The BBC says it has seen evidence that the bishops in the Catholic Church in Scotland knew of 20 allegations of child sex abuse by priests between 1985 and 1995.
The revelations comes after the recent resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien over his admitted “inappropriate behavior” with young priests as far back as 1980. O’Brien was not accused of child sex abuse.
In the BBC’s explosive report, its noted that while the Roman Catholic Church has been battered by sex abuse scandals for decade — until now — its shadow hadn’t touched the church in Scotland.
After the wave of sexual abuse scandals hits the R.C church in England from the mid ’80’s onwards, Alan Draper, an academic, was commissioned by the church to advise them on a response program to sexual abuse.
Compiling his report, Draper asked Scotland’s eight bishops for information on what they knew. The BBC reports that it has seen the letters the bishops sent in reply, which refer to 20 allegations of child abuse by priests.
Draper said he asked the bishops to let independent experts investigate the cases further, but the bishops disagreed. Of that decision, Draper said: “I was very concerned about their unwillingness to actually expose individual priests who were leading 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.”
In Draper’s opinion, the files should have been given to an independent group, one chaired by a judge.
In response to this, the Church said Draper was involved “at an early stage in the development of policies and procedures but was replaced when others with greater competence were engaged.”
According to the BBC, some priests were reported to police and removed from parishes, but others were not. Now, its reported that more alleged victims are coming forward.
Lawyer Cameron Fyfe who is acting for six clients of alleged abuse, says two have come forward in the last few weeks since the O’Brien scandal. Some, says Fyfe, trace back to the early 1980’s, but two have been within the last 10 years.
Alarmingly, Fyfe said two of his clients claim they were raped by priests when they were children in the late-1980’s and mid-1990’s. Under Scots law, cases are supposed to be brought within three years. But, Fyfe says that’s unrealistic as victims of sexual abuse often “lock away” harrowing memories of abuse.
In addition, the BBC reveals it spoke to another alleged victim who is not part of the original 20 allegations. The new victim — Chris — claims he was abused by a priest in the 90s, from around the age of nine or 10 until his early teens.
“He [the unnamed priest] would get me to perform sexual acts on him and he would perform sexual acts on me,” he said. “Away from the family home, in the family home, in the church, in their vehicle. There’s many people out there who have been abused.”
Chris’ story wasn’t known about until 2012. But while the police would have moved forward with the case, it never came to court. In Chris’ case, the Church insists the case was handled in complete accordance with their child protection guidelines. They say they removed the accused priest from his parish as soon as the allegations became known and the police were informed.
A spokesman added: “The Church sent its file to the Vatican in July last year and now awaits a decision.”
In a statement, the Catholic Church in Scotland said it has applied nationally agreed guidelines on abuse since 1999 and taken all necessary steps to remove at-risk victims — including notifying the police of any allegations that arise,
The statement also said the church believes, “a national coordinator” for child protection was a key part of its “safeguarding structures.”
While the Scottish Catholic Church insists its child protection procedures have improved since the 1990’s and allegations of abuse are now rare, in light of the 20 sex abuse allegations that were not exposed to public scrutiny — it would seem they are not rare enough.