English RC Church tells Scots: Open up on abuse

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THE head of child protection for the Catholic Church in England and Wales has said the Scottish church should open its files up to an independent inquiry.

Danny Sullivan, chairman of the Catholic Safeguarding Commission in England and Wales, said the Church in Scotland would benefit from outside scrutiny and criticised those in the church who suggested their current system was “streets ahead”.

The chairman was responding to Bishop Joseph Devine, the retired bishop of Motherwell, who has dismissed calls for an independent inquiry, which is currently being considered by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Scotland after the controversy surrounding sexual abuse at Fort Augustus Abbey School.

In a letter to Catholic weekly The Tablet, Mr Sullivan wrote: “Bishop Devine is wrong to dismiss an external review of safeguarding in Scotland on the number of cases he believes it involves. Viewing the documentary on Fort Augustus Abbey School makes appallingly clear once more the profound damage to one individual by abuse. England and Wales has benefitted from two external reviews which have given us a sense of purpose and strategy though we never regard ourselves as ‘streets ahead’ of anyone else. There indeed lies the road to complacency.”

He also criticised the bishop for pointing out that abuse is not restricted to Catholic institutions. “The Church above all has no defence. Long before procedures and protocols became necessary we always had the Gospels where Jesus made absolutely clear what should happen to anyone who harmed a child.”

The Catholic Church in Scotland is considering whether to ask an outside body to review its safeguarding record. Alan Draper, who advised the Church in Scotland on sexual abuse in the 1990s, said an independent inquiry was crucial if the Church wish to retain a level of trust.

A spokesman for the Church was unavailable for comment.