Creator and first editor of 2000AD, champion of girls' and political comics. Spacewarp, Requiem Vampire Knight, Marshal Law, Accident Man, Nemesis, Charley's War and more. Get in touch: patmillswriter (@) gmail.com. Go to millsverse.com for comics stuff.
Scottish prosecutors have begun extradition proceedings against a former monk accused of abusing boys at a residential school over 50 years ago.
Alleged victims who accused the De La Salle monk of a catalogue of abuse were told the former teacher had died but new information revealed he had, in fact, spent years teaching in Canada.
Moves are under way to bring the man, now in his 80s, to Scotland to face abuse allegations. A petition warrant has been raised in Scotland and passed to the Crown Office’s international unit which will attempt to begin extradition proceedings in Canada.
Here’s the latest on the RLSS . Survivor Kevin contacted them. They are the safeguarding organisation that has the Cistercian monks as their client. Not a good sign for the future dealings with De La Salles
I spoke on phone tonight to RLSS safeguarding, she did not do her homework about Caldey and knew nothing other than the video and letter on your blog.
They have no powers to force Caldey Monks into safeguarding children etc so cant help other than writing to caldey Abbot and the police regarding their concerns.
Shattering video about the Cistercian Monks on Caldey Island. It includes some actual footage of Caldey Island which brings it alive. How these organised criminals are still operating is beyond me. As Kevin O’Connell says, it needs a public enquiry.
The powerful account below is by Kevin, a survivor of abuse by Cistercian monks on Caldey Island and by Catholic priests. It is the most defining and important example of organised Catholic sexual abuse of children.
It is damning evidence that Catholic paedophile rings exist, hitherto denied or ignored. These priests and monks are not one-off individuals, one rotten apple, but a whole rotten orchard. It shows how Catholic predators focus their criminal attention on vulnerable families.
Although it has been exposed in Kevin’s local media, nothing has been done. Catholics just ignore these crimes which are hardly unique and are replicated in other Catholic communities, certainly amongst the De La Salles in Ipswich and in my Ipswich Catholic diocese when I was growing up.
But this is surely amongst the worst.
Kevin’s contact details are at the end of his account. Anything anyone can do to help – such as getting this account in the national media – do let Kevin know. Or passing this story on in your own social media. It is really important and needs to be known nationally.
Special thanks to Sonia Poulton, who had Kevin on her Rise with BNT show and put me in touch with him.
The year 1968
At 6 years old we lived in a rural village called Tregroes.
Tregroes was about 20 miles from the market town of Carmarthen.
I lived there with my family, my mam and dad, also a younger brother and sister as well as an older brother and sister.
I loved Tregroes as it was the first home we stayed longest in. I loved playing in the woods and the stream with my youngest siblings. We would help the local farmers bringing in the harvest.
We, the youngest siblings, went to Tregroes primary school.
It was a Welsh speaking school and it felt bit alien to us.
My home life was us spending as much time as we could out playing as we feared my dad as he was a horrible man and would beat us for any reason, so avoiding him was our quest.
We knew he had spent time in prison, but we still don’t know why.
My mam kepted us clean and fed and we ran in for jam butties and out we go in any weather. Our mam never stopped dad from beating us, maybe she feared him.
My dad never worked as he would not take orders from anyone, so we lived a poor life and dad relied on handouts from social services.
I never knew until 2021 I was under the court of protection and social services.
Social services introduced my parents to the local Catholic priest whose parish was in a small town a few miles away from us.
The Priest started to give my parents food, second clothes, toys and cash.
We young ones started to go to his church every Saturday for Bible lessons and Sundays for Confession and Mass.
The Priest was very keen to get me to be an Altar boy, so he decided to send my parents, my youngest siblings and me for a free holiday on Caldey Island.
I know that my parents left me with the Monks for a few months.
They became lifelong friends with Father (Thad) Thaddeus and Father (C) Charles.
I don’t have much memory of staying on Caldey, only the private garden in the Abbey ground where I played, and my memories have been hidden in a dark part of my brain which is probably best.
I remember Father C taking me home from Caldey Island. When I got home, I made my way upstairs to my bedroom and saw that my brother’s bed was taken out into my sister’s bedroom.
I also saw a bolt on the inside of my room at the top of the door.
I wouldn’t dare question it.
Before supper Father C said grace, and off we went to bed as that was the routine in our house.
The one thing I missed while on Caldey was my bed.
