Wednesday 17 April 2024

Inquiry to review Caldey Abbey abuse allegations

A Welsh abbey has commissioned an independent review into historical claims of child abuse linked to its community.

The Cistercian Abbey of Caldey Island said last week that Jan Pickles, a former assistant police and crime commissioner for South Wales Police, would conduct the independent inquiry.

Fr Jan Rossey of Caldey Abbey announced the review in a statement on 10 April, when he also announced his appointment as the new superior of Caldey Abbey.

“In common with many other organisations, Caldey Abbey has, in the past, received disclosures and allegations involving members of the monastic community about their behaviour towards children,” he said.  “We take these allegations very seriously.”

Dozens of people have alleged they were abused by Fr Thaddeus Kotik, a monk of Caldey Abbey who died in 1992, without facing criminal investigation into claims he abused children from 1977 to 1982.

In March 2017, six of his alleged female victims received compensation from Caldey Abbey in an out-of-court settlement. One asked for Kotik’s body to be exhumed and removed from the island. 

More allegations have been since emerged, some involve the late Fr Charles Jeffries, a priest of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.

Fr Rossey has asked Maria Battle, the former deputy children’s commissioner for Wales, to be the inquiry’s lead on safeguarding.

Anyone with an allegation is invited to contact Battle via email or telephone or email the Religious Life Safeguarding Service.

“We will recommend that the findings will be made public,” said Battle, adding that Fr Rossey hoped to “hear from anyone affected”.

Kevin O’Connell, the founder of the Caldey Island Survivors’ Campaign, said the review was “a start”. 

In 2021, he submitted a petition to the Welsh Senedd signed by 5,000 people asking the devolved government to launch a public inquiry into the allegations of abuse at Caldey. It refused to do so.

Monks have inhabited the island of Caldey, off the coast of Tenby in Pembrokeshire, since the sixth century.