Scotland’s Catholic bishops to pay nearly £500,000 to abused ex-priest

As a teenager, the victim was subjected to attacks at a Scottish priest college.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland to pay nearly £500,000 to abused former priest iStock
Abuse: Lord Clark heard evidence that the victim had lost trust in the Church.

Scotland’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference has been ordered to pay more than £450,000 to a former priest who was sexually abused while at a school for boys wanting to enter the clergy.

While a teenager in the 1970s, the ex-priest suffered “vile” child abuse at the hands of the “spiritual director” of a Scottish seminary.

Between the ages of 14 and 16 years old, he was assaulted in his dormitory bed two or three times a month.

At the age of 18, he left the college and attended a seminary in Rome and was later ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in Scotland.

In 1996, his abuser was convicted and sentenced for separate unrelated offences.

For many years, the victim carried out his role as a priest in an “effective and wellrespected” manner.

However, the trauma of being “subjected to vile sexual abuse by his spiritual director… tormented him for many years”.

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Judge Lord Clark found his personality, ability to function and life were impaired by it.

“He did what he could to block from his mind the memories and effects of the abuse, but there came a point in time when he could no longer do so,” Lord Clark concluded.

“As a perhaps obvious consequence, remaining in his role as a priest became burdened with intolerable difficulties. The loss he sustained and continues to suffer can never adequately be addressed merely by an award of damages.”

Lord Clark heard evidence that as a result of the abuse the victim had lost trust in the Church.

The former priest’s sister said she had seen changes in his behaviour. He had become obsessive and compulsive and very easily irritable. She felt like he had gone into hibernation and become more reclusive, confused and tense, moving from being “gregarious and witty” to being “isolated and withdrawn”.

He became “a social hermit” because of the abuse and torture he was going through, the judge heard.

Later, the victim applied to formally leave the priesthood which involved writing an application to the Pope.

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In his letter to the Pope, he wrote: “Having served as a priest since [redacted], I have found it increasingly difficult to exercise my priestly ministry due to the effects of a period of psychological and sexual abuse to which I was subjected as a teen-age seminarian at the national minor seminary of [the College].”

His application to leave the priesthood was granted and he ceased to be a Roman Catholic priest.

Lord Clark conluded that the repeated deliberate sexual assaults and abuse resulted in psychiatric injury which caused him to “laicise” – leave the priesthood.

Lord Clark concluded that the award of damages should include £55,000 compensation and a further £400,000 for consequential loss arising from leaving his post as a priest.

The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland apologised to the former priest.

A spokesperson said: “Scotland’s Catholic Bishops offer a profound apology to the individual in this case who was harmed and who suffered as a result of actions which were inexcusable and intolerable.

“We restate our deep and unwavering commitment, made over recent decades to create and maintain a robust system of safeguarding to ensure that the church is a place of safety for all.”