Published on Wednesday 6 March 2013 00:00
By STEPHEN MCGINTY
THE Catholic Church in Scotland arranged for a teenage victim of an abusive priest to be paid £200 and made him sign a legal document promising not to tell anyone.
“Sam Y” told The Scotsman he was made to feel that he was to blame for the assault by Father Desmond Lynagh, who had been moved by the Catholic Church from Blairs Seminary after he abused a 14-year-old to Stirling University, where he served as a chaplain.
Lynagh attempted to kiss and fondle the student while driving him home from a party in October 1983. After complaining to an Edinburgh priest, the 18-year-old student was taken to a meeting in a lawyer’s office in Glasgow, paid £200 for “travel expenses” and ordered by what he believes was a senior figure in the Catholic Church not to tell anyone about the assault.
Sam Y, who came forward after reading about the experiences of “Michael X” in The Scotsman, said he wanted to highlight how the Catholic Church in Scotland lied to him about Lynagh’s abusive past and attempted a cover-up.
He said: “A senior member of the Church told me a story that was utter fiction. The overwhelming thing that has eaten away at me for years and years is that the Church definitely knew about Lynagh at Blairs and, in the full knowledge of that information, they moved him to a university campus.”
A devout Catholic, Sam Y was an active member of the Catholic community and regularly attended when Lynagh said Mass at Stirling University.
One night at a student halls of residence party, where Sam Y was slightly drunk, he went to the toilet and was followed by the priest, who tried forcibly to hug him.
Later, the priest suggested driving him back to his student flat.
“There was a lot of smutty talk from him to me, then he began touching me and attempting to kiss me and all that sort of stuff. There was aggravated sexual language.
“At that point I said I needed to go to the toilet. He let me out the car and I ran. It was by no means rape, but I knew something was horrendously wrong.”
The student, who was in first year, was so fearful of Lynagh that he dropped out of university. The first priest he approached was unhelpful, but a second priest based in Edinburgh was extremely supportive and confronted Lynagh, who admitted the assault.
However, later he contacted Sam Y and asked him to accompany him to a meeting in Glasgow which, unbeknown to Sam Y or the Edinburgh priest, was to be attended by a lawyer for Lynagh.
He said: “I got into the meeting. There was a lawyer sitting to my left and there was a very senior Catholic priest who did all the talking. We were in an oak-panelled room with an old desk. The tone that was taken with me was that I was a naughty schoolboy being admonished for provoking a situation that other people just had to deal with now.
“I had given them a problem. I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t speak to anybody.
“Was it implied, or was it said that I had caused this? I don’t know, but it was not, ‘What a dreadful shame what has happened to you’.
“I was given an agreement and told I better sign it. It was going to be legally demanding and that if ever anything came out, they would deny it 100 per cent.
“Which was why when Michael X said he was told, ‘You are just another victim’, that resonated very, very strongly.
“I was told, ‘You must sign this agreement’. There were three much older adults in the room and me. I was a kid.
“They told me to sign something. I signed it. I was never given a copy of it. I had never asked for money, but money was given to me. I was told it was because of the travelling and inconvenience I had gone through. The frustrating thing was that they gave me a cheque.
“The bank statement with the cheque for the payment amount, I kept it for years. I kept it because I knew it was wrong.”
Sam Y said the Edinburgh priest was very uncomfortable with the manner in which it was handled. “I was handled pretty aggressively and left under no illusion I had better shut up.”
Years later, when Sam Y read that Lynagh was being charged with the sexual abuse of Michael X, he contacted Lothian and Borders Police, who said his testimony was not required to secure a conviction and that he was “one of many”. Lynagh was later sentenced to three years in prison.
Sam Y remains angry at the manner in which he was treated: “No-one ever apologised. No-one ever sought me out. No-one ever took responsibility as an organisation. I was absolutely swept under the carpet.”
Yesterday, Tom Devine, the historian, said: “What this person is saying is in line with other stories and evidence of the time, that the general approach of the Church was … to avoid what we call scandal.
“Although these people were hurt, an even greater evil was to cause consternation or scandal to the rest of the Church.
“What is difficult to understand is why men, who can honestly be regarded as good men, were prepared to, in a sense, collaborate with this. I think their approach was that, ‘This is the lesser of two evils’ and then when it became so extreme, and a structural problem, not just one of personality, they changed their tune.
“The irony is that the Church in Scotland over the last ten years has an admirable record.”
