Violent and sexual abuse of children by priests and nuns, including beatings with crucifixes and dog leads, took place at two Catholic care homes over decades in Scotland, according to an inquiry report on Thursday.
The report, the first chapter of a wider investigation led by Supreme court judge Lady Anne Smith, examined residential care for children by the order of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul between 1917 and 1981 – particularly the Smyllum Park Orphanage in Lanark, central Scotland and Bellevue Children’s Home near Glasgow.
At Smyllum, children were sexually abused by priests, a trainee priest, nuns, members of staff and a volunteer, the report found.
“For many children who were in Smyllum and Bellevue, the homes were places of fear, coercive control, threat, excessive discipline and emotional, physical and sexual abuse, where they found no love, no compassion, no dignity and no comfort,” Smith said in her summary of the findings.
Based on evidence from 51 witnesses and 21 written statements, the report detailed beatings with straps, rosary beads, wooden crucifixes and dog leads.
The wider Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry was set up three years ago and is currently examining allegations of abuse at 86 institutions.
The Roman Catholic Church has been at the centre of sexual abuse scandals worldwide for years, many involving children, which were covered up by senior members of the clergy.
For some children at the Scottish homes, beatings were “a normal aspect of daily life,” where punishment for bed-wetting was to stand before other children with the wet sheets over their heads, the report said. Those who did not eat would be force-fed, even as they were vomiting the food back.
An emailed statement from The Daughters of Charity said the findings described “events and practices which are totally out of keeping with the fundamental values which underpin our life and mission”. “We most sincerely offer our heartfelt apology to anyone who suffered any form of abuse whilst in our care,” it added.
Bellevue House closed in 1961 and Smyllum Park closed in 1981. Two months ago, police arrested and charged 11 women and one man in connection with the abuse of children at Smyllum.