Complaints of clerical sexual abuse stretching back almost 70 years are the subject of a review by the Catholic Church in Scotland, which insists any serious complaint since 1947 must be passed on to the police even if both alleged victim and priest are dead.
Tina Campbell, national safeguarding co-ordinator for the Scottish Catholic Church, said that for the first time the eight dioceses will be made accountable for their handling of clerical sexual abuse and that allegations ignored by previous bishops will be reported by her office to Police Scotland.
She said: “They are having to report if they have actioned or not. If they say, ‘we found something in the file but we haven’t reported it to the police’, they will be questioned about that.
“If there is an allegation and it has not been reported to police it must now be reported.”
The Catholic Church in Scotland is undergoing a two-tiered examination of its handling of clerical sex abuse. The McLellan Commission, led by the Very Reverend Dr Andrew McLellan, a former moderator of the Church of Scotland, is examining the Catholic Church’s current safety provisions and is expected to report early next year.
A second study of historical cases from 1947 to 2007 is now under way with each diocese expected to provide detailed information on: complaints of sexual abuse reported to the police and their outcome; complaints not reported, the reason why and proof that they have now been reported; and, finally, updates on “problem priests” who are not accused of criminal behaviour but have formed inappropriate relationships etc and details of their treatment and support.
The historical review is also being carried out by all religious organisations, including orders of nuns and monks such as at Fort Augustus, now the subject of a police investigation over allegations of rape and sexual abuse of boys.
A source close to the Church said: “There could well be further police investigations as a result of the historical review.”
Once collated by the national safeguarding co-ordinator, the statistics will be analysed by Professor Eddie McKenzie at Strathclyde University before publication. However, the information will be anonymised and the names of abuser priests withheld.
Asked if the Catholic Church was funding professional counselling for the victims of abuser priests, Campbell said she did not know.
She said: “I would say they probably are but I wouldn’t necessarily know. It would be very much dependent on each diocese and what is happening. I wouldn’t be able to say with great certainty of this case or that case.”
Last week, Father Thomas Mullen, a priest in the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, was dismissed by the Vatican over child abuse allegations, despite the Crown deciding not to prosecute due to the time that had elapsed since the alleged offences.
However Alan Draper, a former deputy director of social work, who has advised the Church on abuse issues, was critical of the delays. He said: “It is an indictment it has taken so long. It is still not sufficiently independent, being left to the very people likely to have been involved in the past cover-ups.
“The greater indictment is the failure to support victims and the fact Tina Campbell has no knowledge of what has been done, if anything.
“The bishops should hang their heads in shame.”