Lionnet added that just one former pupil from either school was still a Mass-going Catholic.

Martin Marriott, who was sexually abused by Fr Cunningham, said it “troubled me all my life” and that, like many pupils, he was “furious” that Fr Cunningham had received an MBE.

“It was difficult to describe the feelings of fear at the school. There was no one to turn to, even our parents didn’t believe us because they thought priests were good.

“We were absolutely furious that Collins had been transferred. When he arrived at Soni he founded kindred spirits but he had a very strong intellect, very dominant. The masters were as terrified of him as we were.”

The allegations came public after a group of former Soni pupils met via a website forum. It quickly transpired that, on top of the violence in the school, sexual abuse had been widespread too.

In September 2009 they approached Fr Myers with the dossier of claims relating to the two schools and in November were invited to St Etheldreda’s, where Fr Cunningham had been rector for almost 30 years.

Fr Myers contacted the four priests, who all admitted to abuse and wrote letters to some of their victims. Fr Rayner, now 92, admitted to using excessive force and to groping pupils, and accepted that he would have to leave his current parish.

Fr Cunningham wrote to John Poppleton, now 53, to say: “It is with deep shame that I write to you to ask forgiveness for inappropriate actions that I did to you. It has been on my conscience ever since and the thought of what I did has often preyed on my mind these last 40 years.”

Fr Cunningham was a high-profile and popular figure in London, often called the unofficial chaplain of Fleet Street, as well as being the founder of the Westminster diocesan newspaper and chaplain of the Catholic Writers Guild.

He wrote regularly for The Catholic Herald. He also worked as a prison chaplain and was active in helping the homeless.

  • Tim

    I didn’t see the BBC prgramme last night though I did read on the blogosphere that it was coming. I need to know who knew what and when, whether the police were immediately informed and why we the congregation were kept in the dark and had to find out from the media. If the answers don’t stack up or not forthcoming how can I continue to worship at Ely place and still keep faith with the victims?

  • Anonymous

    Tim
    I did see the programme – very harrowing.  Perhaps it was just me but I didn’t get a clear idea from the programme about the timescale of things.  Was Fr Cunningham still at the parish after it became known what he had done?  I’m not sure.  The film stated that Fr Cunningham met one of the victims there, but it was unclear to me whether he was still parish priest at the time.  I also couldn’t understand why the Rosminians were refusing to pay compensation to these poor men, or why the priests who admitted the offences weren’t prosecuted.  To be fair, I was extremely tired when I watched the film last night so some of it may have gone over my head.   

  • Anonymous

    I was an infrequent attender at Ely Place mainly going to the Christmas Carol service which was the best in London. Fr Kit made it special. We attended once after he retired but the magic had gone. The new priest had removed the “theatre” and what is a carol service without “theatre”? But imagine the horror when, last Sunday I learned about Fr Kit’s past. It seemed unbelievable but, having watched last night’s TV programme and listened to the testimony of the victims, I believe it now. The Rosminions should not seek to defend themselves in any forthcoming litigation but should settle now. As an order they are guilty. The response of David Myers was woeful, out of touch, uncharitable and simply wrong. Unfortunately it was typical of the reaction of the church to paedophile actions generally. He was seeking to limit the damage, placate the victims with platitudes and protect the Order. His comment (aimed at the victims) about not depriving beneficiaries of his charity by paying comensation to the victims of his Order was incredible. It is his Order, through the criminal actions of their members, that would be depriving the beneficiaries – not the victims. His arrogant comment that he would not be videoed or edited was equally incredible. What age does he live in? He really has to go. 
    If this goes to court and I hope it doesn’t, I really hope those poor men, who suffered for so long, win and that they do so with the maximum of publicity. If the Order – and the Church – aren’t prepared to learn the easy way they must learn the hard way.

  • Lindi

    ‘  The response of David Myers was woeful , out of touch , uncharitable and simply wrong. ‘
    I agree . I found his attempt to make the victims relinquish any claims for compensation because it would be taking money away from people the Rosminians are currently working with particularly shocking. It was arrogant and manipulative. 

