Cardinal Roger Mahony defends legacy on church abuse in blog
2/2/13 By Gillian Flaccus
On his blog on Friday, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony said he was ill-equipped to deal with sexually abusive clergy when he took over the archdiocese in 1985 and quickly sought to develop policies and consult with leaders in other dioceses.
LOS ANGELES — The public rebuke of retired Cardinal Roger Mahony for failing to take swift action against abusive priests adds tarnish to a career already overshadowed by the church sex abuse scandal but does little to change his role in the larger church.
Mahony can still act as a priest, keep his rank as cardinal and remain on a critical Vatican panel that elects the next pope.
While Archbishop Jose Gomez’s decision to strip Mahony of his administrative and public duties was unprecedented in the American Roman Catholic Church, it was another attempt by the church to accept responsibility for the abuse scandal that has engulfed it.
Victims were quick to point out that Mahony’s new, paired-down local standing was in stark contrast to his continued position among the prelates at the Vatican.
The decision “is little more than window dressing. Cardinal Mahony is still a very powerful prelate,” Joelle Casteix, the Western regional director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said at a Friday news conference outside the Los Angeles cathedral. “He’s a very powerful man in Rome and still a very powerful man in Los Angeles.”
The Vatican declined to comment Friday when asked if the Holy See would follow Gomez’s lead and take action against Mahony.
Tod Tamberg, the archdiocese spokesman, said Mahony was in Rome several weeks ago for meetings unrelated to Thursday’s announcement. He said he did not know if Pope Benedict XVI was aware of Gomez’s announcement.
The cardinal and Gomez both declined interview requests from The Associated Press.
In a letter to Gomez posted on Mahony’s blog Friday, the cardinal said he was ill-equipped to deal with sexually abusive clergy when he took over the archdiocese in 1985 and quickly sought to develop policies and consult with church leaders in other dioceses. He reminded Gomez that he was well aware when he took over in 2011 of the steps Mahony had taken to safeguard children.
“Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors. I have stated time and time again that I made mistakes, especially in the mid-1980s,” he wrote.
“Unfortunately, I cannot return now to the 1980s and reverse actions and decisions made then. But when I retired as the active Archbishop, I handed over to you an archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth.”
Gomez’s public criticism is almost unheard-of in the highly structured church institution and would have been cleared by the Vatican in advance, said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer who worked for the Vatican’s Washington, D.C., embassy.
“He’s an archbishop — he cannot order a cardinal around,” said Doyle, who co-authored a 1985 report warning of a coming clergy sex abuse scandal. “The Catholic church is a monarchy. If you’re one of the princes of the realm and you’re a duke, you don’t dump on a prince without the king’s permission or you’re no longer a duke. That’s what the deal is.”
Gomez went as far as he could within this authority, but only the Pope has the power to sanction a cardinal or laicize him, he said.
Gomez made the announcement Thursday as the church was forced by a court order to turn over thousands of pages of confidential priest personnel files after a bruising, five-year legal fight. The archbishop also accepted a resignation request from one of Mahony’s top aides, now-Bishop Thomas Curry.
The move came two weeks after other long-secret priest personnel records showed Mahony and Curry, in particular, worked behind the scenes to protect the church from the engulfing scandal.
Mahony is a member of three Vatican departments, including the Holy See’s all-important economic affairs office, and he remains a member of the College of Cardinals. At 76, he is still eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.
The Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor, Bishop Charles Scicluna, has said Canon Law provides for sanctioning bishops who show “malicious or fraudulent negligence” in their work, but has acknowledged that such laws have never been applied in the case of bishops who covered up sex abuse cases.
In the past, lower-ranking members of the church hierarchy who have spoken out about their superior’s handling of the clergy abuse crisis have been rebuked by the Holy See.
In 2010, for example, Viennese Cardinal Cristoph Schoenborn criticized the former Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in an interview for his handling of a notorious sex abuse case. Schoenborn didn’t use Sodano’s name in his critique, but was nonetheless forced to come to Rome to explain himself to the pope and Sodano.
The Vatican publicly rebuked Schoenborn, saying that only the pope has authority to deal with accusations against a cardinal.
The Vatican’s silence after Thursday’s announcement indicates they were aware of it, said Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk and priest and vocal church critic who consults on clergy abuse cases.
“Gomez was as brilliant as a sniper the way he orchestrated this because he did not overstep his authority against the Pope and yet at the same time it appears that some type of penalty is being imposed,” said Wall. “He cannot force Mahony to resign. It’s brilliant and this has never happened in the U.S.”
