Catholic Church in Scotland told to apologise to abuse victims

August 18, 2015

The Catholic Church in Scotland has been urged to apologise to abuse survivors.

The Archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia has apologised to victims of abuse.
Photo by Danny Lawson

Cardinal Keith O'Brien stood down from the archdiocese of St Andrews in 2013 after allegations of improper sexual behaviour.
Photo by David Cheskin

Scotland's most senior Catholic Archbishop has offered a "profound apology" to survivors of abuse in the Catholic Church in Scotland.

The apology comes after an independent review into the handling of abuse allegations said the church must prioritise survivors and make an "unmistakeable and unequivocal apology" to those affected.

The review, which was set up in November 2013 following a series of scandals including the resignation of disgraced cardinal Keith O'Brien, made eight recommendations, including calling on the church to update its guidelines on safeguarding vulnerable children and adults.

However, former chief inspector of prisons the Very Rev Andrew McLellan, said nothing in its findings were "more important than our first recommendation: that support for the survivors of abuse must be an absolute priority for the Catholic Church in Scotland".

Following the review, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, president of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, issued an apology during his mass at St Andrew's Cathedral in Glasgow.

As the president of the Bishops' Conference, and on behalf of all the Bishops of Scotland, I want to offer a profound apology to all those who have been harmed and who have suffered in any way as a result of actions by anyone within the Catholic Church.

Child abuse is a horrific crime. That this abuse should have been carried out within the Church, and by priests and religious, takes that abuse to another level. Such actions are inexcusable and intolerable. The harm the perpetrators of abuse have caused is first and foremost to their victims, but it extends far beyond them, to their families and friends, as well as to the church and wider society.

– Archbishop Philip Tartaglia

The recommendations were made as church figures revealed that there were no prosecutions in 61% of cases reported between 2006 and 2012.

A total of 46 allegations were made during that period, of which 55% related to sexual abuse, 19% to physical abuse, 11% to verbal abuse and 15% to emotional abuse.

As part of its work, the commission heard from victims of abuse but did not extend to investigating current or historical allegations.

Following its findings, a review into all historical abuse claims between 1947 and 2005 has been launched.

The commission also urged a consistent approach to dealing with allegations across Scotland and called for improved training for those within the church.

Publishing the review, Most Rev McLennan said the church had an "unrepeatable chance" to make things better and prevent victims from feeling "betrayed".

The Bishops have said from the outset that they will accept our recommendations.

That means that three things will happen.

First, and most important, a beginning will be made to heal the hurt and address the anger which so many survivors feel.

Second, the Catholic Church in Scotland will begin to confront a dark part of its past and find some healing for itself.

Third, a significant step will be taken in restoring public credibility for the Catholic Church.

– Very Rev Andrew McLellan

The commission's eight recommendations

  • Support for survivors of abuse must be an absolute priority for the Catholic Church in Scotland in the field of safeguarding.
  • The policy and practice manual "Awareness and Safety in our Catholic Communities" should be completely revised or rewritten
  • There must be external scrutiny and independence in the safeguarding policies and practices of the Church
  • Effectiveness and improvement must be measured at every level of safeguarding in the Church
  • A consistent approach to safeguarding is essential - consistent across different parts of Scotland and consistent across different parts of the Church
  • Justice must be done, and justice must be seen to be done, for those who have been abused and for those against whom allegations of abuse are made
  • The priority of undertaking regular high-quality training and continuous professional development in safeguarding must be understood and accepted by all those involved in safeguarding at every level
  • The Church must set out a theology of safeguarding which is coherent and compelling



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