2020-08-01 22:44:08 UTC
In 2004, a Benedictine monk was jailed for 18 months after taking indecent images of schoolboys
and possessing child pornography when he was a teacher at Downside School. In January 2012,
Father Richard White, a monk who formerly taught at the school, was jailed for five years for
gross indecency and indecent assault against a pupil in the late 1980s. White, 66, who was
known to pupils as Father Nick, had been allowed to continue teaching after he was first caught
abusing a child in 1987 and was able to go on to groom and assault another pupil in the junior
school. He was placed on a restricted ministry after the second incident, but was not arrested
until 2010. Two other Downside monks, also former teachers, received police cautions during
an 18-month criminal trial.
In November 2017, the national Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) started
to examine evidence of children being targeted for abuse at the school, along with another
major Catholic school Ampleforth Abbey, as part of its investigation into the prevalence
of paedophilia in the English Benedictine Congregation and its failures in protecting young
people over many decades. IICSA heard that children at the two schools could still be "at risk".
 The enquiry heard evidence that in 2012, the then headmaster, Father Leo Maidlow
Davis, who was the senior monk at Downside Abbey from 2014 until 2018, made trips with a
loaded wheelbarrow to a distant part of its grounds, where he made a bonfire, destroying
staff files dating back to the early 1980s that might have contained evidence of child
abuse at the school.
Father Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard, abbot of Downside from 1990 to 1998, was among three
Downside abbots accused by Father Aidan Bellenger, in a private letter, of tolerating
child abuse. Father Aidan, abbot from 2006 to 2014, said his predecessors "protected
and encouraged" paedophile monks. Wrongdoers at the school were quietly moved between
Benedictine monasteries and parishes. Reference was made to instructions from Rome to
destroy documents that were damaging to priests. Father Leo insisted that his decision
to make a bonfire of Downside's staff files was prompted by a desire to "get rid of
unnecessary old material". He accepted that the files should, under safeguarding
requirements, have been kept for 70 years, conceding that he may have unintentionally
destroyed information about child abuse.