Cherwell

Exclusive: Oxford employed monk convicted of child sex abuse despite ban

This report contains a description of sexual assault.

The University of Oxford and St. Benet’s Hall employed a monk convicted of child sexual abuse for twelve years, despite a government ban on his working with younger undergraduates, Cherwell can exclusively report.

Father Bernard Green, a member of the Faculty of Theology, tutored at a total of seven Oxford colleges and PPHs between 2000 and 2012, as well as serving as a Director of Studies in Theology from 2004.

Green was banned in 1996 from teaching and working with “young persons under the age of 19” by the Department of Education (DfE). This followed his conviction in February 1996 on one count of indecent assault of a child under the age of 14 whilst at Ampleforth Abbey and College, which used to run University Permanent Private Hall, St. Benet’s.

The Benedictine monk, who died in 2013, was dismissed from all St. Benet’s roles in 2012, when a case review by bosses “revealed that he had been barred from teaching under 19s by the DfE,” according to last week’s report on Ampleforth by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA).

But Inquiry evidence, seen by Cherwell, also shows that the then Abbot of Ampleforth and former St. Benet’s Trust Chair, Father Cuthbert Madden, knew of the nature of Green’s ban as early as 2006. Father Bernard continued as a Tutor for another six years.

The outgoing Master of St. Benet’s Hall said “it is a matter of deep regret” that the Hall had “any part in what happened”. He said the St. Benet’s “of today is a very different place,” citing “fundamental changes in leadership and oversight that took place in 2012.”

Cherwell can also report that the University of Oxford too failed to realise Fr Bernard’s ban during a 2005 disciplinary investigation into the monk for harassment of a 19 year old male undergraduate. After having been found to have committed serious misconduct, Fr Bernard received a final written warning at the time.

Green began his work at Oxford in 2000 while still on the Sex Offenders Register. It is also revealed that University authorities found indecent images of children downloaded on his computer in a 2013 investigation.

A spokesperson for the University of Oxford told Cherwell the revelations of this “important report” were “deeply troubling,” and that it was “looking into the points raised.” It stressed that “the welfare of our students is an important priority.”

One source close to St. Benet’s told Cherwell: “I struggle to see why St. Benet’s acted in this way. It is a source of great pain that they seem to have put avoiding possible harm to the Ampleforth name ahead of the pastoral and welfare needs of students.”

Another source said: “This is a dark moment for Oxford University, it is a case of real negligence, turning a blind eye to a convicted abuser on multiple occasions.”

A member of Oxford University also told Cherwell: “The fact that the University did not dismiss Fr Bernard in 2005 after the incident (of harassment) is astounding.

“But what is more disturbing is that the University allowed a predator of this nature to work there in the first place, considering he was convicted in 1996. Added to this, the investigation was clearly not strong enough to root out that Father Bernard was actually banned [from working with young undergraduates] for the entirety of his [preceding] time at Oxford.”

This week’s report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse details years of sexual abuse at Ampleforth College, a Roman Catholic public boarding school run by the English Benedictine Congregation.

In November 1995, Fr Bernard abused a 13-year old pupil at the Yorkshire school, known only as RC-A97. He entered a boys’ dormitory where the pupil was sleeping and “fondled his genitals.”

Pleading guilty in February 1996, Fr Bernard was sentenced to two years’ probation, compelled to attend a sex offenders treatment programme, and registered on the Sex Offenders Register for five years to 2001.

A Department for Education letter in August 1996 established that “on the grounds of misconduct Bernard Green should not be appointed or employed…as a teacher or worker with children or young persons.” Such a “worker with children or young persons” is, the letter reads, a person “whose employment brings him regularly into contact with persons who have not achieved the age of 19 years.”

A 2006 email between Fr Cuthbert Madden, then Abbot of Ampleforth and current St. Benet’s Trust chair, and monastery lawyer Andrew Dawson, shows St. Benet’s knew of the nature of Father Bernard’s ban six years before he was dismissed.

Dated May 20 2006, Fr Cuthbert writes to Dawson: “You will recall that we discussed Fr Bernard with Barry Honeysett and he said that he should not have contact with anyone under the age of 18.

“You can imagine my surprise, then, when I found a letter (this week) from the Department of Education and a Employment, dated 1 August 1996, which reads: …the Secretary of State…has directed…that on the grounds of misconduct Bernard Green should not be appointed or employed…as a teacher or worker with children or young persons.”

Fr Cuthbert adds to lawyer Dawson: “You will be aware that Father Bernard has been working at St. Benet’s Hall for some years now. How does that sit with this letter?”

