I have many happy memories of Saint Pancras (the patron saint of children). It was my local church until I was ten (1959) when we moved to Chantry Estate and Saint Marks.
I was an altar boy, a proud member of the Guild of St Stephen and was thrilled when my red lanyard was replaced with a black one. And my red cassock replaced with a black cassock. Even if older altar boys called themselves ‘The Rhubarb Club’ (after the Goon Show), I had no such cynicism, nothing could match the excitement of carrying a lit torch or the incense ‘boat’ or swinging the thurifer.
The old Georgian presbytery next to the church was a most enthralling building. In the cellars it had a smuggler’s tunnel leading to the nearby River Orwell. The first tunnel section could still be explored, but then it was blocked off, to my great disappointment. It was such a shame the presbytery was knocked down and replaced with a faux Georgian building.
The priests Canon Burrows and his curate Father Wace were very warm and friendly. Canon Burrows was always round our house in Stoke, dressed in his boiler suit, doing handyman jobs for my mother. Father Wace presented me with a copy of ‘A Little Hero’ by Mrs Musgrave which had a cover of a boy wearing a school uniform remarkably like a St Joseph’s College blazer. He told me I would go there one day and he was right.
Father Wace was the Akela in charge of the cubs and I was always baffled why I was a cub for just one week. Then I stopped going and no-one would talk about the reason why. It seemed to be because I had told a friend of my mother’s about ‘something that happened at cubs’ and this friend had stern words with Father Wace.
The Catholic laity – the Legion of Mary; the Knights of St Columba and the Catholic Women’s League – were also an important part of my life. My mother was a vulnerable, devout Irish Catholic widow and these organisations did their best to help her. They introduced her to another Catholic widow, Mrs Czech, and her two daughters and we went on a pilgrimage to Walsingham together.
But writing about the laity at St Pancras is still difficult for me and this short article below by Doctor Philippa Martyr for The Catholic Weekly explains the reason why.
Doctor Martyr concludes:
‘This is the ugly underside of our local vibrant Catholic community. Covering-up goes on all the time, for all sorts of things – and yes, lay people enable it. We just haven’t been brave enough to face this about ourselves yet.’
But before coming back to the laity, I have to say there was also another side to both Canon Burrows and Father Wace which was a real shock to me when the memories came flooding back to me in mid-life.
My mother worked as a housekeeper at St Pancras presbytery. Her vulnerability meant her children were prime targets for clerical abusers.
Canon Burrows – a listed Knight of St Columba – was a sexual abuser. It took a lot of therapy for me to get my recollections of his behaviour out of my system. His particular technique was magic and conjuring tricks. ‘Now you see it, now you don’t.’ At age six, I wanted to be a magician like the Canon and spent all my pocket money on jokes.
Father Wace is not listed as a Knight, but, given his wealthy background, it seems likely he, too, was a member.
He also was a sexual abuser. My mother smiled at my thrilled expression when I saw Wace’s pyjamas casually thrown across his bed. Because his pyjama jacket was weighed down with maybe twenty fantastic metal collectors’ badges – which would make it impossible for him to sleep in. But they were really cool badges that any eight-year-old boy would do anything for.
MALE CATHOLIC LAITY AT ST PANCRAS
I’ve previously covered the Knights of St Columba on this site. There are statements from myself and other survivors that prove there was a ring of sexual abusers in the Ipswich Knights.
The Knights were also the Eminence Gris for the Church, which meant they controlled my school fees and they exacted a price in return. The similar Knights of Columbus describe themselves as ‘The strong right arm of the Catholic Church.’
The only thing relevant here is their use of psycho-coercive ‘double bind’ techniques. These are recorded in their theatrical ceremonies which I have previously featured on this site. Such ceremonies stopped – supposedly – in the late 60’s. Too late for me, unfortunately.
It’s relevant because female laity abusers used similar ‘double binds’.
A double bind is a dilemma in communication in which an individual receives two or more reciprocally conflicting messages. It’s a mind-twister and shows a deep knowledge of psychology and how to manipulate people.
When – or if – the Knights stopped abusing children I have no way of knowing and no one today cares. Catholic Safeguarding ignored a recent newspaper report of a Knight of St. Columba sentenced to a long prison sentence for child abuse. The Knight was provably not given a police check, which would have shown he had a previous conviction for child abuse.
FEMALE CATHOLIC LAITY AT ST PANCRAS
When I looked at all my bills for therapy, I was startled to see that a good 50% of my recent therapy – over the last three years – related to female Catholic laity at St Pancras.
And that it took emotional priority over male clerical abuse. You might conclude it’s because female abuse is a far greater betrayal to a child, but, actually, I think it’s because of the bizarre but very effective nature of the abuse.
I believe the women were members of the Catholic Women’s League: the female equivalent of the Knights of St Columba, and it’s acknowledged they work closely together to this day.
The CWL doesn’t list deceased members, but I’ll happily supply the five names of the female parishioners concerned for the CWL to check against their records. I would, of course, also need sight of those records. I’d say ‘Deceased Ipswich members 1956 through to the millennium.’