At some time during the night, I got woken up by someone getting into my bed, I soon realized it was Father C, he started to touch me in my groin area and then he started to rape me even though I did not know at the time what he was doing.
I screamed and cried for my dad and mam, but no one came to rescue me.
The following morning, I woke up alone in my bed, I got dressed and went downstairs, everyone was acting normal morning except my dad took me to another room, pulling down my pants and put some sort of cream on my private bits, he did not say a single word to me.
After breakfast Father C wanted us to do confession with him.
When it got to my turn he just spoke sexually and upset me.
Father C went back to his parish on the Sussex/Surry boarders.
My parents arranged for my 2 youngest siblings and myself to go back with Father C to spend some time with him there.
So, in time Father C came and picked us up and took us back to his parish.
Father C Parish
I was scared to go but had no choice.
When we arrived there, we were treated well and Father C did not abuse me which I was glad of.
He did bath the three of us. Father C ,over the holiday, took me to see other priests and Bishops in different parishes.
I knew then that he was showing them his prize, me.
Father C took us back home and again he raped me in my own bed.
The next day he went back to his Parish.
Now I was living in a world I did not understand.
A few weeks later Father C turned up and this time he had Father Thad with him.
That night Father C was in my bed again. God knows where Father Tadd slept that night, but I had my fears.
For the next 4-5 years Father C would abuse me at my home and now was taking me back to his Parish where priests and Bishops gang raped me. It was a terrifying time and the only escape I had was to go into fantasy world where my mind mode would protect me from the horrors. It lasted for hours or days.
I remember the room I slept in and I used to look out the window at what I thought then were Christmas trees, I also watched the birds as they were an escape, too.
I also saw another boy there once as I went to the toilet.
Around same age and blond hair wearing white Y fronts, we looked at each other and knew what we were there for.
Most mornings I woke up naked and there’d be underpants on the bed. Father C or someone else used to come in with breakfast and a tablet and it seemed like days turned into nights, I had no notion of time, as the skies darkened, my fear would start, and I just watched the door handle, knowing any minute someone would come get me.
When the evening got darker, I would be taken into a living room were there’d be up to a dozen priests and bishops waiting for me. I’d be given another tablet and some sweet drink ( Mead ) then a bishop or priest would go to the back of me and take my underwear off and then I would just go into safe mode.
At the age of 9
When I became an altar boy in my Parish, I was given a free holiday to Caldey Island, and I was going without any family members.
When I first saw Caldey Island from the boat from Tenby it looked like paradise, the long beach loads of children playing and having fun.
I felt very happy now and away from Father C etc and I settled in that night struggling to sleep from excitement.
The following day after early prayers we went down to the main beach, and we were put in groups and played games.
A Monk came over and said to me he was a friend of my parents, and I did recognize him as Father Thadd.
He gave me some chocolate that the Monks made on Caldey. It was a real and very rare treat. Father Thadd starting taking me away from my group of children. We spent lots of times over the week just sitting in the sand dunes, eating chocolate and Father Thadd stroking my hair and kissing top of my head. I felt a love from him that I was not getting at home. Even though he never said much, I grew fond of him.
The week went fast and soon I was on the beach waiting for the Tenby boat to arrive to take me home. Father Thadd hugged me, gave me loads of chocolate to take home.
I felt a sadness in my heart as Father Thadd disappeared from view.
Arriving back home I told everyone about my holiday and Father Thadd and shared my chocolates which were gladly received, but I was now back into the clutches of Father C.
I spent more time away from home than I was at home even the neighbours remember that today and remembering Father C’s car been at our house.
Our Parish priest soon told me that I would be going back to Caldey Island the following year for two weeks this time and my youngest sister would be going with me. I could not wait till that day arrived as it was not just escaping Father C and his evil friends but meeting Father Thadd who I loved so much.
At the age of 10
We arrived on Caldey Island and Father Thadd was waiting for me. He hugged me and said hello to my sister. I told him I like to see him the next day.
Father Tadd came down to see me on the beach next day, waving chocolates and taken up to the sand dunes.
Eating the chocolates sitting on Father Thadd’s knees he started to grope me between my legs and kissing me wildly on the lips, I was so scared and upset that he was no different than Father C.
Every day now he came and dragged me away, while our carers and the Nuns watched and did nothing to stop it.
Now I was taken to the old ruins where other monks were there waiting. Father Thadd gave me Mead and sat down on what I have always called an Altar stone where he groped and masturbated over me. The other monks also masturbated over me.
