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Catholic Church in Scotland announces independent watchdog to deal with abuse complaints against clergy

by Donna Birrell

The Catholic Church in Scotland has announced it's setting up an independent watchdog to deal with abuse complaints against members of the clergy.

The move follows a number of sex scandals where the church was accused of failing to respond to concerns.

Bishop Hugh Gilbert, President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, said the body would promote consistency, transparency and accountability across Catholic Church institutions. 

He was speaking at the end of a national Safeguarding webinar which attracted 450 participants from across Scotland. The new Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (SCSSA) as an independent private company.

Bishop Hugh said :  "The SCSSA will operate entirely independently of the Church and will have its own staff and Board of Management who will work in close collaboration with dioceses and religious communities to ensure that they are able to meet national safeguarding standards. It will also develop a process that will provide an independent review of complaints about safeguarding practice and crucially, establish a forum in which those who have experienced abuse can contribute their own perspectives to the development of safeguarding.
"We will shortly commence the recruitment process for the Chair and members of the Board of Management, followed by the recruitment of a Director and a Head of Safeguarding Training. It will take some time to establish the new agency and we ask for your patience and support while that process is underway.

"The Bishops ask for your prayers that the Holy Spirt will guide us in the selection of suitable candidates who will bring authority and credibility to the work of this new agency that will promote consistency, transparency and accountability across Catholic Church institutions in Scotland." 

The Catholic Church in Scotland has been accused of failing to respond to sexual abuse concerns in a number of cases and in 2013, Cardinal Keith O'Brien resigned as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh after apologising for sexual misconduct.

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