London abbey to lose control of school after abuse

AP News
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Posted: Nov 09, 2011 8:09 AM
London abbey to lose control of school after abuse

A monastery should no longer be allowed to run a London Roman Catholic school where pupils were physically and sexually abused over several decades, an independent report recommended Wednesday.

Lawyer Alex Carlile found 21 cases of abuse since 1970 at St. Benedict's School, which is run by the Ealing Abbey monastery. The private Catholic school, whose students are aged 3-18, is now fully coed but was mostly male for decades.

Former pupils have made allegations of abuse dating back to the 1960s

Carlile wrote that the abuse had been "mostly _ but not exclusively _ as a result of the activities of the monastic community," and said "any semblance of a conflict of interest, of lack of independent scrutiny, must be removed."

"I have come to the firm conclusion ... that the form of governance of St. Benedict's School is wholly outdated and demonstrably unacceptable," Carlile wrote.

He recommended a new educational charity be set up to run the school and remove "all power from the abbey" while maintaining the school's Benedictine connection.

Carlile said he hoped the recommendation would "set a template" for other faith schools.

The school said it would implement the recommendations and apologized "for past failures."

"Past abuses at the school have left a terrible legacy on those affected and have tarnished the reputation of St. Benedict's," said headmaster Chris Cleugh.

A former St. Benedict's headmaster, the Rev. David Pearce, was jailed in 2009 for abusing boys at the school over a 35-year period. One of his victims dubbed him the "devil in a dog collar."

The Rev. Laurence Soper, a former abbot of Ealing, has become the subject of an international manhunt after jumping bail in March over sex assault allegations.

The Vatican is conducting its own separate investigation into the sustained period of abuse at Ealing Abbey.

The wide-ranging clergy abuse scandal has shaken the Catholic church from the Vatican to parishes around the world. Thousands of victims have spoken out about priests who molested children, bishops who covered up for them and Vatican officials who turned a blind eye to the problem for decades.

Britain, where Catholics make up about 10 percent of the population, has been less traumatized than neighboring Ireland, a once-devoutly Catholic nation whose faith has been profoundly shaken by the scale of the abuse. There, judge-led investigations have revealed that tens of thousands of children suffered repeated abuses in workhouse-style residential schools.