Another Horrifying Report into Child Sexual Abuse in a Catholic Institution in Scotland Calls for International Action
Yet another abuse inquiry in yet another country has revealed shocking details about the abuse and depravity that children were subjected to at a place that was supposed to educate, love, and care for them. As horrifying as this report is, we are not surprised.
According to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, St Ninian's school, operated by the Christian Brothers, was a place where members of this Catholic religious order could “pursue their abusive practices with impunity.” Those words are sickening and saddening, but not at all shocking to those of us who have been following this international scandal. We are grateful that the Scottish government is carrying out this inquiry and hope that their efforts will result not only injustice and healing for victims, but will also help prevent future cases of abuse.
This news out of Scotland is the latest finding from government inquiries worldwide that demonstrate systemic abuse and cover-up within Catholic institutions. New Zealand just released a horrifying report, as did the UK. The US has many localized reports of our own, including the 2018 Grand Jury findings out of Pennsylvania.
Central to each of these inquiries is an unrestrained clergy and a society that trusted them to "do the right thing." But that sad fact is that, around the globe, Catholic priests and bishops have instead consistently done the wrong thing. Despite the rhetoric of three popes, countless cardinals, and hundreds of bishops, we believe that the sexual abuse of children within Church institutions continues into the present day.
Too many perpetrators have been able to move from country to country, leaving a trail of abuse in their wake and creating danger in any community to which they are assigned. For example, look no further than the small US territory of Guam. The island is almost 100% Catholic and has an astounding record of abuse that implicates the Church, its two most recent archbishops (both of whom have been accused of abuse), and the Boy Scouts. The only thing that will stop this scourge is a multilateral, multi-country approach that punishes perpetrators and holds their enablers accountable.
Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and others have published reports following multi-year investigations into systemic child abuse. Now it is time for the US to do the same thing. A national investigation is required to understand the full scope of abuse and cover-up in this country. We believe that once such a report is completed, we will get a clearer picture of how perpetrators are propagated across borders, and those lessons can help create areas of international cooperation.
Whether that cooperation comes in the form of multi-national background checks on clerics that are transferred, an agreement to share abuse records between countries, or new oversight on how private, religious institutions for children are run, we believe that this is a worldwide problem that must be confronted globally.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)