Mahony will reduce his public appearances, including numerous guest lectures nationwide on immigration reform, and no longer perform confirmations, Tamberg said. However, he remains a priest in good standing and will continue to live in a North Hollywood parish and can celebrate the sacraments with no restrictions, he said.
Several of the documents in the newly released files echo recurring themes that emerged over the past decade in dioceses nationwide, where church leaders moved problem priests between parishes and didn’t call the police.
Studies commissioned by the U.S. bishops found more than 4,000 U.S. priests have faced sexual abuse allegations since the early 1950s, in cases involving more than 10,000 children — mostly boys.
In one instance, a draft of a plan with Mahony’s name on it calls for sending a molester priest to his native Spain for a minimum of seven years, paying him $400 a month and offering health insurance. In return, the cardinal would agree to write the Vatican and ask them to cancel his excommunication, leaving the door open for him to return as a priest someday.
It was unclear whether the proposed agreement was enacted.
“I am concerned that the Archdiocese may later be seen as liable — for having continued to support this man — now that we have been put on notice that one of the young adults under his influence is suicidal,” a top aide wrote in a memo about the priest to Mahony in 1995, urging him to stop paying benefits to the priest.
The cardinal added a handwritten note: “I concur — the faster, the better.”
In another case, Mahony resisted turning over a list of altar boys to police who were investigating claims against a visiting Mexican priest who was later determined to have molested 26 boys during a 10-month stint in Los Angeles. “We cannot give such a list for no cause whatsoever,” he wrote on a January 1988 memo.
Mahony, who retired in 2011 after more than a quarter-century at the helm of the archdiocese, has publicly apologized for mistakes he made in dealing with priests who molested children.
Associated Press writer Shaya Tayefe Mohajer contributed to this report.
How far is the Vatican willing to go to insure its survival?
By Stephen D Mumford | 17 October 2012
Editor’s note: This piece has been adapted from Chapter 16 of The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a US Population Policy by Stephen D Mumford (Center for Research on Population and Security, 1996).
Since I began my study of the Roman Catholic Church, as it relates to population growth control, some 26 years ago, I have been amazed at the intensity of Vatican activity in the U.S. On numerous occasions, I have observed some activity (usually but not always a political activity) that did not seem reasonable. I would be offered explanations which, upon reflection, would not hold water. When I’ve explored these things, I would often find the Church deeply involved, seeking some gain or other.
In the U.S., the Catholic Church is a $200 billion operation, composed of millions of highly organized workers with an intense sense of mission, a long history of political manipulation, and a superb track record of getting their way. Before I began my study, I had a very different idea of what church and religion meant, having been raised as a Methodist. I was completely unprepared for what I found. Many of the tears in America’s social fabric are the result of Vatican attempts to advance its power, control, influence, wealth or security—at the expense of Americans and American institutions. Rarely was there evidence of Vatican involvement in these activities on the surface, but upon probing, the role of the Vatican became evident. Usually it also became evident that considerable effort had been made to mask the fact that the Vatican was a significant actor. But before presenting specific instances of such activities, a question should be considered.
How Far Will the Vatican Go?
How far is the Vatican willing to go to insure its survival? Some readers may be offended, but this is a valid question. In America, we have the freedom of inquiry and we should exercise it or we are sure to lose it. This is one of the most important unknowns Americans now face. If the Vatican will secretly kill the Rockefeller Commission and National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) initiatives which definitively showed that overpopulation threatens the security-survival of every American, what will it not do? Will it manipulate the initiation of U.S. warfare with other countries to divert attention from the overpopulation problem? Will it prompt a civil war in the U.S., fulfilling the prediction of President Grant, in order to undermine America’s capacity to confront the overpopulation problem? Will it promote disintegration of the American social fabric to save the Papacy?
Thus far, the Vatican has had so much success at shutting down all serious efforts to control population growth that draconian actions have not yet been necessary. But what if the NSSM 200 recommendations had been implemented? Most likely, the Vatican would have done whatever it felt necessary to successfully intervene; perhaps, merely conspiring to force the resignation of a president would have been sufficient. Had they not intervened, self-destruction of the Vatican already might have been complete by now.
The Pastoral Plan’s Broad Consequences
Few Americans appreciate how much the bishops’ 1975 Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities has changed America. Every community has been changed by it. Every person in America is living his/her life differently from what he/she would have had this plan not been implemented. Many of our elected representatives at all levels of government would have been different. Many positive changes in our lives, that probably would have occurred had the Rockefeller Commission and NSSM 200 recommendations been implemented, did not occur.
For example, almost surely there would be less crime, the welfare burden would be reduced and the drug problem would be smaller if the recommendations had been implemented. Why? Because family planning education would be much more widespread and integrated naturally into our pattern of family values; contraception would be encouraged; and safe, legal abortion would be much more readily available to all women. Unplanned births, about 50 percent of all U.S. births since 1975, would have been reduced dramatically. The number of poverty stricken adolescents, and men and women in their early twenties, would be much less than it is today.
Also, many negative changes in our lives have resulted from the initiatives undertaken by the bishops as a part of their Plan. The costs to us all have been enormous. Throughout the remainder of this chapter, examples of these changes will be offered. My first two books on this topic contain many more.
As Byrnes concluded in his study, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and United States Catholic Conference (USCC) have been consumed by the abortion issue and this Plan since they were created 27 years ago. They have committed an enormous amount of energy, organization, direction and resources to the abortion and other population-related issues. This commitment has brought serious consequences throughout our society.
One of the more profound accomplishments of this Plan is the takeover of the Republican Party by the Vatican. In a July 28, 1994 Los Angeles Times wire service story, Jack Nelson describes the maneuvers of the Religious Right so that this takeover is all but an accomplished fact. According to Nelson, “GOP moderates have remained passive on the sidelines, unwilling to fight…”
On September 11, 1995, author, journalist and broadcaster, Bill Moyers, was given the American Jewish Committee Religious Liberty Award. In his acceptance remarks, “Echoes of the Crusades: The Radical Religious Right’s Holy War on American Freedom,” Moyers gives his assessment of the influence of the Religious Right: “They control the Republican Party, the House of Representatives and the Senate…”
But who are the Religious Right? The Spring 1994 issue of Conscience, the journal of Catholics For a Free Choice, exploded the myth that the Religious Right is a Protestant movement. It was designed, created and controlled by Catholics in response to the Pastoral Plan. These Catholics recruited opportunistic Protestants to give the appearance that Protestants were the instigators. The leadership is Catholic but the followers are often Protestant. The development of the Religious Right is described in some detail in the two books noted above, published 12 and 10 years ago, respectively. Also discussed is the Vatican takeover of the Republican Party already well underway at the time of their publication.
Even when the Pastoral Plan was first approved by the bishops, the National Catholic Reporter recognized that the plan would lead to a Vatican controlled political party in the United States and the newspaper went on record with this prediction. Rather than creating its own political party, the Vatican chose to seize control of the Republican Party.
The Takeover of the Republican Party
The implications of this takeover for American politics at the national, state and local levels are enormous, affecting us all. Thousands of politicians at all levels whose positions have opposed the Vatican have been victims of the plan, significantly changing the American political landscape.
The ultimate objective of the Vatican’s political machine is passage of the Human Life Amendment (HLA). It should be noted that the HLA need not be enforced to meet the needs of the Vatican. The Vatican requires only that the civil law not conflict with canon law. Then papal authority and civil authority are not pitted against one another. It is only legal abortion that threatens Papal authority.
We all have the illusion, carefully crafted by Papal propaganda, that “lives of the unborn” and “morality” are the issues. This is simply not so. It is survival of the Catholic institution and Papal power that is the issue, not the “lives of the unborn” or anything else. All countries in Latin America (all are Catholic) have higher abortion rates than the U.S. Nothing is said by the Church there. If abortion were the real issue, the Church would be speaking out even louder in Latin America than in the U.S. Only in the U.S., where it is legal, is it an important issue for the Church. Of course, few American Protestants are aware of this fact.
Another major accomplishment of the Pastoral Plan has been its effect on Protestantism in America. The Plan has taken the protest out of the Protestant movement. Until the Pastoral Plan, Protestant denominations had no reservations about protesting or criticizing the Catholic Church. The plan specifically targeted the Protestant Churches to silence them. The bishops succeeded.
Column: The Catholic Church owes the women of the Magdalene Laundries
The Catholic Church and the Irish State were both responsible for incarcerating women in the Magdalene Laundries – and so both must pay, writes Anne Ferris TD.
IN APRIL 1955, a Scottish writer researching a book about Ireland talked his way into the Magdalene Laundry in Galway. First he had to obtain the permission of the Bishop of Galway, Dr Michael John Browne, the same man who a decade later would refer to the RTE broadcaster Gay Byrne as “a purveyor of filth” for the sin of discussing the colour of a lady’s nightgown on the Late Late Show.
True to form, Bishop Browne warned the Scotsman “if you write anything wrong it will come back on you” adding as a condition of entry to the laundry that anything intended to be published about the visit would have to be approved in advance by the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Mercy.
The Scotsman, Dr Halliday Sutherland, agreed to abide by the bishop’s stipulation and was granted rare access to a Magdalene laundry. His subsequent account is worked into a single chapter in his 1956 book ‘Irish Journey’. To what extent it was censored by the Mother Superior, we will never know.
An ‘agreed’ year of unpaid domestic service
The day before he visited the laundry in Galway, Dr Sutherland visited the Mother and Baby home in Tuam. He noted that the accepted practice was that unmarried mothers in the Tuam home ‘agreed’ to provide a year of unpaid domestic service to the nuns, and that in addition to this servitude, the home received State support, via Galway County Council, to the tune of £1 per child or mother per week.
Sutherland was told that any child not adopted by the age of seven was sent to work in one of Ireland’s notorious Industrial Schools, no doubt a factor in the decisions of the thousands of Irish women who ‘agreed’ to the export of their children for Catholic adoptions abroad. Women who were re-admitted to the Tuam Mother and Baby Home on a second occasion were automatically sent to work at the Magdalene Home Laundry in Galway. By directing the women to the laundry and the children to the industrial schools the State saved money and the Church made money.
Church and State incarcerated women: both must pay
Today, thanks to the Magdalene survivors groups we know what the women suffered and that the Mother and Baby homes were only one of many routes by which the Church and State incarcerated women in the Magdalene laundries and similarly operated religious institutions. This is why in February of this year, after successive governments failed to engage meaningfully with the Magdalene survivors, the current Taoiseach made a formal apology to the women on behalf of the State.
This week the Government announced a redress fund for the survivors. It remains to be seen if the amount and means of payment will prove sufficient to compensate for the State’s role in this tragedy. No sum of money can take away the pain that these women have endured. In my capacity of Vice Chair of the Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality I personally undertake to closely monitor the progress of any necessary legislation designed to effect the speedy and appropriate distribution of redress to the women concerned. But there can be absolutely no ambiguity regarding the financial contribution to be made by the Church. There is now no hiding from the enormity of what these women suffered in the so called ‘care’ of these religious institutions.
Stripped of personal liberty
On the day in 1955 that Dr Halliday Sutherland visited the Galway Magdalene he met some of its seventy-three unpaid manual workers who lifted and toiled in the heat and wet doing laundry work for businesses, institutions and homes in Galway. One woman told him she had been there for 25 years. He asked another if she liked the laundry. She answered “yes” but according to Sutherland she did not look him in the eye. Later, he said, a nun told him that she was a bold girl.
“On Sundays they’re allowed to use cosmetics”, the sister-in-charge told him.
But…“Are the girls free?” asked Sutherland.
“Yes” said the nun.
“Can a girl leave whenever she chooses?
“No, we are not as lenient as all that.” said the Mother Superior.
Anne Ferris is the Labour Party TD for Wicklow and East Carlow. She is also Vice Chair of the Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality.
Operation Fernbridge: Norfolk priest Tony McSweeney arrested
7 February 2013 Last updated at 09:50 ET
From the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21349730
A Catholic priest has been arrested in connection with alleged child abuse at a London guest house during the early 1980s, his diocese has said.
Operation Fernbridge is looking at claims that senior political figures and others sexually abused boys at the Elm Guest House in Barnes.
The Diocese of East Anglia said one of those arrested is 66-year-old priest Tony McSweeney, from Norfolk.
The other is a 70-year-old man who was arrested in East Sussex.
The Metropolitan Police said both men have been released on bail pending further inquiries until April.
Scotland Yard said the allegations were not connected with current residents of the former guest house, which has been converted into residential flats.
It is also investigating links between the guest house and the nearby former Grafton Close children’s care-home run that was by Richmond Council.
The 70-year-old arrested man, from St Leonards-On-Sea, is understood to be John Stingemore, who used to help run Grafton Close, which closed some years ago.
BBC News home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the police investigation centred on claims that the guest house was used by people to abuse boys from the home.
The allegations were investigated at the time but resurfaced in October after Labour MP Tom Watson raised the case in Parliament and called for further inquiries.
Mr Watson had been passed information by journalists working for the investigative news website Exaro.
Commander Peter Spindler, head of the Metropolitan Police’s specialist crime investigations unit, said the “complex multi-agency investigation” was supported by the NSPCC charity, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and Richmond Social Services.
