‘Sadistic’ monks abused children at religious schools, inquiry finds

Children at two Catholic boarding schools suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse from ‘sadistic’ monks, inquiry Judge Lady Smith finds

Inquiry chair Lady Smith has published her fifth case study finding, looking at two boarding schools run by the Benedictine monks of Fort Augustus Abbey between 1948 and 1991.
Inquiry chair Lady Smith has published her fifth case study finding, looking at two boarding schools run by the Benedictines of Fort Augustus between 1948 and 1991.

By Lucy Ashton

“Sadistic” monks repeatedly abused children at two schools linked to a religious order, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has ruled.

Inquiry chair Lady Smith has published her fifth case study finding, looking at two boarding schools run by the Benedictine monks of Fort Augustus Abbey between 1948 and 1991.

She found that children in their care suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse, noting that some monks were “serial sexual predators” who targeted children at both schools.

This phase of the inquiry looked at the Carlekemp Priory School in North Berwick, East Lothian, and Fort Augustus Abbey School in Inverness-shire.

The inquiry heard evidence from 43 witnesses in relation to the two Benedictine schools, which were given the task of educating some of Scotland’s most well-off Catholics.

Lady Smith 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.

“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.

“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.”

The inquiry will take the findings relating to the Benedictines into account when it publishes its final report.

Those who wish to give evidence to the inquiry about the Benedictines are still able to do so.

The monks were not trained to look after children

Lady Smith added: “The monks were not trained to look after children on a residential basis.

“They lacked the capacity and ability to do so.

“The notion that untrained monks could care for school‑aged children was seriously flawed.”

During an evidence session in July 2019, a male witness told the inquiry the religious order was effectively playing “pass the paedophile” – moving one of the worst abusers around to cover up his actions.

Another witness described another monk as a “sadist” who took pleasure in beating boys with a bamboo stick.

A representative for the English Benedictine Congregation later told the inquiry the religious order offered an “unreserved apology” to everyone affected by the abuse.

The congregation said it accepted that children had been “robbed” of their childhoods and the schools had caused lasting damage.

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