Crucial Test of the Benedictine monks ” again as head of the order faces sex abuse inquiry

He has been an abbot, an author, a TELEVISION star and radio breakfast show regular and has been described as the country’s most influential Benedictine monk since Cardinal Basil Hume. Now, Christopher Jamison is attempting its most important: the savior of the reputation of his monastic order.

At the beginning of the month of August, the monks of the Benedictine Congregation English – an association of 13 Roman Catholic communities of monks and nuns elected to Jamison as their leader. His installation as abbot president came just a few days after Professor Alexis Jay confirmed that the public inquiry she is the chair of the sexual abuse of children in England and Wales will focus its hearings during the months of October and November on the scandals in the schools, and the Benedictine monasteries. The choice of Jamison is almost certainly not a coincidence.

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The Benedictines have been immersed in controversy for 20 years following a series of revelations on the sex abuse scandals at their prestigious private schools, Ampleforth, Downside, Worth and St Benedict, Ealing, west London. And with both the independent investigation commission on the sexual abuse of children, led by Jay, and separated from the crown court trial of a Benedictine abbot on child sex abuse charges took place this fall, the college and its educational institutions will be under high surveillance.

Listeners to Chris Evans ‘ Radio 2 breakfast show, used to Jamison’s spiritual musings in his Pause for Thought slot, may be surprised to learn that it is the difficult task of the directorate of the order. Jamison is more comfortable in front of a microphone and a camera. He has the gift of making Catholicism is obvious to a layman audience.

But as the audience may become more hostile to the hearing of reports of the evidence given to the Jay survey. The investigation has also put on hold its hearings in Saint Benedict School, and his old abbot Laurence Soper is due to stand trial in the fall, responsible for a series of offences against children.

The order of the Benedictines, was one of the largest in great Britain before the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII from 1536 onwards. After they returned to England in the 19th century, and the English Benedictine Congregation was refounded, the monks, the attention turned to the work of the parish and the schools. The English Benedictines have had a history, since then, the education of the children of England’s most influential and wealthy Catholic families, as well as the reputation of being rather patrician in their own right – something that seems to have rubbed off on many of the college students.

Among the people trained at Benedictine schools in great Britain are the chancellor of Oxford University, Lord (Chris) Patten, the Downton Abbey writer Lord (Julian) Fellowes, the broadcaster Edward Stourton, the novelist Peter Ackroyd and the actors Rupert Everett and James Norton.

Stourton, reflecting on his education at Ampleforth, said: “I came away – and I think a lot of my contemporaries would share this sentiment with a strong consciousness of the Order of Saint Benedict of the past and its roots in imperial Rome, a very Benedictine sense of what it means to live in a community, and an awareness of belonging to the world of an institution which, while profoundly English in the way that we lived, earlier of the united nations. I think the last gift made, it is easier to understand the universality of the Catholic church.”

Christopher Jamison in BBC2’s The Monastery. Photo: Alamy

This history shows is unlikely to count for much in the course of the next survey. Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon and the author of Betrayed: The English Catholic Church and the Sexual Abuse Crisis, believes that the sometimes subtle social atmosphere surrounding the Benedictines has not been conducive to openness and transparency. “There’s something elitist about these Benedictine organizations. I’ve noticed that often, the victims have not been of the top drawer socially. There is a great culture of snobbery and a point of view that sometimes we have our own way of doing things, that surveys can be boring.”

The police investigations have revealed abuse at Benedictine schools, which dates back to the 1960s. Three Ampleforth monks and lay people, the teacher has been convicted of assault. Down, four monks have been facing investigations and two others were placed on restricted ministry. A former headmaster of the primary school in Ealing has been found guilty of abuse and of the graduate school of the assistant to the head of possession of images of child abuse; his former abbot, who has also taught at the school, waiting for his trial. All three institutions have since conducted their own investigations and changed their governance to improve the child protection and safeguarding.

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But the top Scorer, said that the Jay inquiry should recognize that the violence of the Benedictine schools was not only in the past. “The abuse of the investigation going back many years, but you need to watch over the last decade with a laser eyes,” he said. “I am aware of the very recent case where there was a violation of the trust and the student says that the problem was well known, but not given away.”

Jamison will also need to consider the fate of the monks who have been accused of sexual abuse and then deleted. At Ampleforth, the abbot, Cuthbert Madden, was investigated by the police and exonerated, but is still not back to his monastery almost a year later, he waits for the approvals of the church safeguarding officials.

The new abbot president has made it known to the public in 2005, the star of BBC2’s popular series The Monastery, which took viewers inside Jamison abbey of Value. Five young men of different religions, and none have been filmed as they shared the monastic life of work, prayer and recreation. The show has led to a media career for Jamison, who has published several books, make a follow-up TV series on silent, pop-up is a frequent commentator on Catholic issues and then to integrate Evans breakfast show.

It has not always been a popular figure among colleagues, his own monastery, has failed to re-elect him as its abbot, after his first term of eight years old, very unusual, which some attributed to Jamison exhausting his fellow monks with his desire to change. Austen Ivereigh, a former pupil at the Value, who founded the media organisation Catholic Voices, said: “Christopher is an unusual monk, because it is an off-the-charts extrovert, while the monks are often introverted people.

“It is extraordinarily dynamic energy leader, visionary and bold. It is essentially a missionary monk, who likes to connect the ideas of its ancient monastic tradition to the contemporary world. It is rooted in tradition, but, fortunately, navigates a high-profile world. I would say that it is the most influential Benedictine monk since Cardinal Basil Hume. He is not afraid of the change that is necessary.”

For the English, Benedictine of the Congregation, it is precisely what is needed. Over the past four decades, the order of the numbers have fallen sharply. In 1973, there were 530 monks and 136 religious, but it has dropped to approximately 280 monks and 35 nuns today. There are fewer than a dozen of novices.

The church in England and Wales has been one of the first Catholic congregations to improve the protection of minors with the new safeguard policies; they will also be reviewed by the Jay survey. During this time, the abuse, the crises have plagued the Catholic church throughout the world. Pope Francis has established a pontifical commission, and in a letter to the bishops, a leak in January, he said that child sexual abuse is a “sin that shames us all” and there must be zero tolerance for offenders.
A LONG HISTORY

Approximately 480 St Benedict would have been born in Nursia, Umbria, Italy.

529 Founds the monastery of Monte Cassino, where he wrote his rule for monastic life.

597 Saint Augustine of Canterbury and his monks to establish the first English monastery.

1536 Monasteries dissolved by Thomas Cromwell, acting for Henry VIII.

1802 Ampleforth founded, followed by the Decrease in 1814.

1976 Ampleforth abbot Basil Hume appointed archbishop of Westminster.

2004 the Decline in monk and professor of prison for downloading pornographic images of children and indecent photos of students.

2005, the Two monks in prison for abuse of middle school students at Ampleforth. Surveys show the abuse in the school dates back at least 40 years.

2005 Abbot Christopher Jamison of Worth stars in the BBC TV series The Monastery.

2017 Jamison appointed abbot president of the Benedictine Congregation English.

In November 2017 Independent Investigation commission on the Sexual Abuse of Children due to hear evidence relating to the English Benedictine Congregation.