The monks of Downside Abbey are to leave the famous monastery, the community has announced.
The total separation of the monastery from Downside School, plus shrinking numbers mean that the current buildings are “no longer suitable” and the monks have “unanimously decided to make a new start and to seek a new place to live,” the community said.
The monastery separated from the school after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found a “culture of acceptance of abusive behaviour” at the school that prioritised the reputations of the monks over child safety. Since last year, Downside School has been run by a new charity with no involvement from the monks.
“The last six years have given the Downside Community time to reflect with sorrow on failures in the care for children entrusted to them and to discern the Community’s future. With smaller numbers and changing circumstances, the current monastery buildings are no longer suitable,” the community said in a statement reported in the Tablet.
“Abbot Nicholas and the Community recognise the importance of taking some time to find a new place and to formulate a plan with regard to this move. They will listen to the interests of the parishioners, employees, tenants, oblates and volunteers associated with the monastery whilst securing the future care of Downside’s Abbey Church, Library and Archives. The now independent Downside School will continue to grow and establish itself at Stratton-on-the-Fosse.
“The Benedictine Community currently located at Downside Abbey, Somerset, was founded in 1606 in Douai in the Spanish Netherlands. Following the French Revolution the monks moved to Acton Burnell in Shropshire and then to its current site in 1814.
“The monks now ask the prayers and support of the faithful as they seek afresh the will of God for their continuing Benedictine life and mission and embark on this third move in their history.”