Nuns de­stroyed my child­hood Vic­tim re­veals hor­rific beat­ings as Arch­bishop apol­o­gises on be­half of dio­cese

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Mike Lock­ley Staff Re­porter

BIRM­ING­HAM’S Catholic church has of­fer an apol­ogy to chil­dren abused while in its care for the first time.

In the pas­sages of a let­ter read to con­gre­ga­tions, the Arch­bishop of Birm­ing­ham re­vealed his sor­row for the “pro­found be­trayal of trust” that re­sulted in in­no­cents be­ing preyed on in the dio­cese in­sti­tu­tions.

The Most Rev Bernard Lon­g­ley ex­pressed his shame over the suf­fer­ing caused to chil­dren and the vul­ner­a­ble by “priests and oth­ers”.

The pub­lic an­nounce­ment came a week be­fore a high-pro­file in­quiry into his­toric abuse in the Catholic arch­dio­cese.

The In­de­pen­dent In­quiry into Child Sex­ual Abuse, held in Lon­don, starts this Fri­day. The Arch­bishop will also at­tend and is­sue a pub­lic apol­ogy for the ter­ri­ble crimes com­mit­ted by mem­bers of his church.

His words will of­fer com­fort to ‘Danny’ (whose real name can­not be re­vealed due to a restric­tion or­der) whose young life was pit­ted with pain, suf­fer­ing and hu­mil­i­a­tion.

What should be trea­sured mem­o­ries of an in­no­cent time have been re­placed by night­mares of daily beat­ings. The bruises have long since gone, the men­tal scars re­main.

The 59-year-old from Nuneaton, Wawrick­shire did not suf­fer at the hands of a sadis­tic fa­ther or school bul­lies.

He says his tor­men­tors were some of the nuns who over­saw St Joseph’s Spe­cial School for chil­dren with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. It was based in the grandiose set­ting of Croome Court, an 18th cen­tury stately home near Per­shore, south Worces­ter­shire.

Danny is one of five for­mer pupils at the es­tab­lish­ment who have pro­vided state­ments to the in­quiry. Danny will be re­ferred to only as “F49”.

“We are not vic­tims, we are sur­vivors,” said the re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic, now dis­abled fol­low­ing se­vere heart prob­lems.

“You were tar­geted con­tin­u­ally – they en­joyed de­grad­ing and hu­mil­i­at­ing you.”

Scot­tish-born Danny – raised in a staunch Catholic house­hold – talks ar­tic­u­lately about his 16 months at Croome Court, an or­deal that be­gan in 1970. It only ended when he at­tempted to take his own life.

The ex­pe­ri­ence, he main­tains, de­stroyed his life. The fa­ther-of-four stum­bled from petty crime to ap­proved school to two adult prison stints.

He once em­braced the Church. He now de­spises it.

“I was a proper Catholic,” he said. “My mum was Span­ish; my dad was half Ital­ian, half Ir­ish. I was a pas­sion­ate Celtic sup­porter, As a fam­ily, we went to Lour­des. Now there is noth­ing. I can’t even look at a cru­ci­fix.”

The for­mer pit worker main­tains he had no right to be placed at Croome Court. In his own words, he was not “fee­ble minded”, he was merely a se­rial school tru­ant. Once there, he re­belled against the nuns’ strict regime, run­ning away five times, and, he al­leges, was near bro­ken by mer­ci­less beat­ings.

“They hit you with sticks, any­thing,” he al­leged. “They punched you, they dragged you by the hair. The worst was af­ter I’d run away again. I was in the dor­mi­tory, they beat the s*** out of me, I was black and blue. That was just the start.

“They dragged me up­stairs, rip­ping the clothes off me and still beat me. I could han­dle my­self. I re­fused to scream and one said, ‘You think you’re tough?’ They went in a frenzy, they went to town.”

Danny says he spent nights locked in a cup­board – a reg­u­lar dis­ci­plinary les­son.

Scrub­bing toi­lets was an­other tried and tested tech­nique.

He was also placed in a cold bath and rubbed near raw.

Danny’s young life be­gan fall­ing apart soon af­ter his fam­ily moved from Scot­land to Coven­try.

Un­able to set­tle, he con­tin­u­ally skipped pri­mary school lessons.

His mother un­wit­tingly con­signed Danny to Croome Court.

He was one of around 150 chil­dren, aged seven to 13. Some took the harsh dis­ci­pline bet­ter than oth­ers. “There were a lot who were proper trau­ma­tised,” said Danny. Catholic

>Croome Court near Per­shore, in Worces­ter­shire, was the home of St Joseph’s Spe­cial School till 1979

>Above: ‘Danny’ as a pupil – his iden­tity can­not be re­vealed. Left: The Most Rev Bernard Lon­g­ley

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