If I’m wrong, I will write a retraction.
If I’m correct, their names will be listed here as child abusers, alongside Burrows and Wace.
Some may have also been members of the Legion of Mary at St Pancras. My eight-year-old self didn’t fully understand the difference between the two organisations.
But I have focused on the CWL because the five women concerned were all middle-class high achievers, which seems to be the hallmark of this organisation. Two of them were spinsters. There is also the CWL’s close connection to the Knights who were provably abusers. But principally because one of the key female abusers was a close friend of the famous Barbara Ward, Baroness Jackson of Lodsworth – Wikipedia.
Barbara Ward went to St Mary’s Convent Grammar school in Ipswich (I went to the adjacent St Mary’s primary school). She then went on to be President of the Catholic Women’s League in the 1940s and introduced my abuser to her husband who was almost certainly a Knight. This was long before my time. And I’ve absolutely no reason to think Ward was an abuser.
But Ward shows just how intellectual, well-connected and powerful the Catholic Women’s League were when I had the misfortune to come across some of their members, including her close friend.
Exactly like the powerful Catholic laity described in the link above.
Although their abuse was as perverted as any abuse, it had a certain ‘logic’, which perhaps helped them with their justification for their obscene gratification.
I won’t go into graphic details here, but it was a physical form of aversion therapy (not like today’s conversion therapy as fair as I know), an attempt to thwart puberty using psycho-coercive double binds.
It would have had different names in the past, but various forms of aversion therapy – some quite barbaric – were commonplace from Victorian times through to the 1950s. It was still very scary.
Why did they do it?
Because of the abuse I suffered at the hands of Burrows and Wace, I was definitely ‘acting out’ as so many children do. For instance, I recall drawing and talking openly about what the priests did to me. So it may have been an attempt to physically put a stop to a child’s ‘play’.
But it actually feels rather more ambitious and organised. There were several of them involved, for instance. Even though I was earmarked for the priesthood from an early age (I was signed up for the seminary at age thirteen) I don’t believe that fully explains their behaviour.
It was certainly a ‘procedure’ they were used to.
However, it’s not my responsibility to understand their sick mindset. Or explain how it all worked in detail. I bear the psychological scars and that’s enough.
If your cognitive dissonance is kicking in at this point, and you find it hard to believe that respectable, middle-class Catholic women could behave in such a manner, let me tell you that in the same decade, a number of Dutch boys were castrated on the orders of the Catholic Church because they had shown gay tendencies. In the 1970s, on the orders of his British Catholic school, a young teenager was given hospital electric-shock treatment to similarly erase his gay character. There are other examples.
Aversion therapy seems designed to suppress, reduce or redirect a child’s sexuality. In practical terms, it limits your power over your own body. Instead, these women had control over my body. I’m pretty certain they saw their abuse as ‘holy work’. I’d love to tell you they failed miserably, but, annoyingly, its effects actually lasted until I was aged sixteen.
These fanatical women knew what they were doing.
If you’re a Catholic Safeguarder, or a member of the priesthood, the Knights or the CWL, you may well be thinking, with some relief, as you read this, ‘Ah. But it’s impossible for him to prove.’
Well, it’s true it’s hard to prove. Most survivors must have either accepted their programming, maybe they even thought it was good for them, or are too embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it.
The best proof I have is the fortune I spent on recent weekly therapy, over the last three years, deprogramming the abusive program these women had instilled into my psyche.
And also the evidence of my therapist who has previously given evidence to the Ipswich police. This resulted in an abusive Ipswich Catholic teacher recently being arrested.
So I wouldn’t be too relieved if I were you.
Needless to say, I would be delighted if the CWL decide to challenge my account.
I know Catholics practice secrecy from the Pope downwards, but this really needs to be brought out into the open.
You might suggest that Catholic Safeguarding could help me with this matter.
Not a chance, I’m afraid, so I should explain why.
You may believe Catholic Safeguarding are there to help past survivors and investigate past clerical and laity abuse
Catholic Safeguarding is actually in a terrible state today, the worst it’s ever been. And, in case you think that’s just my negative opinion, there is already media concern and research on this aspect.
The CEO of the CSSA (Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency) admitted the following to me:
‘IICSA was obviously put in place with the intention of dealing with this but quite honestly I think they were overwhelmed and in the end they presented their final report and it is difficult to know what it all achieved.’
All IICSA’S recommendations (The Elliott report etc) have been ignored by the Church, even though the Bishops claimed otherwise.
As the Daily Telegraph reported: ‘Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse had previously concluded Cardinal Nichols was more concerned with protecting Church’s reputation.’
Today, the CSSA only deals with current issues up to two years old.
‘This of course leaves those that have been subject of abuse over two years ago have very little redress.’
The CEO confirmed my own experience that the police (Operation Hydrant) will only deal with cases where the abusers are still alive.
‘Our remit does not include an investigative branch. The process is that the diocese or religious life group (through the Religious Life Safeguarding Service (RLSS) investigate concerns when raised.’
So where St Pancras is concerned this means that the diocese will investigate.
