Pope Benedict Orders Child Sex Abuse Inquiry Over London School Claims

Pope

Huffington Post UK   First Posted: 25/10/11 17:26 Updated: 25/12/11 10:12

Pope Benedict has ordered an investigation into child sex abuse claims dating back to the 1960s which have centred around a London school.

The "apostolic visitation" will explore allegations made against a number of monks and teaching staff at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's school in over the last 40 years.

Bishop John Arnold, an auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, and Father Richard Yeo, president of the English Benedictine Congregation, will lead the investigation, which is the first of its kind in Britain.

The development comes two years after Father David Pearce was jailed for eight years after pleading guilty to a series of indecent and sexual assaults on five young boys, four under 14, over a period of 36 years.

The Times newspaper had initially exposed four decades of abuse at the school, leading to the arrest of the "devil in a dog collar" priest, as one victim described him.

Headmaster Christopher Cleugh told the Huffington Post UK:

“We are determined that the events of the past will never be repeated at St Benedict’s. Our abiding concern is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children in the school today and in the future. The independent review by Lord Carlile of Berriew will help us do just that and we will take into account any recommendations Lord Carlile makes to strengthen our policies and procedures. The Vatican’s recent visit was an additional opportunity for the church to satisfy itself that the Abbot is also taking every step to ensure child protection is a priority.”

Another monk and former Abbot of Ealing Abbey - Father Laurence Soper - jumped bail and disappeared from the headquarters of the Benedictine order. He is currently being pursued by police.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Westminster said: "The effective safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is a priority for the Catholic church and Ealing abbey's safeguarding policies and procedures formed part of the remit of the apostolic visitation."

St Benedict's school is currently waiting for a report by Lord Carlile of Berriew - a senior government advisor - which will be published at the end of the month. The Vatican reportedly sent a message to Ealing Abbey stating the report would not be the final word on the scandal.

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