A VETERAN campaigner for abuse victims has questioned the contrast between the swift action taken by the Catholic Church over Cardinal O'Brien's resignation and the length of time taken to deal with allegations of sexual and physical abuse made by members of the public against priests.

Frank Docherty, a founder member of In Care Abuse Survivors (INCAS), said the church had been forced to get rid of O'Brien swiftly because he had created an "embarrassment" that the hierarchy couldn't cover up.

Docherty, who suffered physical abuse as a child in an orphanage run by nuns, said the contrast between how allegations of O'Brien behaving inappropriately with adult men were dealt with in comparison to allegations of criminal abuse against minors showed the church wanted to both "minimise" the issue of offences against children, and sweep clerical scandals such as O'Brien's under the carpet as quickly as possible.

His comments come after another alleged abuse victim, known only as Chris, told how his life was "ruined" after being abused by a priest in the 1990s from the age of around nine or 10.

The Catholic Church in Scotland said it removed the priest involved from his parish when the allegations were made last year and a file on the allegations had been sent to the Vatican. It is still waiting for a decision.

In contrast, O'Brien was forced to resign early by Pope Benedict XVI, just over a day after it emerged three serving priests and a former priest had accused him of "inappropriate acts" against them nearly 30 years ago.

He has admitted sexual misconduct but does not face any criminal allegations, or any claims of child abuse.

Docherty said: "The reason Cardinal O'Brien's case came and went so quickly was that they were trying to cover it up, but they couldn't cover it up because he admitted it. They were making sure it wasn't prolonged because it was an embarrassment. The Catholic Church are great at minimising everything."

Docherty, 69, suffered beatings at the hands of nuns in the 1950s after he was sent to Smyllum Park Orphanage in Lanark at the age of nine.

He has previously tried to sue the Catholic Church over the physical abuse he suffered – but the case was one of many actions effectively blocked by time bar. He has also pressed for a full public inquiry into allegations of abuse in Catholic-run homes without success.

He added: "It is so unfair. Every time we seem to come up against a brick wall. I suffered from daily beatings and it has ruined my life.

"We were always brought up to respect nuns and priests and when this person was doing what she was doing and looking with hate on her face, that is when the trauma set in.

"We witnessed the dark side of these people and what they were capable of."

There have been longrunning concerns over the cover-up of cases of abuse in the Catholic Church. Back in 2000, the Sunday Herald ran an investigation revealing that a priest who carried out a series of sexual assaults and rapes on an eight-year-old boy in Lanarkshire was being allowed to continue working unsupervised with children.

Last week fresh concerns were raised after an academic who compiled a report for the church on how to deal with abuse in the mid-1990s said not enough was done.

Alan Draper asked Scotland's eight bishops how much they knew and received letters which referred to 20 allegations of child abuse by priests.

But the bishops disagreed when he said independent experts should investigate further.

When asked for comment on the contrast between the amount of time taken to deal with abuse allegations from the public and swift action taken over O'Brien, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said decisions in both cases were taken by the Vatican.

Last night the Vatican could not be contacted for comment.