  • JohnS

    I was a pupil at Grace Dieu while Bernard Collins was there and I did see the programme last night. I can honestly say that I throughout my 5 years at Grace Dieu (which were amongst the happiest times of my life) I never heard any rumours of sexual misconduct by any of the staff including Collins.  The discipline regime of Collins was undoubtedly excessively harsh but that was all.  I can’t, of course, speak for Soni which seems to have been a different matter.  In both cases, though, the question to be ask is did anyone know what was going on at either school?  If not they can hardly be blamed for not doing anything about it.  Last night’s programme indicated to me that the 4 individuals were very good at keeping their activities secret.  Though they may be guilty I didn’t see any evidence to justify blame being directed at anyone else.
    And as one of the group whose reminiscences have been shared on line I can say positively that the proposed legal action against the Rosminians is counter productive, and anathema to many of the group – Fr David Myers had been commendably open and honest in all his dealings until the receipt of solicitors’ letters forced him to close the books

  • Jc

    Fr Myers is finally starting to do the right thing but his task is not yet over. He should now voluntarily hand over to the police all material in his possession which is relevant to the abuses/abusers so that they can consider prosecution of those responsible. Those whom the police wish to interview should be made available for that purpose in so far that is something that he can facilitate. These steps do no more than reflect the guidelines for treating cases of abuse which are now posted on the Grace Dieu website.

  • Anonymous

    John S. How wrong you are. Lucky old you that you went through Grace Dieu happily. Patently more than several did not; to see first hand the effects that this had on the boys, now men, is appalling.

    Irrespective of cognisance at the time, the Rosminans and the wider church know all about it now. And what have they done? Until these people confront the basis of their foundation, I cannot see why anyone could possibly accept what passes for their sanctimonious and tarnished charity.

    Father Myers has been entirely economical with the actualite and I don’t know how he sleeps at night frankly. 

  • Celtes

    These cruel and evil priests should have gone to jail for a very long time.

  • Bddd

    You are misleading people. It clearly showed on the programme that the priests new about the abuse and that they wronged the children by not taking the priests out of circulation. The other problem with Catholic priests is that many of the abuser’s attain high positions and genuinely don’t care about abused children.

  • Bddd

    here here JC.
    As a devout Catholic I felt it my duty to include a percentage of my estate to the church when I die, however I recently rewrote my will and excluded the church because I felt with all my heart that I could not pay into a system that abuses children, causing despair and often suicide, while at the same time closing the doors to investigtors and protecting pederasts.

  • Guest

    Any compensation must come from the property or estates of the offenders.  That includes both the direct offenders, and those who enabled them.

    The property of the church – given over generations by faithful, poor Cathoics – must not be used as hush money.

    Money is not the way out of this problem.

  • FLionnet

    JohnS – what cloud were you on at Grace Dieu?

    Did you not see Collins shooting boys with his air pistol? Don’t you remember Collins’ prurient inspections of underpants, nostrils, fingernails etc. followed by beatings? Don’t you remember his genital inspections which the old sociopath now incredibly he claims were sanctioned by the nurse? (As if any qualified nurse would do such a thing….) How about the line of anything up to 20 boys kneeling outside his office and extending almost to the middle of the playroom and being savagely laid into by Collins wielding that jokari bat? How about the occasions when he beat the WHOLE SCHOOL for a trivial reason? Oh, yes, he announced that particular punishment at night so that we would have to sleep on it first. How about the spontaneous lashing out at boys with arms flaying? How about the way he used to use us as target practice with tennis balls? He was a physically strong man, remember?

    The point I am making is that he was not, as you say, “excessively harsh but that was all”. He was criminally out of control and he was/is a paedophile. I know because he abused me. His violence was sexually charged. I soon realised that when I looked back on it all in my early 20s. I am one of the two original organisers of this initiative to bring justice to us all and, as such, I gathered in everyone’s testimonies. The stories of the sexual interrogations and the beatings are many. One kid got beaten for doing “dirty things” with his sister and for lying about being an only child. Of course, he had no sister. He is still furious about it and had not spoken about it, not even to his wife, until I contacted him

    There’s more that can be told but this litany, like some others, is already too long.

  • Amfortas

    The Vatican should shut them down.

  • Anonymous

    Fr David Myers, leader of the Rosminian order in Britain, is profoundly sorry that he has been publically unmasked as an insensitive, sorry excuse of a human being who had prior to his unmasking done all within his power to cover up for the faults of his compratriots and had done all within his power to preserve every bit of his Rosminian Order’s financial assets.  His apology is made only because of his unmasking on BBC.

  • Brirey253

    You are spot on but why just stop the Rosminians but the whole shotting match- the Vatican
    Brian

  • JohnS

    You have missed the main point.  What evidence is there that anyone outside the guilty 4 knew what was going on?  There was certainly none in the programme – in fact the programme indicated strongly that others did not know.

