Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ireland: The Scandal of Physical, Psychological and Sexual Abuse in Catholic Schools and Orphanages


St. Kevin of Glendalough (498? - 618 AD), Ireland,
had his own trials and struggles with celibacy
ultimately he triumphed over them

When once the Irish Catholic monks had saved the western civilization and blazed new paths in preaching Christianity and doing evangelization, the Catholic Church there now is abuzz with the widespread scandal of physical, psychological and sexual abuse in its schools from 1936 to the 1990s. This bastion of Christianity is presently shrouded in the dark shadow of unchristianity in the name of Christianity.

On May 20, Ireland's High Court Justice Sean Ryan revealed the 2,600-page report of the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse, based on testimony from thousands of former students and officials in more than 250 government-funded institutions (orphanages, reformatories, industrial schools and workhouses) run by the Catholic Church.

This nine-year investigation reports that priests and nuns terrorized thousands of boys and girls in orphanages and workhouse-style schools for about 60 years and government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliations.

The Ryan Report identified 18 Catholic Religious Orders and Congregations whose members abused these children. Among these, the Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy are predominant. So far, 14,000 abuse victims -- out of 35,000 who were placed in these institutions -- have been identified by the government. More than 800 individuals were involved in these abuses. Christine Buckley, who was placed at an institution at the age of three weeks, said of the institution later: "The atmosphere was one of almost 24-hour horror. Our childhoods were totally destroyed."

Chief Findings of the Ryan Report

  • Physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of these institutions.
  • Sexual abuse occurred in many of the institutions, especially in boys' institutions.
  • Schools were run in a severe, regimented manner that imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on children and even on staff.
  • Children were frequently hungry and food was inadequate, inedible and badly prepared in many schools.
  • Many witnesses spoke of being constantly fearful or terrified, which impeded their emotional development and impacted on every aspect of their life in the institution.
  • Prolonged, excessive beatings with implements intended to cause maximum pain occurred with the knowledge of senior staff.
  • There was constant criticism and verbal abuse and children were told they were worthless.
  • Some children lost their sense of identity and kinship, which was never recovered.
  • Absconding students were severely beaten, at times publicly. Some had their heads shaved and were humiliated.
  • Government inspectors, on their occasional visits, rarely spoke to the children in these institutions.
The Culture of Secrecy and Silence

The Report mentions that "when confronted with evidence of sexual abuse, the response of the Religious authorities was to transfer the offender to another location where, in many instances, he was free to abuse again." The Church leaders did not "listen to or believe" victims who complained of sexual abuse, and some remained unwilling to confront the issue even today. The Report also mentions that "the safety of children in general was not a consideration."

One former Christian Brother had carried out a 40-year sex abuse spree with the knowledge of a parish priest, a bishop, two communities of nuns, the government Education Department and police.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, the head of the Catholic Church in England, said that the Irish offenders still living should face justice.

"Profoundly Sorry"

Cardinal Sean Brady, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, said he was "profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions." He also said: "This report makes it clear that great wrong and hurt were caused to some of the most vulnerable children in our society. It documents a shameful catalogue of cruelty: neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, perpetrated against children."

The Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy also expressed their "sorrow."

Victims' Reactions

The BBC reports the reactions of abuse victims, Church leaders and political leaders. Bookmark and Share