Audit of Scottish dioceses says safeguarding vision 'has yet to be fully realized'

Audit of Scottish dioceses says safeguarding vision ‘has yet to be fully realized’

Audit of Scottish dioceses says safeguarding vision ‘has yet to be fully realized’

People walk near the ruins of St. Andrews monastery May 11 in Scotland. (Credit: Jonathan Luxmoore/CNS.)

An audit of the safeguarding standards of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh found it had “clearer and more transparent structures and processes,” but noted more work is needed in “rebuilding trust.”

LEICESTER, United Kingdom – An audit of the safeguarding standards of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh found it had “clearer and more transparent structures and processes,” but noted more work is needed in “rebuilding trust.”

The audit was commissioned from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)/Children in Scotland (CiS) by the Catholic Church in Scotland with the aim of supporting safeguarding improvements.

It said “the vision of external scrutiny and independence in safeguarding policies and practices” set out in the recommendations of the 2015 report from the McLellan Commission –  set up by the bishops in 2013 to review safeguarding policies in the Catholic Church in Scotland – “has yet to be fully realized and without some external scrutiny, concerns about conflicts of interest, and the protection of certain individuals for whatever reason will continue and possibly remain unchallenged.”

The audit, released on Thursday, also pointed out that there “does not appear to be a process or mechanism by which those who have experienced the safeguarding process, whether as a survivor of abuse or against whom an allegation has been made, can inform how practice can be developed.”

The archdiocese had been left reeling in 2013, when its then archbishop, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, was accused by three priests and a former priest of inappropriate contact dating back to the 1980s. The cardinal soon resigned; he left Scotland and died in 2018.

The audit said the resignation of O’Brien and the decision taken by the Holy See that he should leave Scotland meant that he had not had to account for his actions through either canonical or civil procedures.

“This has left individuals without the necessary closure to allow the process of healing to begin. It is not unexpected that survivors were skeptical about changes more broadly but were cautiously optimistic about changes being made locally within parishes due to training and reporting procedures,” the document said.

The audit noted that progress has been made “in difficult circumstances in terms of the management of the Archdiocese under the previous Archbishop, the wider ramifications of court cases against priests in other areas in Scotland and the continuing media attention on the Catholic Church within Scotland and internationally.”

It said the improvements in safeguarding standards include: “Clearer and more transparent structures and processes, good working relationships with external agencies, new training, better record keeping and improving links between the archdiocese, deaneries and the parishes.”

“These improvements and the work of the safeguarding office need to be owned by the Archdiocese to ensure that the changes continue to be embedded, and that safeguarding remains a priority. A clear strategic level plan would assist with this and could include the concepts of a more restorative approach in order to better support, as well as challenge, on safeguarding,” the audit continued.

Archbishop Leo Cushley, the current head of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh responded to the audit by saying it “is the responsibility of all people in our church community, clergy and laity alike, to ensure the church is a safe and welcoming place for everyone and that children and vulnerable adults are protected.”

“Each of our parishes has a safeguarding coordinator, working with approved volunteers, who support our priests and I extend my thanks to them for their excellent work. Safeguarding in the church is a priority and I believe that is reflected in the processes our Archdiocese has implemented and continues to develop,” he continued.

An audit was also conducted of the Diocese of Galloway, where the pedophile priest Paul Moore was the subject of a 2013 BBC Scotland expose of his crimes. The BBC said he told his bishop about his activities in 1996 but was not removed from ministry. (The diocese disputes this, and says he was removed from active ministry after the disclosure.) Moore is currently in prison for abusing three boys and was removed from the priesthood in 2019.

The Galloway audit noted that abuse survivors said the diocese’s “failure to immediately report [the priest’s abuse] to the police played a part in the significant time (over 20 years) that it took for Paul Moore to be prosecuted and convicted, and further that following the initial disclosure, the diocese did not restrict Paul Moore’s activities so as to minimize the risks he posed.”

The audit encouraged the diocese to continue to work with survivors’ organizations to help overcome “contradictory narratives” of the Moore case.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome


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