Ten abuse allegations made against six Glenstal monks

Four no longer there, one falsely accused, one under supervision, one dead, watchdog says

In general the Benedictine Community in Glenstal Abbey has managed the concerns that have arisen well, the review found. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

Patsy McGarry


Ten allegations of child abuse have been made against six Benedictine monks at Glenstal Abbey in Co Limerick since January 1st, 1975.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) review said that the Benedictine community at Glenstal Abbey “is made up of 27 priests, 10 professed brothers (all of whom have taken solemn vows), and one brother who has taken temporary vows. All of these men irrespective of age or status are referred to as ‘monks’.”

It noted that of the six accused monks “two are deceased”, one of whom had admitted the abuse and was sent for treatment. He was removed from monastic life/the clerical state by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 2007. The allegation against the second monk was received long after his death and its veracity could not be established.

Of the remaining four accused monks, two had left the Benedictines and Glenstal. One eventually admitted abusing a student at the school there 14 years previously. He too had been removed from monastic life/the clerical state by the CDF.

In his case the Abbot had informed the Garda and HSE “in timely fashion” but “there was a delay in the Abbot informing the Board of Management of the Glenstal Abbey School of the allegation received about the monk who had been a member of staff of the school.”

It was alleged the second of these two monks, who has also left Glenstal, “abused an adolescent boy during a work trip abroad”. He has been since granted leave from his vows by Rome and his whereabouts are not known. He is not in Ireland.

The remaining two cases involved monks still at Glenstal. The NBSC review found that “in the case of one of these, the allegations made by a third party have been found to have no basis in fact and appear to have been completely malicious. No complainant has been identified”.

The review continued “it has been an event of great consequence for this monk to have been the victim of a malicious allegation and the reviewers believe that he has suffered a grave injustice as a result of the actions of the third party reporter”.

It said “the sixth monk about whom child safeguarding concerns arose is retired. The matters complained of happened in another jurisdiction almost 45 years ago and have been fully investigated by the civil authorities there and full information has been shared with the An Garda Síochána and HSE in Ireland.” He “is subject to a supervision contract which restricts his movements and activities,” the review found.

In all instances appropriate outreach was made to those making the allegations where that was possible and relevant.

“In general”, the review said, “the Benedictine Community in Glenstal Abbey has managed the concerns that have arisen well and there is no evidence that any child was placed at risk due to any inaction on the part of the various abbots involved”.

It pointed out that the Benedictines had given “particular attention to making their Glenstal Abbey School a safe place for the children and young people.” It described the Safeguarding Team at Glenstal Abbey, comprised of the abbot, the prior, the school headmaster and the designated person, as “an active and effective group that had responsibility for developing and publishing the excellent Glenstal Abbey Safeguarding Children Policies & Procedures 2013 document.”

Confessions of a skeptic Blog

Monday, 16 January 2012

Brother Anselm

The Times has more on Michael Hurt, also known as Brother Anselm.

He taught at Downside during the 1960s but left the order because of “conflict” and worked in adult education in Liverpool before moving to Ireland. In 1996 he rejoined the Benedictines and was accepted at Glenstal as a novice.

He was cautioned by officers from Avon & Somerset Constabulary during an 18-month investigation into Downside. While a police caution does not amount to a conviction, by accepting it, a person acknowledges the offence.

Brother Martin Browne of Glenstal Abbey said: “The allegation for which Br Anselm was cautioned by UK police dates back more than forty years. It is a matter of public record (from many media appearances over the years) that Br Anselm left Downside Abbey in 1970, and was laicised. Many years later, having settled in Ireland, he began monastic life again, entering Glenstal as a novice in 1996.

It is understood that Hurt gave up his role in a chess club for young people after accepting the caution. Fr Bellenger did not name Hurt in his weekend letter to past pupils but referred to “a monk who left this country many years ago” receiving “a formal police caution for the abuse of a pupil during his time at Downside in the 1960s”.

Brother Anselm ran the Glenstal kitchens, feeding 40 monks and their guests with such panache that he published Brother Anselm’s Glenstal Cookbook to acclaim in 2009. The 65 recipes cover traditional dishes such as kedgeree, treacle tart and curries, with illustrations of monks at work and rest.