He notes in the email: “There has never been any question raised about this being illegal/not permitted but the university is starting to tighten up its regulations and are even doing comprehensive CRB checks – I am amazed that they have not already done so…”

During December 2017 hearings at the Inquiry, Fr Cuthbert told panel members of his 2006 discovery: “That was a surprise to me. I hadn’t realised that. Age 19, some people going to university are still aged 18 and not 19.”

He added that it was decided to make “arrangements to be absolutely sure that he had no contact with people under the age of 19.”

Fr Cuthbert also noted at that then St. Benet’s Master, the Very Rev Fr Leo Chamberlain, “made some kind of risk assessment, if memory serves correctly…”

Father Leo was headmaster at Ampleforth at the time of Fr Bernard’s sexual assault on the 13 year old pupil in 1995, reporting this abuse to statutory authorities at the time.

One source has questioned how, given his previous responsibilities at Ampleforth, Fr Leo could not have immediately known about the nature of Fr Bernard’s ban when he became St. Benet’s Master in 2004.

They told Cherwell: “Fr Leo seems to have chosen convenience over right…While we do not know what his motivation was, given the incident in 2005 (the harassment case) it beggars belief that he did not either insist on Green leaving or resign in protest.”

Asked whether he initially knew of the 19-year-old provision to Fr Bernard’s ban, Father Leo told Cherwell: “No I did not know that, nor did the Abbot at that stage. It was in the paperwork, but he hadn’t found it. When he did find it, he acted, no dark plots. It is a serious matter, which we take seriously.”

Fr Leo also told Cherwell: “The IISCA hearing makes it clear that the under 19 provision came to light after Abbot Cuthbert’s election, so must have been 2005-2007.

“Once the provision was known, I would then have had to check that the ages of undergraduates tutored by Fr Bernard were not under 19.”

It was another six years after 2006 before Fr Bernard was dismissed from his roles at Oxford following a new review of his case and ban. This was triggered by the fact St. Benet’s was then run by an educational trust that also ran a school a hundred miles from Oxford.

In August 2016, Fr Cuthbert Madden himself temporarily stood aside as Abbot of Ampleforth. He was interviewed under caution by North Yorkshire police, who were investigating complaints by four former pupils of indecent assaults in the early 1990s.

A spokesperson for Ampleforth, speaking on behalf of Father Cuthbert, told Cherwell: “As I’m sure you’ll know, in line with civil and ecclesiastical protocols, Fr Cuthbert Madden OSB has temporarily stepped aside from his responsibilities as Abbot of Ampleforth while appropriate Church protocols are being carried out relating to unfounded allegations concerning historical events.

“He will not resume his duties at Ampleforth until these are completed, so it would not be appropriate for him to comment on your questions at this time.”

In a statement to Cherwell, the outgoing master of St. Benet’s Hall, Professor Werner Jeanrond said: “It is a matter of deep regret that the Hall had any part in what happened in those years, a period which predates the fundamental changes in leadership and oversight that took place in 2012.

“The St Benet’s of today is a very different place. It is run by a separate Trust and far-reaching changes have been made to its governance, operating procedures, oversight arrangements, and to the make up of its staff and student community. While these cannot expunge the past and its failings, they do give us confidence for the future.”

The 2005 University disciplinary panel was convened to investigate Father Bernard following an accusation that he harassed a 19 year old male undergraduate at a 2005 JCR picnic on Port Meadow, while serving as St. Benet’s Director of Studies in Theology. The complete conclusions of this panel were kept confidential at the time, but Fr Bernard was given a final written warning.

According to the Independent Inquiry, the Panel, led by Magdalen Law Fellow Dr Katharine Grevling, concluded that it “did not interpret [Father Bernard’s] touching as a sexually-motivated contact and whilst very concerned at the verbal comments, accepted [Bernard’s] explanation for making them.”

Speaking of this 2005 University disciplinary panel, Fr Leo told Cherwell: “My view, following this, was that St. Benet’s was a small place, Bernard a priest and not just a tutor, and that the situation would be unworkable.

“So I asked for his withdrawal. Abbot Cuthbert, newly elected, chose to stay with the panel recommendations.”

Fr Bernard Green tutored at colleges including Keble, Trinity, Worcester, St John’s, and Corpus Christi as well as St. Benet’s. He was a member of the University Theology faculty, a Joint Chairman of Graduate Seminar in Patristics and, from 2004, Director and Acting Director of Studies in Theology at Benet’s and Christ Church (between 2004 and 2005) respectively.

A spokesperson for the University of Oxford told Cherwell: “The revelations of this important report are deeply troubling and we are looking into the points raised by it.

“The welfare of our students is an important priority for the University and we regularly review our safeguarding code of practice and pre-employment screening guidance.”

This article was corrected 13/08/18 to reflect the fact Fr Cuthbert Madden has not been St. Benet’s Trust chair since he stepped aside in August 2016. This position is currently held by Sir Ralph Waller.