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JANUARY 13 2012 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
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Downside Abbey is to change how school is run
BY ED WEST
ONE OF THE country’s top Catholic schools is to undertake a major review of the way it is governed, it has been announced.
The “major restructuring of governance” at Downside School in Somerset follows the conviction of a former teacher.
The change was announced after Fr Richard White was jailed for five years for gross indecency and indecent assault against a pupil in the late 1980s. Two other Downside monks, also former teachers, received police cautions during an ongoing 18-month investigation.
Downside Abbey said that “significant changes” would be announced soon.
In a letter sent to former pupils Fr Aidan Bellenger, the Abbot of Downside, said the offences which White was convicted of occurred more than 20 years ago when safeguarding procedures were “clearly not adequate”.
He said the crimes were “something that is a matter of great regret to all of us now associated with Downside. The school has since fundamentally reviewed the way it approaches safeguarding issues, and continues to reform in order to provide the safest possible environment for those in its care.
“It is the school’s understanding that two former members of staff received cautions last year in relation to historical allegations. One of those involved left Downside in 1970, while the other concerns an 80-year-old former staff member on an issue unrelated to pupil welfare.” White, of Hyde, Fordingbridge, Hampshire, was sentenced at Taunton Crown Court last week. At his trial the court was told that he was warned about his behaviour after molesting one 12-yearold boy. White, known to pupils as Fr Nick, had been allowed to continue teaching even after he was caught abusing a child in 1987 and went on to assault another pupil in the junior school, the Times newspaper reported. He was placed on restricted ministry after that incident but was not arrested until last year,
Fr Bellenger said that “police and press were aware at the time of the accusations against Richard Nicholas White but the victims’ parents and the police did not proceed to prosecution”. The court heard that White lured one of the boys, who was interested in old books, to the monastery library, which was usually off-limits to students. There he abused the boy, paying him 50p per time. White, a former British Army soldier, was dismissed from his teaching post and spent the next 20 years being sent to different monastic communities across the country.
One of White’s victims told the Times that the former priest had singled him out as vulnerable when he taught him geography from 1987. Rob Hastings, a 35-year-old IT consultant, said: “I had an interest in old books and maps and he used to take me to the library in the abbey. That’s where the abuse happened, and it went on for 18 months.”
The ordeal ended after other pupils became aware of the abuse, because he had extra money to spend at the tuck shop, and another priest reported it to the headmaster. White was removed from the school but Mr Hastings’s parents did not want to take action.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary said it was unaware of the allegations until it began an inquiry after the Diocese of Clifton received allegations in 2010.
Mr Hastings said: “I didn’t know how to deal with this when I was 12. I was told then that the Church knew how to handle it. I am aware of one boy abused by White before me, but the Church dealt with it by allowing him to carry on teaching in the junior school.
“I believe there are other former pupils out there who suffered similar experiences and I would encourage them to come forward to the police.
“The question that remains is, are the controls, the safety nets, the safeguarding procedures really being adhered to in places where religious orders are in complete control of schools?”
In October a report by Lord Carlile of Berriew following the abuse scandal at the Benedictinerun St Benedict’s in Ealing, west London, said that the order should not have been put in charge of the school without checks and balances.
The report is expected to serve as a model for other schools run by religious orders.
Downside School was unavailable for comment.
Robert Mercer, centre, is pictured with Mgr Keith Newton
Photo: Personal Ordinariate
Sixth ex-Anglican bishop is received into the ordinariate
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
A FORMER Anglican bishop was received into the ordinariate on Saturday, making him the sixth ex-Anglican bishop to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Robert Mercer, former Bishop of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, was received into the Catholic Church, through the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham during a Mass at St Agatha’s in Portsmouth.
Speaking about why he joined the ordinariate, he said that the Anglican Communion had always hoped to one day have a rapprochement with the Catholic Church, but “the Anglican Communion was now taking steps so that it could not reach unity with Rome and something had to be done about it”. He listed “outright support for abortion, prevarication concerning same-sex marriage, if not outright support for it, and worse of all a very loose adherence to basic biblical Christian teaching” as obstacles to unity.
