The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has today announced details of three safeguarding initiatives to tackle abuse by people of trust within the Church. The initiatives, which will be introduced over the next year, are as follows:
1. Immediate publication of all Diocesan safeguarding audits from 2006-2012, giving a statistical breakdown of reported safeguarding incidents during those years. The audits may be viewed by clicking this link: http://www.bpsconfscot.com/Portals/0/AUDIT%20REPORTS%202006-2012.pdf
2. An external review of safeguarding protocols and procedures which will review the suitability and robustness of safeguarding procedures and the quality and rigour of their implementation nationally. As you may have seen in the news, the Bishops have appointed the Very Rev Dr Andrew McLellan to direct this initiative. Dr McLellan is a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and a former Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons.
3. A statistical review of all historic cases of abuse from 1947 – 2005.
The introduction of these initiatives heralds a significant move by the Catholic Church in Scotland and is a move to be welcomed by all. Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, in a letter read out in each parish on Sunday, said: “We recognise the trauma and pain that survivors of abuse have suffered and we are committed to providing for them both justice and healing.”
The Archbishop, who admitted 2013 had been a test of faith for Catholics, also said: “The Church is committed to consolidation of our safeguarding practices, the renewal of trust in our unshakeable commitment to atoning for abuse in the past, guarding against abuse in the present and eliminating abuse in the future, and supporting those who have been harmed.”
In commenting on his role, Dr McLellan said, “My appointment is a generous sign of respect not simply for me but for the Church of Scotland; and I am pleased to be able to help the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland in what has been for them a difficult year. But my first concern is not to support the Catholic Church, rather, it is to seek the best protection to many vulnerable children and adults. In pursuing that aim I will be determined to discover the truth and to make clear recommendations. I am very much encouraged by the independence I will have in selecting the membership of the panel, detailing its remit and deciding on its timescale; and by the assurance I have been given that the Catholic Bishops will accept our recommendations.”
The words of both the Archbishop and Dr McLellan are not soft, nor are they vague. The Church is clearly committed to trying to do as much as possible to right some serious wrongs and, furthermore, to make sure those wrongs do not occur in the future. The hurt and pain suffered by victims in the past will never fully heal. We must hope the Church gives them as much help and support as it possibly can and we must also ensure we remember them in our prayers. The future, we must hope, is going to be very different in the Catholic Church in Scotland.