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JANUARY 20 2012 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
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Downside Abbot seeks to reassure parents
BY ED WEST
THE ABBOT OF DOWNSIDE has written to parents, staff and former pupils after the school was criticised for its handling of child abuse.
Dom Aidan Bellenger OSB issued the letter last Saturday after the school was criticised for the way it dealt with Richard White, a monk who was a housemaster at the school. White, known as Fr Nicholas to pupils and staff when he worked at the school, was convicted earlier this month of gross indecency and indecent assault against a 13-year-old at the school 20 years ago. White had abused another boy at the school but had been allowed to continue working there. It was also disclosed that seven Downside monks had been questioned by police about various offences dating back several decades.
After the school was accused in the press of failing to act on information about White and other abusers, the Abbot said that the case “raises questions about what was done during the period between the abuse and Fr Nicholas’s eventual conviction”, adding: “He received counselling and therapy and conformed entirely with all the restrictions that were imposed on him. However, the standards of supervision and communication with the relevant outside agencies have changed over the years and his case would not be handled in the same way today as it was in the past.”
The Abbot also disclosed that “as part of our response to safeguarding concerns” all the monks’ records dating back 50 years had been made available to the police and the diocesan safeguarding office in 2010 as part of a wider review of historic cases “to help ensure that nothing remained unknown and undealt with”.
Those cases listed were Fr Raphael Appleby, a former headmaster who had accepted a police caution for abuse of a vulnerable person, not a pupil in the school, over a long period in the 1980s, and who has since left. The Abbot could not say whether the abuse began when Fr Appleby was headmaster, from 1975 to 1980, explaining that, like with many of the cases, revealing too much information could help to identify the victim.
turn to ministry from his voluntary suspension.
The Abbot also said: “Another monk was issued with a police warning. This case does not involve a vulnerable adult or a pupil in the school. Two other monks have been subject to investigation and, while the allegations against them, dating from the early 1990s, were founded, no prosecutions were brought. Both have had restrictions imposed on their ministry in order to protect children and are living in the monastery under supervision approved by the outside agencies. This situation is kept under constant review.”
One of those investigated was Fr Dunstan O’Keeffe, who was convicted of possessing indecent images and imprisoned, and who is no longer a priest or a monk. Another monk, who received a police caution for a child abuse offence in the 1960s and subsequently left the country, was identified in the press as Brother Anselm, born Michael Hurt, brother of the actor John Hurt. Although accused of withholding information about Brother Anselm, the Abbot said that the school had in fact passed on the information to the relevant authorities. In a statement issued last July the Abbot of Glenstal in Co Limerick, where Brother Anselm now lives under restriction, reported that “Brother Anselm’s file was reexamined after we learnt of this allegation last February and the search revealed two documents from the British Department of Education and Science dating from the time of the allegation. These documents show that the department was aware of and investigated the case at the time.”
Reassuring parents that Downside was a safe place for children, the Abbot quoted a recent Ofsted report which said that “robust risk assessments are in place to ensure the safety of pupils from adults who should not have unsupervised access to children”, and that Downside met all the required standards of safeguarding.
He wrote: “We can be confident that the children with us are safe and able to flourish. We have the right structures in place, but we have to remain constantly vigilant and I recognise that you will help us to do that.”
Fr Antony Sutch was subject to a police investigation that concluded without any action being taken, and Downside said that an independent investigation and risk assessment saw no reason why he should not re
In October Lord Carlile concluded a report into St Benedict’s in Ealing, west London, by saying that there should be more checks and balances at schools run by religious orders. Will Heaven: Page 12
Baroness Warsi talks to Sister Berchmans, a teacher of Benazir Bhutto, at a convent in Karachi
Nuns in Pakistan inspire peer BY ED WEST
CONSERVATIVE PARTY chairman Baroness Warsi visited Catholic nuns during a trip to Pakistan last week.
The baroness, who is also a minister without portfolio in the Cabinet, visited the Jesus and Mary Convent in Karachi, alma mater of former president Benazir Bhutto.
She told the girls at the Catholic school: “My father came from a very poor family. They couldn’t afford shoes. Sometimes when the ground was very hard his brothers gave him a piggyback to get to the fields.
“Anything is possible. Perhaps a future prime minister is standing among us today.”
She then had breakfast with the Irish nuns who ran the convent school and heard about the increasing danger on Karachi’s streets, the threat of kidnappings and the risk of terrorism.
“Twenty years ago I used to be able to walk along the beach,” said one nun. “I couldn’t do that now.”
