IN 1976 in North Ayrshire the destinies of two children briefly kissed one afternoon and then spun off into different universes. A little clutch of infants from a Dreghorn nursery had been taken out to marvel at the huge papier mache shark displayed in a shop window to mark the arrival of Jaws at the local cinema. One of them would become the most powerful person in Scotland; the other would encounter a childhood and youth of unimaginable physical and sexual abuse by priests of the Catholic Church.

Andi Lavery remembers his little classmate Nicola Sturgeon well. She would always politely say hello as they passed each other in the street. At some point, though, the young Andi stopped responding to these greetings and became sullen, for by then his abuse at the hands of Fr Paul Moore had begun. He was five years old. He wonders how his life might have been if, like Nicola Sturgeon, he had gone up to Dreghorn Primary School and not St Mark’s where this predatory priest lay in wait.

At the High Court in Glasgow last month 82-year-old Fr Moore was convicted of sexually abusing three children and a student priest in crimes that spanned more than two decades. He has now appealed his nine-year sentence thus prolonging the agony of his victims. Andi Lavery was the main witness in the trial and the youngest of those victims. The sexual abuse he suffered both as a child in Ayrshire and as a teenager at Fort Augustus Abbey outside of Inverness is of the most appallingly brutal kind, including violent rape. Fort Augustus, it seems, was long known among the highest church authorities as a sort of clerical rubbish tip, conveniently remote and hidden where problem priests could be smuggled in quietly and then forgotten.

Tragically and unforgivably no thought was spared for the young pupils who also passed through this wretched place. Moore is the second Fort Augustus priest to have been convicted; extradition processes for a further two are currently underway. According to Mr Lavery, many other boys were abused there. Moore himself was sent to this place after allegedly admitting child abuse to his bishop more than 20 years previously. The judge at Fr Moore’s trial, Lady Rae, described his crimes as an “appalling abuse” and that the damage done to the young people involved was immeasurable.

Alongside him, though, almost the entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Scotland stretching back several decades stands accused of complicity in these crimes and of covering them up when they came to light. The Church’s official propagandists would have us believe that only a tiny number of rogue priests have been guilty of child sex abuse; they are in denial. A narrative of evil and abuse has emerged encompassing all dioceses in Scotland, including decades of it at the former national seminary at Blair’s College in Aberdeen where the disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien was once rector for several years.

The way that the Catholic Church has treated Andi Lavery before, during and after the conviction of his principal abuser is indicative of an organisation that long ago lost sight of its central purpose on this earth. It is no longer fit to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in this area it has become an instrument of Satan. A judgment is now being cast upon it and it is failing.

In their long fight for justice for the evil that they suffered Andi Lavery and some of his fellow survivors have been treated like scum by the Catholic Church. As of yesterday no one from the leadership of this so-called Christian Church has enquired after Mr Lavery’s mental and physical wellbeing. There have been bland and insincere apologies but no offer of financial redress. Yet the hierarchy have always found money to purchase homes and comfortable accommodation for those among its clergy who have committed acts of evil in its service. Mr Lavery has been left penniless.

He was a skilled and experienced nurse before his long fight for justice took over his life and triggered memories which have left him close to suicide. During this time he has watched helplessly as several other victims killed themselves, broken finally by the weight of their destroyed childhoods and by the callous indifference of a church that turned its back on them.

During the trial Fr Moore’s defence team tried unsuccessfully to have him declared mentally unstable in a bid to destroy his credibility. Following the trial a senior priest of the archdiocese of Glasgow declared in a radio interview that he had never met Mr Lavery. Yet the two had met just a few years ago in the company of several politicians as Mr Lavery began to build cross-party support for survivors of child sex abuse. The tone of the correspondence by the Church’s National Safeguarding Officer to Mr Lavery has often been devoid of anything approaching compassion for the mental and physical torture he and others suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church.

Meanwhile the McLellan Report into historic sex abuse in the Catholic Church inexplicably allowed the hierarchy to escape any scrutiny of its cover-ups; pay-offs and complicity in decades of abuse. It focused merely on future safeguarding arrangements but directed the Church to ensure “support for survivors of abuse must be an absolute priority for the Catholic Church in Scotland in the field of safeguarding”. Two years later Dr McLellan expressed his dismay that the hierarchy had failed to do this.

Faced with such persistent wrongdoing, dishonesty and callousness you are left desperately trying to differentiate between the faith and the sorry collection of hypocrites who administer it. Their propaganda wing regularly tries to raise the spectre of anti-Catholicism in Scottish society but this is a smokescreen for the much greater evil suffered by Andi Lavery and hundreds of other innocents whose lives it destroyed.

Only a full public inquiry led by a judge will have a chance of uncovering the true extent and nature of child sex abuse in the Scottish Catholic Church rather than its spin doctors’ highly selective version of it. Nicola Sturgeon must start that process now in the name of a little boy she once knew a long time ago. In the meantime she should request the presence of the Papal Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Edward Adams, at Holyrood to ask how the Vatican intends to deal with a grossly dysfunctional Catholic leadership in Scotland, one that has betrayed its people.