Three More Women Allege Abuse by Caldey Island Monk
By Amanda Gearing and Harriet Sherwood
November 21, 2017
|Caldey Abbey on Caldey Island. Photograph: Alamy|
Three more women have come forward to claim they were sexually abused by a Cistercian monk at Caldey Island abbey in the 1970s and 80s, as a survivors’ organisation demanded an inquiry into the allegations.
Macsas, an organisation that supports survivors of clerical abuse, said an inquiry was needed to establish the extent of the alleged abuse. Meanwhile the children’s commissioner for Wales has asked the abbey for information on its child protection procedures.
The commissioner, Sally Holland, said she wanted “to make sure that any child or young person visiting Caldey or its churches is safe”, and she had discussed the allegations with the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service, who did not respond to a request for comment.
The fresh claims follow the disclosure in the Guardian last week that six women had brought a civil claim against the Cistercian order on the island off the coast of Pembrokeshire, alleging they were sexually abused as children by one of its monks, Father Thaddeus Kotik, who died in 1992.
The abbey denied liability but this year paid modest sums of compensation to the women. Three of the plaintiffs subsequently decided to go public with their claims, partly in the hope of encouraging other survivors to come forward. The women also want a formal apology from the abbey.
Since the Guardian’s story was published, three more women have said they were sexually abused by Kotik. One said her two sisters were also abused, bringing the total to 11. One of the women reported her case to police on Monday.
In a statement at the weekend, Dyfed-Powys police confirmed that in 2014 and 2016 they had “received reports of non-recent sexual abuse that occurred at Caldey Island with the named offender being the deceased Thaddeus Kotik.” Because he was dead, a prosecution was not possible, the force said.
The woman who reported her case to the police this week said that when she read Kotik’s name in the Guardian she broke down and was unable to sleep for 36 hours.
“I had never told anybody about this, ever,” she said. “In the last 24 hours my husband has found out. I am now deciding what to do about my parents because I told them at the time and they did nothing.”
She described her abuse as “low level compared with the others”, and added: “It was 32 years ago. I was about 11 or 12. It would have been in 1985 or 1986.
“We were all in the garden together within the monastery grounds. I was sitting next to [Kotik] on a bench. He pulled me towards him. It looked like he was hugging you to everybody there, but it wasn’t a hug.
“He put his hand up my top. Then his hand went up my back and under my arms. I squirmed away from him and walked away. I didn’t go near him after that. I told my parents but they said I was being over-sensitive and that he was just being friendly – it was never talked of again.”
Another woman, now in her 40s and living in New Zealand, said she wanted to verify the earlier allegations. “While I have not suffered to the same degree as them by Fr Thaddeus’ actions, I wanted to add support and verify their claims.”
She said her family stayed at a cottage and Kotik was a frequent visitor, taking her and her friend on outings to secret places around the island.
A ninth woman said she and her two sisters were abused by Kotik. “I can 100% vouch for this abuse happening,” she said. “I come from a big Catholic family. In the 1970s we visited [Caldey Island] regularly. I remember Fr Thaddeus’ rough hands.”
The woman said that after Kotik’s death, another family member told her the monk had abused her and other children. But she said there was pressure by both church and family for victims to “shut up”.
The survivors’ group Mascas said: “Clearly his abhorrent behaviour was known about on the island and questions must also be asked about who else within the wider Cistercian order knew.
“It is alarming that there has been no public statement from the present abbot welcoming and enabling others to come forward if they feel able and want to do so now. Neither has there been any form of apology forthcoming.”
A recorded message on the abbey’s phone line said it was closed for the winter and would reopen in the spring. It did not offer callers an opportunity to leave a message. Nine monks are believed to live on the island.
Next week the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse is to hold public hearings into allegations of abuse and exploitation of children in the Roman Catholic church. The first case to be examined is the English Benedictine congregation, which has been the subject of numerous allegations of child sexual abuse, including at schools it runs.