Catholic Church in Scotland faces fresh abuse cover-up allegations

By staff writers
March 9, 2013

The BBC says it has seen evidence that Scottish Catholic bishops knew about 20 allegations of child sex abuse by priests between 1985 and 1995.

The academic who compiled a report for the Catholic Church in Scotland, detailing how to deal with abuse, says that it was not acted upon in a decisive or concerted way. Others also allege that the Church "swept the issue under the carpet".

In a separate development, the respected Catholic newspaper The Tablet said on 8 March 2013 that Rome confronted Cardinal Keith O'Brien with allegations concerning his own misdemeanours, which involved young adult men, months ago.

The magazine declared: "Cardinal Keith O'Brien was summoned to Rome as early as October 2012 to answer charges of sexual impropriety. It was previously thought that allegations of misconduct had not emerged until February 23, when a story was published in the Observer describing unwanted sexual advances allegedly made by the cardinal against three serving priests and a then-seminarian in the 1980s.

"However, The Tablet can report that after a priest lodged an allegation with the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal O'Brien was asked to travel to Rome to answer the accusation.

"The disclosure of the earlier complaint about Cardinal O'Brien's sexual conduct also casts a new light on the acceptance of his resignation last November [2012].

"Pope Benedict XVI, in anticipation of the cardinal's 75th birthday on March 17 2013, accepted his resignation nunc pro tunc, meaning "now, for later". However, once further allegations were made public, he accepted the cardinal's resignation with immediate effect on 25 February."

In relation to the BBC's child abuse cover-up charge, the Catholic Church in Scotland issued an immediate statement insisting that its child protection procedures have improved dramatically since 1999, and that allegations of abuse now are rare.

But critics say that it remains defensive and unwilling to contemplate the true depths of the problem uncovered by these latest revelations and the admission by Cardinal O'Brien that he was guilty of 'sexual misconduct' - or, as the victims put it, sex abuse and abuse of power.

In the mid-'90s, Dundee University ethics lecturer Alan Draper asked Scotland's eight Catholic bishops how much they knew about abuse within the church. Letters that they sent in reply, which refer to 20 allegations of child abuse by priests, have now come into the public domain.

He told the BBC: "I was very concerned about their unwillingness to actually expose individual priests who were leaving double lives.

"They were very reluctant to do that, and I felt that was totally inappropriate. It's not what your sexuality is, it's how you're managing your sexuality.

“Certainly there's strong evidence to say some of the priests were out of control sexually, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual.

“The file should be made open to an independent group, preferably chaired by a judge.”

Lawyer Cameron Fyfe added: "I am now acting for six clients who allege abuse, two of whom have come forward just in the last few weeks since the Keith O'Brien scandal. Some of them go back to the early 1980s, but two of them have been within the last 10 years."

The Catholic Church in Scotland was not offering spokespeople for comment earlier in the evening (8 March 2013).

It said that Mr Draper had been replaced by people with "greater competence" and added in its statement of response: "The Catholic Church has had nationally agreed guidelines on the protection of children and vulnerable adults since 1999.

"In this regard the Church was two years ahead of the Nolan Commission in England and Wales, which reported in 2001.

"All allegations are notified to the police. The Church recognises that the statutory authorities are the responsible bodies for investigation.

"All necessary steps are taken to remove anyone in danger from situations of risk."

"The Roman Catholic Church is no stranger to scandal, but until now Scotland has not been engulfed by allegations of abuse," the BBC commented.


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.