UK Rosminian Head on Sex Abuse: “Morally Speaking Compensation would be Wrong”

…I will not be video-ed and edited for the programme, about Soni and Grace Dieu.

…I have decided to follow the advice given in the book of Lamentations: ‘It is good to wait in silence’ 3:16

So writes Father David Myers, Provincial Superior in the UK of the Rosminian Fathers (or Institute of Charity), concerning his decision not to participate in a documentary about clerical abuse that was broadcast on BBC television last night. St Michael’s School in Soni and Grace Dieu were two schools run by the order – the former in Tanganyika and the latter in Leicestershire – where children were terrorised by sadistic and paedophile priests forty to fifty years ago.

The documentary, Abused: Breaking the Silence (produced and presented by Olenka Frenkiel), explained that a group of victims contacted Myers in 2010 (although he had received at least one complaint prior to this, in 2007, according to a screenshot of a letter in the programme at 20:57); Myers arranged a meeting at St Etheldreda’s Church in London, and for the elderly abusive priests to write letters of contrition. Myers assured the victims that the priests concerned “are not allowed to represent themselves as priests in public”; that they had signed a document “stating that they are not priests in good standing”; that they would receive six-monthly visits from a child protection officer; and that local police had “been informed” and would perform “spot checks”. Other members of the order would also be informed. One of the guilty priests was Kit Cunningham, himself the former priest of St Etheldreda’s Church and a popular public figure; Cunningham quietly returned an MBE, asking for no publicity, several months before he died at the end of 2010.

However, Myers’ subsequent decisions all appear to have be the most convenient courses for action for himself and for the order: the order’s archives have been closed to public scrutiny, and he provided Kit Cunningham with a celebratory memorial service that buried the true facts about him and consolidated his public reputation. As well as the passive-aggressive response to the BBC’s request for an interview (“I will not be video-ed and edited”), Myers also chose to lecture the victims on the morality of their wish for compensation in a similar tone:

I have always acknowledged that in civil in civil law, you have a right to seek compensation. I would be blind not to. But it is another matter whether you have a moral right to so so. No-one has yet attempted to answer my question why innocent people today should be made to suffer by the wrongs done by somebody else in some cases. Until someone is able to give me a convincing moral argument on this point, I remain of the opinion that that morally speaking compensation would be wrong.

Myers’ choice of Biblical passage to take as guidance is of a piece with this general attitude. I’m sure we can all think of some more appropriate alternative verses.

(All quotes taken from screenshots in the programme)