Fort Augustus Abbey School

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Bishop of Aberdeen to apologise for child sex abuse at Fort Augustus Abbey School

Published August 4, 2013 by misty534


BBC investigation heard accounts from former pupils of physical violence, rape and sexual assault

One of Scotland’s most senior Catholic clergymen is to apologise for three decades of abuse at a boarding school.

Hugh Gilbert, Bishop of Aberdeen, will tell his parishioners of his “horror and shame” over the revelations that monks raped and sexually abused children at Fort Augustus Abbey School.

A BBC investigation, aired last Monday, heard accounts from former male pupils of physical violence, rape and sexual assault by monks over 30 years at the school.

The bishop will offer an apology on behalf of the Church, in the hope of repairing its reputation following a series of scandals.

Speaking to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, Bishop Gilbert said the “sins and failures” of the Catholic Church in Scotland must be acknowledged before the damage can be repaired.

This will be the first time a senior cleric has spoken publicly about the crimes committed at the abbey school and its prep school in East Lothian.

The apology comes after the resignation of the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O’Brien in February in the wake of his admitting to inappropriate sexual conduct.

In order to further repair its damaged reputation, the Church is set to publish a series of audits, compiled by the National Office of Child Safety, dealing with allegations of sexual abuse against clergy across all of Scotland’s diocese.

Bishop Gilbert will be celebrating mass at Fort Augustus parish church, which forms part of his northern Scottish diocese, and address the congregation about the historic crimes.

In addition to publication of official audits into abuse, the Church is preparing a more detailed report, to be published next year, dealing with all historical cases from across Scotland, many dating as far back as the 1950s.

The Benedictine order, which was responsible for running the schools, has already apologised.


The Independent

Analysis: why the Catholic Church is mired in more child sex abuse claims

Published August 2, 2013 by misty534

FRESH CLAIMS: Fort Augustus Abbey School has been the focus of allegations of abuse but openness and consultation could help the Catholic Church in Scotland tackle such issues.

FRESH CLAIMS: Fort Augustus Abbey School has been the focus of allegations of abuse but openness and consultation could help the Catholic Church in Scotland tackle such issues.

This will not just distress Scotland’s many Catholics themselves: it can encourage a sectarian prejudice which in parts of Scotland unfortunately remains tenacious.

Is there something about the Catholic Church which has encouraged this abuse, or is the answer much more complex? And can something positive come from all these revelations of cruelty and distress? Here are some questions which people like myself, who have worked with sexual abuse for many years, might help to answer.

Here are some questions which people like myself, who have worked with sexual abuse for many years, might help to answer.

Is it Catholic doctrine – i.e. do particular religious beliefs cause sexual abuse?

Usually not: victims we have met come from many different religions, denominations and sects. Rather, aspects of values and structures often found in religious bodies have made it easier for a minority to abuse for years without being exposed or stopped.

These include special authority (“a holy man wouldn’t do that”); special status (“this would so damage our reputation, we must protect it”); trust and deference by the faithful, which allow ready access to children; authoritarianism or hierarchy; and the value of obedience.

Does compulsory celibacy cause it?

No: celibacy doesn’t cause child sexual abuse. But it brings many problems about discussing sex, sexuality, sexual problems or abuse openly. It contributes to secrecy and sexual ignorance, a sense of taboo around talking freely, double-life hypocrisy, and reluctance to seek help.

Most older priests were trained from youth in all-male settings, being prepared for celibacy. That increased the taboos around talking, including about abuse some students will themselves have suffered.

Did gay priests cause the abuse?

No. Gay men are no more likely to abuse children than straight men, and most have no sexual interest in children.

Did the traditional training of priests cause it?

Not caused but certainly contributed, I believe, which is also why most child victims are male. The closed world of seminaries from age 13 cut off knowledge of and contact with women, but was also an ideal setting for a minority of abusers against the young trainees.

It must be strongly stressed that most survivors of sexual abuse don’t become abusers themselves. However a few do, especially those who become serial, repetitive abusers of young boys.

Reasons are not entirely clear, but appear to be a mix of endlessly acting-out without any resolution what was done to themselves as children; identifying with the aggressor; and having a particular reaction to serious trauma where empathy is lost. Most survivors in contrast keep a strong empathy with vulnerable children.

Why such physical brutality from some monks and nuns in institutions?

Closed institutions generally are vulnerable to brutality and while physical punishment remained, so did sadistic teachers and carers. But an added dimension is that communal, celibate religious life is very hard, unless freely chosen.

Most Catholics will recall some monks, nuns or priests who should not have been there or clearly did not wish to be, from an era of great pressure from families for a son or daughter to take that respected career.

It was also a haven for people with unresolved problems. If you don’t want to be there, it’s much more tempting to take out all your anger, frustration and sense of entrapment on vulnerable children or adults.

Will things change now?

It is no consolation to victims, and no cause at all for complacency, but there’s less prospect of future physical and sexual abuse by Catholic religious for at least three reasons – in addition to what the Church hierarchy itself does to prevent it:

* Training for the priesthood now largely takes place after life in the community, university, or after a change in career – rather than through closed seminary life from age 13.

* Far fewer people enter the religious life without wanting to be there.

* And there are now safeguarding rules in all parishes, as there are in other churches, along with greater awareness and intolerance of abuse among parishioners, local authorities and media.

However, recruitment of priests is itself a huge problem. The deterrent effect of compulsory celibacy on recruits compared with other Christian denominations is a live issue.

Can these mounting scandals become a spur for change, at least here in Scotland?