  • anon

    JohnS.  I am a Solicitor and in the past I represented adult survivors of child abuse.  I worked in the field for a period of time and then had to stop.  Quite simply put I could not cope with the horror of what my clients had been subjected to that included rape, sodomy, being beaten unconscious, broken bones, public humiliation and acts of gross indecency.  You were one of the lucky ones and your stance shows that.  The activities that you contend were kept secret were clearly not kept secret.  The denial of a complaint when it was accepted that there was one was deliberate, callous and orientated by one fact and one fact only – the preservation of the Order’s wealth and assets that would then be deployed to defend any compensation claim by denying liability and putting to proof survivors whose psychological state is likely to be fragile.  It strikes me that you failed to heed at all the litany of similar fact evidence that the BBC presented and you have ignored almost completely the fact that the perpetrators admitted their sadistic perversions only to then attempt to deny it.  I commend one and all of the group of survivors who had the courage to disclose their past whether or not they sought compensation.  I commend and admire the strength of those individuals to confront the men who had stolen their childhood and blighted their lives.  I am appalled by the commentary you have presented and you are an apologist for an organisation that nurtured and protected criminals.  . 

  • Niall

    It seems there was an established homosexual ring preying on children and the question is why not only did the roman catholic church covered it up but allow these perverts to carry out there ungodly ways without challenge?

  • Giorgio

    I believe that Fr Myers, head of the Rosminians in Britain, has behaved correctly in acknowledging the evils of the past, in offering support to the victims and also in resisting the calls for compensation. Legally, the claim for compensation may be rather weak, since there seems to be little or no evidence that the order know what was happening. Morally, the claim is, in my opinion, deeply flawed. Why should resources that the order devotes to help communities in Tanzania and elsewhere be syphoned off to benefit these undoubtedly middle class complainants ? The claim for monetary compensation tempts me to be cynical about this exercise in victimhood. I also think that the Rosminians and Father Myers personally were entirely right to commemorate Father Cunningham (something that was criticised in an article on the Guardian). Father Cunningham having committed grave sins forty years ago (and it was admirable of his to admit it), but seems to have been a devoted and able head of St Etheldredad, a generous man. Should we not assume that he confessed and repented ? Do decades of good work need to be ignored because of earlier evil ? Many comments seem to ignore the fact that we all need forgiveness. Yes, sins against children are particularly odious, but sanctimonious blank condemnation is also ugly. There seems also to be an unreflected display of perhaps rage (or perhaps imagined rage) almost a lust for a lynching party.  

  • Celtes

    I agree and I don’t know how Fr Myers sleeps at night.

  • Celtes

    I am appalled at your comments.  He was a monster who preyed on 8 year old boys and you call him generous!! Unbelievable!! You certainly wouldn’t be saying this if it had happened to YOUR child.

  • Celtes

    I am appalled at your comments.  He was a monster who preyed on 8 year old boys and you call him generous!! Unbelievable!! You certainly wouldn’t be saying this if it had happened to YOUR child.

  • anon

    The atypical response of a person who has not the first idea of the process and consequence of child abuse.  Your legal analysis is flawed because you have overlooked one major development, namely, liability has been admitted. By your comments I presume you would endorse throwing wide the doors of ever prison in the land on the basis that the inmates apologised.  A crime is a crime and it makes not the slightest jot of difference if it was perpetrated 40 years ago or yesterday.  It matters not one iota that it was committed by a person of status and position in society.  It matters nought that the person has then lead an exemplary life.  You have no understanding at all of the process of the law and the principles of justice.  Are you by any chance the sort of person who thinks that ethnic cleansing just involves asking people to move house?  Your devotion is not to God but to the Church.  You refer to criminal acts as “sins”, the presentation of a legal claim as being “flawed”and then suggest that Father Cunningham repented.    I saw no evidence of that at all rather it was the hurried apology of  someone who had been found out and made to apologise by his superiors.  I gather you attended his Church – did he at any point confess to his congregation?  Did he at any point think that he was unworthy of an MBE?  Did he at any point hide himself away and confront the shame of what he had done and admit his crimes to anyone?  No, he was a coward who hid behind his order and hoped to get away with it.  When he did return his MBE he did so privately and with no explanation.  The pursuit of justice is not ugly and the condemnation of crimes is not sanctimonious – it is a human duty to seek out wrongdoing and protect future generations.  Abusing children is a criminal offence.  Father Cunningham was a criminal.  The law speaks on the matter and the law is the expression of the collective will that transcends religion and reaches into every aspect of life.  No one is above the law.  Father Myers engaged in a process of reconciliation that was designed to sweep matters under the carpet and his motivation was entirely mercenary.  The relocation of a prest acccused of abuse to a distant school to abuse different children is tantamout to aiding and abetting a criminal offence and the fact that a complaint was buried is complicity in the crime.  I suppose we should close down the Hague, rip up the UN Charter and simply rely on written apologies for anyone who commits crimes against humanity.  It would appear you endorse a separate legal code for the clergy and honetstly believe that priests are above the law.  What if Father Cunningham had run someone over whilst drink driving? Would you accept an apology on that as well? 