Brother Anselm and [his brother] John Hurt, star of the Elephant Man and the Harry Potter films, attracted a huge audience when they appeared together as guests on Irish television’s Late Late Show. British TV viewers saw them together on Who Do You Think You Are? when the pair, sons of an Anglican clergyman, investigated their possible Irish roots.

So, let me see if I understand this.

Michael Hurt rejoined the Benedictines in 1996, at Glenstal Abbey. Downside either wasn’t asked about or didn’t disclose his past abuses, and neither did Hurt himself.

Glenstal Abbey has a school attached. Until the police came calling Hurt had access to children. There was lots of publicity about Hurt’s presence at Glenstal and still Downside kept schtumm, and didn’t even slip a quiet warning to Glenstal about Hurt’s past and suggest that he might be best kept away from children.

It seems to me that Downside has been wholly concerned about its own reputation, and wasn’t even prepared to mention a problem to fellow-Benedictines.

I’m not sure what is the word to describe such behaviour, but I don’t think “Christian” comes anywhere near it.

Jonathan West at 14:49


Anonymous18 January 2012 at 20:38

I am Michael Hurt’s ex-wife. I discovered papers in the 1980s (when I was divorcing him) which revealed that he had been exclaustrated in 1969 or there a bouts, following his sexual abuse of a pupil. The monastery did not take it to the police as ‘the parents didn’t wish to’!!! he was placed on the DES ‘blacklist’ and sent to Oxford (which was full of Downside alumni!) He applied for laicisation in 1970/1 and they couldn’t get shut quick enough! He then entered his first marriage. I was his second wife. Once I knew about the abuse I did everything I could to bring it to light and have someone act upon it most particularly as he was fighting me for custody of our children. I have never suffered such hate and abuse directed at me. I was called a liar and a bitter and twisted soul.

Anonymous19 January 2012 at 06:58

12.38 – thank you for your posting.

I cannot imagine the impact of discovering that a husband or wife is a paedophile.

You may find this Spectator article about the convicted ‘establishment’ paedophile Roger Took helpful. Took’s wife Pat Cleary spoke out because the media was so disinclined to report his trial.

She explained this when she was interviewed by Woman’s Hour. The effects of the discovery and its impact on her family are clear.


Anonymous19 January 2012 at 19:22

Roger Took
I see the Spectator article has been made unavailable for instant connection – I read it and it was the most horrible thing I have ever seen. I am not suggesting that it shouldn’t be read, but that most of us have no idea how terrifying these monsters can behave. Awful as it is, Jonathan, please continue.

Anonymous19 January 2012 at 20:28

So that we all get it – here are pictures of the establishment paedophile Mr Roger Took before his conviction.

Do we all now recognise the features of a pederast?


So perhaps it is clearer why robust procedures are needed to protect children.

Anonymous11 February 2012 at 17:23

I was a pupil at Glenstal for six years in the late 90’s. I came into contact with Br Anselm on a regular basis and he seemed to be a wonderful man. He loved the monastry and in my time there I never heard any negative comments made by monks, staff or students. Children are cruel, particularly in a boarding school environment, and if his behaviour had ever been inappropriate the whole school would have known, including the parents, and he would have been hounded out. While his “secret” past is certainly cause for concern, I think it is important to remember that people can change and that forgiveness is the backbone of the Catholic religion. Perhaps a little more of this article could have been dedicated to the more positive aspects of his life as supposed to allegations made 40 years ago.

Also, what’s all this about the parents not wanting to prosecute? Seems very unlikely that the police would listen to such a request unless there was some doubt over the allegations themselves.

Anonymous11 August 2015 at 17:53

I too was at Glenstal and like you I never came across any inappropriate behaviour. I too was pretty confident that I would have heard about it if it had been occurring. I read on line in the Irish times May 12th 2014 link here that there were other cases of abuse in Glenstal and I was amazed. Shows how wrong one can be.

It is obvious that Paedophiles thrive because of silence and children’s fear of speaking out. For that reason alone it is important to discuss their modus operandi even if it is 40 years since they were last caught! I am not suggesting that we should not forgive but that must not be at the expense of protecting children from their like in the future. We can learn from the past.

