Monks at two independent Roman Catholic schools have been described as inflicting “appalling sexual abuse” on children for decades.
Ampleforth and Downside Abbeys – both of which are charities with schools attached – were highlighted as examples of wider mismanagement among Roman Catholic abbeys.
A report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, published yesterday, said that it had heard evidence of “of appalling sexual abuse inflicted over decades on children as young as seven at Ampleforth and 11 at Downside” as part of a wider inquiry into Roman Catholic institutions.
The report also concludes that there was “a culture of acceptance of abusive behaviour” and that both institutions prioritised the reputation of monks over the protection of children.
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.”
Ampleforth is currently subject to a Charity Commission statutory inquiry over its failings to safeguard children. An interim manager was appointed to take charge of safeguarding earlier this year.