Caldey Abbey: first male victim comes forward to describe sexual abuse
By Amanda Gearing And Steven Morris
February 09, 2018
|Caldey Abbey on Caldey Island, off the coast of south-west Wales. Fr Thaddeus Kotik lived at the abbey from 1947 until his death in 1992.|
| Thaddeus Kotik photographed with a child, date unknown.|
|Mark fishing with Kotik and Mark’s own son.|
Man says he was abused by Cistercian monk during family holidays on Welsh island
A man has come forward to describe how he was groomed and sexually abused as a child by a Benedictine monk on Caldey Island, intensifying calls for an inquiry into what happened at the abbey in south-west Wales.
The victim, who has told police of the abuse he was subject to during summer holiday trips to Caldey Island, is the first man to allege he was sexually assaulted by Father Thaddeus Kotik.
More than a dozen women have come forward to report offences committed by Kotik, a member of the Cistercian order of Benedictine monks who lived at Caldey Abbey on the Pembrokeshire island from 1947 until his death in 1992.
The Guardian has learned that two other men who lived and worked on Caldey Island were subsequently convicted of child sex offences.
The latest victim, Mark (not his real name), came forward three days after the Guardian first revealed that Kotik was a serial child sex offender. He hopes others will step forward to report abuse, which would add to the pressure for a thorough inquiry into the sexual offences committed by Kotik that may have spanned five decades.
“I want a public inquiry to take place about Caldey Island and its lack of child protection,” Mark said. “I will hopefully encourage others to come forward and tell theirs. The more reports there are may prompt an inquiry.”
Kotik’s offences were reported to the monks at Caldey Abbey but police were not notified until after his death.
Mark, who cannot be identified, said he first met Kotik in the 1960s when the family first visited the monastic island, off Tenby in Pembrokeshire. Kotik, who befriended Mark’s father, spent years grooming Mark. “We were met on the green by this man dressed in what I at the time thought were very funny-looking clothes. This was the monk Thaddeus,” Mark said.
Kotik quickly made the visitors feel privileged by inviting them into the monastery’s private walled garden and serving them tea, squash and biscuits. It was not until the following year, in the same garden, that Thaddeus lifted Mark and sat the boy beside him.
“Whilst eating I felt this large rough hand touching my leg,” Mark said. “Throughout the time we sat there I remember Thaddeus rubbed his hand up and down my bare legs a few more times going from one leg to the other and crossing the front outside my shorts.”
Mark, then aged eight, said nothing because he did not want to get into trouble. Kotik behaved as if nothing had happened, leading the family on a personal tour of the island, to the farm, the church and the lighthouse.
Kotik invited the family back the following summer, arranging for them to stay at St Philomena’s guesthouse. Mark’s father carried out handyman jobs in lieu of payment for their holiday, and Kotik offered to mind Mark and his siblings.
On the first day of this holiday, Kotik took Mark into the monastery, beyond the reach of his mother. During a later visit to the monastery Kotik allowed the boy to help wash up in the monastery kitchen. While Mark was at the sink, Kotik stood behind him, wrapped his arms around him and rubbed the boy’s genitals. The monk told the boy to be careful not to leave knives in the water, to divert attention from his actions. Another monk walked into the room and Kotik moved away.
On a subsequent visit to the monastery, Mark was helping to wrap the chocolate bars made at the monastery when Kotik approached him from behind, sat him on a bench, and assaulted him.
“I just froze still. I didn’t say anything but I remember being frightened and upset,” Mark said. He deliberately knocked a chocolate bar to the floor, and moved to pick it up to escape from Kotik’s grasp.
Although Mark avoided being alone with Kotik, the monk remained a family friend and even visited the family in Wales for a week each year. As an adult, Mark returned to the idyllic island for holidays with his own young son but he was careful never to leave him unattended.
“Looking back, I cannot forgive myself for putting [my son] in such a vulnerable position despite me or another adult being with him all the time,” he said.
Mark’s father maintained his friendship with Kotik and attended the monk’s funeral in 1992, but Mark has struggled to accept the betrayal by a priest who he thought had been his friend for 27 years.
“It is only since hearing and reading of this abuse that I have finally come to accept that I was a victim of Thaddeus’s abuse,” he said.
Mark says he has not yet felt strong enough to speak to his elderly father, his siblings or his son about the abuse but has confided in an old school friend who is supporting his efforts to break the silence on child abuse on Caldey Island.
Caldey Abbey was asked to comment but had not responded by the time of publication.