The island of Caldey which lies the Welsh coast on the West of the UK looks stunning. Clifftop walks, tea gardens, and beautiful beaches. Silence all around as pilgrims come for religious retreat, joining the monks in prayer at the grand Abbey of Our Lady and St Samson, famous in all of Wales.
But since three years, it was revealed that all is not as idyllic as everyone thought as more and more stories surface about a predator called Father Thaddeus Kotik.
The monk arrived as a polish soldier after the second world war and came to the abbey in 1947, joining the very strict Cisterian order. In 1956 he became a priest and in the 70s and 80s, he welcomed many children for retreats on the island, all of whom he sexually abused.
Some of those have now come forward with horrible stories of what went on during those years.
Already in the 1990s, people tried to warn the Catholic school principals who would send classes there about the abuse that was ongoing, sending letters to the then Abbot, Father Robert O’Brien.
Father O’Brien would write back saying that Priest Kotic ‘hadn’t meant to hurt them.’
“I summoned Fr Thaddeus and warned him of the wrong he was doing the children and the danger. He was very contrite, assured me it had gone no further. I tried to keep an eye on his goings and comings. I think he did improve a while.”
After Priest Kotik died in 2014, the stories flooded in, and the once famous abbey now stands shrouded in scandal because of him, with Catholic schools all over Wales reluctant to send any further vacation classes to the island.
“I have heard occasionally about this serious matter as regards Father Thaddeus. The effect that this abuse has had on the abbey has been quietly catastrophic.”
The abbey did ask the local courts to grant them exemption from prosecution, as they feel they are not responsible as an institution for the behavior of one priest alone.