Now I hated Father Thadd and Caldey Island.
Every day he took me to the ruins, I used to stare at old bottles while I was being abused, nothing else I could do. Nowhere to run and hide, I felt like trapped and often thought I would try to swim back to Tenby, but I would have not survived the crossing.
Each day I cried coming back to the beach, but no one cared, my sister would run up to me and we’d hug, she had been raped by Father Tadd. I knew then what this so-called Holy Island was.
What I saw on the beach was industrial abuse of children dragged away into dark damp caves to be raped, the ruins and the woods by not only monks and priest but men coming onto the island as it was a safe haven for them to abuse and rape children as young as three years old. When we left Caldey I never wanted to go back there. I hated everything about it.
Our lives now will never be the same.
In my Parish church before Mass, I went to confession and told the priest that horrible things had happened to me on Caldey and I felt disgusted with my body. I did not mention my sister was raped and I glad I had not told him for the following reasons.
When I went into the vestry to change into my Altar boy gowns the priest took to one side and told me if I ever mention anything about Caldey Island and the Monks, three things will happen to me.
God would turn his back on me.
The devil would come and take me either from under the bed or through the mirror at night.
A severed hand would come through the letter box climb up the stairs onto my bed and strangle me.
The nightmares I had were terrifying and still today I will not have a letter box in my front door even though I know i be ok, it’s my mind mode.
At 11 years old
My parents and the Parish priest made me return to Caldey Island.
I cried and did not want to go back but again I had no choice, I was living in fear.
My youngest brother came with me.
Arriving on Caldey it was not long before Father Thadd came looking for me and wanted to take my brother with him. But I would go with Father Thadd instead as I did not want him to start on my brother.
My brother remembers this and what Father C was doing to me.
Again, Father Thadd would take me to the ruins, and it all started again abusing me with others watching on the Altar stone.
This time I started to think that they would kill me as how could they hide this abuse from being discovered? And maybe this explained a mystery I had about an incident that happened that week on Caldey.
One dark evening my carer found me outside our accommodation with Father Thadd leaning over me. I had suffered a fractured skull and was taken to hospital. I still carry that scar.
I do remember waking up in hospital with my parents by my side.
I did not return to Caldey.
What happened is always been on my mind.
We were not allowed out at nights in the accommodation on Caldey. Father Thadd was also not allowed out at nights as their bedtime was 8pm.
I was told by my parents that I was running away and hit my head.
Who and why was I running away from when I should be asleep in my bed?
I have written and searched for my history of this and there is no record of it anywhere. It has been well hidden. My parents never talked about it and would not let me discuss it.
I still think that Father Tadd was involved and that he caused me my injury.
Social Services and Court of Protection.
When I was three years old, we sibling were abandoned at home by my mother as my father was in prison. We survived two days before our neighbour heard our cries and came to rescue us. But I do remember eating Bonio dog biscuits from the cupboard and back then it was food.
Because of this we were put into a Council children’s home for a short period.
I know now that we were under the Court of Protection, and Social Services till I was 12 years old.
We were put back with our mam and dad when he came out of prison.
I never knew this until 2021 when I got my records.
The Court of Protection and Social Services totally failed me
Allowing me and my sister a life no better than hell itself.
Home life 1969-1973
Since the first visit to Caldey Island and meeting Father C and then Father Thadd, I was no longer a happy, smiling, blond-haired boy.
I become a recluse in my world, a loner both at home and school.
Because of this I was bullied at school and had no friends, but I did have Tom the Action man.
I told Tom about my abuse and buried him so he keeps my secret, and my problems would go away. My problems never went away, but Tom kept my secret and I still know where he is buried today.
Father Thadd wrote to me a few times telling me about our special place, I kept one of them all my life close to me for I knew one day I will tell the world about it.
After my last visit to Caldey I made a choice to get away from the abuse from Father C and his Friends, and Father Thad. I ran away to Swansea, and I knew my eldest brother had left home at 15 to get away from our dad.
I begged him if I could stay there, I never told him why and he probably thought it was because of dad.
I stayed a while but his partner at that time made me feel bit uneasy, so I spent most time outside apart from school.
For some reason that I never found out was my parents decided to move to a part of Swansea called Port Tennant.
My father came to fetch me home.
Back living with my parents and my younger siblings, it was not too bad until I heard that Father C was coming down to visit us.
I thought no way I was going to be his special boy anymore.