He said that through the ordinariate “it was possible to maintain one’s cultural Anglicanism”.
“This is an answer to prayer and this is absolutely the right thing to do and is part of God’s great mercy,” he said.
Chief celebrant at the Mass Mgr Keith Newton, head of the ordinariate, said: “It is a great privilege to receive Robert into the fullness of
Catholic life. He is a man of unimpeachable moral stature who, through his ministry in Africa and with the Community of the Resurrection, brings many valuable treasures of Anglican life into the Catholic Church.”
Mr Mercer has been a member of the Community of the Resurrection, based in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, for 49 years. He served as Anglican Bishop of Matabeleland, between 1977 and 1989 before being appointed bishop to the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, a breakaway group that is part of the Traditional Anglican Communion, in 1989.
He retired in 2005 and became the episcopal visitor to the Traditional Anglican Communion in Britain. He joins the ordinariate as a lay person but hopes to be ordained as a deacon and then a priest. With speculation that the ordinariate will continue to grow, concern about funding the project has intensified with the announcement a 10 per cent levy charge for each group.
Mgr John Broadhurst, who is in charge of finance for the ordinariate, said that the levy on each group’s donations would help to fund the central administration of the Personal Ordinariate. Writing in the ordinariate magazine The Portal, he said that many groups had yet to come forward with the contribution they had pledged to make, and the need for more funds was “now extremely urgent”.
He said: “The Catholic hierarchy gave us a generous gift when we were established but that has nearly all gone. Some of our priests are being paid by their local Catholic diocese but others are totally dependent on us. We have not yet made any pension provision which has to be a major moral and financial responsibility this year.”
Financing the ordinariate is uniquely demanding given that, contrary to other Catholic clergy, some of the ordinariate’s priests have wives and large families and since leaving the Anglican church many are now without a pension or regular financial security.
There are also concerns that the ordinariate does not have a principal church more than a year after its creation.
In an interview with Portal magazine, Mgr Newton said: “We do need a centre in London, a principal church that represents the ordinariate with good liturgy and good pastoral practice. We are looking at one option, but there are not many spare churches in London. To find a church that is underused is difficult... I would like to see us have buildings of our own. Sharing can be difficult. I hope we shall have our own. Maybe an underused church where there is a Catholic congregation – but it would be the ordinariate church.”
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Bishop praises dignity of Stephen Lawrence family Business school to move into Ushaw College
BY ED WEST
A BISHOP in south London has spoken about the impact that the murder of Stephen Lawrence has had on British society.
Auxiliary Bishop Patrick Lynch of Southwark, president of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice, issued a statement following the convictions of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Bishop Lynch said: “The death of Stephen Lawrence was a tragic event and our thoughts and prayers at this time are for his parents and family who have suffered greatly for the last 18 years.
“They have conducted themselves with great dignity over those years and worked tirelessly in the face of huge obstacles and prejudice to ensure that justice was done,” the bishop said.
“It is a great pity that it has taken so long and that in itself has contributed to the frustration and anger felt by many.
“It is also a reminder to all of us that we must do our best to repair and heal the damage done to our communities and society and continue to work together – as faith communities as local councils, as police authorities, as community leaders and schools – to forge stronger partnerships so that our streets and neighbourhoods will be safer, our community relations will be stronger and racism and racial injustice will be eliminated,” Bishop Lynch said.
The murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 led to two police investigations and eventually to a public inquiry in 1999, in which Sir William Macpherson criticised police methods and concluded that the Metropolitan Police was “institutionally racist”.
The inquiry led to the abolition of “double jeopardy”, the ancient protection whereby the accused could not be tried twice for the same offence. Following new DNA evidence two members of the five-man gang were accused of murder and found guilty.
In the 18 years since their sons’ death Neville and Doreen Lawrence have campaigned for justice and against racism.
Stephen Lawrence was comforted as he lay dying by Catholic couple Conor and Louise Taafee who had been to a prayer meeting at Ss John Fisher and Thomas More church nearby. Mrs Taaffe whispered “you are loved” to the adolescent as he died.
At the scene were also an off-duty policeman and his wife who were returning from another prayer meeting.
