Obituary, The Guardian, 6th January 2011
Colourful priest with a practical grasp of Catholic values.
Whatever his weaknesses – and he readily acknowledged that he was as human as the next man – Cunningham was always redeemed by his sense of humour, his sound judgment as to what the church should really be about, and his willingness to serve whoever needed his help.
Endowed with a genial Chestertonian figure and a powerful voice...Obituary, The Daily Telegraph, 13th December 2010
He was greatly loved by many people whose lives he touched.Andrew M. Brown in the Daily Telegraph Blogs, 12th December 2010
One of the good 'uns.Comment on that blog.
All descriptions of Father Kit Cunningham, a celebrity priest of sorts, of the Rosminian Order. But, in fact, he was another child abusing Catholic priest:
[John] Poppleton had been repeatedly sexually abused as a young boy by Fr Kit, an experience that he says "broke me down and broke my spirit". The abuse took place at St Michael's, Soni, in the 1960s, in what was then Tanganyika, now Tanzania. Four of the priests who taught there, all members of the Rosminian order, and including Fr Kit, perpetrated physical and sexual abuse that made this boarding school, according to Poppleton, "a loveless, violent and sad hellhole".Now a new BBC documentary, Abused: Breaking The Silence (Tuesday, 22:35 on BBC One), is to be screened telling the story of the abuse that took place at St Michael's, Soni in Tanzania in the 1960s.
The piece by Peter Stanford in The Guardian is chilling, because it shows how easily these evil but charming and charismatic men can fool the credulous. Stanford penned the Guardian obit, but now has to come to terms with his inability to spot a monster in his midst; it turned out that Father Kit had returned his MBE because of the abuse he committed. Not a hint of this in the fulsome obits above, although there are some ironic (if they weren't so tragic) double entendres. How could this have been missed? Stanford is starting to ask questions, thank dog:
In almost three decades of writing about the church, and a lifetime as part of it, I thought I knew how to read a priest. Since the 1990s, when the scandal of paedophile priests first emerged in the public domain, a question mark has been hanging over almost every cleric as a result of the church's cover-up. Almost every priest, but not, for me, foolishly imagining myself a seasoned observer, over Fr Kit.Such credulity is, unfortunately, an all too human failing. That is why the Catholic church cover-up is an even worse evil than the original abuse, because it has taken a dreadful abuse of authority and multiplied it by n, placing the welfare of the Church above the welfare of people. This supervenience of the institution over people is the evil of the religious institution in principle. Consider this:
However, Frenkiel [the reporter] points out in her film that on the day that Pope Benedict XVI, during his visit to Britain last September, was in Westminster Cathedral expressing his "deep sorrow to innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes", the Rosminian order was writing to refuse to pay any compensation for what it has openly acknowledged are the crimes of four of its own priests.This is nauseating. Remember, Pope Benny was saying:
"It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly mission was possible"... He said the first priority was to help the victims to recover from the trauma they had undergone "and rediscover too their faith in the message of Christ"...while his Church was still denying compensation to its victims. Stanford wonders about the ongoing cover-ups and realises it calls into question the priorities of his Church. He continues:
Such questions might nag away slightly less insistently if I thought the Catholic authorities were genuinely trying to understand the root causes of this scandal. But this month the quasi-official Catholic Truth Society published a booklet on clerical sex-abuse that blames it on the "permissive society" of the 1960s. So while everyone else took sexual liberation to mean you didn't have to wait until you were married, priests took it as licence to abuse children?I would urge Stanford to leave his Church, but first insist that it opens up its records for a full independent international inquiry into this scandal. It's a disgrace that this priest didn't die in disgrace.
UPDATE: Note that Patrick Wall, working for lawyers for the abused, is quoted as saying that abuse continues:
"I'm working on stuff that happened in the summer of 2010," he says. "It's the same old sodomy."If this is true, the Catholic Church must be held accountable.
He recommends that the church "completely get out" of child protection, hand over all its files to civil law enforcement, and make bishops sign a legal oath every year that there are no perpetrators in the ministry - which would open them to criminal prosecution if they are found to have lied.
"Otherwise," he says, "I'll be prosecuting priest sex abuse cases for the rest of my life."