Catholic Church to announce abuse reforms

An independent body is to be established by the Catholic Church in Scotland to oversee the safeguarding of victims and potential victims of abuse.

The McLellan Commission report reviewed all aspects of safeguarding policy, procedure and practice within the Catholic Church. PIcture: Hemedia

The move will form part of a major overhaul of how the Church deals with abuse cases as it implements recommendations by the McLellan Commission on protecting children and vulnerable adults.

The Church accepted the findings in full when the report was published in August. It aims to implement most of the recommendations within two years.

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The commission report said creating proper safeguards was the “greatest challenge” facing the Church following decades of child abuse.

The reforms, agreed by the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, will be published tomorrow - the second anniversary of the launch of the commission under the Very Rev Andrew McLellan, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Its main recommendation was that the Church must make support for survivors of abuse an “absolute priority”.

The Scottish Catholic Observer said the implementation plan aimed to establish a “comprehensive, transparent and consistent process”.

The plan, which will go out to consultation until the end of the year, will confirm the Church’s intention to overhaul its safeguarding service and training, including the creation of an independent body to oversee them.

Establishing this group will be one of the Church’s first tasks as it will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the commission’s recommendations.

The plan stated the Church must also “reach out to survivors” of abuse and establish a “clear policy with regard to meeting any costs relating to the counselling of survivors” and other forms of restitution.

The Church said the reforms would be underpinned by a new “theology of safeguarding”.

It said a new procedural manual, to be used when an abuse claim was made, would demonstrate the Church was “transparent and open”, to provide confidence its structures were “robust and consistent”.

The Church said there would also be robust monitoring procedures to ensure compliance, and to identify potential improvements.

It issued a “profound apology” for past abuse when the commission report was published.

Janine Rennie, chief executive of In Care Survivors Service Scotland, said: “We welcome the establishment of an independent body to oversee the safeguarding of victims and potential victims.

“However, it is important that support for survivors of historic abuse is lifelong, taking into account the overwhelming impact of abuse on the lives of survivors.

“That must be appropriately funded, and for many survivors who have experienced years of financial hardship, restitution should be at an appropriate level.”