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JUNE 24 2011 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
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Popular priest confessed to child abuse before he died
BY ED WEST
THE ROSMINIAN order is facing a multi-million-pound lawsuit after four of its priests admitted to sexual and physical abuse of boys while running two schools in the 1960s.
Among them was Fr Christopher Cunningham, the popular rector of St Etheldreda’s in Holborn, London, who died last December aged 79.
Fr Cunningham, who taught at St Michael’s school, in Soni, Tanzania, in the 1960s, is alleged to have sexually abused six boys as young as eight, alongside three other priests from the order, officially known as the Institute of Charity: Fr Bernard Collins, Fr Douglas Raynor and Fr William Jackson. All confessed to abuse in signed letters witnessed by the Rosminian provincial Fr David Myers. Fr Collins and Fr Raynor also physically abused the children, who described them as “sadists”.
The victims spoke out in a BBC documentary, Abuse: Breaking the Silence, broadcast on Tuesday.
The 22 men who have taken legal action also include 11 former pupils of the Rosminian-run Grace Dieu Manor prep school in Leicestershire.
Fr Collins had worked at Grace Dieu where he sexually abused nineyear-old Donald MacFaul. When Mr MacFaul’s father raised a complaint with the school, he was told that Fr Collins would not return after the holidays. Instead, he remained for another term and was then transferred to St Michael’s in Soni.
Mr MacFaul, now a barrister in Newcastle, said that until 2009 and the revelations from Soni he had assumed that Fr Collins had been sent away from children. He said: “I found that to be appalling. That was quite distressing. Essentially they harboured this nest of vipers.”
Francis Lionnet, a former Grace Dieu pupil, recalled that Fr Collins used to whip and on some occasions fire a rifle at boys. He said: “I have spoken to men in their 50s and 60s who have broken down in tears talking about what happened. There have been suicides linked to these schools.”
Mr Lionnet added that just one former pupil from either school was still a Mass-going Catholic.
Martin Marriott, who was sexually abused by Fr Cunningham, said it “troubled me all my life” and that, like many pupils, he was “furious” that Fr Cunningham had received an MBE.
“It was difficult to describe the feelings of fear at the school. There was no one to turn to, even our parents didn’t believe us because they thought priests were good.
“We were absolutely furious that Collins had been transferred. When he arrived at Soni he found kindred spirits but he had a very strong intellect, very dominant. The masters were as terrified of him as we were.”
The allegations became public after a group of former Soni pupils met via a website forum. It quickly transpired that, on top of the violence in the school, sexual abuse had been widespread too.
In September 2009 they approached Fr Myers with the dossier of claims relating to the two schools and in November were invited to St Etheldreda’s, where Fr Cunningham had been rector for almost 30 years.
Fr Myers contacted the four priests, who all admitted to abuse and wrote letters to some of their victims. Fr Rayner, now 92, admitted to using excessive force and to groping pupils, and accepted that he would have to leave his current parish. Fr Cunningham wrote to John Poppleton, now 53, to say: “It is with deep shame that I write to you to ask forgiveness for inappropriate actions that I did to you. It has been on my conscience ever since and the thought of what I did has often preyed on my mind these last 40 years.”
Fr Cunningham was a high-profile and popular figure in London, often called the unofficial chaplain of Fleet Street, as well as being the founder of the Westminster diocesan newspaper and chaplain of the Catholic Writers Guild. He wrote regularly for The Catholic Herald. He also worked as a prison chaplain and was active in helping the homeless.
Fr David Myers, head of the Rosminians in Britain, said: “I apologise without reservation on behalf of the Rosminian brethren in the UK to all those who have suffered. Such abuse was a grievous breach of trust to them and to their families. We are appalled by what was done to them.
“I and all my brethren are deeply shocked at what has happened and acknowledge our inadequate response. We are committed to the pastoral care and support of those who have suffered abuse and to the procedures laid down by the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission.” Mary Kenny: Page 12 Editorial Comment: Page 13
Archbishop Nichols views relics on show at the British Museum
Archbishop commends new relics exhibition to Catholics
BY DAVID V BARRETT
ALL BRITISH Catholics should try to visit the new exhibition of relics and reliquaries at the British Museum in London, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has said.