IMOP Downside had a duty of care to alert Glenstal that this monk had previously abused those in his care. The monk in question should also have “come clean” before he joined Glenstal. Perhaps he did and Glenstal chose to say nothing accepting that he was “no further risk”. We shall never know as I doubt anyone in authority would admit to that now. Glenstal should have made enquiries from Downside as to why this monk had previously left the order. That would seem like an elemental, prudent and very obvious step to take with any person’s application to re-join any organisation they had previously been a member of, particularly that of a Christian Monk, normally considered a commitment for life . At worst I wonder if such enquiries were made and the results ignored? I do hope not. Either way there was an obvious failure in care. I know tennis clubs that vet potential members more thoroughly!

As to your comment that “Also, what’s all this about the parents not wanting to prosecute? Seems very unlikely that the police would listen to such a request unless there was some doubt over the allegations themselves.” Doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Firstly the monk, (Anslem) from what I understand, does not deny the charges and did not deny them at the time either so he was guilty of the accusation therefore a prosecution would probably have been successful. Forty years later he “took a caution” which apparently means you admit the offence took place. Secondly the church was held in a higher reverence and even some fear, 40 years ago, indeed even 15 years ago, than it is today. It is quite probable that if the headmaster of Downside suggested to the parents that “they had everything in hand” and that pressing charges was not necessary “and may cause more pain for the boy”, (their son still wished to school there I assume), then it is quite logical to assume, given the times that were in it, that neither the parents or the police would wish to go against that suggestion. Indeed they may all well have breathed a sigh of relief that the matter was over and dealt with so quickly. The monk was gone, the boy could get on with his studies, and the police could go and catch “real criminals”. Look how many times we have discovered it happened with other members of the clergy in the intervening and prior years that we now know of! Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

Fair play to all11 December 2017 at 12:01

The evidence given my Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard to the Child Abuse Inquiry on 8th December suggests that Downside did tell Glenstal all about Michael Hurt when he wa seeking admission there in the 1990s


Jonathan West13 December 2017 at 11:43

Well, the information obviously wasn’t clear enough for Glenstal to ensure Anselm realised what they were dealing with and to keep him away from children. When the police came calling he was involved in the school chess club.

Anonymous10 August 2018 at 16:23

I was the person that made the comment above dated: “Anonymous 11 August 2015 at 17:53”
This week the report by the UK’s “Independent inquiry child sexual abuse” on “Ampleforth and Downside Investigation Report August 2018” was published. See here:
There are two interesting points in this report that shed light on what Glenstal knew or did not know about Anslem/Michael Hurt.

Point 1. : Abbott Christopher Dillon of Glenstal was in communication with the Abbot of Downside about Anslem’s application and that he WAS told why Anslem Hurt was made leave Downside.

From the report:
“44. In 1994, around 20 years after the ban had been lifted, Hurt went to Glenstal Abbey. Glenstal Abbey is in Ireland and, although it is a Benedictine Monastery, it is not a member of the English Benedictine Congregation. By this stage the abbot of Downside was Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard, who told us that he understood that Anselm Hurt had applied to go there as a ‘lay brother’, having unsuccessfully made the same request of Downside in 1992. Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard told us that when the abbot of Glenstal, Abbot Christopher Dillon, asked him for information about Hurt, he had sent him a copy of Dom Aelred’s letter from January 1970, which reported Hurt to the DES. He also sent some more recent notes dated 14 March 1994, which referred to the ban on employment imposed by the Ministry of Education, although stated he could not find a copy of the ban itself.
45. On 18 March 1994, Abbot Dillon wrote to Abbot Charles and thanked him for ‘digging in the past’. He said ‘[i]t makes painful reading and I shall destroy what is specifically damaging to Anselm, as some recent document from Rome recommends’. Neither Dom Charles nor Dom Richard could remember seeing such a document from Rome, but Dom Charles told us that he presumed it was advice from the Congregation of Religious in Rome. Dom Charles told us that in his view this was appropriate because the document he had sent to Abbot Dillon was a copy. He accepted that by today’s standards, particularly in relation to an original document, such advice would seem unacceptable. Similarly, Dom Richard Yeo told us that it would not be appropriate to recommend the destruction of documents.
46. Two years later, in 1996, Abbot Dillon informed Abbot Charles that the abbey was likely to receive Hurt as a quasi-novice with a view to full membership of its community. Abbot Charles was asked whether he thought this was appropriate and said that ‘for a sinner to repent is always something that we applaud’.
48. On 11 April 2001, Abbot Richard wrote to Abbot Dillon of Glenstal Abbey saying that he had no difficulty with Abbot Dillon’s decision to support Anselm Hurt’s request to be allowed to exercise his priestly ministry. In his evidence to us, however, Dom Richard accepted that it was not right to support Anselm Hurt’s return to the priesthood, and told us that he would not write the same letter today. He said that when he had written it he thought that the offence was ‘ancient history’ and, like Dom Charles, felt it was good that a person who had left the monastery should return. He agreed that he did not take account of the ‘safeguarding implications’ of this