Baroness Warsi also travelled to St Patrick’s Cathedral to meet Archbishop Evarist Pinto of Karachi, who is trying to combat a rising tide of hostility to Christianity across Pakistan. The archbishop spoke about the growing persecution of Christians, revealing that Church property had been seized in the Punjab.
Baroness Warsi said it was an honour to meet the archbishop and said that Sister Berchmans, Benazir Bhutto’s former teacher at the Jesus and Mary Convent, was inspiring and an example of how powerful faith can be in changing the world.
The 82-year-old Sister Berchmans was born in Co Clare and has spent 58 years in Pakistan.
The first Jesus and Mary convent in what is now Pakistan opened in 1856 with the aim of educating young women to be “self-reliant, capable of being good wives and mothers and creating happy homes, capable of earning a living by honest work and whose very presence anywhere would exude goodness and touch other lives”.
BY STAFF REPORTER Church safeguarding chief resigns
BARONESS Scotland has resigned as the head of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission for England and Wales (NCSC) after less than a year in the role.
A statement on the commission’s website said that her resignation came into effect on December 31 2011.
It said: “It is with much regret that the Rt Hon the Baroness Scotland of Asthall QC has decided to tender her resignation as Chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding
Commission for England and Wales. Increasing pressures in other areas of her work have resulted in this decision.
“The baroness is encouraged by the continuing commitment of the Catholic Church and the members of the NCSC in their work to improve the safeguarding of children and adults at risk, and also their work with survivor organisations. She wishes the new chair every success.”
Baroness Scotland, the former Attorney General for England and Wales, was appointed head of the NCSC in March 2011. She replaced
Bill Kilgallon, who had served as chairman since the body’s creation in 2008.
Victims’ groups called for Baroness Scotland’s resignation in August after she was quoted as saying that priests sometimes abused because they were “unsupported emotionally” by lay people.
The NCSC is an independent organisation responsible for overseeing the Church’s safeguarding policies for children and vulnerable adults. It is now seeking a new head and will interview candidates for the post on February 5.
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Issue of Scottish independence divides Catholics
BY IAN DUNN
THE SCOTTISH government’s plans to hold a referendum in 2014 on independence have sharply divided opinion among leading Scottish Catholics.
A survey by the Scottish Catholic Observer of many of the country’s foremost Catholic voices found that, while most agreed that it was a matter for the Scottish people to decide, there were concerns that an independent Scotland could be even more hostile to Catholics than the status quo of the union.
Last week’s announcement by First Minister Alex Salmond that he intended to hold the referendum in the autumn of 2014 met a hostile reaction from David Cameron, who insisted that any vote should be held within 18 months.
The official position of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, expressed by Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley, is that “the constitutional question is a matter solely for the people of Scotland to decide”.
But both Bishop Tartaglia and Cardinal Keith O’Brien have said that the existing independence of the Scottish Church showed broader independence for Scotland was a viable idea.
“It is true that the Catholic Church in Scotland has a distinct and internationally recognised position,” Cardinal
O’Brien said. “So it would be difficult to argue that ecclesiastical independence is acceptable but political independence is not.”
The cardinal also said he believed that the independence movement in Scotland was fuelled by “frustration among the Scots about the say they have over what happens here”.
On the issue of Catholic education Michael McGrath, the director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, said it was “unlikely” that independence would have a impact in the short term.
Mr McGrath said it was possible that independence could lead to lessening of the “sectarian attitudes which still prevail among some”. But he also expressed fears that it could lead to “greater insularity among Scots, some of whom have traditionally held hostile attitudes towards Catholic education”, adding that he was wary of the issue “distracting politicians from the major economic challenge faced by all of us for some years to come”.
Michael McMahon, the Scottish Labour MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill, said that “while Scotland is by no means too small or too poor to survive as a separate state,” independence would “do nothing to enhance Scotland’s position in the world, or the Catholic community’s position within Scotland”.
Catholic midwives sue NHS board
Diocese asks for views on new school
BY STAFF REPORTER
SCOTLAND’S largest health board is being taken to court by two Catholic midwives who say they were forced to supervise an abortion.
Midwifery sisters Mary Doogan and Teresa Wood claim that their conscientious objections to abortion were ignored.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, however, argues that they do not have the right to refuse such duties.
The two women had later asked the health board to confirm that they were not required to delegate, supervise or support staff in carrying out abortions, but the board for west central Scotland rejected their request.