  • Giorgio

    I certainly did not say that he was generous to those children. I say that during the decades in which he was a priest in London he behaved generously, according to what I heard (I hardly met him). And I say further that decades of generosity count and are as part of the life of Fr Cunningham as those earlier evils. I therefore maintain that Father Myers was right, in the light of those subsequent good, to commemorate him.

    I repeat, we must assume that he repented. The very fact that he wrote that letter and acknowledged the past indicates it. Forgiveness of those who repent is a non negotiable part of Catholicism and, truly, thank God for that.

  • Roger

    you are missing the gravity of the situation. The chain of command and responsibility goes to the top and it now becoming increasingly clear that the current pope was personally involved in similar cover ups. It is the vatican which should be closed down.

  • anon

    You have missed several points.  First, an admission of liability.  Second, Fr Collins was referred to the Head of the Order y the rector following a complaint by a parent.  The head of the order knew and so did anyone else involved in the process of relocating Fr Collins to a different school.  Third, Fr Myers closed the Order’s archive.  Cardinal and bishps have stood down from office for doing the same and questions have been raised over the Pope’s involvement in similar scandals whilst he was the Head of the Inquisition.  Being Catholic is a way of life not a question of doggedly supporting an institution no matter what it does – have you forgotten the warning Jesus gave about Pharisees and priests. 

  • From NL

    With all due respect, forgiving is often not that easy under normal circumstances. Nevermind when it involves the torture of the innocent and defenseless. He has done good. But a lot of criminals have. Some criminals are really great family people, who love their family, volunteer, never harmed a animal. But that does not take away that the other part of them is twisted enough to commit some very serious crimes.

    Cunningham and others have destroyed lifes. What they did, is still torturing the victims to this day. What he did, can never be made right. Could you even call them priests? Satan must have loved these priests, completely breaking the souls of people. And you know the “best” part? Only one of the victims still believes.

    And if you don’t think the destruction is “bad” enough, Cunningham and the others have actually commited possibly a even worst sin as Christians; they abused their power and position to such a extend, that those people have turned away from God. Those priests were supposed to be men of God. And will they ever accept Him again? Who knows. But as all Christians know, you can only enter heaven if you accept Jesus as your savior. Nevermind those who commit suicide. So..with all the good Cunningham did, do you think this evens out?

    And I don’t find it all that admirable of Cunningham at all. He literally lives his life, being loved and admired by people and for 40 years long, he never seems to feel the urge to come clean. He had 40 years long the chance. Forty years long torment for the victims. How “generous” of him to wait until he has first lived a fruitful life, until he is as such a high age, that it doesn’t matter to *him*; he already has lived his whole life. There is little they can do to him. Even if they would sentence him, how long would a 93 year old live? Only criminals who have no conscience keep their silence until near their dead bed.

    Now, he might be really remorseful. But, as I have written once before, I am a little sceptic about Christians who at the very end of their life, quickly confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. Because the believe is, that no matter what the crime, if you do this, you will enter heaven. It could be that he was just trying to clean his slate, in the hope that when he comes before God (which could be any moment, when you’re 93), he is allowed into heaven.

    Jesus was angry when a place for God was used for commercial ends, not as a place of worship and prayer. The priests there were fully aware of that. Now imagine how He would have felt with what these priests did, which is much, so much worse… You can speak of forgiveness all you want, but following this story, how do you think even Jesus would react?

  • Giorgio

    I agree on several of the points you make, but, I am afraid, I do not find them relevant to this discussion. Yes, a crime remains a crime whoever commits it and even if it has been committed long time ago (although there is something called, I believe, statute of limitations, in law). No, I do not at all, but not at all, think that it is enough for somebody to say that he has repented for lifting punishment. Rather the contrary, I am very suspicious of a ‘repentance’ that does not accept punishment. It should embrace it, seek it. 

    But here we are not asking ourselves whether in law Father Cunningham should be prosecuted. This is not an issue.

