I’ve been reflecting on recent communications from Old Boys about the De La Salle Order. Now that I have a comprehensive range of testimonies, I’m starting to think about possible ways forward.
I’m reminded of the BBC documentary about the abuse by the Rosminian Order which has many similarities to the abuse by the De La Salle Order. Here’s how that documentary was introduced:
In 2009 over a hundred former pupils from two Catholic prep schools in England and Tanzania were reunited via the internet. Chatting in cyberspace they discovered they had all suffered terrible abuse at school: mental, physical and in some cases sexual. Now, as men in their fifties and sixties, and strengthened by the group, they want the truth to come out. Twenty two men have started legal proceedings against the Rosminian Order for compensation. They want justice. But half a century has passed and their abusers are now elderly. What will it take to repair the damage and for the victims to feel able to move on?
The documentary came out in 2011. It was entitled Abused: Breaking the Silence. I remember watching it at the time and it’s very powerful. It’s no longer on Youtube or BBC iplayer and, confusingly, there is at least one documentary with a similar title.
The details of what happened are below, but the short answer is the Survivors won.
Almost certainly that’s why the documentary is no longer available. I suspect it was removed as part of the settlement.
There’s a full account of the BBC documentary here
Here’s an excerpt from it:
Newcastle barrister Donald MacFaul, who attended the Leicestershire school from 1954-59, said: “What was created by what happened at school was a permanent sense of fear and dread.”
He said Father Bernard Collins, who was in charge of discipline at Grace Dieu, “used to shoot at boys using an air pistol and occasionally actually injured them”.
“He could beat you one minute and then fondle you intimately within a space of hours.”
Mr MacFaul’s father wrote to complain to the school.
Within a few months Father Collins left for the order’s St Michael’s School Soni in Tanganiyka – now Tanzania.
In a letter to one of his victims obtained by the BBC, Father Collins said: “I have left behind a legacy of pain and violence and confusion by my behaviour.”
In secret filming for the BBC documentary, he refused to admit fondling boys and said he was only carrying out inspections for medical reasons.
Here’s how events concluded, according to Wikipedia:
Apology for English abuse by the provincial of English Rosminians
According to an online news story, issued on 23 June 2011: “Following the U.K. broadcast of a documentary detailing the abuse of some 35 boys by four Rosminian priests in the 1960s, the order’s provincial in England released an apology for the acts of abuse and for our “inadequate response.””
The audited financial statements for the year ending 5 April 2015 report under the heading “Legal and safeguarding related costs” that “Last year’s report referred to legal claims which had been brought against the Charity concerning the welfare of children between approximately 1940 and 1985. A settlement has now been reached in relation to these claims.” The Charity was liable also for the claimants’ legal fees. The matter has had a significant impact on the Charity’s finances with payment of their legal and settlement costs amounting to a total GBP 1,746,523 for the year.
For me, the next step with the De La Salles is to summarize key details and key offenders. The testimonies on this site are now numerous and sprawling and need collating. I’ll start doing that shortly and put summary page/s up which will be useful for quick reference.
Then I’m going to talk to a lawyer. He’s recognized as the top lawyer in this field. I want to see if the Rosminian example is relevant to the De La Salles.
My first thought was : I just want the Order to acknowledge and apologise for the serious crimes they have committed against children, including myself, at St Joseph’s College, Ipswich, and their other schools in the south of England. Then I realized they won’t mean a word of it. It needs a more meaningful response and that’s something a lawyer can advise on.
I suspect when the survivors won against the Rosminians, they had no choice but to sign an NDA in exchange for compensation. If I’m correct, they have my greatest sympathy, but that’s also saying to the Rosminians: ‘You, a group of men that includes dangerous criminals, have the right to dictate that your past crimes will be concealed in exchange for hush money.’ That is really fucked up, even if it is the way of the world, but at least the survivors got their stories out in the form of a major documentary. I notice there’s now not a word about Rosminian abuse after 2011 on the internet.
I hope there is a better way.
The lawyer may say that action can only apply if the De La Salle brothers are still alive (and compos mentis). Or he may say that action can still be taken against the Order as an entity. Or he may advise there may be other ways forward to expose their crimes that I’m not aware of. We’ll see.
There’s a lot of unknowns at this point. It may be that many or all other survivors won’t want to be part of the process and that’s absolutely fine. I’m happy to go solo on it if my own case is viable and if it’s financially feasible. It may or may not require a kickstarter. But if you do wish to be involved, be assured that, as always, your anonymity will be respected. And if the lawyer lays out a feasible road map and an achievable goal, you may then feel okay about taking part. Whatever he has to say, positive or negative, it will be valuable and informative to know just what’s involved.
If there’s anyone with legal knowledge of this field, I’d welcome your thoughts as it may help me in preparing the ground. Or even deciding it’s a non-starter, in which case I’ll continue with this blog, highlighting the Order’s crimes in preparation for a future Enquiry, like IICSA, which will inevitably happen. Their crimes are not going to go away. On the contrary, as time passes, the evidence is gathering.
I’m aware from the Ampleforth case with the Benedictines, and informed sources, that abuse crimes are still current in the Catholic Church and its entities, despite safeguarding. So my concern is also for children today who may still be at risk and that also makes this action worth taking.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone prefers to write to me direct. Your thoughts will be very welcome and, as always, your confidentiality is assured.
My twitter handle, by the way, is @PatrickEMills and I’ve made some valuable contacts and picked up some useful information via this social media.