November 17, 2005

Silence and secrecy at school where child sex abuse went on for decades

The Guardian

Ian Cobain
Friday November 18, 2005
The Guardian

In 1997, near the end of his life, Cardinal Basil Hume sat down to write a theology book for children, which he called Basil in Blunderland. Given that the book was aimed at very young children, the title of the final chapter - Death - must have surprised some of the cardinal's readers.

These pages saw Cardinal Hume, the leader of 4 million Roman Catholics in England and Wales, anticipating his own passing. "In a very bad moment I think about the relief my demise will bring to some people," he wrote. "I do worry about the insensitive and clumsy ways I have handled some people, about my selfishness ..."

Cardinal Hume did not explain further, but some former pupils at Ampleforth college, the country's most celebrated Catholic public school, may believe he was referring to them.

For three decades between 1966 and 1995, a number of boys at the school endured sexual abuse at the hands of some of the monks who taught there, assaults that ranged from relatively minor incidents to, allegedly, rape. These were the decades during which Cardinal Hume was first the Abbot of Ampleforth, and then Archbishop of Westminster.

Exactly how many young boys were abused is difficult to say. Police say they have identified between 30 and 40 victims, although former pupils estimate the true tally could reach three figures.

Posted by kshaw at November 17, 2005 07:14 PM