Priest abuse victim ‘made to sign gagging clause’

Cardinal O'Brien

Cardinal O'Brien

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THE Catholic Church in Scotland arranged for a teenage victim of an abusive priest to be paid £200 and made him sign a legal document promising not to tell anyone.

“Sam Y” told The Scotsman he was made to feel that he was to blame for the assault by Father Desmond Lynagh, who had been moved by the Catholic Church from Blairs Seminary after he abused a 14-year-old to Stirling University, where he served as a chaplain.

Lynagh attempted to kiss and fondle the student while driving him home from a party in October 1983. After complaining to an Edinburgh priest, the 18-year-old student was taken to a meeting in a lawyer’s office in Glasgow, paid £200 for “travel expenses” and ordered by what he believes was a senior figure in the Catholic Church not to tell anyone about the assault.

Sam Y, who came forward after reading about the experiences of “Michael X” in The Scotsman, said he wanted to highlight how the Catholic Church in Scotland lied to him about Lynagh’s abusive past and attempted a cover-up.

He said: “A senior member of the Church told me a story that was utter fiction. The overwhelming thing that has eaten away at me for years and years is that the Church definitely knew about Lynagh at Blairs and, in the full knowledge of that information, they moved him to a university campus.”

A devout Catholic, Sam Y was an active member of the Catholic community and regularly attended when Lynagh said Mass at Stirling University.

One night at a student halls of residence party, where Sam Y was slightly drunk, he went to the toilet and was followed by the priest, who tried forcibly to hug him.

Later, the priest suggested driving him back to his student flat.

“There was a lot of smutty talk from him to me, then he began touching me and attempting to kiss me and all that sort of stuff. There was aggravated sexual language.

“At that point I said I needed to go to the toilet. He let me out the car and I ran. It was by no means rape, but I knew something was horrendously wrong.”

The student, who was in first year, was so fearful of Lynagh that he dropped out of univer­sity. The first priest he approached was unhelpful, but a second priest based in Edinburgh was extremely supportive and confronted Lynagh, who admitted the assault.

However, later he contacted Sam Y and asked him to accompany him to a meeting in Glasgow which, unbeknown to Sam Y or the Edinburgh priest, was to be attended by a lawyer for Lynagh.

He said: “I got into the meeting. There was a lawyer sitting to my left and there was a very senior Catholic priest who did all the talking. We were in an oak-panelled room with an old desk. The tone that was taken with me was that I was a naughty schoolboy being admonished for provoking a situation that other people just had to deal with now.

“I had given them a problem. I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t speak to anybody.

“Was it implied, or was it said that I had caused this? I don’t know, but it was not, ‘What a dreadful shame what has happen­ed to you’.

“I was given an agreement and told I better sign it. It was going to be legally demanding and that if ever anything came out, they would deny it 100 per cent.

“Which was why when Michael X said he was told, ‘You are just another victim’, that resonated very, very strongly.

“I was told, ‘You must sign this agreement’. There were three much older adults in the room and me. I was a kid.

“They told me to sign something. I signed it. I was never given a copy of it. I had never asked for money, but money was given to me. I was told it was because of the travelling and inconvenience I had gone through. The frustrating thing was that they gave me a cheque.

“The bank statement with the cheque for the payment amount, I kept it for years. I kept it because I knew it was wrong.”

Sam Y said the Edinburgh priest was very uncomfortable with the manner in which it was handled. “I was handled pretty aggressively and left under no illusion I had better shut up.”

Years later, when Sam Y read that Lynagh was being charged with the sexual abuse of Michael X, he contacted Lothian and Borders Police, who said his testimony was not required to secure a conviction and that he was “one of many”. Lynagh was later sentenced to three years in prison.

Sam Y remains angry at the manner in which he was treated: “No-one ever apologised. No-one ever sought me out. No-one ever took responsibility as an organisation. I was absolutely swept under the carpet.”

Yesterday, Tom Devine, the historian, said: “What this person is saying is in line with other stories and evidence of the time, that the general approach of the Church was … to avoid what we call scandal.

“Although these people were hurt, an even greater evil was to cause consternation or scandal to the rest of the Church.

“What is difficult to understand is why men, who can honestly be regarded as good men, were prepared to, in a sense, collaborate with this. I think their approach was that, ‘This is the lesser of two evils’ and then when it became so extreme, and a structural problem, not just one of personality, they changed their tune.

“The irony is that the Church in Scotland over the last ten years has an admirable record.”

Last night, a Catholic Church spokesman said: “Errors in the handling of historic cases have informed current safeguarding standards. There is always room for improvement, but many lessons have been learned and the Church can only renew its apologies to those whose complaints were not taken seriously or handled properly.”

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