DCSIMG

Headmaster of abuse school quits Oxford University

Fr Francis Davidson said he was saddened by allegations

Fr Francis Davidson said he was saddened by allegations

  • by CRAIG BROWN
 

A FORMER headmaster of a Scottish Catholic boarding school hit by accusations of serial child sex abuse has resigned from a senior position at a Benedictine college of Oxford University.

Father Francis Davidson has stepped down as monastic superior of St Benet’s Hall, where he was responsible for the welfare of student monks at the Oxford College, it was reported last night.

Fr Davidson has been accused of covering up abuse perpetrated by monks at Fort Augustus Abbey School in the Highlands and its preparatory school in East Lothian, Carlekemp, both of which are now closed.

The alleged abuse committed against pupils, and the surrounding cover-up, were revealed in a BBC investigation broadcast last month.

A total of ten monks have now been accused of physical abuse; four monks and one lay teacher of sexual abuse including rape; and three headmasters of cover-ups.

Last night, in announcing his resignation, Fr Davidson offered his “profound sympathies” to former pupils of the school who had suffered abuse at the hands of the teachers.

Among those affected was Hugh Kennedy, who attended the school in the 1970s and said he was groomed and sexually abused by two teachers.

He claims that the former headmaster had covered up 
molestation by Fr Chrysostom Alexander.

Mr Kennedy, 50, said that he told Fr Davidson about what had happened, but that the police were never involved.

He said: “Chrysostom spent an hour with my stepmother. I assumed this was to discuss the abuse or the allegations I’d made and I wasn’t party to that conversation.

“Suffice to say, when Chrysostom came out from having talked to my stepmother, the look on his face will live with me forever, because he knew he had convinced her this was a non-story, and that from there I was sent back to Fort Augustus to be subjected to further abuse by Chrysostom.”

Mr Kennedy said he was also abused during the same period by a lay teacher at the school, Bill Owen.

Fr Alexander, who is now 77 and lives in Sydney, Australia, is the subject of an investigation by Police Scotland.

The Catholic Church in Sydney has relieved him of his priestly duties pending an investigation.

A second monk, Fr Aidan Duggan, an Australian, was named in the investigation. He was said by five former pupils to have raped and sexually abused them between 1953 and 1974.

One former pupil told his parents that he had been raped only to be called into the headmaster’s office and told that lying was a mortal sin, it was reported.

Fr Duggan returned to Australia in 1974 and became a parish priest in Sydney. However, no warnings were made by the Benedictines and he allegedly continued to abuse. He died in 2004.

Announcing his resignation last night, Fr Davidson said in a statement that he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of Mr Kennedy’s allegations and of those against Bill Owen, but did “not recall them being reported” to him at the time.

He added: “Subsequent allegations of abuse made to the abbot, who is now dead, resulted in an internal investigation by the abbot, and Fr Chrysostom’s immediate removal from the school.

“Today’s requirements for child protection are rightly far more comprehensive than those in place when I was a head-
master.”

The NSPCC is now calling for a full independent inquiry into the abuse at the school.

Earlier this month, one of Scotland’s most senior Catholics, Hugh Gilbert, the Bishop of Aberdeen, apologised on behalf of the Church for the abuse, speaking of his “horror and shame” at what had been uncovered.

The Church is also planning to publish for the first time annual audits dealing with sex abuse 
allegations against the clergy in each of Scotland’s eight dioceses.

 
 
 

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