Now they have taken the case to a court in Edinburgh seeking to challenge the board’s decision in a judicial review.
They say that the refusal to recognise their right to conscientious objection violates their rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The women’s petition states that “they hold a religious belief that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception and that termination or pregnancy is a grave offence against human life”.
BY STAFF REPORTER
THE DIOCESE of Westminster has launched a consultation on a plan to open new Catholic primary and secondary schools in the borough of Richmond in south-west London.
Richmond is the only London borough without a Catholic secondary school.
Bishop John Sherrington, chairman of the diocesan education commission, said: “Catholic parents have long expressed the need for a Catholic secondary school in the London borough of Richmond. The Diocese of Westminster, together with the Archdiocese of Southwark, have for many years been working hard, in partnership with Richmond Council to make this aspiration become a reality.
“The Diocese of Westminster is sure that a new Catholic primary and secondary school in Richmond would continue the fine tradition of Catholic education which values the uniqueness and contribution of every pupil, aims to enable every child to discover his or her true vocation in life and seeks to provide excellent learning and teaching to provide this,” the bishop said.
The consultation can be accessed via the diocesan website, Rcdow.org.uk. Two drop-in sessions are planned at St James and St Elizabeth Catholic primary schools in Twickenham and Richmond next month.
NEWSBULLETIN Bishops meet Palestinian leader at Lambeth Palace ANGLICAN and Catholic bishops met Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, at Lambeth Palace this week.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool and Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham met Mr Abbas alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Rt Rev David Arnott, moderator of the
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
During the meeting they discussed the plight of Christians in the Holy Land.
Archbishop Kelly said that during their visit to the Holy Land last week bishops saw the effects of “occupation and insecurity” and said there was an urgent need for “strong and creative” leadership.
Stephen Fry backs priestʼs petition STEPHEN FRY has given his support to a priest’s campaign to end the “gay panic” legal defence in Queensland, Australia.
The quiz show host publicised Fr Paul Kelly’s petition to his 3.7 million followers on Twitter.
The “gay panic” defence has been invoked by defendants in murder cases trying to downgrade their charge to manslaughter. The reasoning is that the victim had made a homosexual advance on his killer, and they lost control of their actions as a result.
Fr Kelly, who was made aware of the “gay panic” defence after a man was murdered outside his church, said it was unfair and damaging to a trial that the defence can even be raised, even if it is unsuccessful.
He said: “It is intolerable that anyone can rely on a defence that an alleged homosexual advance could somehow mitigate against violence that leads to death.”
Prayer book to go on display AN ILLUMINATED ninthcentury Mercian prayer book known as the Book of Cerne and the second oldest surviving copy of the Ecclesiastical History of the English People by the Venerable Bede are among the treasures being displayed at Cambridge University Library.
The exhibits in “Shelf Lives: Four Centuries of Collectors and their Books” are taken from the library’s permanent store.
Welfare reform draws criticism ARCHBISHOP Peter Smith of Southwark has said that “thousands of families” will be affected by the Government’s welfare reform Bill. In a letter to the Times he called for child benefits to be exempt from a proposed cap to lessen the impact on families and urged the removal of provisions that will leave benefit claimants liable to repay debts accumulated as a result of administrative errors.
Police track down stolen relic A STOLEN RELIC believed to be part of the True Cross has been tracked down by police and returned to the Holy Cross Abbey in Thurles, Co Tipperary.
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Ordinariate celebrates its first birthday
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
THE HEAD of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has said that he expects “several new groups” to join the ordinariate in a letter marking its first anniversary.
In a pastoral letter on Sunday, Ordinary Mgr Keith Newton wrote: “We expect several new groups to be received at Easter and we are preparing for a number of ordinations to the priesthood around Pentecost. In addition several young men are exploring the possibility of ordination within the ordinariate.”
On the anniversary of the creation by the Holy See of the Personal Ordinariate Mgr Newton described the year as “extraordinary”.
He said: “It has been an extraordinary year as we have moved from places we have known and loved to find a new and welcoming home in the Catholic Church. I echo the words of St Paul writing to the Church at Corinth: ‘I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given to you in Christ Jesus’ (1 Cor 1:4). I give thanks to God for your courage and faith sometimes at great personal cost.”
Remembering the patron of the ordinariate, Blessed John Henry Newman, he said: “Many people have travelled a similar road before us, our patron Blessed John Henry
Newman being one of many, but what is unique is that we have travelled together responding to the generous invitation made by our Holy Father Pope Benedict specifically to people like us.”
