That was the reaction of lawyer Richard Scorer to a report published today about the ‘appalling’ abuse inflicted on pupils at two Catholic schools – Ampleforth in North Yorkshire and Downside in Somerset – over a period of 40 years.
The report, published by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), exposes a shocking cover-up culture at the two institutions which sought to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church.
In this BBC report, Scorer said:
This familiar and shameful story of cover-up has been told time and time again, and is a devastating indictment of an organisation guilty of gross failures on child protection. It is clear the Catholic Church is woefully incapable of policing itself.
That is why we urgently need a mandatory reporting law to prevent the perpetuation of the abuse of vulnerable children.
Professor Alexis Jay, chairwoman 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 well-being of the abusive monks.
The report says:
For much of the time under consideration by the inquiry, the overriding concern in both Ampleforth and Downside was to avoid contact with the local authority or the police at all costs, regardless of the seriousness of the alleged abuse or actual knowledge of its occurrence.
The inquiry also heard that in about 2012 then headmaster of Downside, Dom Leo Maidlow Davies, burned wheelbarrows full of files from the school. QWhile it was “impossible to say” what information was in the documents:
It adds to the perception of a cover-up on the part of Downside.
Both Downside and Ampleforth have issued statements apologising to the victims. A Downside spokesman said:
The Abbey and School fully acknowledges the serious failings and mistakes made in both protecting those within our care and responding to safeguarding concerns. We have reflected deeply and will continue to listen with the ear of the heart going forward to ensure that the mistakes of the past are never repeated.
A spokesman for Ampleforth said it had publicly accepted responsibility for:
Past failings on many occasions. The Ampleforth of today has never been afraid to learn difficult lessons. We remain completely focused on the safety and well-being of those entrusted to our care and our commitment to implement meaningful change.
Father Christopher Jamison, Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation, said the report highlighted:
How flawed many of our past responses have been. Once again I apologise unequivocally to all those who were abused by any person connected with our abbeys and schools.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn