As you all know of my campaign against Monsignor Thomas Duggan, Rector of St. Bede’s College in Manchester from 1950-1966 and for the Salford Diocese to accept, acknowledge and apologise for the mental, physical and sexual abuse of young boys at this school. I will not bore you by repeating details of my quest but avid readers can research the crux of it on my many blogs in the past six or eight months. Suffice it to say, we did well.
Our allegations were taken up and we were invited to a meeting with the Safeguarding Commission of the Salford Diocese in September where these problems were discussed. The Commission in their opening statements stressed how everything they did was with “openness and transparency” and that these matters belonged to “the body of the Church”. BUT, they said, they had nothing on Duggan, as far as they were concerned he was snow white. It was at this point I became worried, I could not and would not believe that this man’s deviant behaviour had not been recorded in the 42 years since his death.
I came away unhappy and eventually last week I wrote a blog “Safeguarding Commissions” posted on 5th October 2010 about the meeting and about the fact that I was aware of the obfuscating behaviour of the Commission even though their mantra was “openness and transparency” and that this openness etc should be shown to “the body of the Church”.
A couple of days later I received a comment on my blog from a chap called Philip Gilligan, who said he was interested in my blog and would like more details of the meeting. He gave me a link to his blog, caads.blogspot.com and after reading it and researching Mr. Gilligan’s area of study; he is senior lecturer in the School of Social and International Studies at Bradford University, specialising in child welfare, a well respected academic with several publications in this field to his name; I decided, that as we were both coming at the problem from the same direction, I would send him the link to the audio recording of the meeting; there was no reason why not. Remember the Commission’s call of “openness and transparency” and this information was for “the body of the Church” Read the comments section of my blog on the 5th October to better understand the situation. Gilligan commented back on the blog on the 7th October, with a statement from his wife, Patricia, who it seems worked for the Safeguarding Commission up to two yearsFr. Barry O’Sullivan ago. In her statement she said there was definitely a complaint against Duggan in 2003. She also included some interesting observations about the Doherty case which for some reason the Safeguarding Commission seemed keen to tell us about at the meeting in September, even though we had not raised it and as far as we know, it has no connection with Duggan or Bede’s.
As you can imagine this openness and transparency was being called into question and I was, to put it mildly, angry.
Last Friday afternoon the 8th October, I received a phone call from the Coordinator of the Commission, Fr. Barry O’Sullivan saying a committee of the learned and knowing (I have left their names out because they are not necessary but I will certainly give them to anybody who is interested) had met and come up with evidence of a serious and sensitive nature that could not be discussed on the telephone or by e-mail. He said that they now accepted the fact that something serious had gone wrong at the school all those years ago and he requested a meeting in Manchester on 5th November to discuss this evidence and find a way forward which would not necessarily impact on the Diocese or the School.
This morning I received another phone call from the same, but now very irate priest, telling me that what I had done by giving Gilligan the link to our meeting was a massive breach of confidentiality and that I had “blown the whole ship out of the water” with agreement so close. He told me the meeting, to discuss this new, serious and sensitive information was off and he slammed down the phone in mid-sentence. Not really the way for a man of God and a trained Therapist to behave.
Now as far as I was concerned there was no mention of confidentiality and Mr. Devlin, the chair of the Commission, went to great pains to point out at the meeting that we had no status. By researching Gilligan and sending him the link was, I decided, part of my search for truth, especially after I had come away from the original meeting unsatisfied. Release was a good thing I thought, an honest and innocent quest for truth and openness. Fr. O’Sullivan said if they knew the recording of the meeting was going to be used in this way, the meeting would have been carried out a lot differently.
Now I wonder why that should be. I thought that what we were all looking for was “openness and transparency” and what we found belonged to “the body of the Church” but now I realise that first meeting was all about damage limitation and letting out as little as possible to “the body of the Church”. It seems to me that the philosophy of these Commissions needs a drastic re-think. The Church needs to let the wealth of evidence flow out, until the cupboard is bare; the laity, the priests themselves, all the prosecuting solicitors and the media will thank and admire them for this. I understand the need for caution in these matters but not for obfuscation, untruths and denials. They cannot stand there with their heads in the sand waiting for academics like Mr Gilligan, who have valid points, to go away, and they cannot get away with bullying tactics like Fr. O’Sullivan used on me yesterday morning. This is not what Jesus Christ tried to tell us in the Gospels, this slipperiness is not what decent people want to see. To me it looks like one big back covering exercise with no thought for the poor abused victims who have to live with this slur on their minds and bodies for the rest of their lives.
With the events of the last few days now firmly in the public domain and with the welcome that was pinned to the Commissions door now savagely ripped down, my only course to take is along the road of “openness and transparency”. So if any reader wishes to know more or have a copy of my preliminary report to the Safeguarding Commission, just write to me under the comments section of my blog. The time has now gone when we, past and present, members of the Catholic Church sit back and wait for their view of what went on.