Benedictine monks did sexually, physically, and emotionally abuse children
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has today, Wednesday 11 August, published Lady Smith’s findings into residential care institutions run by the Benedictine monks of Fort Augustus Abbey between 1948 and 1991.
She concludes that children in their care suffered sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.
During the case study witnesses gave evidence about children having been abused when in the care of Benedictine monks at both Carlekemp Priory School, North Berwick, and Fort Augustus Abbey School, Invernesshire.
The Inquiry also examined the systems, policies, and procedures in place, how these were applied, and whether systemic failures enabled abuse to happen.
Lady Smith, Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, said: “Children were sexually abused at both schools. A number of monks were serial sexual predators and, because of the movement of monks between Fort Augustus and Carlekemp, they were able to target victims at both schools.
“Children were cruelly beaten by sadistic monks at both schools, and some beatings had sexual overtones. Children were humiliated and punished inappropriately and excessively.
“Some children complained to monks in positions of responsibility about being abused. They received either non‑existent or inadequate responses.
“Knowing that they would not be believed, other children refrained from complaining about abuse. Complaints made to devout‑Catholic parents were rejected because they would not accept it was possible that Catholic monks would abuse children.
“The emotional scars caused by the trauma associated with sexual abuse, physical violence, and the denigration of children, were, for some, long‑lasting and debilitating, blighting their adult lives.”
Hearings in the case study took place between 18 June 2019 and 1 October 2019, during which time the Inquiry heard evidence from 43 witnesses.
These findings are the second in a series of three sets of case study findings in relation to the provision of residential care for children by male religious orders in Scotland.
Lady Smith added: “The monks were not trained to look after children on a residential basis. They lacked the capacity and ability to do so. The notion that untrained monks could care for school‑aged children was seriously flawed.”
Lady Smith will take these findings into account when she analyses all the evidence gathered by the Inquiry and decides what recommendations to make in her final report.
Applicants and any other witnesses with relevant evidence about the care provided by the Benedictines to offer should contact the Inquiry; their evidence can still be considered as part of the continuing process.
The overall aim and purpose of this Inquiry is to raise public awareness of the abuse of children in care, particularly during the period covered by the Inquiry. It will provide an opportunity for public acknowledgement of the suffering of those children and a forum for validation of their experience and testimony.
Its Terms of Reference are set out below.
To investigate the nature and extent of abuse of children whilst in care in Scotland, during the relevant time frame.
To consider the extent to which institutions and bodies with legal responsibility for the care of children failed in their duty to protect children in care in Scotland (or children whose care was arranged in Scotland) from abuse, regardless of where that abuse occurred, and in particular to identify any systemic failures in fulfilling that duty.
To create a national public record and commentary on abuse of children in care in Scotland during the relevant time frame.
To examine how abuse affected and still affects these victims in the long term, and how in turn it affects their families.
The Inquiry is to cover that period which is within living memory of any person who suffered such abuse, up until such date as the Chair may determine, and in any event not beyond 17 December 2014.
To consider the extent to which failures by state or non-state institutions (including the courts) to protect children in care in Scotland from abuse have been addressed by changes to practice, policy or legislation, up until such date as the Chair may determine.
To consider whether further changes in practice, policy or legislation are necessary in order to protect children in care in Scotland from such abuse in future.
To report to the Scottish Ministers on the above matters, and to make recommendations, as soon as reasonably practicable.
‘Child’ means a person under the age of 18.
For the purpose of this Inquiry, “Children in Care” includes children in institutional residential care such as children’s homes (including residential care provided by faith based groups); secure care units including List D schools; Borstals; Young Offenders’ Institutions; places provided for Boarded Out children in the Highlands and Islands; state, private and independent Boarding Schools, including state funded school hostels; healthcare establishments providing long term care; and any similar establishments intended to provide children with long term residential care. The term also includes children in foster care.
The term does not include: children living with their natural families; children living with members of their natural families, children living with adoptive families, children using sports and leisure clubs or attending faith based organisations on a day to day basis; hospitals and similar treatment centres attended on a short term basis; nursery and day-care; short term respite care for vulnerable children; schools, whether public or private, which did not have boarding facilities; police cells and similar holding centres which were intended to provide care temporarily or for the short term; or 16 and 17 year old children in the armed forces and accommodated by the relevant service.
“Abuse” for the purpose of this Inquiry is to be taken to mean primarily physical abuse and sexual abuse, with associated psychological and emotional abuse. The Inquiry will be entitled to consider other forms of abuse at its discretion, including medical experimentation, spiritual abuse, unacceptable practices (such as deprivation of contact with siblings) and neglect, but these matters do not require to be examined individually or in isolation.”