Confidential letters from Scottish bishops, dating back to 1995 and including every diocese in Scotland, will be reviewed by Police Scotland, the force confirmed.
In one, a bishop describes abuse against “two severely mentally-handicapped young female adults”, according to reports in a Sunday newspaper. Another reportedly refers to a 15-year-old boy as “sexually mature”.
Former advisor to the Motherwell diocese, Alan Draper, called for criminal investigations and an independent Scottish Government inquiry into sexual abuse in the Church.
The revelation came as it was revealed that a former moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly has been asked to look into safeguarding procedures in the Catholic church. Andrew McLellan, who is also a former chief inspector of prisons for Scotland, will oversee the review.
Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said the Church has co-operated with police and would continue to do so.
He added: “I understand that all the information concerned was passed to police many years ago and investigated. If someone has been in possession of material which they felt showed criminal behaviour, they would be expected to explain why they had taken 18 years to hand it to the authorities.
“The current initiatives being launched are not only statistical, qualitative analysis will also be undertaken. The needs of survivors, remains a primary concern of the Church.
“Dr Andrew McLellan will chair a panel of experts with wide experience in a range of disciplines, the composition of which will be a matter for him to decide. He is an eminent and respected public figure with an exemplary record of public service. The review will look at procedures, the historical audit will look at how cases were dealt with.
“It would be negligent to just focus on how we deal with abuse without giving a context of safe and professional practice where risk is assessed and early intervention is essential.”
But Mr Draper, a former deputy director of social work and retired senior lecturer in medical ethics at Dundee University, said the review was a “charade”.
Mr Draper criticised the lack of a forensic audit to open files and look at cases. He said: “It’s pious words. It says the Church recognises the trauma and pain of survivors. How are they doing that? Where’s the evidence of justice and healing?
“They talk about supporting those who have been harmed. Where’s the support? If anyone attempts to sue the Church, the attitude turns adversarial and the lawyers and insurance people say ‘no’.”
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who was Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric, stepped down in February after three priests and a former priest made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him.
He issued an apology, saying “there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me”. He stated that he would play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland. He later left the country for a period of “spiritual renewal”.
At the weekend, Archbishop Leo Cushley, his successor, suggested that the Vatican would not be pursuing any further action in relation to O’Brien. The Archbishop said: “My impression is that Rome has finished with this. They will monitor the situation. He will not return to Scotland. Nothing is a lifetime sentence, but it is a reasonable assumption that he will not be coming back in the near future.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it would be inappropriate to comment while a police investigation was ongoing.