He said anyone affected by, or with information about, activity in the early 1980s at the guest house or care home should contact the NSPCC or police.
Fr Mark Hackeson, of the Diocese of East Anglia, said: “The church diocese takes safeguarding of children very seriously and so we will be co-operating fully in any way with the police investigation.”
In a statement, Richmond Council said it considered “the safeguarding of all children and young people as an utmost priority and we take any allegations of abuse very seriously”.
A spokesman added: “We are offering our full support and co-operation to the police during their investigation. As the investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
The Notre Dame High School in Norwich said Fr McSweeney had voluntarily resigned from its governing body and had no further involvement with the school.
A spokesman said: “It must be stressed that no former or current student or member of staff at Notre Dame High School is involved in this investigation [into events] which allegedly took place in London during the 1970s and 80s.”
The NSPCC said its helpline number 0808 800 5000 was staffed by trained counsellors 24 hours a day. People with information could also use the email address firstname.lastname@example.org to contact them.
NSPCC helpline director Peter Watt said: “We will assist the police in gathering evidence and supporting those who come forward.”
Priest charged with child sex abuse
22 July 2013 Last updated at 16:47 ET
From the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-23411788
A Catholic priest and a former manager of a children’s home have been charged over allegations of child sex abuse in the 1980s.
Father Tony McSweeney, 66, of Norfolk, and John Stingemore, 71, of St Leonards-on-Sea in East Sussex, were arrested in February.
The charges relate to alleged abuse of children from Grafton Close Children’s Home in Hounslow, west London.
They will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 4 September.
Father McSweeney was charged with three counts of indecent assault, three of making indecent images of a child, one count of taking indecent images of a child and one of possessing indecent images of a child, the Metropolitan Police said.
Mr Stingemore was charged with eight counts of indecent assault, two of taking indecent images of a child and one charge relating to conspiring with others to commit a serious sexual offence, the police force added.
The charges relate to seven victims, all of whom were aged between nine and 15 when the offences are alleged to have taken place during the 1970s and 1980s.
Catholic diocese allowed to appeal over abuse ruling
11 February 2011 Last updated at 14:42 ET
From the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-12435859
A Catholic diocese held liable for abuse at a former boys’ school has been allowed to appeal against the ruling.
The abuse is said to have taken place between 1960 and 1992 at St William’s in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire.
The Court of Appeal ruled last year that the Middlesbrough Diocese was responsible for an £8m compensation claim from 158 ex-pupils.
The Supreme Court has now allowed the diocese to appeal in order to blame another Catholic diocese.
Last October the appeal court upheld a ruling which said the De La Salle Brotherhood, which provided the school with teachers at the time, had no legal responsibility and it was down to the Middlesbrough Diocese.
Solicitor David Greenwood, who is acting on behalf of the former pupils, said: “The Catholic Church has for years tried to escape liability for its priests and members and I hope this case will decide the issues once and for all.”
The case centres around the systematic abuse of boys aged between 10 and 16 at the school, which closed in 1992.
The home provided residential care and education for boys with emotional and behavioural problems, mainly from Yorkshire and the North East.
Humberside Police started an investigation in 2001, which focused on child abuse at the home between 1965 and 1992.
A former principal at the home, James Carragher, was jailed for 14 years in 2004 after being found guilty of abusing boys there between 1969 and 1989.
Abuse appeal started by Catholic Middlesbrough Diocese
12 July 2010 Last updated at 12:42 ET
From the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10605047
A Catholic diocese has launched an appeal after being found liable for running a boys’ school where 150 former pupils are suing for abuse.
Middlesbrough Diocese is facing the £8m compensation claim.
The alleged abuse took place between 1960 and 1992 at St William’s in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire.
A judge ruled last year that the De La Salle Brotherhood, which provided the school with teachers at the time, had no legal responsibility.
At a hearing at Leeds Crown Court last year, a judge decided that the diocese, which owned the home, and not the De La Salle Order of Christian Brothers, a Catholic order of lay teachers, was responsible for the abuse that took place.
The compensation claim by the 150 pupils was submitted in 2006.
However, the Middlesbrough Diocese said it believed the Catholic brotherhood should take some responsibility.
Jeremy Stuart-Smith QC, representing the diocese and its Catholic Child Welfare Society, started the appeal in front of the three judges at the Court of Appeal in London on Monday.
The case centres around the alleged systematic abuse of boys aged between 10 and 16 from 1960 to 1992.
The home provided residential care and education for boys with emotional and behavioural problems aged from 11 to 18, mainly from Yorkshire and the North East.