Anonymous10 August 2018 at 16:25

Continuation of above post:
51. In March 2011, the police investigated RC-A216’s complaint. RC-A216 stated that he had been too drunk to consent to anything. The police interviewed Anselm Hurt. He admitted supplying home-brew to RC-A216 and that mutual masturbation had taken place. He accepted a police caution, which resulted in his being placed on the Sex Offenders Register.”
Through worldly retrospectacles the decision to ignore Anslem’s past seems now like a poor one made by Abbott Dillon; a decision heavily influenced, I surmise, (having known the man and having always found him to be intelligent and kind), on a Christian’s faith in man’s ability to reform and the Christian’s duty to forgive. What I find less easy to square is a comment made in The Irish Independent 14th January 2012 when the story about Br Anslem was in the news:
“…The current headmaster at Glenstal, Brother Martin Browne, said last night that Glenstal operated totally independently of Downside and had not become aware until last February that an allegation had been made against Brother Anselm…”
Really? That’s simply not true according to this week’s report

The second point is that the report seems to reinforce my suggestion that a reason for non-prosecution at the time of Anslems’ offence may be that the parents did not wish to make a formal charge: From the report:

“…32. The Department of Education and Science (DES) replied to Fr Aelred Watkin on 9 February 1970. They said that a report to the police was expected in all cases in which there appeared to have been a sexual offence against a child and asked if there were any reasons why Fr Aelred thought it inadvisable to inform the police. Fr Aelred wrote to DES on 11 February 1970 and told them that it had not been thought necessary to report the matter to the police because:
i. RC-A216’s parents ‘were not anxious for this course’
ii. Hurt had been sent away immediately
iii. given RC-A216’s age, ‘a certain element of possible willing participation cannot be excluded’
The DES wrote back, noting the reasons given and stated that they did not want to press the matter of reporting to the police any further.”


It is good that Glenstal was given some credit for its general safeguarding procedures.


I do find it strange that a man who was exclaustrated and laicised by the Vatican, placed on the sex offender’s register after being cautioned by the police, and who went on to have two marriages and divorces was taken into Glenstal as a monk.

We are assured that he has never acted inappropriately in the Glenstal school – even though they did put him in charge of the school chess club AFTER Downside had told them all about his past.

In the comments section above one former pupil has said he associated with Anselm in the school.

Professionally such a person should never be accepted in a monastery – especially one with a boy’s school on the campus.

Two questions arise:

1. Did Brother Anselm come with a large dowry?

2. Why does Glenstal think it can do differently than other organisations, corporations and bodies?


The accusations against this innocent monk were appealing.

The accuser should have felt the full force of the law.


Another famous alumni of Glenstal is the former Abbot of the Dormition monastery in Jerusalem who put the monastery and its monks in danger of attack by a Palestinian family.

He made a new career for himself as a COE victory.


Brendan Coffey has a part time job as a VISITATION INSPECTOR of other monasteries like Ampleforth and Silverstream.

He might be better staying at home in Glenstal and keeping his own house in order?

He seems to have rescued MARK KIRBY and put him back in Silverstream while playing a major role in the banishment and impoverishment of the innocent whistle blower monk.

Coffey has also become the ARCH DEFENDER of Abbot Richard Purcell of Mount Mellerary?

Is Cofffey the defender of the accused and the inquisitor of the victimised and truth tellers?

A few months ago I thought that the bad rot had set in among the secular priests.

I am now wondering if what goes on behind monastery walls worse???