Church is urged to release secret sex abuse files

Keith O'Brien: Cardinal was brought down by priests out for 'revenge'. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE Catholic Church in Scotland should open its “secret” files and publish an audit of abusive priests, according to the former head of the Church’s working party on child protection.

Alan Draper, who compiled a report on 22 “problem priests” as long ago as 1995, criticised the Church for paying lip service and failing to act on a second damning report in 2004, which said certain priests were not adequately monitored and “unacceptable levels of risk to children may have been and could remain present”.

The second, 27-page report was written by May Dunsmuir, then director of child protection for the Catholic Church, and has been seen by The Scotsman. It criticised Scottish bishops for failing to provide proper training, adequate supervision of problem priests and for organising “no national or diocesan collation and dissemination of child protection statistical information and analysis”.

The report, which was sent to Archbishop Keith O’Brien, then president of the Bishops’ Conference, also criticised existing policy as “silent on certain matters, eg, how to respond to allegations involving clergy or a bishop”.

Yesterday, Mr Draper, a retired deputy director of social work in Stockport, who now lives in Scotland, said: “I am not convinced that anything has changed. There is no independence to the whole thing.

“I say to the Church: ‘If you have been doing audits – let us see copies of them’. If we can’t see copies, let’s have an independent investigation as to what has been going on.

“I am challenging them to open their files. If the system is so wonderful, then they will have no concern.”

Mr Draper also said he was considering whether to make a formal request to the police that they investigate the Catholic Church’s handling of abuse cases involving children and vulnerable adults.

After the conviction of Father Desmond Lynagh for the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old seminarian in 1995, the Church appointed Mr Draper to chair a working party into clerical abuse and develop new guidelines for child safety.

The body requested each diocese to detail the number of allegations received against priests since 1985. The only diocese to report no allegations was Paisley, while the other seven produced a total of 22 problem priests.

Of these, a number of cases have since come to light. Some of those priests identified, who were the perpetrators of a single incident against a victim whose parents were adamant the police should not be involved, were quietly moved to another parish.

The working party also uncovered sexual activity by one priest towards a prostitute in her twenties, whom he had been counselling.

When Mr Draper wrote to the late Cardinal Thomas Winning informing him of what he considered to be a potentially abusive relationship, the Archbishop of Glasgow had the priest, who had a history of similar behaviour, quietly moved to a different diocese.

The working party’s primary recommendation was the establishment of an independent child protection officer, to whom all reports would be passed and who would have the authority to contact the police.

However, Cardinal Winning felt Mr Draper was trying to
create a new job for himself, while Bishop Roddy Wright was disturbed by the chairman’s suggestion that the working party widen their remit into “inappropriate relations” among the clergy. Bishop Wright, who had father­ed a child, later abandoned his diocese for a divorcee.

Instead, the Bishops’ Conference opted for an alternative, which saw a lay person in each diocese acting as a child protection officer, who would, in turn, work with a national childcare co-ordinator.

Seven years after the initial report, Ms Dunsmuir, who was appointed director of child protection for the Catholic Church in Scotland, found the system in disarray.

In a detailed report on the eight dioceses, carried out between December 2003 and March 2004, she found out that the problem priests were inadequately supervised and potentially dangerous to children and young adults.

The report, entitled A Review of Child Protection Practices, stated: “Of the diocesan cases reviewed, the director has highlighted a small number of active cases involving clergy which require to be addressed. There is no consistent system of monitoring clergy who present, or may present, a risk to children.

“Because of time restraints, a full review of all secret archives has not been completed. Active cases requiring some further
action indicate that unacceptable levels of risk to children may have been and could remain present.”

Ms Dunsmuir resigned after just four months, shortly after delivering her report.

Yesterday, Mr Draper said: “If they were doing that in 2004, after all we told them in 1996, it does not say very much about the Church. Very little has happened in the intervening time. They need to start coming clean.”

Last night, a spokesman for the Church said: “To describe the Catholic Church’s child protection teams as ‘lip service’ is a slap in the face to a large number of people across the Church who dedicate significant amount of time and resources to providing a safe environment. Alan Draper’s proposal is problematic, and it is unclear exactly what he advocates and how it would work.

“A number of individuals have been involved over many years in the development of policies and procedures and they have competence in many related fields. In 2003, to augment existing diocesan protection staff, the Church appointed a national director of child protection. Ten years later, that post is now titled national co-ordinator and remains a key part of our safeguarding structures.

“The number of annually reported incidents in Scotland has been small since we began to audit and has only very rarely involved a member of the clergy. Where a report is made, the matter is passed on to the police, and we consider it is the responsibility of the police and the pro­secuting authorities to record incidents of criminal behaviour.”

The Church spokesman added: “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 in the past.”

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