    My point refers to the article which I saw in the Guardian, which, among other things, criticised the Rosminians for commemorating Father Cunningham at St Etheldreda, with Fr Myers leading the commemorations, I believe. My point is that it was right to commemorate all the good that Fr Cunningham had done. The objection is, how could one commemorate such a monster ? My point is that having behaved, perhaps, monstruosly at a particular time or in a particular period does not make somebody ‘a’ monster. There is always the possibility of redemption. I believe that Fr Cunningham probably seized it. And the admittedly little evidence I have is that he went on to do much good. 

    In your comments you make a lot of assumptions about what Fr Cunningham did and did not do, and the reasons thereof. I cannot see that you have any evidence except a rage which may be healthy as a symptom of reaction against evil, but may be unhealthy if it blinds us to some simple realities, such as the need to judge the sin but not the sinner, and the need that we all have of forgiveness.

    You accuse me of being devoted to the Church rather than to God. It is an interesting thought. I would say that I intend to be devoted to both, but then we all need to reexamine ourselves all the time.  

  • Midsummer

     

    Of all the comments I have read across a few articles,
    yours is most meaningful. What I don’t understand is how all of them lived this
    double life without a shudder or twinge of remorse or care from the damage
    that was done. To have walked away, like a hit and run driver leaving the body
    on the side of the road!  Is there a worse crime ?  How did they all
    rise to such high public and religious respected positions while hiding 
    such dark insidious crimes tucked away, yet ever present, in their
    conscience?  Such shocking denial and shocking betrayal. It is criminal
    and David Myers is complicit and should be convicted I pray these men will
    get their justice soon, and that it bring them peace. 

  • Giorgio

    We all agree, surely, that harming children is horrible and can have lasting and extremely harmful consequences, including the loss of faith.

    I do not agree that having committed evil there may not be possibility of redemption. That possibility always, always exists. Perhaps we can agree on this too. In which case we may just disagree on how genuine the repentance of Father Cunningham was. My ‘optimism’ is based in part in seeing how others, in similar situations, behaved. Denying, equivocating, quibbling. Do you have any reason to doubt his sincerity ? To me its seems that you are so upset that you are not prepared to consider any qualification. I think no matter what he would have done you would have said, as is alas common, ‘too little, too late’.

    By the way, he was not 93, I think when he died was not yet 80.

  • Anonymous

    I think it is more correct to say there was an established pedophile ring…

  • Patrick

    So why write to the Rosminian Order saying compensation was not on the agenda but only truth and reconciliation when presenting your dossier on Bernard Collins?  Why oppose David Myers’ suggestion of a joint press conference following Kit Cunningham’s funeral with the victims taking part?  Did not the claimants led by you say that they did not want publicity?  You are angry and wish to wreak revenge but the methods and tactics to achieve this? 

  • SO

    There is no statute of limitations in criminal law.

  • anon

    An article in the Guardian is not the subject of this discussion.  It is a hurried admission and apology after a television programme on the BBC. 

    I see that you are “a tap room lawyer” – my favourite sort of adversary.  The statute of Limitation is the Limitation Act 1980 and under section 33 the Court can allow a claim to brought outside the limitation period if it is reasonable, the purposes of justice can be served and there is no prejudice to the parties.  You have missed my earlier comment on this matter and failed to take account of the fact that I am a Solicitor who acted for survivors of child abuse.  The law is well established and the Courts of this country and many other jurisdictions have allowed claims to be brought decades outside the limitation period because it is a recognised consequence of child abuse that it often takes decades for survivors to come forward and raise complaint.  It is recognised and accepted that the abuser will threaten the abused with all sorts of awful conseuqences if they tell anyone and this combined with their own sense of shame, low self-esteem and personal embarassment secures their silence.  It is recognised and accepted that child abuse causes significant lifelong harm.

    The thing that stands out in your comments and gives away your position is this you suggest that perhaps Fr Cunningham’s behaviour was monstrous.  There is no perhaps it was monstrous and made worse by the fact that he used a position of trust and authority to commit his crimes.  In the criminal context that is an aggravating factor that would raise the Court sentence.  Along with the years of denial and attempt to cover up the crimes.

    The law judges the sin and it judges the sinner and it does not swerve from that purpose or process.  I am not full of rage I am full of remorse for the survivors and once again shake my head in disbelieveable at the pathetic attempt to avoid responsibility and then only admit that culpability once they are exposed in the public arena.  I am appalled at your position and your unwaving faith in an institution that has failed on a global level to address child abuse by its clergy. 