So, I decided when he would turn up, I would disappear and not come back until he gone. I knew my father would beat me bad but rather that than Father C abusing me.
It was a no-win situation, but the slipper was the only option.
My youngest sister was my spy bringing me bits of food and letting me know when Father C went home.
Every time Father C came down, I disappeared to the point my father gave up beating me as it started to make no difference to me.
My father developed cancer and within a year he died from it.
I did not cry for him and when he was buried a small bit of peace came over me.
I did not know at this time that my mum was a secret drinker, hooked on communion wine.
She started to get violent, and the drinking increased, it got so bad spending money on wine that the food cupboards were becoming empty. The only meals we had were school dinners and I made best mates with the dinner lady as she always gave me extra on my plate.
She asked me one day why I was always hungry, and I told her my mam does not feed us as she is an alcoholic.
I did not know at that time the dinner lady went and told the headmaster who contacted Social Services and they went to see my mam and laid down the law.
When I got home after school, I opened the front door, and everything went dark.
I was found by my sister on Kilvey hill in Swansea near to death.
My mum paid a bad gang of lads to attack me and ram tablets down my throat and leave me to die on Kilvey hill.
I spent time in hospital recovering and the police came and told me they know who done it and my mam paid them by giving them her Benefit book.
The police wanted me to make a statement about it all so they could arrest my mum. I refused because in my heart I could not do that to her for many reasons including I don’t know what drove her to drink, but I suspected it was my dad and the priests.
I decided never to go back home.
I started to live on the street called Wine Steet in Swansea which was quite a rough area.
I became good friends with what I called ladies of the night.
I knew what they were doing there but it never bothered me.
There were drunks and druggies there, but I was under the protection of the ladies of the night. No man would dare come near me.
I still went to Cefn Hengoed school and there was my daily food intake.
During weekends and holidays, I would have some food from the ladies and a lot of the times I’d go up to the Smith crisps factory as they gave me out of date crisps etc to take back with me.
There was always kindness if you looked for it. Free laundrette and
keeping myself clean.
My youngest sister came to be with me for a while and my youngest brother went to live with my eldest sister.
My sister stayed with me a couple of weeks then she was picked up as a vulnerable person and taken to a children’s home.
Young boys were not seen as vulnerable persons in those days.
When I was old enough, I decided to go back to the countryside as the other option was going to be a life of pinching and robbing food and possible prison.
I regret never saying goodbye to the ladies of the night, but I know in my heart that if I did, I would not leave.
I will be grateful to them forever and I will never forget them.
Back to countryside.
When I arrived back to be near Tregroes living in a small caravan but was very happy as it was my home, my sanctuary.
I got a job straight away as a labour in the building trade.
I felt sad sometimes as I afraid of getting too close to girls so would back shy away.
On November 4th, 1983, I met Carol who I fell in love with and got married in 1991.
Carol always knew that I had a bad upbringing as I’d just say my dad was nasty.
Carol also knew that I had tried to kill myself due to many bad dreams and the pressure of life at that time.
We have been together for almost 40 years and Carol has always been there through my hard times.
My coming out about my abuse.
I had been waiting for decades for someone to come forward about the abuse on Caldey Island.
When they did, they got ignored by the police, so I had enough of living these lies to hide the truth of this horrible abuse of children on Caldey Island.
I sat Carol down and told her and she said she knew my problems were not just my dad.
I then went to my GP and got the help I needed so badly for so many decades. Just before Christmas 2018 I told my family.
They knew there were things not right at home during my childhood.
Dyfed Powys Police.
I then approached my local MP to make contact with the police who stated that they were not going to open a investigation on my historic abuse on Caldey Island.
So, I decided to investigate the abuse of just not me, but what I had witnessed on Caldey Island.
I went back to the police with my MP with 80 pages of evidence and
made them do an investigation into my abuse etc.
I made a film which I went back to Caldey for the first time in nearly 50 years, I ran into the ruins of the Abbey and there it was, the Altar stone still there after 50 years. I was shocked and horrified.
I told the BBC filming crew that I entered the ruins this day as a young boy but left as a man.
In 2019 I made a 6-hour police video evidence of my abuse by Monks on Caldey Island and Father C and his friends gang raping me for years.
But during this time the police were planning to try to discredit me by getting a proven corrupt police officer and his family to make false allegations.
They treated Carol and me horribly/ disgustedly, harassment and intimidation.
