CHILD abuse victims reacted with anger yesterday at the outcome of a long-running inquiry into the Catholic Church in Scotland’s handling of the scandal, describing it as “a joke” and “total bull****”.
Survivors’ groups insisted the eight recommendations laid down in the McLellan Commission report published yesterday was “nothing but a face-saving exercise to restore the damaged reputation of the Catholic Church”, offering nothing to help victims rebuild their broken lives.
A commission led by the Very Rev Andrew McLellan demanded that the Scottish Catholic Church make an “unmistakeable and unequivocal” apology to survivors of abuse, and insisted justice must be done and be seen to be done.
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Survivors said Church leader Archbishop Tartaglia’s “profound apology” to abuse victims, which followed the publication of the report, was “16-years too late” and “meaningless”.
McLellan, former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and one-time chief inspector of prisons, demanded support for survivors of abuse to be an “absolute priority”.
He was tasked with evaluating the procedures in place to protect vulnerable children and adults and ensure that the Catholic Church is “a safe place for all’’.
The 11-member commission, who include a senior police officer, a journalist and an MP, was set up in November 2013 by the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland in response to a series of scandals, including the resignation of disgraced cardinal Keith O’Brien.
He stepped down from the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh in February 2013 after three priests and a former priest made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him.
The Church also faced allegations of abuse at the former Catholic boarding school at Fort Augustus Abbey in the Highlands.
As part of its work, the commission heard from victims of abuse but its remit did not extend to investigating or ruling on current or historical allegations.
Andi Lavery, 41, who represents survivor’s advocacy group White Flower Alba, is among hundreds of victims taking legal action after he was subjected to years of “systematic, brutal and awful torture” in the 1980s while attending the fee-paying Fort Augustus Abbey, run by Benedictine monks.
He said: “The report is just a joke, it’s all total bull**** because none of it matters to survivors now. It is a farce and irrelevant to us. The Catholic Church has treated us all with utter contempt over the years and this changes nothing. An apology does not cut any ice with me or the families of all the lads I went to school with, or never even knew at school, who committed suicide through the trauma of their endurance at that awful school and that is just one Catholic school.
“I find the summary repugnant to me as a survivor. I just totally disavow the report.”
The report stated that “only a very small number of those whom the Commission met mentioned money” and that “seeking reparation” was not the driving force behind the demands of survivors.
However, both White Flower Alba and campaigners from Incas – the In-Care Abuse Survivors group – insist that that is far from the truth because victims want and need compensation to help rebuild their shattered lives.
Many survivors have either died or taken their own lives while waiting for justice and compensation for the shocking sexual and physical abuse they suffered at schools run by the Catholic Church.
Lavery added: “The report patronises survivors that we don’t want financial redress. I wonder who these survivors are because I don’t know one who doesn’t want reparation for what happened to them.
“Every single person I know needs financial help because the Catholic Church destroyed their lives. It is complete nonsense. They treat us like chumps. This report has done nothing to restore the dignity of the survivors.”
HELEN Holland, from Incas, who was abused in a Nazareth House home in Kilmarnock, said compensation was the only way to “address the accountability of the wrongdoer”. She added: “A long time ago survivors asked for an apology but now that the Catholic Church has to be dragged, kicking and screaming to say sorry to survivors, it means nothing to us.
“The only way that acknowledgement and recognition is going to come about now is through compensation.
“Survivors are saying compensation is not going to change what happened or take away their pain but it might make their lives a bit more bearable.” The report also recommends that the church’s safeguarding policies and practices be completely rewritten and subject to external scrutiny.
It calls for a consistent approach to dealing with allegations across Scotland and improved training for those in the church.
Commission members included Malcolm Graham, Assistant Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Ranald Mair, chief executive of Scottish Care, and Kathleen Marshall, former Commissioner for Children and Young People. McLellan said: “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.
“Our report gives the Catholic Church a chance – an unrepeatable chance – to make things better. If this opportunity is not taken, survivors will know there is no hope left for them within the Catholic Church in Scotland.
“This is not simply the greatest challenge facing the Bishops’ Conference – it is the greatest challenge facing the whole Catholic Church in Scotland. Change will come when – only when – the whole membership of the Church own this desire for change and embrace for themselves the agenda set out in our report. If ... the Catholic Church in Scotland grabs this opportunity, then that church will be a safer place for all.”