    Your ignorance is the bliss in which you live and therefore blinds you to the harsh reality of the world and allows you to ignore decades of abuse perpertrated by Catholic clergy throughout the world over decades.  The Christian Brothers face bankruptcy and so they should the cases in Ireland, Australia, USA and Canada against that order detail acts of abuse that are regarded as category 5, namely, sado-masochistic penetrative sex with minors.  In the programme aside from persistent physical abuse the survivors detail category 1 and 2 sexual abuse, namely, touching over clothes and under clothes, respectively.  Category 3 involves acts of indecency and digital penetration.  Category 4 is penile penetration.  Those are the categories deployed by the police. 

    I made no assumptions about Fr Cunningham.  I listened carefully to the testimony of his victims and the letters that he wrote.  He admitted he obtained sexual pleasure from his abuse of small boys in letters written under the attendance of the head of his order.  You have not watched the programme properly. 

    Forgiveness is the reward for repentance and acceptance of the wrong done and the punishment that will follow.  If you watch the programme properly you will see that in one instance an elderly priest told his victim that it was a figment of his imagination.  He used the same technique that he deployed when he groomed him as a victim.  

    The threats that my clients endured and from that their fear of disclosure is the preliminary process of abuse as the victim is groomed so that their concept of love, affection and trust can be used to satisfy the abuser’s lust.  It is a deliberate, calculated and premeditated process.  It is not a crime of passion.

    I stand by my comment that you know nothing of the process and consequences of child abuse. 

    I stand by my comment that you have a warped idea of what justice entails. 

    I suspect that my comment that you think ethnic cleansing involves asking people to move house is correct. 

    The suggestion that someone who has acted monstrously can then go on to be a good person is profoundly wrong.  It is the reason used for not prosecuting former Nazi war criminals; it is the reason relied upon in the Hague for not prosecuting war criminals from the Balkans, Rwanda, Burundi, Cambodia, Dafur and the list goes on.  You are holding on to the thin end of a nasty wedge and putting yourself in the company of some appalling apologists.  I expect you thought a former member of the Nazi Youth becoming Pope was a good idea and then chose to ignore the furore around the Papal visit to the UK that coincided with a number of scandals some of which linked directly to the Pope in his previous post as Head of the Inquisition.  The language of forgiveness is used in this context with no sincerity it is used to evade the financial consequences.

    I hope that you never have to encounter the things I have heard and seen and the place that my clients have been to – it is a dark, lonely and hellish place where youth and laughter die and a person’s very being is destroyed.  You have absolutely no idea of what child abuse does to a person and to think that a craftily worded apology and 10 minutes in the confessional makes it good is simply appalling. 

  • anon

    SO you are correct on that point but alas the criminal law cannot reach beyond the grave hence the process of civil justice being the only way to bring out the truth and then the only expression of justice is in pounds and pence.  However, having won civil claims in cases where criminal proceedings did not occur I had the satisfaction of my clients being grateful for the chance to be heard and more importantly for them to be believed.

  • Midsummer

    Giorgio, how dare you speak of forgiveness for those
    who repent as a non negotiable part of Catholicism! There will be thousands if
    not tens of thousands of people in this country who saw the BBC documentary who
    will share this rage at Fr. Cunningham deceit and those that protected him and
    kept it hidden. Do you not get it? .How his actions allowed the victims to
    suffer for decades while was getting praised for his so called
    good?   God and devotion has nothing to do with this as we live in a
    country where church is separate from state and citizens live by the rule of
    law of the land. And this law clearly states that crimes of child abuse
    and aggression are punishable by imprisonment. There is no statue of limitations.
    Repenting is not good enough! There is no sell by date on a heinous crime
    that has not been reviewed by trial, judge and jury.  So here is the
    point: any good that was done after a crime is limitlessly shadowed by a
    mountainous lie of denial that will be like gangrene eating the
    flesh of his name forever poisoned in history. Why?  Because he died a
    coward.   It is monstrous to not accept responsibility for child
    abuse to his public, admit his crime…a bit like a hit and run accident
    leaving the body dead at the side of the road for 30 years. 5 years, ten years,
    30 years from that day; the monstrous act lives on and any good acts
    dwindles to dust. And that is why the rage of our country will (by whatever
    means it takes) bring to justice the complicity of David Myers …that he went
    ahead and knowingly commemorated a criminal who should have gone to trial. For
    this David Myers himself should be punished and imprisoned.

     

  • Amfortas

    In just about any other walk of life someone in David Myers’ position would have resigned and would probably have been called in for police questioning. How many more of these ghastly stories will come out? And how many more times will we hear that senior prelates – such as Myers – acted without any respect for the law? Covering up crime is criminal.

  • Celtes

    In the eyes of decent people Fr Cunningham WAS a monster who cruelly abused 8 year old boys - such an impressionable age.  Be grateful he didn’t do it to you.