But thank God 3 top British lawyers came on board to help us and it was to be free as they knew what I was doing about Caldey etc was right and the police soon left me alone.
Even though I told them that Father Thad hade raped my sister, they ignored it.
I know now the police have totally ignored victims and witnesses.
I explained that a man I known all my life, in same Parish as me, went to Caldey Island as a child on retreat same period as me.
He was woken one night by Father Thadd trying to pull him out of bed, but he made so much noise that Father Thadd took the boy in the next bed because he was timid.
After this man saw my programme, he went and gave a statement to
the police and has never heard back from them and as far as he knows the police have never searched for that other boy/victim.
So, it also proves that Father Thadd was actively abusing children at night.
I have now over 30 victims due mostly to our campaign, all of them
Have been rejected by the police.
How many victims have died from drugs etc and suicide because of the lack of safeguarding when they needed to be protected.
The police have a safeguarding monk on Caldey who is a retired police officer . Well, that’s not independent safeguarding. The police are failing in their duty to safeguard children staying and visiting Caldey Island. I asked the new Chief Constable to come on board with us. Also I asked him what does he see when he closes his eyes at night, because what I see is the children’s eyes as they been dragged away to be raped/abused. He never replied to me.
After collecting over five thousand signatures for a Public Inquiry into historic abuse on Caldey Island after 3 times it was put to their committee, even though a public inquiry was done on the Catholic Church they would not include Caldey Island.
I have since discovered that 2 MPs lived at some point on Caldey and also a serving police officer also lived on Caldey in late fifties.
There is no way that he not heard about the abuse, coppers nose ?
We started this campaign back in 2019 mostly due to the failures of the authorities to act on Caldey.
Since the beginning many more survivors have come on board and their stories of horrific abuse and the failing of the police.
The campaign, even though delayed by Covid, is gathering speed, millions of people are aware of the failures and everyone I chat to will never go back or go to Caldey.
Saturday the 10 of September 2022 I decided to go back to Caldey on my own to film in secret the new evidence that has come to light.
I was in disguise and thankfully no one recognized me, the Island was bare of tourists which proves what I was told in the summer that our campaign is having an effect on tourists visiting Caldey.
I will never give up; we are the voices of the victims including my sister.
Caldey Island Survivors Campaign.
The more they try to hide from us, the harder we shall seek.
The more they try to bury the truth, the deeper we will dig.
The more they try to blind us, the truth we will see.
The more they try to bully us, the stronger we will become.
I’m indebted to a De La Salle Old Boy who sent me details of a BBC doc as follows:
You may like to listen to BBC radio Foyle from today because there was a man on who is 78 and was born in Convoy in Donegal.
His story was fascinating. He was born illegitimate and ended up as an orphan who went to a school run by nuns in Derry. Early in his time at secondary school he was sent to Australia and went to a school in Perth, Western Australia, that was run by The Christian Brothers and from what he said it was the De La Salle Brothers.
There he suffered terrible abuse. Since then he has gone on to start a company and he made a great deal of money and he has used his time to help investigate the abuse in Australia and here in the UK. He helps run various organisations that are focused on exposing abuse by the Brothers and claiming recompense.
The details of the programme are:
BBC Radio Foyle (based in Derry)
The programme was The Mark Patterson Show (Mark was not there today and the show was run by a woman)
the programme starts at 13.00
The interview was from about 14.10 until 14.30
You can access it on BBC Sounds and it will be there for 30 days
Some valuable thoughts, insights, and great advice from Christopher in his account below. Writing a book is feasible for many of us. I have already published a number of commercially successful titles via Amazon and Kindle. To reach an audience, though, you need some marketing skills and a background in editing or publishing helps.
In my case, my book would be more about the Knights of St Columba, how they interacted with the DLS and the sexually abusive role of Catholic laity. It’s the Catholic gorilla in the corner that still needs fully exposing.
And much of my material is already written. So I will get around to it.
But there probably is a case for a collection of De La Salle survivor stories – from the 1950s and 1960s onwards, whether it’s at Ipswich, Beulah Hill, Southsea, Bournemouth, Blackheath, the DLS approved schools and so on. Not to mention accounts of notorious DLS abusers like Brother James Carragher now in prison. (Not Brother James Ryan). And the organised Ratrun where the brothers could escape to France when the police were on their trail. There is probably enough for two books from the accounts on this blog if the relevant survivors gave their permission. Especially if Brother Solomon was included. He would take up 25% at least of any book.
