Children in residential care institutions run by the Benedictine monks of Fort Augustus Abbey between 1948 and 1991 suffered sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has found.
Witnesses gave evidence about children having been abused when in the care of Benedictine monks at both Carlekemp (CK) Priory School, North Berwick, and Fort Augustus (FA) Abbey School, Invernesshire.
Lady Smith’s inquiry examined the systems, policies, and procedures in place, how these were applied, and whether systemic failures enabled abuse to happen.
Lady Smith, Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, said: “Children were sexually abused at both schools. A number of monks were serial sexual predators and, because of the movement of monks between Fort Augustus and Carlekemp, they were able to target victims at both schools.
“Children were cruelly beaten by sadistic monks at both schools, and some beatings had sexual overtones. Children were humiliated and punished inappropriately and excessively.
“Some children complained to monks in positions of responsibility about being abused. They received either non‑existent or inadequate responses.”
Hearings in the case study took place between 18 June 2019 and 1 October 2019, during which time the Inquiry heard evidence from 43 witnesses.
These findings are the second in a series of three sets of case study findings in relation to the provision of residential care for children by male religious orders in Scotland.
The report highlighted:
At both schools, the monks pursued regimes of brutal treatment including public floggings, the mass beating of children, indiscriminate punching, and the use of implements to beat them. Children were beaten when naked or partially naked; this practice was sadistic and sexually motivated. Children suffered injuries as a result of physical abuse including bruising, bleeding, and swelling. Both schools engendered cultures of violence, bullying was rife, and was facilitated through the prefect system.
For many children, their experiences of the environments at both schools were dominated by fear. There was a policy of delayed punishment in both schools, which exacerbated the trepidation and fear felt by children awaiting punishment.
Some children complained to monks in positions of responsibility about being abused. They received either non‑existent or inadequate responses. Knowing that they would not be believed, other children refrained from complaining about abuse. Complaints made to devout‑Catholic parents were rejected because they would not accept it was possible that Catholic monks would abuse children.
Although some children benefited from the education provided, others did not. Some children who suffered abuse also had positive memories of their time at CK and/or FA. One child—who attempted suicide while at FA—was saved by the kindness shown to him by a particular monk. However, for many, this was not the case.
“The emotional scars caused by the trauma associated with sexual abuse, physical violence, and the denigration of children, were, for some, long‑lasting and debilitating, blighting their adult lives.”
Lady Smith will take these findings into account when she analyses all the evidence gathered by the Inquiry and decides what recommendations to make in her final report.
Applicants and any other witnesses with relevant evidence about the care provided by the Benedictines to offer should contact the Inquiry; their evidence can still be considered as part of the continuing process.