Humberside Police started an investigation in 2001, which focused on child abuse at the home between 1965 and 1992.
The appeal is expected to last four days, when judgement will be reserved to a later date.
140 men sue church for sex abuse
Last Updated: Thursday, 3 August 2006, 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK
More than 100 former pupils of a Catholic children’s home are suing for damages over alleged physical and sexual abuse suffered while in care.
Action is being taken by 140 men against the organisations responsible for running St William’s Community Home in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire.
If the claims are successful, damages could run into millions of pounds.
Former principal James Carragher was jailed for 14 years in 2004 for abusing boys in his care over a 20-year period.
He was previously jailed in 1997 for seven years for abusing nine boys.
The men are suing the Diocese of Middlesbrough, which owned the home, and the De La Salle Brothers, a Christian order of lay teachers.
The solicitor coordinating the legal action, David Greenwood, said the men claimed they had suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of a number of members of staff at the home.
But Mr Greenwood, of Wakefield-based Jordans Solicitors, said investigations were still at a “very early stage”, though he hoped the legal action would be concluded by the end of next year.
He said: “Physical abuse was widespread. It was rare for a boy to go through the St William’s system without being subject to cruel punishment.
“There are a large number of men whose lives have been blighted by what happened at St William’s. Money won’t change that but it will provide recognition of what they had to go through at the home.”
A spokesman for the Diocese of Middlesbrough said it was aware a significant number of men were currently making claims for compensation.
He said the diocese had cooperated fully with Operation Algate, an investigation by Humberside Police into claims of abuse at the home.
He said: “As a result of Operation Aldgate a number of criminal prosecutions have been brought against former staff members at St William’s, many of whom were members of the De La Salle teaching order, responsible for the day to day management of the home, but to date all have been acquitted except for James Carragher.
“Given the number and complexity of the allegations being made, the only appropriate way to respond to them is through the courts.
“Without prejudicing the cases, those activities alleged to have taken place are to be regretted very much and there is an awareness that the young men involved have been significantly affected.”
A spokesman for the De La Salle order said it was inappropriate to comment until the legal process was complete.
Shefford orphanage priest John Ryan ‘most brutal man’
Three ex-residents of a Catholic orphanage have spoken out about their “brutal” treatment at the hands of a priest, who is at the centre of a police investigation.
The men were residents at St Francis Boys Home, in Shefford, near Bedford, in the 1950s and 1960s.
The three allege physical abuse by Father John Ryan, who died in 2008.
The Catholic Church says it “deeply regrets” any hurt caused, but stresses the “claims are not proven”.
The home, which closed in 1974, was run by the Catholic Diocese of Northampton.
The three men talked to the BBC after it was revealed that Bedfordshire Police are investigating an allegation of sexual abuse against Fr Ryan.
The three were not sexually abused, but allege they were physically abused and are looking at taking legal action against the Church.
David Cox, 61, from Ipswich, who attended the home in the 1960s, said the memories of the beatings at the home “were still very raw”.
“Father John Ryan was the most brutal man I’ve ever come across in my life. He threw kids around like they were toys. We were all punch bags.
“We were caned and punched and slapped, and you’d see blood,” he said.
“The Catholic Church is in denial. The Church has to acknowledge what went on. They must stand up and say, ‘yes, we were wrong, we have let you down and we are really sorry’,” said Mr Cox.
Sidney Hibbitt, 64, of Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, said he “hated” his time at the orphanage, which he attended in the mid 1950s.
He said as well as regular physical abuse, some boys were also sexually assaulted.
“I was in the second bedroom along from Father Ryan’s room, and the boy in the bed nearest the room would not be in his bed if I woke up in the night,” he said.
“I break down when I talk about it. It makes me feel so bad now as it did then, so many years ago,” he added.
Bernie Gargan, 66, of Peterborough, who attended the home in the 1950s, said: “We were completely battered by the priests.
“You were stripped naked to be caned.”
He said he thought the Church needed to “come clean” over the abuse.
Bedfordshire Police said: “We have received a complaint concerning St Francis Boys Home and are in the early stages of an investigation.”
A diocesan spokesman said: “Father Ryan died several years ago, but the police are investigating the claims that are being made.
“The Catholic Church deeply regrets any physical or emotional hurt that may have been caused, but the claims are not proven, and it would be inappropriate for us to enter a discussion while the case is under investigation.”
A group of former residents of the home is arranging a reunion in London on 22 June when they hope to discuss possible legal action.