Scottish bishops criticised over historic sex abuse failures

Survivors of historic sexual abuse have accused the Catholic Church of failing in its responsibilities to them amid criticism bishops have 'ignored' a high-profile report into the issue.

Bishops have been criticised over failure to act on report into historic sex abuse.
Bishops have been criticised over failure to act on report into historic sex abuse.

Dr Andrew McLellan, a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, said the Catholic hierarchy was in “danger of confirming the worst fears” of victims by its apparent reluctance to act on the recommendations of his commission, which published its report 15 months ago.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia issued a “profound apology” to survivors in August last year following the report’s publication. The McLellan Commission, which was charged with undertaking a review of the Church’s procedures for protecting children and vulnerable adults, made eight recommendations, the chief of which was that the Church must make support for survivors an “absolute priority”.

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But Dr McLellan said the Church had apparently failed to act on a number of the report’s recommendations.

He said: “A year ago the bishops might have used the opportunity of the publication of the report to introduce systemic reform; now they are in danger of confirming the worst fears of survivors and observers by appearing to ignore its recommendations. If we feel frustrated and disappointed, how must survivors feel?”

Responding to Dr McLellan’s comments, In-Care Abuse Survivors (Inca) said: “We have made frequent requests to be involved in the [Church’s] various implementation groups without success. We asked to sit down with members of the hierarchy and the National Coordinator, but this has always been rejected.

“The Church promised to undertake an internal audit of all allegations from 1947 to 2012 and to publish the report in the autumn of 2015. We still await its publication.

“The bishops should make public any credible allegation made against a member of the clergy or religious orders. The people should be named to allow other victims to come forward. The protection of children demands that the Church begins to be open and transparent.”

Father Tom Boyle, assistant general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference, said the Church was committed to implementing the commission’s recommendations in full and had already published a detailed implementation plan.

“Transparency and openness are at the heart of the Church’s safeguarding mission,” he said. “We do not believe any other church, charity or public body in Scotland publishes detailed annual audits nor have any undertaken a public consultation, as the Bishops’ Conference did on its implementation plan.

“In releasing his report last year, Dr McLellan described the bishops’ decision to ask a minister of the Church of Scotland to carry out this review as demonstrating ‘ecumenical trust’ and ‘generosity of spirit’. Since the Church allowed Dr McLellan two years to write his recommendations without comment, it is to be hoped that the in the same spirit of trust and generosity of spirit, the Church will be given at least the same amount of time to implement them.”