Se­nior Catholic church­man to give ev­i­dence at hear­ing ARCH­BISHOP CALLED TO ABUSE PROBE A

Church leader asked to hear­ings af­ter dis­put­ing al­le­ga­tions

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - FRONT PAGE - By Gor­don Black­stock GBLACKSTOCK@SUNDAYPOST.COM

leader of the Catholic Church is be­ing called to the Child Abuse In­quiry.

Arch­bishop Mario Conti will be asked to give ev­i­dence at the hear­ing af­ter ques­tion­ing claims that nuns abused chil­dren in their care.

His spokesman said: “If the in­quiry feels it would be help­ful, I am sure he will lend them his sup­port.”

There are some peo­ple be­fore whom lawyers have been dan­gling a pot of gold. There are a whole range of pos­si­ble mo­tives, some of which are per­haps more un­der­stand­able and more ac­cept­able and oth­ers more rep­re­hen­si­ble

–Mario Conti, 1998 If the in­quiry feels it would be help­ful, I am sure he will lend them his sup­port

Aleader of the Catholic Church in Scot­land will be called to give ev­i­dence at the Scot­tish Child Abuse In­quiry.

Arch­bishop Emer­i­tus Mario Conti is be­ing asked to at­tend the hear­ings af­ter wit­nesses ac­cused him of pre­vi­ously dis­miss­ing their claims against the Sis­ters of Nazareth as “fan­tasy”.

Since April, the in­quiry – led by Lady Smith – has heard ev­i­dence from for­mer res­i­dents at the Nazareth House home which was run by the Catholic or­der.

Last week, one wit­ness claimed she was sex­u­ally abused by a priest af­ter she went to con­fes­sion.

But in 1998, Arch­bishop Conti dis­missed the al­le­ga­tions against the nuns as “im­prob­a­ble” and said some al­leged vic­tims were mak­ing “fan­tas­ti­cal claims” and chas­ing a “pot of gold”. One for­mer res­i­dent Joseph Cur­rie, 64, claimed he told Arch­bishop Conti, then a priest, about be­ing abused in Aberdeen at the age of 13 in 1967 and was told to “pray for his abuser and say three Hail Marys and two Our Fa­thers.”

An­other for­mer res­i­dent Jim Buck­ley, 72 – who told the in­quiry he was sub­jected to phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal dam­age while stay­ing in the home in the 1950s – said it was time for Arch­bishop Conti to jus­tify his po­si­tion.

He said: “I re­mem­ber when my brother Michael and I went pub­lic with al­le­ga­tions of abuse, Arch­bishop Mario Conti made a state­ment dis­cred­it­ing us and ac­cus­ing us of, es­sen­tially, be­ing in it for money. I would like to see those state­ments read out to him at the in­quiry and see what he has to say for him­self.”

Arch­bishop Conti will be the high­est pro­file Catholic leader to ap­pear at the in­quiry.

Sur­vivor groups said hav­ing Arch­bishop Conti, 84, called to give ev­i­dence shows how se­ri­ously the in­quiry is tak­ing their al­le­ga­tions.

Si­mon Collins, a so­lic­i­tor rep­re­sent­ing In-Care Abuse Sur­vivors wel­comed the news.

He said: “He will now be held to ac­count and asked to stand by the state­ments he has given over the years.”

In 1998, Arch­bishop Conti, who was then the Bishop of Aberdeen said it was “pos­si­ble” nuns had mis­treated chil­dren at Nazareth House in Aberdeen.

But he added: “So it’s pos­si­ble. That it is prob­a­ble, I am not so sure, though some peo­ple clearly have a me­mory of hav­ing been treated badly, as they see it, in re­gard to bed-wet­ting. There are some peo­ple be­fore whom lawyers have been dan­gling a pot of gold. There are a whole range of pos­si­ble mo­tives, some of which are per­haps more un­der­stand­able and more ac­cept­able and oth­ers more rep­re­hen­si­ble.

“I am sim­ply say­ing that some peo­ple have been mak­ing fan­tas­ti­cal ac­cu­sa­tions against the Sis­ters.”

Fol­low­ing the con­vic­tion of Sis­ter Marie Docherty in 2000 on four charges of cru­elty to­wards four girls at Nazareth House in Aberdeen, the Church re­sisted de­mands for a pub­lic apol­ogy.

Af­ter the 2000 trial of Sis­ter Alphonso, a Catholic nun con­victed of four charges of abus­ing young girls in her care at Nazareth House, Arch­bishop Conti, who was then Bishop of Aberdeen, was crit­i­cised for claim­ing: “Some prac­tices which to­day seem ex­ces­sive and even cruel, would not have been viewed in this light years ago”.

He later sug­gested her con­vic­tion had been a mis­car­riage of jus­tice say­ing: “I think she was treated harshly. Some of the al­le­ga­tions were shock­ing and some were so ab­surd as to be un­be­liev­able.”

Lady Smith’s in­quiry has so far heard po­lice have re­ceived 308 com­plaints about 194 peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with Nazareth House in­sti­tu­tions over 50 years.

Last week, Arch­bishop Conti led the funeral ser­vice of for­mer House of Com­mons Speaker Paul Martin at St Aloy­sius Church in Glas­gow. He is widely re­spected by the Catholic Church for his lead­er­ship and was asked to stay on as an arch­bishop in 2009 af­ter turn­ing 75, the nor­mal age to re­sign. A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “If the in­quiry feels it would be help­ful for Arch­bishop Emer­i­tus Mario Conti to par­tic­i­pate then I am sure he will lend them his sup­port.”

The in­quiry will recom­mence in Ed­in­burgh on Tues­day May 22.

A spokesper­son for the Scot­tish Child Abuse In­quiry said: “The in­quiry is cur­rently look­ing at es­tab­lish­ments run by the Sis­ters of Nazareth in Aberdeen, Car­don­ald, Kil­marnock and Lass­wade.

“Ev­i­dence will be heard from a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als who were res­i­dent in these es­tab­lish­ments, as well as other wit­nesses.

The in­quiry is urg­ing po­ten­tial wit­nesses to come for­ward a spokesman said: “We con­tinue to take ev­i­dence from many sur­vivors and other wit­nesses with valu­able in­for­ma­tion to pro­vide, as well as gath­er­ing a wide range of doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence. We con­tinue to en­cour­age any­one who has rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion to get in touch.”

Arch­bishop Conti will be called to give ev­i­dence at the abuse in­quiry

Nazareth House nuns with the arch­bishop

Lady Smith

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