The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) today released a bleak interim report into the historic abuse of pupils at Ampleforth and Downside schools over a 40 year period.
Professor Alexis Jay, Chair of the Inquiry, said: "For decades Ampleforth and Downside tried to avoid giving any information about child sexual abuse to police and social services. Instead, monks in both institutions were very often secretive, evasive and suspicious of anyone outside the English Benedictine Congregation.
"Safeguarding children was less important than the reputation of the Church and the wellbeing of the abusive monks."
She said the institutions continued to try to manage internally allegations of abuse despite recommendations in the 2001 Nolan Report they should be referred to statutory authorities.
"Even after new procedures were introduced in 2001, when monks gave the appearance of co-operation and trust, their approach could be summarised as a 'tell them nothing' attitude."
Ten individuals, including monks, have been convicted or cautioned for abuse.
Professor Jay said it was likely that more pupils were abused than have come forward to date.
Both Downside and Ampleforth have issued statements apologising to the victims.
A Downside spokesman said: "The Abbey and School fully acknowledges the serious failings and mistakes made in both protecting those within our care and responding to safeguarding concerns. We have reflected deeply and will continue to listen with the ear of the heart going forward to ensure that the mistakes of the past are never repeated."
A spokesman for Ampleforth said it had publicly accepted responsibility for "past failings on many occasions..The Ampleforth of today has never been afraid to learn difficult lessons.. We remain completely focused on the safety and wellbeing of those entrusted to our care and our commitment to implement meaningful change."
The Catholic Communications Network today issued the following statement:
'The Catholic Council for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse notes the conclusions of the report of the IICSA into the English Benedictine Congregation focusing on Ampleforth and Downside Abbeys. The Catholic Council looks forward to continuing to work with and assist the Inquiry in its deliberations.
As stated at the opening of this part of the Inquiry, the Catholic Council, and the organisations it represents, stand wholeheartedly by the expressions of regret and the apologies that have already been made on behalf of the Catholic Church in England and Wales to the victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
All sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults is both criminal and harmful. The Church condemns without reservation any such crimes and the perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to justice.
The Church is fully committed to the safeguarding of all children and adults at risk. Following the Nolan and Cumberlege Reports, all Dioceses and Religious Orders are committed to following nationally agreed guidelines and robust policies to promote safeguarding. These policies, which commit Dioceses and Religious Orders to reporting to and working with the police on all abuse allegations, are recognised as good practice by the statutory authorities.
The Catholic Church looks forward to continuing to assist the Inquiry.'
Read the full report here: www.iicsa.org.uk/interim-report