I’ve been here before during Eileen Shearer’s COPCA era when I first raised Canon Burrows with the diocese. I learnt that Catholic Safeguarding diocese members are unpaid, they do nothing (e.g. they didn’t even look up records) they simply dump complaints onto the police, who can do nothing (see above). The diocese Safeguarders know this and – under the convenient excuse of ‘we have a mandatory reporting duty’ – they are wilfully and knowingly wasting valuable police time.
The diocese Safeguarding officer also reassured me personally everything would be ‘so much better’ with Shearer’s recent appointment because she was a protestant. So nothing would be covered up anymore.
I was briefly impressed.
Shearer resigned shortly afterwards.
But it’s worse. The investigating officer is from the diocese where the crime took place, so he or she is still part of that Catholic community: they will certainly know the organisations concerned at the very least, they may even be members of it, and they are thus not independent.
This has put off many survivors from reporting abuse and that’s no accident. It’s exactly what the Church intended.
Returning to the laity.
The CEO of the CSSA said to me:
‘I agree with you over this issue around abuse by the laity does seem to be largely ignored and certainly has given me some pause for thought.’
Most of my claims against the Catholic laity can be deemed historic (over two years old) and therefore will be ignored, which is, of course, outrageous as we survivors have to live our entire lives with the results of their crimes committed against us in childhood. But two cases are actually current and one relates to the East Anglian diocese. The other to an adjoining diocese.
In both cases there was a lack of police checks and thus vulnerable people and children may be in danger.
There was no response from the CSSA and Police Operation Hydrant when I raised this with them both.
THE LIKELY RESPONSE FROM ST PANCRAS, THE CWL AND THE KNIGHTS OF ST COLUMBA
From past experience with the Knights and the evidence presented about them on this site, I fully expect the parish priest of St Pancras today, the Catholic Women’s League and the Knights of St Columba to do nothing.
They don’t seem to see it as their duty to children past and present to look into this most serious matter.
They will prefer to keep their heads down and hope it will all go away.
Or at best, to write back to me with some dismissive hand-wringing, ‘We’re sorry what happened to you, but there’s nothing we can do. We have no records and thus no way of looking at your allegations.’
But in 2023 silence – or such a dismissive lack of interest – is not a good look.
Even if the Catholic insurance company has advised or even ordered them, ‘Say nothing. Admit nothing.’
(It’s sad when a Christian religion is controlled by an insurance company.)
Today, not responding to hard evidence of abuse means only one thing.
If you have been made aware of crimes past and current, and you choose to respond with silence or in some Pontius Pilate manner, it means you are colluding with the original child abusers to keep these crimes hidden from public view.
SO WHAT CAN BE DONE?
If you’re a Survivor you might feel nothing can be done. That – post IICSA – the Church has managed, with its own admitted poor Safeguarding (see above) to still successfully silence its critics.
That’s not the case.
‘Naming and Shaming’ abusers at my Catholic school on this site has worked very well in the past and has led to positive results which I’ve described in previous posts. With both local media (EADT) and national media (Sunday Times and the Tablet) covering and investigating the accounts I have brought to light.
It’s only now that I’ve been able to focus on the parish I grew up in, and the clerical and laity abusers, male and female, who harmed me as a child.
So I would hope for similar results here. I’m sure it will be of equal interest to the media.
Particularly local media.
And if you are a survivor of abuse by any of these people I’ve described here, and would like to share your experience, please get in touch. As always, your anonymity is guaranteed.
However, if you are a member of the congregation at St Pancras and are rightly shocked by what you have read, I would appeal to you to raise some or all of these issues with your parish priest.
It is clearly his personal duty to act.
Diocesan Safeguarding is not an alternative. It is provably flawed for the reasons I’ve given and I strongly believe is deliberately designed to waste everyone’s time.
Even if you discount some of the allegations I’ve made, there is still a great deal left that should be looked at, discussed, and which you would hope would be of great concern to your parish priest.
Based on the past, I fear your parish priest will not take responsibility, but I would love to be proved wrong.
Furthermore, my experience is that – even today, despite the Church being called out for its crimes at IICSA – Catholic congregations will not respond to allegations of child abuse within the Church. They will look the other way at clerical and laity crimes.
This is because of the Oath of Allegiance they took and similar ties that bind.
However, I would hope that there are some exceptions who are not sheep and have the courage to challenge their shepherds.
In any event, at some point in the near future, there will be further investigations into the Catholic Church and this post and others will be useful in providing evidence.
Meantime, no one in the parish of St. Pancras can now say ‘We didn’t know. We had absolutely no idea these terrible things went on.’
You’ve been told.
And anyone curiously searching the web for nostalgic memories of St Pancras will come across this post.
They will be appalled to see the Church’s dark history in which the crimes of priests such as Canon Burrows and Father Wace and Ipswich female and male Catholic laity are laid bare for all to read.
That is the legacy of shame for all the world to now see that St Pancras, its current parish priest, as the representative of the Church, the CWL and the Knights of St Columba will have to live with from now on.
Unless they choose to take a path of light and look at the truth.
Otherwise, it’s a dark cross all of them rightly have to bear.