Cardinal O’Brien ‘blackmail threat’ to abuse victim
“Michael X”, who received £42,000 granted by the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in 1990 following his traumatic experiences, said yesterday that when he insisted Father Desmond Lynagh, who had abused him while he was a 14-year-old junior seminarian at Blairs in Aberdeen in the 1970s, should be sent away for counselling and no longer minister to children and young people, the archbishop had threatened him with the police.
In an exclusive interview with The Scotsman, Mr X said: “He then stood up. I remember he was wearing a black soutane with his pectoral cross and he said, ‘Do you know who I am? Nobody tells me what to do. If you go to the police then I will tell then that you are trying to blackmail me’.”
He went on: “I said that if I went to the police then I’d be frightened, but I would tell them that I was trying to force him to keep a sex offender out of circulation. I would tell them what I was doing and I would be ready to go to prison if I had to.”
At the end of the meeting, when Mr X repeated his threat to report Lynagh to the authorities unless he was sent for counselling, he recalled the archbishop “leaned forward towards me and I could feel his breath on my collar and he said, ‘You are just another abused child. No-one will believe you’. I have no reason to exaggerate. That is what he told me”.
Mr X said he now believed the archbishop had been unable to handle the matter correctly because of how he himself had acted while a spiritual director.
According to recent media reports, Cardinal O’Brien acted “inappropriately” with a 20-year-old seminarian in 1980 after night prayers.
Yesterday, Mr X said: “Psychologically, he could not afford to look at it, because what happened to me held up a mirror to his own behaviour…Looking back at his dealings with me, I now know that he would have been aware of his own version of a betrayal of trust and misuse of authority during his time as a spiritual director.”
He said reading the revelations of the past week had made him think of his own experiences.
“I do see parallels,” he said. “My chief abuser was Des Lynagh, but when I went to speak to my spiritual director, Father Frank Kennedy, he was at first supportive to me but he later attacked me in the room.
“However, I was a young person and not a priest, but it clearly brought back memories of what it was like to be a victim of clerical abuse and having to disclose it. The common feeling for all victims of abuse – men and women – is the worry of whether or not you will be believed. I understand why it took so long for these men to come forward.”
Mr X was sexually abused by two priests, Lynagh and Father Frank Kennedy, who later died. In 1990, after going through therapy for the trauma, he confronted the archbishop about the behaviour of Lynagh, who was a priest in his archdiocese. The archbishop conceded he knew of the abuse and eventually agreed to send him to Gracewell Clinic in Birmingham, run by a counsellor who specialised in the treatment of sex offenders.
He also agreed to pay Mr X £42,000 for the considerable trauma he had suffered, which left him unable to work, and promised that Lynagh would no longer work with children or young people.
Six years later, when Mr X discovered Lynagh had been appointed director of a retreat centre where young people would stay overnight, he contacted Lothian and Borders Police. Lynagh was later sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Yesterday, Mr X, now 54 and unemployed, said taking away the cardinal’s title could send a powerful signal to the Catholic community around the world. He said: “If he was stripped of his red hat, it may have some value as a symbolic gesture. But I would also say that Rome sees Scotland as a ‘special daughter’, so perhaps not only should he be stripped of his red hat but a red hat should be denied to Scotland for a period of time. That would also have a symbolic significance.”
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said Cardinal O’Brien was unavailable for comment.