Yes, but not without a shake-up since the Scottish Church has appeared particularly paralysed, inept and ungracious on this and related issues at responding through the hierarchy and via their Press Office.

They still reflect a dominant older generation of conservative senior hierarchy rooted in narrower West of Scotland religious traditions, which marginalised progressive voices, such as Father John Fitzsimmons, and appears unused to an openness and outreach they now require.

On issues about child abuse and adults who suffered a life-time of distress, it is particularly inappropriate for any organ-isation to have nothing to say.

Reversing the values which allowed abuse to continue is likewise important for any organisation which wishes finally to address it. Frankness, openness and consultation with nuns and clergy – including some outspoken anti-abuse voices from that clergy – and with parishioners, Church safeguarders and agencies working with abused children and adults about how to tackle past and present abuse would be important.

An overhaul of its Press and public relations would clear the Church’s apparent mist of secrecy and fright. A public commitment to helping victims, and publicity of the support services the Church offers, would be valuable too.

Such moves would not merely announce commitment to making a permanent change, however painful. It would be likely to energise many enthusiastic people to work with them, who still wish to believe their faith is a reason for respect rather than shame.

Dr Sarah Nelson of Edinburgh University specialises in child sexual abuse and its effects

Benedictine order plans inquiry into Scotland schools child abuse scandal

Published July 30, 2013 by misty534

Fort Augustus Abbey Highlands  Scotland

Fort Augustus Abbey in the Highland of Scotland. Senior figures in the Benedictine religious order plan an internal inquiry into allegations of sexual and physical abuse by monks at the school.

Senior figures plan own investigation into allegations that monks abused boys at Fort Augustus and Carlekemp Priory schools

Senior figures in the Benedictine religious order are planning their own inquiry into harrowing allegations that monks sexually and physically abused dozens of boys at two schools in Scotland.

Police in Scotland have launched an investigation into disclosures by former pupils at attended Fort Augustus in the Highlands and Carlekemp Priory school near Edinburgh that monks subjected them to systematic violence and sexual assaults, including claims that one now deceased monk raped five boys.

Dom Richard Yeo, the head of the UK’s largest Benedictine group of congregations, said he had already been contacted by detectives from Police Scotland over the allegations, detailed in a BBC Scotland documentary on Monday evening.

In May, the Observer revealed that a police investigation had begun into Fort Augustus after one pupil, Andrew Lavery, accused monks there of “systematic, brutal, awful torture”, which included being locked alone for days at a time in a room.

That included sexual assaults by monks, while other ex-pupils spoke of repeated bullying and sexually predatory behaviour.


Yeo said he was also liaising with senior figures in the Scottish Catholic safeguarding office, an agency of the church which oversees child protection policy within the church. Once the police inquiry was complete, he said, the Benedictines were likely to conduct their own investigation.

Yeo told the Guardian on Tuesday he was “horrified” by the allegations, adding: “I’m very sorry for any abuse that happened.”

He confirmed that he had been aware of a few cases of alleged abuses at Fort Augustus made by some individuals over the last three years. “But the BBC are saying it’s more than a few cases, that it’s a significant number of cases, so that’s new to me,” he said, adding: “They’re talking about a culture of abuse.”

The BBC programme, Sins of the Fathers, alleged that nine monks at the schools repeatedly beat, sexually assaulted and, in one case, raped boys in their care over several decades. Victims of the abuse complained but their testimony was ignored. One priest allegedly involved, now living in Sydney, Australia, has been suspended by the Australian church after the BBC tracked him down.


Yeo, who is bbot president of the English Congregation of Benedictines, to which the two schools were affiliated and includes famous schools such as Ampleforth in Yorkshire and Buckfast abbey in Devon, said he was still mulling over what form its inquiry might take. The Police Scotland investigation must take priority, he said.

The schools are now closed: Carlekemp Priory school stopped operating in the 1970s, while Fort Augustus closed in the 1990s. They were also independent and effectively autonomous, run by the monks and abbot in charge, so his order had no direct control over its affairs then.

“Because the place is shut down, and so many people [involved] are dead, it’s going to be difficult, I imagine, to find out exactly what happened. I was told by the BBC that the people who were abused said that they would like some sort of an inquiry. My reply to that is the correct thing to do is that I can’t anticipate things before the police make their decisions [on what to do],” he said.

Yeo added that he was involved because as head of the Benedictines (there is a small separate Scottish order uninvolved in this scandal), there was no one else for complainants to turn to and the former school was an autonomous body. His predecessor did not control its affairs.

“I have been ready to talk to people who have come to speak to me, because there’s really nobody else and I was happy to talk to the BBC because there was nobody else,” he said. “I don’t really know what to do. I’m certainly open to doing some sort of inquiry but I don’t know what at this stage.

“I would say we have a collective concern [as Benedictines]; you can only exercise responsibility if you exercise some sort of control and we didn’t exercise some sort of control over Fort Augustus; it was an independent monastery.

A spokesman for the Scottish Catholic church said he too was horrified by the allegations. But he insisted neither the former archbishop of Aberdeen, Mario Conti, who was in place during the latter years of the school’s operation, nor the current bishop of Aberdeen, Hugh Gilbert, had had any knowledge at all of the allegations.

He and other church sources said the Benedictines were entirely self-governing and were not under the control or oversight of the Scottish church. The spokesman said: “If they had known, it would have been handed immediately to the diocesian safeguarding team and to the police.

“We have only discovered through the media that these allegations have emerged and that Police Scotland are now dealing with this.”



by Severin Carrell