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Monks who took in priest 'unaware of child abuse claims'

The US priest was sent to Scotland after being accused of abusing a 15-year-old girl.

By STV News

Published 22 Aug 2018.

Scottish monks who took in a priest accused of abusing children say they were unaware of his alleged crimes.

Benedict Van der Putten was sent to the Golgotha monastery in Orkney after being accused of abusing a 15-year-old girl in 2000.

The priest, who is also alleged to have tried to molest a 17-year-old girl at a priory in California, spent several weeks in seclusion on the tiny island of Papa Stronsay.

This week he was among more than 300 priests named by US prosecutors in a wide-ranging report on child abuse within the church.

Monks living at the monastery say they were not aware of the allegations during his stay.

Father Michael Mary, who founded the order which runs Golgotha, described Van der Putten as "strange" and said he was eventually asked to leave the monastery by the monks.

"People come to a monastery for a variety of different reasons," he said.

"As close as it got to revealing the 'why' of his visit was something to the effect that he had got into trouble giving spiritual advice.

"In the year 2000 we were in the throes of establishing ourselves on Papa Stronsay and at the time there were a few brothers living there.

"But there was not always a priest present for daily mass.

"About a year later we were contacted by someone associated with the Society of Saint Pius X asking us to receive a priest from America who needed to go on retreat.

"At the time of Van Der Putten's arrival I was not at the monastery so it coincided with a need for a priest to say mass.

"When I returned a couple of weeks later the brothers complained very strongly about him - he was acting in a very strange way, he said mass in a weird and irreverent manner and did not fit into the monastic environment at all.

"He was an unstable nuisance. The community had enough to do and wanted him out and he went to live in a house on Stronsay."

Van der Putten left the island a short time later and travelled to Ireland before being expelled from his religious order.

He attempted to join a diocese in Pennsylvania in 2001 but was turned away after the allegations against him re-emerged.

Around the same time he was accused of abusing an 18-year-old girl and admitted abusing a 16-year-old girl in an interview with church officials, according to state prosecutors.

The grand jury report released this week by Pennsylvania's attorney general describes a systematic cover-up of child abuse in the state going back decades.

In response, Pope Francis said the Catholic church had "abandoned" its duty to protect children.

"We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them," he wrote in a 2000-word letter addressed to Catholics across the world.

"Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such abuses from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated."

Father Michael Mary said he does not believe any other priests have visited the monastery on Stronsay under similar circumstances.

"We didn't know the details of his situation and we have not had any others in our 19 years on Papa Stronsay as far as I know," he added.

Van der Putten went on to run a website where he advertised his availability for youth camps and conferences and sold masses. He later moved to Hawaii and left the priesthood, it is understood.

Many of the Pennsylvania report's findings echo those of the Boston Globe's famous Spotlight investigation.

In 2002, the Globe found evidence of large-scale abuse in Boston and concluded priests had been moved to other parishes after being accused of abuse instead of being reported to police.

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