Mgr Newton said that the ordinariate was a practical response to Benedict XVI’s call for Christians to be united in faith as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in communion with the successor of Peter.
But he went on to emphasise the importance of encouraging understanding on the part of Catholics so that communion between the wider Church and the ordinariate was strengthened.
He said: “Of course, there have been some misunderstandings; partly because the ordinariate has begun in a modest way, many Catholics have had no personal contact with ordinariate groups or individuals.
“It is up to all of us to help people understand and to make a reality the vision that Pope Benedict has set before us, that the ordinariate should be ‘a prophetic gesture’ to contribute to the wider goal of visible unity between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.”
Mgr Newton expressed his gratitude for the “Catholic congregations and countless individuals, lay and ordained, who have so wonderfully supported and encouraged us over the year”. “We have much to thank God for,” he said.
Although a year has passed since the creation of the ordinariate, members are still without a church and a lack of finance and resources are growing concerns.
The ordinariate are a particularly challenging group to finance as their departure from the Anglican Church has meant loss of homes and pensions. Furthermore, some of its priests are married with as many as nine children.
Mgr Newton said: “I ask you to be generous in your financial stewardship; not simply making your financial contributions in response to needs but in response to God’s overwhelming generosity to us in Christ ‘who though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich’. If we all do this we will be able to prepare for the future with confidence.”
An estimated 500 people gathered together at St James, Spanish Place, in central London, to celebrate the anniversary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Mgr Newton presided over Solemn Evensong, Procession of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction for a service of traditional Anglican Evening Prayer. Editorial Comment: Page 13
Mgr Newton presides at the service marking the ordinariate’s first year Mazur/Catholicchurch.org.uk
Parents seek to set up Catholic free school BY MARK GREAVES
PARENTS in a village in Buckinghamshire are applying to set up a Catholic free school, it emerged this week.
The bid is being prepared after more than 100 parents said they backed the plan at a meeting in Chalfont St Peter, in the Chilterns, on Monday.
The area has been without a Catholic secondary school since the closure of Holy Cross private girls’ school six years ago.
Rory Staunton, secretary to the steering group, said that parents were “desperately keen” to have some form of Catholic secondary education nearby.
The closest Catholic school is at High Wycombe, over 10 miles away. Mr Staunton said that only 12 per cent of pupils who attend St Joseph’s Catholic primary school at Chalfont St Peter continue to have a Catholic education at secondary level.
But Mgr Kevin McGinnell, episcopal vicar for education and formation in the Diocese of Northampton, suggested that there was no need for another Catholic school in the area.
He said: “We already have Catholic secondary schools within reasonable distance where there are places for children. I’m not aware of how much support the proposal has.”
If the bid is successful the Chalfont St Peter school would be only the second Catholic free school in Britain. The first was St Michael’s in Truro, Cornwall.
Mr Staunton said that the ideal place for the school would be the grounds of what used to be the Holy Cross private girls’ school.
The site is the subject of a High Court dispute after the Sisters of the Holy Cross tried to sell it to developers who wanted to demolish the school and build housing on its grounds. The sale has been delayed by a judicial review.
Mr Staunton appealed for parents who wanted to send their children to a Catholic free school in the area to contact the steering group, whose details can be found at Freeschoolgerrards cross.org.
THE VATICAN has taken up the Cause for canonisation of a British nun who helped to hide scores of Jews from the Nazis during the Second World War.
A file on Mother Riccarda Beauchamp Hambrough has been sent to the Vatican to be studied by historians and theologians.
Her Cause was opened in July 2010 by the Diocese of Rome along with that of Sister Katherine Flanagan, marking the first phase of the
BY SIMON CALDWELL Vatican to assess Cause of nun who saved Jews in the war investigations. The Causes of both women, who have the status of Servants of God, have together been sent to the Holy See’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
If it is concluded that the pair lived lives of “heroic virtue”, the Pope will declare the London-born nuns to be “Venerable” and the search will begin for two miracles to first declare them Blessed and then saints.
Both nuns belonged to a revived order of Bridgettine sisters nicknamed the “hot cross bun” nuns because of the distinctive crosses covering the tops of their wimples.
Mother Riccarda helped to save the lives of about 60 Jews by hiding them from the Nazis in her Rome convent, the Casa di Santa Brigida.
She born in 1887 and was baptised in St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Brighton, at the age of four years after her parents converted to the Catholic faith.