Treasures of Heaven: saints, relics and devotion in medieval Europe opened in the historic Round Reading Room at the museum on Thursday.
“I think this is a very, very unique and remarkable exhibition. There are objects here, for example the Mandylion, the face of Christ, which will never leave the Vatican again,” the archbishop said.
“I would just urge Catholics in England and Wales and from further afield to make the effort to come to the British Museum some time between now and October to take up this very unique opportunity. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime, and it’s well worth the journey.”
Many of the reliquaries – richly inlaid gold crosses and caskets – date from the 11th to 13th centuries, but some go back as early as the fourth and f i f th centuries.
Most are of saints, but a few relate to Jesus himself. Included in the exhibition are three separate thorns from the Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, breast milk from the Virgin Mary and the Mandylion of Edessa, a cloth supposedly laid over the face of Jesus and bearing his image.
The importance of these relics lies in their spiritual and emotive power rather than whether they are historically genuine, Archbishop Nichols said.
“It’s perfectly clear that relics are a very important part of the expression of religious faith as well as of cultural importance in the way that people cling to a souvenir from a person they’ve loved or a place that they’ve been to. And what that conveys is the connecting of this moment with the treasured moment of the past. And if that connection is made through an object which maybe forensically won’t stand up to the test, that’s of secondary importance to the spiritual and emotive power that the object can contain, and does contain.
“I think that’s where the setting of the relic is as eloquent as the relic itself. If you look at a lot of these reliquaries you don’t actually see the relic. The relic is, as it were, at the end of an inner journey. So what they’re looking for is the viewer to really enter their own soul to understand how they enter into the value of the treasure of the relic that is before them.
“So it’s a spiritual dialogue that takes place between this object and the person themself.
“That’s why they’re called ‘Treasures of Heaven’, because it is through the spiritual that our hearts are raised to heaven.”
Preparation for the exhibition began in December 2008 following earlier discussions with the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
“It’s been three years solid in the making,” said James Robinson, the exhibition’s curator. “It was a major achievement to get all of these objects here. Most of these objects have such significance in the institutions that they’re from that it’s very difficult to negotiate their loan.”
He said he was most proud of exhibiting the reliquary of the early 12th century True Cross from Zwiefalten in Germany.
“It has a provenance which goes right back to the First Crusade, so we’re fairly secure that that was collected in Jerusalem from the relic that was believed to have been discovered by St Helena.
“So it’s a really strong connection to that very early relic-collecting period of the fourth century.”
The exhibition runs from June 23 to October 9 and admission is £12. The British Museum will also be holding talks, films and workshops linked to the exhibition.
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Brewery defends decision to give pub a new name Equality chief: Christians are the most militant
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
THE OWNERS of the pub favoured by visitors to Westminster Catholic cathedral parishioners, The Cardinal, have defended their decision to change the establishment’s name.
They said the original name was not The Cardinal and that the land on which the pub was built does not belong to the Catholic Church.
In a letter published on the Independent Catholic News website Mark Butler, the company secretary to Samuel Smith’s brewery, said that much research and thought had been invested in the decision to change the pub’s name to The Windsor Castle.
Mr Butler explained that the pub’s name was originally The Windsor Castle but was changed to The Cardinal in 1963, on the recommendation by the landlord because of its newly refurbished scarlet decor.
“We studied the plans and old leases for the property and the land has never belonged to the Roman Catholic Church and, contrary to popular opinion, it would seem has never had any connection with Cardinal Manning who, because of his hate of alcohol and the evils of it, protested against the opening of public houses in the 19th century,” wrote Mr Butler.
The letter goes on to say that “the pub was rebuilt as the Windsor Castle in 1897 and in our current refurbishment we have restored the interior based on the physical evidence of the original layout and structure which was revealed on site following the stripping out of the premises and on the plans in the 1897 building lease”.
The letter added that the owners hope that their scheme will be viewed as “a careful and sensitive restoration of the pub’s Victorian splendour. It was on this basis that we felt it only appropriate to return the pub to its historic name.”
The change of The Cardinal’s name has been a particularly sensitive topic for parishioners of Westminster Cathedral who frequent their local after Sunday Mass. So strong is the sense of ownership by local Catholics that the change in name has promoted a growing campaign with almost 200 Facebook supporters and public backing from Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster.
