THE Catholic Church has been accused of failing to establish contact with victims of historic child abuse as it pledged to do in response to an independent review.

The Very Reverend Dr Andrew McLellan, a former Church of Scotland moderator who carried out an independent external review of child protection and safeguarding policies within the Catholic Church, said it was “astonishing” no contact had been made with victims’ groups.

When The McLellan Commission report was delivered in 2015, the Catholic Church pledged to implement all of its findings. These included a pledge that “justice must be done and justice must be seen to be done for those who have been abused and for those against whom allegations of abuse are made”.

However, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church insisted “interaction with survivors continues” and contact by its very nature was confidential. The spokesperson said: “The Church is now close to full implementation of the recommendations contained in the McLellan report.

“Safeguarding guidelines have been comprehensively revised and updated, while interaction with survivors continues.

“Crucially, no individual or organisation has a monopoly on survivor representation or interaction. Contact with survivors, by its nature confidential, is taking place across the Church. Many survivors do not identify with or join national groups and such groups should not presume to speak for them.” Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, as president of the Bishops’ Conference, apologised to anyone who had been harmed or who had suffered in any way as a result of actions by anyone within the Catholic Church.

He added: “We apologise to those who have found the Church’s response slow, unsympathetic or uncaring and reach out to them as we take up the recommendations of the McLellan commission.”

The Church says it has set up an independent review group headed by Baroness Helen Liddell to take forward the commission’s recommendations and claims it has been consulting with survivors.

But Dr McLellan said it was extraordinary that, more than two years after the publication of his report, groups representing victims of abuse are yet to meet with the review group, and claim they have had little meaningful contact from bishops and the Church.

He said: “After Archbishop Tartaglia’s public apology, which he did so well, there was a long hard silence and I was very disappointed in terms of the progress the bishops were making.

“I value the energy with which Baroness Liddell has set about her task. And I am pleased to hear about the publication of a new safeguarding manual.

“But contact with survivors and victims seems to be the slowest part when it should have been the most urgent. One of the biggest challenges is to reach out to those who don’t belong to any group or feel forgotten, or that they don’t want anything to do with the Catholic Church.

“When our report was published there was a sense that there was a new mood in the Church and it was determined to turn its back on these unhappy practices. I’m astonished that it has taken so long to establish contact with survivor groups.

“By the time it happens the question is whether it will still be fruitful.” Alan Draper, of the charity In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), said the group had been offered a meeting with the review group in March 2018, more than two and a half years after Dr McLellan’s report came out.

“We have had one meeting with Bishop Toal and Monsignor Bradley, the general secretary of the bishop’s conference,” he said. “That was some months ago now. We asked for continuing dialogue, but got the brush off. The impression I get is they are not really interested. It is not meaningful. Meanwhile, Baroness Liddell and her independent review group still haven’t involved us at all and they don’t have a survivor representative on the board.”

Abuse within Catholic orders has been highlighted at both the Scottish and English child abuse inquiries in recent months, while a former abbott, Andrew Soper, was jailed for 18 years in December for abusing 10 boys at a Catholic-run school in London during the 1970s and 80s.