Fr Ray Blake, the parish priest of St Mary’s, welcomed the progress of her Cause. “I think it is fantastic,” he said. “We are celebrating our
150th anniversary of the opening of the church this year and we can add that to our celebrations.”
He added: “Here in Brighton we are following her Cause with great enthusiasm and see her very much as our local saint.
“When I tell people at Mass that her Cause is going forward I’m sure that they will be overjoyed.” While Mother Riccarda spent most of her life in Rome, eventually becoming the head of the order, Sister Katherine was at the forefront of efforts to open Bridgettine convents around the world some 400 years after the Reformation nearly wiped out the order.
Judith Whitehead, a niece of Sister Katherine, said she was astonished that the first phase had concluded so quickly.
“I am surprised that it has moved to the next stage in my lifetime,” said Mrs Whitehead, 73, of Shaftesbury, Dorset, who had given evidence to the initial Rome inquiry.
“I thought that the progression of looking into her life would take about 10 years,” she said. “It is amazing to have someone in your family who was so revered by everybody.”
Fr Simon Henry, parish priest of St Gregory’s Church, Earlsfield, south London, where Sister Katherine was baptised, said: “To have a possible saint from the parish is wonderful.”
Born Florence Catherine in Clerkenwell in 1892, Sister Katherine trained as a dressmaker before she travelled to Rome at the age of 19 with the aim of becoming a nun.
She went on to become the first prioress of new convents in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, Lugano, Switzerland, and Vadstena, Sweden – where she died in 1941.
A year after Sister Katherine joined, the future Mother Riccarda – born Madaleina Catherine – also journeyed to Rome. When the Nazis took control of the city in 1943 and began to round up the Jews of Rome for deportation to Auschwitz, Mother Riccarda risked her own life by smuggling fugitives into her convent.
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William Wallace letter to pope sent back to Scotland
BY STAFF REPORTER
A LETTER concerning Scottish patriot Sir William Wallace that was written to the pope over 700 years ago has been returned to Scotland.
The document was unveiled in Edinburgh by George MacKenzie, the head of National Records of Scotland.
He said: “This document is an enigma. It’s a letter from the French king to his officials at the Vatican mentioning Wallace, but we don’t know what his business was with the pope. What we do know is that the document still fascinates, 700 years after it was written.”
Before last week, the letter concerning William Wallace was kept in England after it was discovered in the Tower of London in the 1830s.
The letter is dated 1299, when Wallace went to the court of Philip IV of France in order to win his support for the Scots against Edward I of England.
It was a year after Wallace’s arrival that the King of France wrote the letter to Rome at the time of Pope Boniface VIII’s pontificate.
The letter begins “Philip by the grace of God, king of the French, to his beloved and loyal people appointed at the Roman Court”, and commands the French officials to “ask the Supreme Pontiff to consider with favour our beloved William le Wallace of Scotland, knight, with regard to those things which concern him that he has to expedite.”
It is signed at the royal castle of Pierrefonds on the Feast of All Saints, November 7 1300.
Duncan Fenton of the Society of William Wallace, who campaigned for the return of the letter, said: “We do not have a lot of tangible links with Wallace as most of the documentation has been destroyed so to have something that Wallace actually touched is a massive boost for Scotland.”
The document suggests that Wallace planned to visit the papal house of Pope Boniface VIII but i t is unknown if he actually reached Rome.
But Wallace was later betrayed and taken by English forces in 1305. He was subsequently tried and executed at Westminster Hall.
Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s Culture Secretary, said: “I am delighted to welcome the Wallace letter back to Scotland.
“To have it here in Scotland, where it can be viewed by the Scottish public, is very significant indeed,” she said.
The public can view the document this coming summer at the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh. There will be an even older letter, dated 1297, which is also associated with Wallace.
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THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL
Father Revocatus, Principal of a Catechetical Training Centre in Tanzania contacted THE LITTLE WAY ASSOCIATION recently. The Centre was founded in 1977 and since then it has provided residential training for Catechists preparing to teach the Faith in primary and secondary schools, to prepare children for First Communion and for the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation. “These catechists are badly needed in the Church,” Father wrote, “as they are the primary teachers of religion, after the parents.” But the Centre faces a major difficuly. The students mainly come from poor families and their parishes are very poor too so there is no spare cash for books or teaching materials. They are still managing with the books that were purchased in 1977. “This makes the work of instructing the catechists very difficult,” Father explains, “and we need to buy some new books for their study so that we can help them to educate our children well”.
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