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FROM BRITAIN AND IRELAND NEWS Ushaw College given hope for future Christopher Lamb

A RESCUE PLAN to prevent Ushaw College from permanently closing its doors has been announced by the northern bishops and the University of Durham. Last October, the bishops said the 200- year-old seminary in the County of Durham would no longer train priests, and the last seminarians are leaving the college this month. In recent months, it was not clear what would happen to Ushaw, and in particular to its historic library, with conservationists warn- ing that the college’s listed buildings – including the Grade I-listed St Michael’s Chapel, by E.W. Pugin, and Grade II-listed St Cuthbert’s Chapel – would be vandalised if they were left empty. After a meeting last week, the bishop- trustees of the college have said they are willing to work with the University of Durham to transform the college into a new centre for Catholic scholarship and heritage. This would mean that the college’s historic library and collections of artefacts would stay in the north- east of England. A feasibility plan into how the new centre for scholarship could work will be drawn up and the trustees and the university have entered into a “Memorandum of Understanding” about the project. The Bishop of Shrewsbury, Mark Davies, who was chairman of a steering group which recommended that the trustees consider form-

Durham’s Centre for Catholic Studies will

take charge of the proposed centre for scholar - ship at Ushaw and will rename itself “The International Centre for Catholic Studies”. It is planning to develop new senior academic positions in medieval theology and modern Catholic history and theology along with a new tranche of MA and doctoral programmes. The new centre would work out of the main

St Cuthbert’s Chapel at Ushaw College

ing a partnership with the university, said: “We are looking forward to working in part- nership in this way with Durham University and with the other public bodies towards securing a new future for Ushaw. The college can no longer provide for the training of priests but, true to its inheritance across more than 200 years on this site, can continue to be a centre for Catholic scholarship and be acces- sible to the wider community.” It is understood that the proposed plan is

not for the university to buy the college, which is five miles from the city of Durham, but to take responsibility for the running of the majority of the buildings and the library. It has already agreed to assist with security at the site and is planning to move its business school temporarily into the building.

Georgian-style building and would have responsibility for the library and St Cuthbert’s Chapel. The university is expected to catalogue the new library and raise international schol- arly awareness of the collection, which along with theology includes important works on philosophy, history and the history of music. Professor Eamon Duffy, Catholic historian at Cambridge University, said that Ushaw’s library compares with the “great college libraries” of Oxford and Cambridge and that the college is on a par with Westminster Cathedral in terms of cultural importance for English Catholics. “The Catholic Church asserts the indis- pensability of tradition, yet in this country Catholics have not always been good stewards of our own traditions,” said Professor Duffy. “This enlightened decision is an enormous relief to all of us who care about the Church and its past.” English Heritage has welcomed the plan

as several of the college’s buildings are on its “At Risk” register.

Rosminians sued by former pupils abused by priests

THE ROSMINIANSare being sued by a group of men who were abused as pupils at two schools run by the order, writes Christopher Lamb. The 22 men have started a civil action against the order also known as Institute of Charity, and among four priests named is Fr Kit Cunningham, the former rector of St Etheldreda’s, Ely Place, in the City of London. Details of the abuse, both sexual and phys-

ical, are given in a BBC documentary Abused: Breaking the Silence, which reports letters sent by the late Fr Cunningham where he confesses and apologises for sexual abuse of pupils while teaching at St Michael’s School, Soni, in Tanzania. He sent his MBE back to Buckingham Palace last year, a few months before his death last December. The three other priests named in the

action – Fr Douglas Rayner, Fr Bill Jackson and Fr Bernard Collins – live in retirement in a Rosminian house in Surrey. Fr Collins

32 | THE TABLET | 18 June 2011

admitted to deriving sexual gratification from physical punishment of boys in a letter of apology to one of his former pupils. The abuse took place during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, at the school in Tanzania and also at Grace Dieu Preparatory School in Leicestershire. It is understood that at least 40 men say they were physically and sexually abused at the two schools. The programme, investigated by BBC journalist Olenka Frankel, reports how the victims made contact with one another via school reunion websites in 2009 and shared their experiences of being abused. They decided to write to the provincial of the Rosminians’ Gentili Province, Fr David Myers, with testimonies of their experiences. Fr Myers said he was sickened by what had happened and wrote back to the men saying he would seek confessions from those priests accused and later offered meetings between abusers and victims.

One of the men met Frs Jackson and Cunningham but decided not to be part of the civil action for the time being. However, the offer of further meetings was withdrawn by Fr Myers when 22 men decided to seek financial compensation via the civil action. The programme reports that the Rosminian order was first told about alleged abuse com- mitted by Fr Collins in 1958 when he worked at Grace Dieu but then moved him to St Michael’s, Soni, where he physically abused other boys. The Rosminian order denies it was told about Fr Collins’ behaviour in 1958. In the programme, victims express anger that the Rosminians maintained a public silence about Fr Cunningham’s abuse after his death. Glowing obituaries appeared in several national newspapers including The Tablet. The provincial declined to be part of the BBC programme and did not respond to queries from The Tablet. The programme is to be broadcast on Tuesday on BBC1 at 10.35pm.

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