The Catholic Church is relatively good at saying they’re sorry, they’re just not very good at actually stopping the abuse before it happens. Reverend Hugh Gilbert, Bishop of Aberdeen has expressed his shock and horror at the revelation that the former Fort Augustus Abbey School in Scotland was home to decades of physical and sexual abused perpetrated on students by Benedictine monks . Likewise, the Benedictine order has also apologized for the treatment of students over the course of 30 years at the school which shut down in 1998. At least five men claim to have been sexually molested by Father Aidan Duggan between 1953 and 1974. Duggan died in 2004 and therefore cannot be held accountable, but more reports are coming out about other priests who are still alive and kicking.
Andrew Lavery, for instance, alleges that in the 1980s, he was sexually assaulted and physically abused at the school. He says he was beaten unconscious and locked in a room for days on end by a former monk who is now an active priest in England. Another victim, Christopher Walls, says he is “less than impressed” by the apologies offered by the Church. In fact, according to Walls, “My brother and I have been complaining since 2010, officially, and I’ve mentioned it to other clergy in between, several times, always getting a ‘shushing’ response, ‘keep quiet about it and offer it up’, presumably not to disturb the unity of the church.”
A documentary, released this year, claims that Fort Augustus Abbey was used for years as a dumping ground for problem priests that the Catholic Church didn’t know what to do with. This is not an uncommon problem with the Church, in fact, it’s a story we’ve seen over and over.
This comes on the heels of the recall of Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien to the Vatican amid charges of sexual misconduct and claims that O’Brien tried to solicit sexual favors from three active and one former priests and there may be a fifth claimant who filed an official statement with the Vatican last October, but it was ignored until recently. From inside sources, it appears that the Vatican was trying to broker a deal that would allow O’Brien to retire quietly and not cause an embarrassment for the Church. Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, or Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said “What other phrase could describe what is happening other than cover-up?”
Yet isn’t that the standard operating procedure of the Catholic Church? It’s easier to beg for forgiveness than to do the right thing in the first place. We still see evidence of the Church moving around problem priests, protecting and hiding them from prosecution rather than serving them up to the authorities on a silver platter.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, O’Brien’s replacement, put it succinctly. “The most stinging charge which has been levelled against us in this matter is hypocrisy, and for obvious reasons. I think there is little doubt that the credibility and moral authority of the Catholic Church in Scotland has been dealt a serious blow.”
That would be a wakeup call for any other organization. You know what it is in the Catholic Church? Tuesday.
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