“SAFEGUARDING children was less important than the reputation of the Church and the wellbeing of the abusive monks.”
These words are a damning indictment of the decades of abuse that took place at Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire, and the scandalous indifference that the Roman Catholic Church showed towards those who wilfully betrayed the trust placed in them.
Spoken by Professor Alexis Jay, they’re even more powerful because she’s the head of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse which has been investigating why allegations in so many spheres of public life were ignored or covered up. She’s no stranger to this issue or this area – her work was integral to establishing the truth about the scale of the Rotherham abuse scandal.
As such, the findings into Ampleforth – and Downside School in Somerset – could not be more disturbing for these three reasons. The degrading and humiliating abuse inflicted on students by priests in positions of trust; the devious attempts to cover up this criminality and the Church’s attempt to circumvent the 2001 Nolan Report which ordered the allegations to be referred to the authorities.
Though this report vindicates all those victims who suffered in silence for decades, and who were then not taken sufficiently seriously when they tried to recount the physical and mental torment that they endured, the regret is that it has taken so long to reach this landmark moment that many have died in the interim. Though some perpetrators have faced criminal trial, others will not do so because of the passage of time.
The only consolation, and it is a scant one as the effectiveness of Professor Jay’s inquiry starts to prove the sceptics wrong, is that lessons are being learned – albeit belatedly – and that society’s approach to abuse allegations, and safeguarding issues, is now far more enlightened.