Two leading Catholic schools “prioritised monks and their own reputations over the protection of children” who were sexually abused, a report has found.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found that pupils at Ampleforth, in Yorkshire, and Downside, in Somerset, suffered “appalling” treatment stretching over decades.
The inquiry found that children as young as seven were sexually abused at Ampleforth, and 11 at Downside, amid a “culture of acceptance of abusive behaviour”.
Professor Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, said: “For decades Ampleforth and Downside tried to avoid giving any information about child sexual abuse to police and social services.
“Instead, monks in both institutions were very often secretive, evasive and suspicious of anyone outside the English Benedictine Congregation.
“Safeguarding children was less important than the reputation of the church and the wellbeing of the abusive monks.
“Even after new procedures were introduced in 2001, when monks gave the appearance of cooperation and trust, their approach could be summarised as a ‘tell them nothing’ attitude.”
The report found that the true scale of sexual abuse at the fee-paying schools, whose alumni include politicians, aristocrats and celebrities, was likely to be “considerably” more widespread than conviction figures reflect.
Both schools are linked to the English Benedictine Congregation, which has 10 monasteries in England and Wales.
IICSA found that “secretive, evasive and suspicious” church officials had avoided reporting misconduct to police and social services.
The report said allegations stretching back to the 1960s encompassed “a wide spectrum of physical abuse, much of which had sadistic and sexual overtones”.
So far 10 individuals linked to the schools, mainly monks, have been cautioned or convicted over sexual activity or pornography offences involving a “large number of children”. Read more
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