BY ED WEST
USHAW COLLEGE has formed an agreement with a local business school in a deal expected to help to secure its future.
Durham Business School, part of the Durham University, will temporarily relocate to the Catholic college while the school’s current Durham home is rebuilt.
It signals the latest step in an increasingly close relationship between the university and the trustees of Ushaw College, who wish to secure an educational future for the former seminary, which closed last year due to a shortage of vocations.
A licence agreement has been signed and the school will move to the college in April, where it is expected to remain for another two years.
Ushaw College was opened in 1808 after the former English College in Douai had to leave France following the Revolution. Due to falling vocations in 2002 the Church recommended that it merge with St Mary’s College, Oscott, a plan which Ushaw trustees rejected. But in 2010 they announced that it would close, and that the site may be sold.
The Centre for Catholic Studies (CCS), Durham University, also hopes to develop plans to open up the collections at Ushaw for full scholarly use and public benefit. The CCS is working closely with the project group established by the Ushaw trustees in June to secure a viable future for Ushaw College. The project group is chaired by Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, an alumnus of Durham University.
Bishop Davies said: “This announcement by Durham University is very much to be welcomed and there are solid grounds to be confident that this temporary relocation of staff and students will prove to be successful.
“It is securely based on the ever stronger working relationship between Durham University and Ushaw College as the future of the whole Ushaw Estate is addressed.”
On the recommendation of the project group, the trustees of Ushaw and the university have jointly commissioned a leading firm of advisers, Malcolm Reading Consultants, to oversee a feasibility study for the site working with the CCS and other key stakeholders.
Malcolm Reading Consultants has previous experience of providing advice and project oversight for major historic buildings. Its previous projects include St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Supreme Court in central London, Stowe House Preservation Trust and Stowe School in Buckinghamshire.
NEWSBULLETIN Irish bishops welcome plan for minimum alcohol prices THE IRISH BISHOPS’ Drugs and Alcohol Initiative has welcomed a proposal to introduce a minimum cost for alcohol.
Bishop Éamonn Walsh, vice-chairman of the initiative, said: “Alcohol is used by multiple retailers as a ‘loss leader’ which means that alcohol is both available relatively cheaply and is placed in prominent areas within supermarkets.
The reluctance of government not to increase the cost of alcohol in recent budgets has also contributed to the relative cheap cost of alcohol over the last decade in the state.”
He said that a partnership between government, retailers, the industry and consumers was needed to “radically improve – once and for all – the Irish relationship with alcohol”.
Bishop urges prayers after murder BISHOP Terence Brain of Salford has called for prayers after the killing of an Indian student on Boxing Day.
The bishop, speaking last week as locals held a vigil for 23-year-old Anuj Bidve, asked for people to pray for his family and for the circumstances that led to such a “random and motiveless” murder.
Bishop Brain told the Universe newspaper: “A young man’s life was stolen when we were all rejoicing at the gift from God of the birth of the Christ child. We offer our prayers and condolences to the Bidve family, and pray that the Lord who comes to us at Christmas welcomes him into eternal life.”
He that the killing was “a dreadful tragedy in that it was apparently so random and motiveless; how empty must be the life of the person who stole Anuj’s life? That too is a dreadful tragedy and we must pray about the causes of such emptiness.”
Spuc to oppose gay marriage THE SOCIETY for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has launched a campaign against same-sex marriage ahead of a Government consultation.
John Smeaton, Spuc’s director, said: “We can’t build a true culture of life if we don’t defend the truths which connect sexuality to human life. Homosexual unions... are radically disconnected from those truths.”
ʻPriests bless civil unionsʼ AN ORGANISER of “gayfriendly” Masses in Soho has claimed that same-sex unions are being blessed in Catholic churches in Britain.
Martin Pendergast said in a video posted online: “A lot of us who are in civil unions have had services of blessings in Catholic churches afterwards, and here at these Masses... if we are asked by people, we pray for people who have entered civil partnerships.”
Ordinariate to mark first birthday MGR KEITH NEWTON, head of the ordinariate, will preside at a Solemn Evensong at St James’s, Spanish Place, central London, on Sunday January 15, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the ordinariate’s creation.
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