  • Celtes

    Any decent person would have resigned.  David Myers thinks he and his paedophile priests are above the law.

  • http://twitter.com/AndrewSB49 Andrew Brennan

    Child raped by Rosminian during Papal visit. The investigation committee of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was told that a boy, prevented from attending Pope John Paul’s Mass in Limerick in September 1979, was raped by the Rosminian left in charge of him. Rosminian Father Patrick Pierce, told the Child Abuse Commission that the child had not been allowed accompany his colleagues to the Pope’s Mass as punishment for absconding. The Rosminian who raped the child had been a prefect at the school and volunteered to stay back with the child. Father Pierce interviewed the Rosminian the next day. He denied the allegations at first, then, when told the child was  willing to confront him, backed down.

    Father Pierce, who was recalling that in November 1979 he first learned about the abuse of boys at St Joseph’s by “Rosminian X”, became upset while giving his evidence. “Little did we know we were living with an abuser,” he said, and “in the very unit younger children would be better protected.” He recalled how that night he had left some staff home, as was the practice, when he decided to drive around to see whether there might be any sign of two boys who had absconded that day. They were from the south, and he headed in that direction. Six or seven miles farther on he found them. They had thumbed him for a lift. They got in the car. He asked why they had run away. The boy in the front seat said they had been beaten up, and Father Pierce responded along the lines of “Pull the other one”.

    He noticed the front-seat boy went silent, then broke down “and said Rosminian X was at him”. Father Pierce recalled “immediate impact”. There was silence until they got back to the school. He took the boy to his office, cautioned him as to the seriousness of what he was saying, and they talked more. He suggested to Father Pierce that another boy could back up what he said. The second boy was brought down from a dormitory. It was he who had been raped by Rosminian X while the rest attended the Pope’s Mass in Limerick. Both boys “unfolded a most horrific story of what had been happening to them”. They agreed to face Rosminian X with their allegations.

    Rosminian X was confined to his quarters and removed from the school the next day. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Dublin. Three weeks later he was returned to his own home and later was dismissed from the Rosminian congregation. The Rosminians’ Irish provincial at the time was closely involved in all decisions concerning the case. Father Pierce reported it to the Department of Education, informed Rosminian X’s local parish of what had occurred, as well as a judge at the Children’s Court in Dublin which Rosminian X had been known to attend regularly prior to his joining the Rosminians. Gardaí were not told then. “I have to honestly say I didn’t know about reporting to the Gardaí (Irish police). I probably should have,” Father Pierce said.

    It was only in the early 1990s that this rape was reported to a Garda superintendent in Clonmel. Rosminian X was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment, three suspended. Father Pierce recalled that, although one of the boys said in court he had forgiven Rosminian X, he (Father Pierce) still found this difficult. He had visited other Rosminians in the prison where Rosminian X is detained, “but I have never been able to bring myself to see him”.

  • mcmurphy

    “My point is that it was right to commemorate all the good that Fr
    Cunningham had done. The objection is, how could one commemorate such a
    monster ?”

    By the stage of the memorial service, the head of the order had told the abused men that the priests would no longer be considered priests in good standing.  This is supposedly a high sanction.  Do priests not in good standing merit commemoration services normally?  Father Myers told the abused one thing, then acted in a totally different way… or, to be more blunt about it, he lied and covered up.

    And yes, the child abuse he inflicted was not the sum total of his life, and it is ok for those who benefitted from his good acts to say so.  But equally, the good acts do not eliminate the horrific abuse.

    And in the commemoration service, was the rounded total of his life talked about?  No.  It was only the god things.  It was a whitewash, presided over by a man who knew Cunningham had abused but who chose to pretend he hadn’t, despite his promises to the contrary.

    The abused boys were lied to, those at the ceremony were lied to, by omission and by comission.

    Shame on Myers.

  • http://catholicleft.blogspot.com/ CatholicLeft

    I would hope that the Rosminians, whose appalling response to these claims is shameful, are well and truly given a shake-up by the church and forced to pay out a substantial amount of compensation. If it means the Rosminians in this country and abroad virtually cease to exist, I will shed few tears.

    As for your claim that it is “now becoming increasingly clear that the current pope was personally involved in similar cover ups”; could I ask you, how exactly?

  • mcmurphy

    “Why should resources that the order devotes to help communities in
    Tanzania and elsewhere be syphoned off to benefit these undoubtedly
    middle class complainants ?”

