Downside Monastery To Close

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A bit of a pity but this is the real reason:

“The main driver is that this is a building we have been in for over 200 years and we are now eight resident monks rattling around a 60 bedroomed monastery, the sheer cost of that….things that are old begin to break down, finding money for a new boiler becomes difficult,” he said.

The child abuse thing is perhaps a trigger but not a reason.

There is an amusement even here:

“We have a beautiful church, a library, the monastery itself, the rooms…we have to cover them first. We want the beautiful church to remain as a church.”

Downside Abbey Church, one of only three Minor Basilicas in England, was described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as “the most splendid demonstration of the renaissance of Roman Catholicism in England”.

It’s still not finished. The end of the nave should go on for a further few tens of metres. What’s there now is a “temporary” wall put up while further funds were sought. Even 40 years ago they were saying it never would be finished. Even if the funds were found there are better things to do with them in this vale of tears than extend a monastic church – Abbey.

This also grates even just a little bit:

A damning report published by The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in 2018 found that leaders at Ampleforth in North Yorkshire and Downside hid allegations of "appalling" abuse against pupils as young as seven to protect the church’s reputation.

The two schools which are both linked to Benedictine monasteries were run at times by
secretive, evasive and suspicious church officials who avoided reporting misconduct to police and social services, the report said.

The inquiry found that sexual abuse spanning four decades at both schools was likely to be considerably more widespread than previously thought.

Both must implement a “strict separation” between the governance of the abbey and the school, if safeguarding arrangements are to be free from “often conflicting priorities”, the report concluded.

The spanning four decades. Yes, there was an incident at Downside in the late 1960s. Stamped upon, hard, and as far as anyone knows, not repeated. I and my contemporaries at Downside in the 70s and early 80s were gape mouthed with astonishment at the allegations when they came out. Just not something that any of us had experienced and yes gossip networks in schools are pretty good. The report itself states that it started up again – the worm entered the barrel of apples perhaps – in the 1980s. I’ve had emails from those a generation or two of schoolboys after I and my contemporaries to say that it was indeed happening then.

Ampleforth had a longer running and wider spread problem- the decades.

Ealing, another abbey school in the same Benedictine network, was worse again. And Worth, also in that network, as far as I know at least, was free from the canker.

The lesson I take from this is that those who would abuse will be drawn, as with moths to the flame, to where abuse is possible and easy. Once the vileness enters the institution then more moths arrive – it is possible, d’ye see? The trick therefore is to man the moat, prevent the bridgehead.

Easy to say of course. But that does seem to be the base analysis. And I have a feeling that it applies to everywhere that the abuse could exist. Monastic schools, Islington child care homes, northern post-industrial towns……

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Downside? Upside more likely.