Bishops ‘failing survivors of child abuse’

Archbishop Tartaglia said the Church had been 'shamed' by historical child abuse. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA
Archbishop Tartaglia said the Church had been 'shamed' by historical child abuse. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA
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BISHOPS who allegedly colluded in the cover-up of child abuse are maintaining their “iron grip” on the way the Catholic Church treats victims, it has been claimed.

The Church recently published details of how it plans to implement the recommendations of the McLellan Commission, which called for an “unmistakable and unequivocal” apology for victims. But despite a “profound apology” issued by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, survivors of abuse say the Church is continuing to fail them.

In an open letter, In-Care Abuse Survivors (Incas) said those who had been abused by priests had not been consulted in the drawing-up of the plan which sets out how the Church will implement the McLellan recommendations.

Last August, Archbishop Tartaglia begged forgiveness from victims, saying the Church had been “shamed and pained” by what had happened.

It followed the publication of the report by the Very Rev Andrew McLellan, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who said safeguarding victims and potential victims was the “greatest challenge” facing the Church.

The McLellan Commission, which was established in 2014, was charged with undertaking a review of the Church’s procedures for protecting children and vulnerable adults. It made eight recommendations, the chief of which was that the Catholic Church must make support for survivors of abuse an “absolute priority”.

In his letter, Alan Draper, Incas’ parliamentary liaison officer, said: “At no stage have survivors been consulted or asked to assist in drawing up the implementation plan. What does this say about putting survivors at the centre of the process?

“The plan was drawn up, and app­roved, by the very people who the McLellan Commission had identified as having failed survivors.

“They are also being asked to oversee the work. Those people are the bishops, the Conference of Religious and the National Safeguarding ­Adviser.””

A public inquiry into historical abuse began its work late last year, but its remit is restricted to the abuse of children in residential care.

While that means those allegedly abused at institutions such as the Catholic boarding school at Fort Augustus Abbey are likely to have their stories heard, others who were abused by paedophile priests will not.

Draper said: “The (Church’s) implementation plan just lists the recommendations of the McLellan Commission under six working groups, with a management group to oversee the process on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference.

“The people involved are members of the same bodies who have failed survivors.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “The Church welcomes the response to the draft implementation plan from Incas, which will be considered together with all other responses in framing the final document.”