I couldn’t find the time to do it, alas. A single narrative is probably easier and more practical. Hope someone might consider the challenge.
Just been reading your site dealing with sexual abuse at St Joseph’s Ipswich .
In your columns you mention a brother Wilfred and a brother Cuthman.
I was a day pupil at St Johns Southsea. Wilfred had three brothers in the order.The second youngest Leo was the worst. He made us all bleed after a beating.
But then ALL the brothers there were sexual perverts and sadists.
I was fed up of shitting myself wondering what was going to happen during the coming day. So, I played hookey for 90% of the following two and a half years.
When it came to light my abusive stepfather hit the roof. So, I was shipped off to Sweden to be with my mother’s family to see if they could do anything with me there.
It was meant as a punishment but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
The Swedish teachers all the way through really liked their pupils. I stayed here and became a psychiatrist specialising in young children’s problems.
I had sessions on Harley Street for 30 years, once a month . Many of the young people I saw were DLS pupils and what was common to them was sexual abuse and being terrorised by the brothers.
Looked back, I see the brothers as inadequate homosexuals who punished their pupils to take their revenge on them for the lack of respect that they generally received.
Brother Dennis Robert came for a visit one of the few days that I was there. He was a slimey and hands everywhere inadequate trying to persuade the boys to join them.
No wonder that the RC orders are in crisis in the UK because nobody wants anything to do with them.
The best release that you and your friends can obtain is by talking through your experiences with a compassionate psychiatrist or doctor. Therapy has come a long way since your days at school.
The other way is to write a book specifically about your experiences of the DLS brothers and either publish it for a general audience or for yourselves. Getting it all out there and cleaning
out your inner houses is much the best way of getting rid of the memories.
Prof. Christopher Frey
PS. I found your site while reading several contributions from fellow pupils who like me had been badly sexually abused and beaten at our prep school.
i discovered that I’d safely downloaded it, although the De La Salles have broken the on-line link. It is interesting to read because it gives a chronology of this man’s life. Note that after a serious sexual assault on a boy in 1965 in Ipswich, he is then transferred to Beulah Hill where he is there initially in 1966. There is nothing to indicate he paid for his terrible crimes. On the contrary, he appears to have been rewarded by the De La Salle order by being made a student at Birbeck.
The Eulogy includes statements like James was ‘the gentlest and most lovely of men’, ‘timid and shy by nature’, ‘kind and considerate gentleman’
The De La Salle Brothers and all those people who got taken in by him clearly believe – or they pretend to believe – in a Ladybird book version of reality. There are not two sides to his character. Just a fake facade of holiness and the darkness within him. There is no true good side to a man who is a serial sex abuser of children and has a terrifying, psychopathic temper as recorded by at least nine pupils. Evil is evil and should not be diluted by excuses, which survivors do not want to hear, unless you happen to have been on the receiving end of his abuse yourself.
Here’s what a Survivor of one of his ferocious beatings thought of him (Damian Moss):
“Brother James in all honesty was a figure of tragic pity. He was inadequate, unloved, deeply frustrated and a raging sado-masochist. Apart from that, he was you’re standard issue christian brother.”
I recently came across a fascinating website called catholicrejects.com. On it, various members or ex-members of the Catholic Church, that have been rejected by that institution for a number of reasons, tell their story.
As I read it, I realized that I, too, was a Catholic Reject – rejected by the Knights of St Columba for resisting their abuse and attempting to control my life. I don’t feel any sense of loss for leaving the Catholic Church far behind me, only a great sense of relief that I escaped, but I know it may be different for other survivors or just members of that faith who were rejected for other reasons. They may well feel a huge sense of loss.
So the founder of the website, Peter Biddlecombe, is keen to hear from anyone else who feels they, too, are Catholic Rejects. ‘It regularly publishes stories by people who have been kicked out. Dumped. Given the boot. Ditched. Stabbed in the back. Whatever. ‘
Peter Biddlecombe has published over 20 books including 11 travel books covering more than 200 countries he has visited. Most of them, many times over. He is now busy completing the final chapters of his autobiography, My Struggle to Follow Thomas Merton: 60 years of Turmoil.
Here is Peter’s personal story:
I’ve just been kicked out. Dumped. Given the boot. Ditched. Stabbed in the back. Whatever. By the ecclesiastical equivalent of Judge Dredd, the very reverend, holy Dom Michael, Abbot of Bolton Abbey, Co Kildare.
