Archbishop has 'no recollection' of child abuse confession

Lady Smith is leading the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry
Lady Smith is leading the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry
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An inquiry has heard that Archbishop Mario Conti has “no recollection” of being told about child abuse while hearing confession in the 1960s.

Lawyers for the former bishop of Aberdeen told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in Edinburgh that he “squarely and unequivocally” recognises that children were failed by the Church.

The inquiry, before Lady Smith, has been hearing evidence relating to the physical and sexual abuse of children at four homes run by the Sisters of Nazareth, which closed in the 1980s.

The inquiry has previously heard from Joseph Currie, who waived his right to anonymity to tell the inquiry he reported the abuse he suffered at Nazareth House in Aberdeen to Archbishop Conti in the 1960s.

Appearing on behalf of the priest, advocate Alan Inglis said Archbishop Conti had “no recollection of Joseph Currie having come to him” or having taken his confession.

Last week the archbishop, who is now retired, told the inquiry that he first became aware of the abuse allegations against the Sisters of Nazareth when he was visited by police officers in the late 1990s.

Mr Inglis said the archbishop was “profoundly shocked” by the abuse which took place and wanted to express his “deep sorrow and heartfelt sympathy”.

In a statement read out by the lawyer, Archbishop Conti said: “We did not hear them or listen to them or believe their cries. For that I ask for forgiveness. It will not, cannot, happen again.”

The inquiry has heard allegations of beatings, force-feeding and degrading treatment at the four institutions run by the Sisters of Nazareth.

There have also been allegations of sexual abuse, including claims by a former resident of the home in Cardonald, Glasgow, that they were raped in a confessional by a priest.

Yesterday it was heard that 270 civil actions for damages have been raised against the Sisters, with only around a third of the litigants so far giving evidence to the inquiry.

David Anderson, representing the Bishops’ Conference, said there had been many credible testimonies from applicants who gave evidence.

He said: “The Bishops’ Conference takes these witnesses at face value and does not challenge their evidence.”

He said the “journey of understanding” gone on by Abp Conti had “aligned” with that of the current Church hierarchy in Scotland.

The inquiry also heard yesterday from lawyers representing the Scottish Government that work being carried out on financial redress for survivors is due to report to Deputy First Minister John Swinney in the autumn.