Dr Gemma Simmonds of Heythrop College, a supporter of the campaign, said she was “extremely unhappy” with the owners’ response. She said: “When many pubs are closing for lack of clients, the brewery might be interested in the feelings and opinions of the people who actually patronise their pub, and might support a collaborative approach to this question.”
BY ED WEST
CHRISTIANS are more militant and intolerant than Muslims, and hold beliefs more likely to “clash with mainstream views”, Trevor Phillips has said in a controversial interview.
The head of the £80 million-a-year Equality and Human Rights Commission said that Muslims were better at integrating into society, while Christians often claimed that they were treated in a a biased way for cynical political reasons.
Dismissing claims that recent equality laws discriminated against Christians, he said: “I think there’s an awful lot of noise about the Church being persecuted but there is a more real issue that the conventional churches face – that the people who are really driving their revival and success believe in an old-time religion which, in my view, is incompatible with a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural society.
“Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they’re doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy.”
He added: “The most likely victim of actual religious discrimination in
British society is a Muslim, but the person who is most likely to feel slighted because of their religion is an evangelical Christian. There are a lot of Christian activist voices who appear bent on stressing the kind of persecution that I don’t really think exists in this country.”
Mr Phillips said he understood why religious people felt under siege, and conceded that equality laws should “stop at the door of the church or mosque”.
But he also said that in return for religious people being protected by anti-discrimination laws, religious groups would have to fall in line with the views of a society as a whole.
He said: “Churches, mosques, temples, religious organisations of all kinds now have to some extent protection under the law but they also have to obey the law including anti-discrimination law because they are charities, because they offer a public service.”
He defended the Government’s decision to refuse Catholic adoption agencies an exemption on equality rules. He said: “Catholic Care was a clearer and simpler case. You’re offering a public service and you’re a charity and there are rules about how charities behave.” Charterhouse: Page 20
NEWSBULLETIN Scottish Catholics prepare for evangelisation synod SCOTLAND’S bishops have requested that the Catholic community get involved in preparations for the 2012 Synod of Bishops on the subject of the New Evangelisation.
parishes to contribute to Scotland’s response to the preparatory document which will be sent to Rome later this year.
Bishop Philip Tartaglia is the bishop delegated by the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland to participate in the 2012 Synod.
He has called on individuals, schools and
A series of slides outlining the theme of the New Evangelisation has been posted on the BeingCatholic.org website where it is possible to read a full presentation on the Synod and its proposed work.
Bishop hails sectarianism Bill THE BISHOP of Motherwell has welcomed a new bill that would outlaw sectarian abuse in Scotland.
Bishop Joseph Devine issued a letter ahead of the passage of Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill in which he said that, although the bishops would have preferred to have time to examine the legislation, “we recognise, however, the importance of having the legislation in place prior to the start of the new football season. For no one wishes to see a repeat of the disgraceful scenes and sickening incidents of last season that shamed Scotland across the world.”
The bill is seen as a way of finally ridding Scottish football and society of sectarianism. Under the plans football fans could be jailed or fined for singing “God Save the Queen”, “Rule Britannia” or “aggressively” making the Sign of the Cross. Bishop Devine said: “Every Scot should get behind the Scottish government’s exemplary initiative.”
Catholic Care appeal refused CATHOLIC CARE, an adoption agency based in Leeds, has been refused permission to appeal against a ruling that it cannot exclude gay couples as potential adopters.
Alison McKenna, a charity tribunal judge, said she could not see any “errors of law” made in the ruling in April. If approved, the appeal would have been the charity’s fourth legal bid to challenge gay rights laws.
Mosque plan is rejected PLANS to redevelop a former Catholic school in Surrey into a mosque have have been rejected by a planning inspector.
The former St Gregory’s School in Camberley was closed in 1986 and bought by the Bengali Welfare Association, which has used it as a mosque since 1996.
But their plans to replace the listed building with a new domed mosque and minaret were rejected.
Monk denies child abuse charges A DOWNSIDE monk has pleaded not guilty to sex offences alleged to have taken place in the late 1980s. Richard White, 65, denied one count of indecently assaulting a boy under 14 and four counts of indecency against a child.
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