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‘Sickness has infected the Catholic church in Scotland: Not an ounce of compassion shown to survivors of sex abuse’

The dawn of the new year brought with it an old tale with some familiar themes for the Catholic church in Scotland, writes Kevin McKenna in the Guardian. These included an attitude towards some of its most vulnerable and damaged members that bordered on callous.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia

It was revealed that more than two years after the conclusion of the McLellan report into historical sex abuse in the church no contact has been made with victims’ groups. The report was compiled and delivered by the Very Reverend Dr Andrew McLellan, a former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He expressed astonishment at the Catholic hierarchy’s conduct.

McLellan’s report reviewed child protection and safeguarding policies and the church’s leaders greeted it with apparent humility and honeyed phrases. The archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, issued what sounded like a genuine and heartfelt apology. Two years on, his contrite tone rings hollow in the ears of many survivors of sex abuse in the Catholic church.

The clumsy attempt by the church to ridicule McLellan’s claims was chillingly familiar to those who have found themselves on its wrong side in recent years. A spokesperson said this: “Crucially, no individual or organisation has a monopoly on survivor representation or interaction. Contact with survivors, by its nature confidential, is taking place across the church. Many survivors do not identify with or join national groups and such groups should not presume to speak for them.”

Essentially, we are being told that we must trust in the integrity of the Catholic church in Scotland to do the right thing and not ask any questions. The statement possessed not an ounce of compassion and was vaguely threatening. Why on earth would anyone ever trust this outfit?

The survivors’ groups do speak for many who have suffered sexual abuse within the Catholic church. I have met several of these people and listened to their stories. The raw pain of their abuse at a time in their lives when they were at their most vulnerable and most trusting of the church is indescribable. It is a blend of hurt, fury and sadness beyond any I have ever encountered. It comes from being grievously hurt by someone you love dearly and finding deep down, after all that has happened, there is still love there and that it is still being abused.

The response is pitiless: why are you making trouble now, so long after the event? Why are you being so disloyal? Why are you questioning our authority? The lickspittles who refuse to see any evil in their beloved church will try to insist there have been very few reported cases of abuse. There are also very few reported cases of rape in this country and this is due to a sense of shame, the continuing trauma of the attack and a fear of being treated badly by the police and the courts. These same reasons have stopped some victims of Catholic sex abuse coming forward.

• Full story at The Guardian.

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