Catholic Church ‘can no longer cover up abuse’

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THE Catholic Church in Scotland can no longer cover up the abuse of children and vulnerable adults as they have done in the past according to the head of a new external review.

Dr Andrew McLellan, the former moderator of the Church of Scotland, who will lead an 18 month review of the Catholic Church’s current safeguarding protocols, said: “The only credible policy for a church must be ‘no abuse; no cover-up.”

'The only credible policy for a church must be 'no abuse, no cover-up'. Picture: TSPL

'The only credible policy for a church must be 'no abuse, no cover-up'. Picture: TSPL

At a press conference to launch the McLellan Commission, the minister said: “Our task is primarily to help to protect children and vulnerable adults; it is not to protect the Catholic Church. But we want to help that Church to get right its policies and practices with regard to abuse. The only credible policy for a church must be ‘no abuse; no cover-up”. It is to the credit of the Catholic Church in Scotland that it has appointed this commission to help implement that policy.”

Dr McLellan said he will be listening to any victims of abuse who contacts the Commission and informs them about how they were treated by the Catholic Church.

However the parameters of the commission does not extend to a review of historical cases of abuse which are instead the subject of a separate report to be conducted internally by the Catholic Church.

He said: “Although it is not within the scope of the Commission to investigate or adjudicate on current or historical allegations, the Commission will listen to the experience of survivors of harm and abuse within the Church. It will draw on such experiences in identifying what aspects of the approach to Safeguarding within the Church have helped or hindered matters being raised and addressed.”

The 11 members of the commission also involve Malcolm Graham, the assistant chief constable of the Police Service of Scotland, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, a retired judge and former Solicitor General for Scotland and Sheena McDonald, the jouranlist and broadcaster.

Other members include Dr David McAllister, former assistant chief inspector of Prisons for Scotland, Kathleen Marshall, former commissioners for Children and Young People in Scotland and Bishop Stephen Robson, the Catholic Bishop of Dunkeld, who was previously auxiliary bishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh under Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who was forced to resign in disgrace after being accused of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ with diocesan priests and a seminarian.

The Commission will also assess the quality of support, which is available to survivors of abuse and will seek to determine whether there is evidence of improvement and learning in the church’s response to abuse.

The report and recommendations are expected to be published by summer 2015, however Dr McLellan said: “if we encounter a matter which should be acted upon immediately we shall not hesitate to do so. No boundaries have been put up by the Bishops on the Commission’s asking whatever challenging questions might be necessary to ensure that the Church learns from what has not worked well enough in the past and to embed safeguarding for the future.”

The Commission will divide up into six review groups looking at: church culture and theology; the civil context of legislation and compliance; policy, procedure and practice; structure and organisation of safeguarding within the Catholic Church; liaison with police, social work etc and evaluation and continuous improvement.

“Our task is to make Scotland safer. The safety of children and vulnerable adults in the Catholic Church is not just a matter for the Catholic Church.”