    You are saying that morally a wronged person shouldn’t ask for compensation because it would take away from other needy parties.  A criminal shouldn’t have to pay damages to those he wronged because his wife and children won’t have as much.  We don’t recognise this as a valid defence in court.

    It’s also a nasty strawman that implies the abused are trying to take aid money away from the needy.  But this isn’t an either/or situation.  Maybe the order should sell some land, or it’s leaders take a paycut.  It’s not the men’s fault this situation has arisen and to blame the victims here for the consequences is heinous.  Maybe the boys shouldn’t’ve showered so nakedly in front of these vulnerable priests, eh?

    But it’s the phrase “siphoned off to benefit these undoubtedly
    middle class complainants” that truly turns my stomach.

    Firstly, since when did being middle class make an victim less deserving of recompense. 

    And ‘benefit’???  Seriously… benefit? 

    Some of these men have suffered debilitating depression for decades.  If any one of those men had the choice to recieve none of these ‘benefits’ but to have never been abused, what do you think they’d choose?  These so-called benefits are to be set off against a mountain of penalties. Yes, gold-diggers exist.  But these guys aren’t it.

  • Giorgio

    The law will follow its course and reach whatever conclusions it needs to reach, or rather a judge thinks the law requires to be reached, on the basis of its own principles. 

    In the specific case, the law will be used not to condemn  the evils of forty years ago, but to establish if the Rosminian Order as such had a degree of responsibility for them, and, if so, whether compensation should be paid.My objections concern firstly the idea of asking for financial compensation. I note that only about half of the victims are behind this request. I wish none were. In my opinion the search for money greatly diminishes the moral argument, to the point of making it suspect. Furthermore, the money would be taken away from an organisation that uses much of it for charitable purposes and would be given to people who we can assume enjoy a reasonable income. I think Father Myers would be/is right to resist.

    Secondly, I totally object to the idea that once evil has been committed there is no way back. I feel almost like thanking you for the example that you give of the hit and run accident. That too, apparently, admits of no redemption. Do you see where this leads us ? What about killing a child while drink driving ? What about drink driving killing the mother of a little child ? What about causing a harrowing childhood by supplying the parents with drugs ? Where does it stop ? 

    I very much believe in punishment, I also believe that there can be no repentance without unreserved acceptance of the appropriate punishment. But there is a unbridgeable gulf between this and the blind and blanket unforgiveness that seems to transpire from many messages here, and from the number of ‘likes’ that they get. I talk about forgiveness of the truly repented, of the one who will accept the punishment, not of somebody faking it. I add that we have no reasons, or at least I do not,  to assume that Fr Cunningham did not truly repent and expiate his previous evils with decades of good work.

  • JohnS

    Where is the evidence that a cover-up occurred?

  • JohnS

    Despite all the justified passion in the comments so far the question remains – why should an organisation and its members be penalised for the misdeeds of 4 rotten apples.  By all means prosecute the culprits.  But what is to be gained by penalising the innocent?  If the organisation was guilty of a cover-up then penalise it for that.  But despite the generalised assertions there is still not a single item of evidence that anyone (other than the 4 culprits themselves) engaged in any form of cover-up.

  • Giorgio

    I wish I could reply more leisurely, but have no time and have to focus on what I consider the central point. 

    We have a total disagreement on the idea that redemption is not possible after monstruous deeds. Redemption is always, always, possible. But the door to it is true repentance, and this entails acceptance of punishment. I do not consider myself in any way soft on punishment, I might be harder than you are, I probably am. But I believe that for those who truly accept punishment a new life is open.

    I think you make it easy for me by developing your argument. YConsistently with your strictures you imply that having been conscripted in the Hitler Youth in early teenage is an unwashable stain for all future. What else is ? I would dread to live in a society built on such unyielding unforgiveness – more, an attitude that seems to relish in finding reasons for moral annihilation – and you would too, in due time. 

    I do NOT believe that ‘a craftily worded apology and 10 minutes in the confessional’ are enough to make good. I wish you dealt with what I say rather than with a caricature. I mean genuine repentance, genuine, and I mean genuine. And I repeat, that it must include the acceptance of punishment. You keep taking about fake repentance, but on it we have no disagreement. Fake repentance is not repentance and does not redeem. 

    It is true that I have no direct experience of this sort of abuse. It must be horrible for the victims and perhaps even worse for their parents. I do not know what I would think and do if I had been directly involved, worse still if a member of my family had. I note that in this case some of the victims seem to be taking a very different line from yours. 

    I also note that only about half the victims seem to be claiming for monetary compensation. On this claim, I feel that it gravely undermines the moral case that is meant to justify it.