The Abbot of Ampleforth, who voluntarily stepped aside after allegations were made that he had indecently assaulted four boys, has begun a civil action to be reinstated after not being allowed to resume his duties.
Fr Cuthbert Madden has issued legal proceedings against Fr Christopher Jamison, Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation, and three others. He is seeking a declaration that Fr Jamison improperly interfered with the investigation process and acted unlawfully in his treatment of him.
According to Fr Madden's spokesman, he should be allowed to return to his job and home because, the spokesman said, a church inquiry had cleared him of sex abuse allegations. The spokesman said that the church investigation had concluded in a recommendation that Cuthbert Madden be reinstated as Abbot of Ampleforth.
Allegations were made against Fr Madden to North Yorkshire Police on 8 August 2016. Fr Madden was accused of having been overly tactile towards three pupils on several occasions when he was a junior master at Ampleforth in the early 1990s. Two investigations looked into these allegations: an investigation by North Yorkshire Police, which concluded on 2 November 2016, and an investigation by the Salford Catholic Safeguarding Commission, which concluded on 17 October 2017.
A further review panel evaluated the decision of the Salford investigation and delivered its decision on 16 April 2018. It recommended that Fr Madden be reinstated as Abbot of Ampleforth "subject to conditions".
A spokesman for the English Benedictines said: "Safeguarding is an absolute priority of The English Benedictine Congregation. The Abbot President (Fr Christopher Jamison) has always had safeguarding as a key consideration in addressing this issue, co-operating with all the relevant authorities and taking advice from the Interim Manager nominated by the Charity Commission with responsibility for safeguarding at Ampleforth. As this matter is subject to legal proceedings, he will not be commenting at this stage."
Fr Madden's spokesman said in a statement: "When the matter comes to trial, this case will see the safeguarding processes of the Catholic Church – which are intended to both protect accusers and be fair to the accused – undergo close judicial scrutiny, with a number of very senior clerics giving evidence. Fr Madden’s case in the English High Court is being led by one of the world’s pre-eminent ecclesiastical lawyers, Mark Hill QC."
He added that the case is also being looked into by the Holy See in Rome, "raising the possibility of a real conflict between the defective safeguarding procedures put in place by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and the natural justice expressed in Canon Law".
The spokesman continued: “Father Cuthbert brings this claim extremely reluctantly. He has been investigated by the police and the church and neither found any evidence to support the allegations made against him. It is regrettable that he has to go to Court in order to be reinstated but an innocent man should not be treated as if he were guilty.”
A spokesman for Ampleforth Abbey said: “Fr Cuthbert Madden has always denied any wrongdoing. He stepped aside from his duties as Abbot when allegations were made against him. North Yorkshire Police investigated these allegations and brought no charges in November 2016. Since then has not returned to the Abbey whilst church authorities have carried out their own investigation.”
Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater & Gordon who acts for victims of abuse at Ampleforth, said: “I find it absolutely staggering that this man should be seeking to return as Abbot. Irrespective of the allegations against him personally, his role as one of the senior leaders at Ampleforth at a time when it has been beset by abuse scandals and forced to the brink of closure should disqualify him from any future leadership role. His references to human rights beggar belief – the rights of children to be free from abuse are far more important.”