Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kit Cunningham: My friend, my priest a paedophile .

Father Kit Cunningham
Father Kit Cunningham abused schoolchildren in his care at Soni, Tanzania. Photograph: Mike Pattison
All journalists like seeing their articles discussed on television, even when they're being challenged, but the sight of John Poppleton holding a copy of an obituary I wrote earlier this year for the Guardian made me feel profoundly ashamed.

The subject was Father Kit Cunningham, the Catholic priest who had married us, baptised my son (who shares his Christian name) and was a family friend for 20 years. "A Technicolor eccentric, and widely loved as a consequence," the obituary read.

"I find this," Poppleton said, brandishing the newspaper cutting to camera as if it were contaminated, "offensive. This priest was a monster."

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" more