“Sufficient to the day is the evil in it,” says The Imitation of Christ, which for over 600-years has been the second most popular book for Christians after the Bible.
Trouble is I didn’t expect the evil to be created in the monastery itself.
What’s more, never in a million years did I expect that I would be the one to suffer because of it. Especially at the hands of a holy, very reverend Abbot.
Not, I hasten to add, because of something I did or did not do. But because of what the previous Abbot did.
How logical is that? Let alone, fair or even – Dare I say it? – Christian.
What makes it worse, is that for over 60-years, I have been trying to become a Cistercian monk. And I’m still trying.
“Despise earthly things and love heavenly, forsake the world and long for Heaven,” says the Imitation. Not if Dom Michael is around, I wouldn’t bother. You haven’t got a chance. He’ll make you wish you had gone of rawdogging it with the Prodigal son when you had the chance.
I didn’t come from a particularly religious family. But I always wanted to be a priest. At 11/12-years old when other altar boys were going off to the junior seminary, I wanted to go with them. My father had just died. The priests told me, No. Stay at home and look after your mother. I did as the priests said. At 16 when other altar boys were going off to the senior seminary, I wanted to go with them. The priests said, No. Go out to work. Earn some money. Help support your mother. I did as the priests said. Which is when I first discovered Thomas Merton, the world’s most famous Cistercian monk.
I was 16-years-old. I had just left school. I got a job as a reporter on a local newspaper in South London called The Merton and Morden News. The first morning I was there, the lady chief reporter said to me, “You’re useless to me unless you know something about Merton and Morden. Go to the local library. Read everything you can about the area.”
I went to the local library. I went to the filing cabinets. Remember filing cabinets? I flicked through the cards until I came to Merton. Not Merton and Morden. But Merton, Thomas – Autobiography. Elected Silence. I got the book and spent all day reading it. I was hooked. I wanted to become a Cistercian monk. Like Thomas Merton.
The following morning, I went back to the office. The lady chief reporter asked me if I had read everything about Merton. “Yes,” I told her. “Fascinating. Like to read more.” She sent me back to the library. I spent the rest of the day reading and re-reading the book. I was convinced. Silence. Solitude. Simplicity. Prayer. It was what I wanted.
During weekends and holidays, I hitchhiked to Cistercian monasteries all over the country. When I first went to Mount St Bernard, the big Cistercian monastery in England, they wouldn’t let me in. Even to the guesthouse. They said I was too young. Instead, I spent the week living in the telephone box in the lane outside, going in and out to all the services.
I bought all the Thomas Merton books as they were published. I not only read and studied the books, I read and studied all the books Merton kept referring to. The Salesians taught me the basics. How to read, write and make wooden toothbrush holders. Merton introduced me to the world. This one and the next.
As I got older and travelled the world – I’ve been to over 200 countries. Most of them, many times over – I visited and stayed in monasteries whenever I had the chance. Gethsemani. Merton’s monastery in Kentucky. Solesmes, the famous Benedictine monastery in France. Abbaye de Keur Moussa, just outside Dakar, Senegal. I even drove 4,000 kms from Paris to Tammanrasset in the middle of the Sahara to visit the hermitage of the ex-Trappist just-canonised monk, Charles de Foucauld.
Three years ago, I was suddenly free. No relatives. No ties. Nothing. Apart from the fact I had more money than I could spend. What to do? Spend the rest of my life whooping it up at the St Tropez Polo Club? Drag out my days in a penthouse suite at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin? Instead I thought I’d try once again to become a Cistercian monk. Spend the rest of my life in silence and solitude, praying, as Cassian says, with “ruthless self-disciplined determination, without ceasing, in preparation for that first direct encounter with God.”
It wasn’t easy. I had been staying at Mount Melleray Abbey on the Knockmealdown Mountains in Co Waterford off and on for over 30-years. I’ve spent some of the happiest days of my life there. But it took a year of near constant letter writing and e-mails before I even got a reply. I went and spent a month with them for, what they called, monastic experience. It took almost another year of also near non-stop letter-writing and e-mails before I got another reply. I drove over 600 miles there and back in two days from Eastbourne in the south of England to Mount Melleray for a brief 15-20 minute meeting with the Abbot. But it was worth it. He said, Yes. You can come and join the community. Again, it took almost another year to agree the date. The Abbot, obviously, had other things on his mind.
