Justice must be done – and seen to be done – for those who have survived abuse within the Scottish Church, an independent report has said.
The McLellan Commission, which published the report today, was established in 2014 with a remit to undertake a critical review of all aspects of safeguarding policy, procedure and practice within the Catholic Church in Scotland.
Dr Andrew McLellan, chairman of The McLellan Commission, has made eight key recommendations to Scotland’s Catholic bishops to help improve the current standards of safeguarding within the Church.
Dr McLellan told a press conference that “the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland should make a public apology to all survivors of abuse within the Church” and that the apology must be made in a way that is “unmistakeable and unequivocal”.
“The bishops have said from the outset that they will accept our recommendations,” he said.
“That means that three things will happen. 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.”
Dr McLellan added that the report gives the Catholic Church “an unrepeatable chance to make things better”.
The McLellan Commission report has recommended that “support for survivors of abuse must be an absolute priority for the Catholic Church in Scotland in the field of safeguarding” and that the policy and practice manual, Awareness and Safety in our Catholic Communities, should be “completely revised or rewritten”.
“Justice must be done, and justice must be seen to be done, for those who have been abused”, the report said, and it also specified that justice must be done for those against whom allegations of abuse are made.
There must be external scrutiny and independence in the safeguarding policies and practices of the Church, the report said, and “effectiveness and improvement must be measured at every level of safeguarding in the Church”.
The McLellan Commission report said that a “consistent approach to safeguarding is essential: consistent across different parts of Scotland and consistent across different parts of the Church”.
The report also recommended that “the priority of undertaking regular high-quality training and continuous professional development in safeguarding must be understood and accepted by all those involved in safeguarding at every level”.
A further recommendation was that “the Church must set out a theology of safeguarding which is coherent and compelling”.
Dr McLellan said that there was a “unanimous agreement” among members of the commission about its recommendations.
“Nothing in our independent report is more important than our first recommendation: that support for the survivors of abuse must be an absolute priority for the Catholic Church in Scotland,” he said.
“This is the greatest challenge facing the whole Catholic Church in Scotland. Change will come when the whole membership of the Church own this desire for change and embrace the agenda set out in our report. If the Catholic Church in Scotland grabs this opportunity, then the Church will be a safer place for all.”
Each of the eight key recommendations is followed by a number of subsidiary recommendations.
“The report has recommendations which can be measured. One year from now, or three years from now, the Catholic Church will be able to demonstrate how much progress has been made against our recommendations,” Dr McLellan added.
To fulfil its remit, the commission assessed existing safeguarding arrangements and met with survivors of abuse within the Church. The commission also assessed the quality of support available to survivors.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, the president of the Bishops’ Conference for Scotland, will respond to the commission’s finding at a Mass in Glasgow later today.
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