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Catholic churches in Scotland welcome safeguarding audit

by Heather Preston

An audit of safeguarding processes for the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh and the Diocese of Galloway was published on Thursday and has been welcomed by both dioceses.

In 2015, the Bishops' Conference of Scotland published a report reviewing safeguarding practice in the Catholic Church in Scotland, together with a plan for implementing its recommendations.

The audits, commissioned by The Independent Review Group, seek to ensure these recommendations are being adequately implemented across the Church to protect people against abuse.

Two of Scotland’s eight dioceses are chosen at random and audited each year to allow an equal assessment of all the dioceses over a four-year period.

The report noted that progress had been made in St Andrews and Edinburgh despite "difficult circumstances", including the prior management of the diocese by Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who stepped down from his position in 2013 after admitting sexual misconduct.

Cardinal O'Brien was replaced by Archbishop Leo Cushley.

Speaking about the importance of safeguarding, Most Rev Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh said the “whole church community, clergy and laity alike”, has a responsibility to ensure the Church is a safe and welcoming place for all where “children and vulnerable adults are protected”.

A safeguarding co-ordinator has been appointed to each parish within the diocese to support priests in protecting vulnerable people.

Archbishop Leo thanked co-ordinators for their “excellent work” in helping the Church to develop its processes, adding that the Church sees safeguarding as a “priority”.

The Galloway Diocese's report highlighted the appointment of a safeguarding advisor and work with abuse survivor organisations as a positive turning point following the "divisions and strong emotions" of those affected by the abuse of one paedophile priest, Paul Moore.

The report said there was a need to "tackle the contradictory narratives" regarding the case which continued to "challenge and act as a barrier to healing".

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Galloway welcomed the final report saying it highlighted the improvements made by the Church and would act as a “valuable and constructive tool” to support further progress.

“The Diocese is pleased with the final report and believes it will be a valuable and constructive tool,” the spokesperson added.

“The aim of the audit was to work with the diocese to support safeguarding improvements and all those involved believe that this has been achieved.”

Commenting on the publication, Bishop Joseph Toal, president of the Commission for Pastoral and Social Care said: “Safeguarding is at the heart of the Church’s mission and the maintenance of high standards is only possible through independent scrutiny and a commitment to implement any recommendations proposed.”

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