Last night, a Catholic Church spokesman said: “Errors in the handling of historic cases have informed current safeguarding standards. There is always room for improvement, but many lessons have been learned and the Church can only renew its apologies to those whose complaints were not taken seriously or handled properly.”
Cardinal’s view angers Scots
The reaction of Roman Catholic leaders to cases of sex abuse of children by priests have caused a furore in two countries
Sunday 18 December 1994
THREE weeks after they celebrated Archbishop Thomas Winning’s elevation to the position of Cardinal, Scotland’s Roman Catholics are angrily accusing him of failing to address the growing problem of child sex abuse in the church.
Bishops and parishioners are at odds with Cardinal Winning, the leader of Scotland’s 750,000 Roman Catholics, over his statement that the church should not report alleged paedophile priests to the police. His assertion, which conflicts with tough guidelines on sexual abuse adopted recently by Catholic leaders in England, Wales and Ireland, has been condemned as “misguided and highly damaging”.
Earlier this year the Catholic Bishops’ Conference south of the border agreed that clergy who suspect that a priest has abused a child should inform the local child-protection agencies and, through them, the police. In Ireland, Cardinal Cahal Daly has declared that the church will hand over any evidence of abuse to the authorities.
But in a statement published earlier this month, Cardinal Winning insisted that in Scotland the church’s role was different. It was up to the victim, not the clergy, to inform the authorities of criminal allegations, he said.
His comments were backed by Fr Tom Connelly, the church’s official spokesman in Scotland. He said that even if serious claims of abuse were made it was “not up to the church to phone the police”. Bishops should “care for the victim, their family, the community and the perpetrator”.
Cardinal Winning’s statement has provoked outrage among Catholics north of the border after revelations that the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh failed to inform police of a case of violent sexual abuse at Blairs RC college near Aberdeen in 1990. Last week the church admitted that Archbishop Keith O’Brien arranged for the 14-year-old victim to be paid £42,000 compensation but did not report his abuser, Fr Desmond Lynagh, to the authorities.
Instead, Archbishop O’Brien removed Fr Lynagh from his pastoral duties and ordered him to seek treatment. Grampian police are now investigating allegations of abuse at Blairs college.
Child-welfare groups and lay catholics have expressed “deep shock” at news of the cover-up. They have called on Cardinal Winning to retract his statement, which they describe as outdated and dangerous.
Douglas Turner, a spokesman for the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said: ” The church’s prime moral responsibilty is towards the protection of children. If allegations of abuse are made against a priest, the church should bring them to the attention of the police immediately, so that no other children are put at risk. The church in Scotland has dealt with this issue in a shabby, damaging and incompetent way.”
Last week, Cardinal Winning refused to revise his policy statement. Instead, he chaired a private meeting of the Scottish Bishops’ Conference which agreed to set up a working group to examine the issues raised by the cases of Fr Lynagh and another priest, Fr John Archibald, who was removed from a parish near Glasgow two years ago after claims that he had abused young boys. Church officials did not inform Strathclyde Police.
Catholics have welcomed the new working group, but many, including several bishops, say that Cardinal Winning’s refusal to revise his statement is damaging the reputation of the church. Critics accuse him of hiding behind the church’s traditional, secretive practices in a misguided attempt to minimise the damage caused by the recent revelations.
One senior bishop, who asked not to be named, said: “In the past, embarrassing problems were hushed up. The church moved ‘problem priests’ around from parish to parish. It was internal way of dealing with what appeared at the time to be an internal problem. But now that society has come to realise the sad extent of abuse, it is vital that we are as open as possible and are seen to be open.
“The working group is a good thing but it has come too late. Serious damage has already been done to our reputation. If we continue to give the impression that we are less than 100 per cent open and beyond reproach on this issue, more damage will be done. Clergy, including Cardinal Winning, should make it clear very quickly that we support the position adopted in other parts of Britain and that we will cooperate with the police.”
Another bishop said: “The leadership of the church should now make it crystal clear what direction we are going in, before there is any more criticism. We need strong guidance on what is a very difficult and complex problem.”
Church leaders insist that the decision to convene the working party shows they are treating the issue of abuse “with the utmost seriousness” but it is “too early” to draw up new policies. Fr Noel Barry, Cardinal Winning’s press secretary, said: “This issuch a new area. What we are having to deal with at the moment are essentially stale cases. But the group will be high-powered and will make recommendations.”