Cardinal Keith O'Brien prevented inquiry into sex abuse

Cardinal Keith O'Brien prevented an inquiry from taking place into allegations of sex abuse within the Catholic Church in Scotland, according to the former Archbishop of Glasgow.  

Although the inquiry had the support of other bishops, it was not able to go ahead because Cardinal O'Brien withdraw his support.

The Cardinal was forced to resign as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in February after allegations of inappropriate behaviour were made against him by three priests and a former priest.  He later admitted that  his sexual conduct had at times "fallen below the standards expected of me". 

His opposition to the abuse inquiry was revealed in a letter to The Tablet from Emeritus Archbishop of Glasgow Mario Conti.  

"It was the intention of all but one member of the bishops' conference to commission an independent examination of the historical cases we had on file in all of our respective dioceses and publish the results but this was delayed by the objection of the then-President of the Conference; without full participation of all the dioceses the exercise would have been faulty," said Archbishop Conti.

The Archbishop also addressed allegations of abuse at the Benedictine school in Fort Augustus. Although the school, as part of a Benedictine community, was not under the jurisdiction of the Church, he said he would have still acted if allegations had been reported to him while he was Bishop of Aberdeen, a post he held from 1977 to 2002.

He also predicted that the percentage of priests involved in abuse across the Catholic Church in Scotland was small.

"I understand that in the light of the criticisms the Church has been facing, these audits will now be published," he said.

"I think they will go some way towards confirming Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell's remarks that the percentage of priests involved in abuse is 'tiny', and in demonstrating the seriousness and competence with which the Church in Scotland has been dealing with safeguarding in all its implications for many years."

The Catholic Church in Scotland offered further clarification on the Archbishop's comments in a separate statement.

"Archbishop Conti's letter refers to a decision taken in 2011 by the Bishops' Conference of Scotland to commission an independent academic analysis of statistics relating to abuse and allegations of abuse over a 60 year period from 1952 to 2012.

"This project, with the cooperation of each of the eight dioceses in Scotland, started and ran until 2012, at which time, the then President of the Conference, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, withdrew from the project.

"Without the participation of all the dioceses a 'National Audit' was not possible so the analysis was stopped."

It added: "The Church remains willing to engage in any process which allows lessons to be learned and survivors to be supported."