100 secret sex abusers in Catholic Church, says expert

THE “secret archives” of the Catholic Church in Scotland could contain allegations of sexual abuse by as many as 100 priests and other staff in cases stretching back 50 years, according to the former head of the Church’s working party on child protection.
Fort Augustus Abbey school was based on the banks of Loch Ness. Picture: Peter JollyFort Augustus Abbey school was based on the banks of Loch Ness. Picture: Peter Jolly
Fort Augustus Abbey school was based on the banks of Loch Ness. Picture: Peter Jolly

Alan Draper, who compiled a report on “problem priests” in the nineties, dismissed the Church’s plans to publish annual audits of sexual abuse allegations against priests as “window dressing”.

The claims came on the day a bishop apologised for sex abuse at two Scottish schools run by the Church.

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Retired social work director Mr Draper said an independent commission should be allowed access to the archives of each of the eight dioceses in Scotland.

As chairman of the Catholic Church’s working party on child protection, Mr Draper identifed 22 “problem priests” by analysing a ten-year period between 1985 and 1995. Based on that study, he believes records covering the past half century could identity as many as 100 priests and individuals associated with the Church who were accused of sexual abuse.

Yesterday, the retired deputy director of Stockport social work department said: “This organisation [the Church] now lacks all credibility. This is a step, but it is a very small step, and it is not appropriate for the Church to lead this process.

“We need an independent audit going back at least 50 years whereby the dioceses open their records for proper scrutiny and it should be a minimum of three people with participation of victims in the process.”

The Catholic Church announced for the first time yesterday that it will publish the audits – compiled by its National Office of Child Safety – of all allegations made against priests, staff or volunteers and how these were resolved. In the autumn, the Church will release the audits dating back to 2006, when co-ordinated procedures were first put in place across the whole country. The exercise will then be repeated annually.

The Church is also preparing a more detailed report for publication next year. That deals with all historical cases stretching across all dioceses in Scotland and is an attempt to end the stream of damaging revelations, many of them dating back to the 1950s and 1960s.

New guidelines were first drawn up in 1996 after the conviction of Father Desmond Lynagh for the sexual abuse of Michael X, a student at Blairs junior seminary between 1973 and 1975.

In 2004, May Dunsmuir, the director of child protection for the Catholic Church in Scotland, wrote a hard-hitting memo stating that “an unacceptable level of risk to children may have been and could remain present”.

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Before resigning from the post, Mrs Dunsmuir criticised the hierarchy for failing to adequately monitor certain priests and failing to conduct a national analysis or collate figures across each of the eight dioceses.

At the time, she wrote in a report, A Review of Child Protection Practices: “Of the diocesan cases reviewed, the director has highlighted a small number of active cases involving clergy which require to be addressed. There is no consistent system of monitoring clergy who present, or may present, a risk to children.

“Because of time constraints, a full review of all secret archives has not been completed. Active cases requiring some further action indicate that unacceptable levels of risk to children may have been and could remain present.”

Yesterday, the Bishop of Aberdeen, Hugh Gilbert, apologised on behalf of the Catholic Church for the sexual abuse of pupils by Benedictine monks at Fort Augustus Abbey school and its preparatory school, Carlekemp in East Lothian.

During a sermon at Fort Augustus parish church, Bishop Gilbert told the congregation: “It is a most bitter, shaming and distressing thing that in this former abbey school a small number of baptised, consecrated and ordained Christian men physically or sexually abused those in their care.

“I know that Abbot Richard Yeo has offered an apology to those who have suffered such abuse and I join him in that. We are anxious that there be a thorough police investigation into all this. And, that all that can be done should be done for the victims. All of us must surely pray for those who have suffered.

“The Catholic Church in Scotland has been addressing this issue increasingly effectively in recent years. We want to work with all public bodies who care for the young and vulnerable adults. We wish to share our experience and share best practice so that lessons can be learned and children can always be fully protected.”

A BBC investigation, broadcast last week, uncovered evidence of physical violence and sexual assault, including rape by monks at the fee-paying schools, which have since been closed. The cases of abuse are now being investigated by Police Scotland.

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Last night, a spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “It is impossible to make predictions as to what an audit of the last 50 years could reveal.

“We are confident that the transparency of our published audits will satisfy, demonstrating that we are today at the forefront of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. Inevitably, there will be some who simply won’t believe us.”