Finally, last May, after over 60-years of turmoil, I joined the community. I did as the Good Lord says. I sold everything I had and gave everything I could to the poor. Most of the stuff they gave back to me saying it wasn’t the right size, shape, colour etc. I even lost a fortune unscrambling book contracts in various countries because the Abbot lectured me – Oh. The irony – on the purity of monastic life and told me to do so. Which I did because, as I get further and further up the queue outside the cemetery gates, I wanted to spend the rest of my life there. And still do
But it was not to be. In a brief, icy, totally non-Christian 10-15 minute meeting, I was kicked out. Thrown out. Booted out. Dumped. Fired. Made Redundant. Told to pack my bags and go. Not because, again I hasten to add, of anything I did or did not do. Everybody there said I was no trouble. I fitted in well. I counted as a member of the community. Especially on Monday mornings when I counted the Sunday collections. Largely, I think, because of my knowledge of foreign coins. But that’s not all. I performed all my monastic duties. I swept floors. I did the washing up. I emptied the rubbish. I even got the Prodigal Son job and looked after their two enormous pigs. In hail. In snow. In rain. Even in the occasional day of sunshine. I only wish now that I had been more prodigal and deserved the honour.
But I’m being kicked out because the Abbot was – How shall I say? – XXXXXXX the XXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXX of a XXXXX XXXXXXXXXX in the XXXX XXXXXXX of the XXXXXXXXXX of his XXX XXXXXXXXX
The logic seems to be:
– First. The Abbot was xxxxxxxx xxx xxxxxxx xx x XXXXX xxxxxarian in the xxx xxxxxxxxxx of his XXX xxxxxxxxx
– Second. The Abbot resigns. Is whisked away. In secret. Into the sun. In Australia. Where, no doubt, he will indulge his interest in things down under. But he still remains a priest. He even had time to up-date his CV on LinkedIn, which describes itself as “an American business and employment orientated online service for professional networking and career development”, where, incidentally, he says he has two jobs. Although why a religious, an Abbot, even a resigned ex-Abbot should feel he needs to be listed on such an on-line web-site, let alone claim he has two jobs, I have no idea.
– Third. Biddlecombe is dumped. Rejected. Thrown out. In the cold. In Ireland. With nothing. Not even one job.
No. I don’t understand it either. All I know is I met the very reverend, holy Dom Michael just once. He was straight to the point. Brutal. Ruthless. Because the Abbot has resigned, the community is now too weak to support me. I’ve got to go.
But why should I be the one to suffer? I wasn’t the one XXXXXX XXXXXXXX with XXX XXXXX XXXXXXX in the XXXXXXXXXX XX XXXX XXX XXXXXXXXX.
I pleaded. I explained. I kept saying.
He didn’t bat a bionic eyelid. He was ice cold. Skeletal. I kept asking him, How can you possibly, as St Paul says, strengthen a community by making it weaker still? Surely, if you don’t let people in, with or without formation, you’re never going to increase the numbers.
But he kept repeating. Coldly. His eyes blinking at half the normal rate. Like a monastic “street judge” endowed with heavenly powers to summarily arrest, convict, sentence, and execute all those who dare to disagree with him. The community is too weak to support me.
But, I kept telling him, I haven’t had any support since I’ve been here? Why do I suddenly need support now?
Formation, he said. Formation.
But, I told him, I know about Formation. I wrote a book about Formation and about every book Thomas Merton ever read during his own Formation. But the previous Abbot told me not to publish it. I did as the Abbot said.
He still said NO. NO. NO.
In desperation, I contacted the big boss of all Cistercian monks worldwide, Dom Eamon Fitzgerald, who used to be Abbot of Mount Melleray and his successor, Dom Bernardus Peeters, who used to be Abbot of Tilburg in the Netherlands. Both of whom I’ve met. Both of whom I’ve spoken to in the past. They didn’t want to know. They didn’t even bother to acknowledge my e-mails.
I haven’t come close to kicking in a stained glass window. Yet. Nearly did, when I heard that the ex-Abbot was telling people he was bored sitting in the sunshine in Australia with nothing to do and wanted his post sent on to him EXPRESS.
I was always taught that the Church exists to help people “know, love and serve God in this world and be happy with Him forever in the next.” Not kick them out in the street without a penny because of something they didn’t do.
Obviously not. Especially not where the ecclesiastical equivalent of Judge Dredd, the very reverend, holy Dom Michael, Abbot of Bolton Abbey, Co Kildare, is concerned.