Leaders: Archbishop apology only the first step

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NO-ONE can doubt the sincerity of the profound apology offered by the Archbishop of Glasgow to those abused at the hands of the Catholic Church.

From the pulpit, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia spoke of the “horrific crime” of child abuse that had been carried out within the church and pleaded for forgiveness.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia responds to findings of a special commission set up to look into abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. Picture: Getty

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia responds to findings of a special commission set up to look into abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. Picture: Getty

After years of cover-up, at last the Catholic Church appears to be acknowledging what Tartaglia described as the “inexcusable and intolerable” crimes committed by a religious institution found guilty of damaging children in the most appalling way imaginable.

Tartaglia’s apology was made following the publication of yesterday’s independent report into abuse carried out by those involved with the church – a document that made very grim reading indeed.

The investigation, led by Dr Andrew McLellan, a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, touched on the devastation wrought on young lives by those they were supposed to trust.

One abuse survivor described being raped by a priest and a nun when aged only eight. Others spoke movingly of the destructive psychological effects of abuse and their anger at the church’s willingness to conceal what was going on.

The extent to which sexual abuse and a culture of secrecy had infected the church’s hierarchy was illustrated by the case of Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

The accusation of sexual misconduct against O’Brien by three priests and a former priest was one of the scandals that led to the McLellan Commission.

The eight recommendations made by McLellan are a step in the right direction. As he made his apology, Tartaglia promised that McLellan’s proposals would be adopted by the Catholic Church. But that only goes so far.

The anger and hurt still shown by survivors merely underlines the need for more to be done to try and make amends for what has happened in the past.

Alan Draper of In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas) has been one of the leaders in the fight for justice for survivors.

According to Draper, it is only with compensation and criminal charges that survivors would begin to believe that proper action is being taken.

So the thousands of words that went into yesterday’s report and the subsequent apologies must be matched by deeds.

When he asked for forgiveness, Tartaglia said the Catholic bishops of Scotland were “shamed and pained” by what survivors had suffered.

But the shame and pain felt by the bishops are nothing compared with the misery inflicted on those who were abused. Profound apologies – no matter how sincere – are the very least that abuse survivors deserve.

Sturgeon can’t hide from report card

For some time now it has been obvious that the

Scottish education system has become a very pale shadow of its glorious past. Long gone are the days when a Scottish education was seen as a passport to success for children from all walks of life.

Statistics indicating that pupils from affluent areas are far more likely to achieve academic success than those from under-privileged backgrounds illustrate starkly this fall from grace.

After eight years of SNP-run administrations, action is long overdue. Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to publicly stake her reputation on closing the attainment gap is to be welcomed.

The First Minister’s pledge should mean that something is done to drive up standards in classrooms. But her version of Tony Blair’s “education, education, education” speech has important political repercussions.

The First Minister’s hands-on approach will inevitably raise questions about the performance of education secretary Angela Constance, who mounted a less than convincing defence of the Scottish Government’s education record on the Today Programme yesterday morning. More importantly perhaps, Sturgeon’s determination to get to grips with education comes with a political quid pro quo.

By aligning herself so closely with the fate of Scottish education, she must also take responsibility for any shortcomings in the future.

If the Scottish Government fails to rise to the challenge of improving our education system, opposition parties would be entirely justified in laying the blame at Sturgeon’s feet. In the long term, this may become something she lives to regret.