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Nine men reported in police probe into child abuse claims at Fort Augustus Abbey school

By Eilidh Davies

Fort Augustus Abbey which has been at the centre of child abuse allegations.
Fort Augustus Abbey which has been at the centre of child abuse allegations.

POLICE this week revealed a report had been passed to the Procurator Fiscal in relation to allegations of historical abuse against nine men at the former Fort Augustus Abbey school.

The move came as the Catholic Church has issued a “profound” apology to victims of child sex abuse following a damning report which was published this week.

The McLellan Commission was set-up to investigate abuse in the wake of the shocking allegations of sexual and physical abuse by monks at Fort Augustus as well as other scandals including the resignation of the former leader of the church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, following revelations that he made sexual advances to priests.

The report was published this week and called on the church to make an “unmistakeable and unequivocal” apology and “heal the hurt” of victims.

The investigation into abuse at Fort Augustus began in March 2013 following a complaint by a former pupil of the Abbey of sex abuse at the school during the 1980s. Further reports have since been made.

A spokesman for the Crown Office said: “The Procurator Fiscal at Inverness has received reports concerning nine men in relation to incidents alleged to have occurred between September 1967 and December 1992

“The reports remain under consideration.”

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia responded to the critical review by admitting Scottish bishops were “shamed and pained” by the suffering of those who had been harmed.

“As the President of the Bishops’ Conference, and on behalf of all the Bishops of Scotland, I want to offer a profound apology to all those who have been harmed and who have suffered in any way as a result of actions by anyone within the Catholic Church.

“Child abuse is a horrific crime. That this abuse should have been carried out within the Church, and by priests and religious, takes that abuse to another level. Such actions are inexcusable and intolerable.

“The harm the perpetrators of abuse have caused is first and foremost to their victims, but it extends far beyond them, to their families and friends, as well as to the Church and wider society.

“I would like to assure the survivors of abuse that the Catholic Bishops of Scotland are shamed and pained by what you have suffered. We say sorry. We ask forgiveness.

“We apologise to those who have found the Church’s response slow, unsympathetic or uncaring and reach out to them as we take up the recommendations of the McLellan Commission.”

Bishop Joseph Toal, the bishop responsible for Safeguarding said: “In accepting fully the recommendations in this report, the Catholic Church in Scotland renews its commitment to protect and safeguard everyone in our parish communities. Our clergy and lay faithful are committed to on-going training and professional development and accept this is a priority for all those involved in Safeguarding at every level.”

The Commission took evidence from victims in a bid to improve support services and protect vulnerable children and adults.

Andrew McLellan, a former moderator of the Church of Scotland, was tasked with coming up with proposals aimed at making the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland “a safe place for all.”

The 11 review commissioners, who included a senior police officer, a journalist and an MP, were tasked with assessing the quality of support available to survivors

The commission made eight recommendations, including calling for support for survivors of abuse to be an “absolute priority.”

It also said justice must be done for those who have been abused.

Mr McLellan said: “The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland should make a public apology to all survivors of abuse within the church.

“An apology must be made in a way that is unmistakeable and unequivocal.”

He added: “The Bishops have said from the outset that they will accept our recommendations.

“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.”

Archbishop Tartaglia confirmed that the bishops had agreed to accept the recommendations in full.

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