The head of one of the country’s most powerful Catholic orders was made aware of sex abuse allegations at St Benedict’s Catholic School in Ealing, West London dating back to the 1970s and did not alert the authorities – contrary to the recommendations of a church commission on which he sat.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has been shown a handwritten document compiled by Abbot Richard Yeo, who as president of the Benedictines conducted an inquiry at St Benedict’s School in June 2010 following reports that there had been widespread abuse of pupils by teachers and monks. The previous year to this inquiry a Father David Pearce who was the former head of the junior school, had been jailed for eight years, reduced to five on appeal, having been found guilty of abusing five boys over a 36-year period.
According to the notes Yeo took, which will soon be uploaded onto the inquiry’s website. When he visited St Benedict’s many people at the school had been concerned about Pearce decades before he was jailed. Yeo’s notes state: “Mid 70s knew David engaged in dubious activities.” Another monk told him: “Knew since I was junior school head there was something wrong”
The Catholic Church’s failure to confront systemic clerical sexual abuse was acknowledged last week at an unprecedented summit on the issue opened by Pope Francis, attended by 180 bishops and cardinals. Yeo, who stood down as president of the Benedictines in 2017, told the inquiry he did not pass his 2010 notes on to the police because Pearce had already been jailed. The inquiry has heard that there were numerous warning signs which should have triggered intervention.
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