Catholic Church is “sorry and ashamed” over widespread abuse of Irish children

A FIERCELY debated, long-delayed investigation into Ireland’s Roman Catholic-run institutions says priests and nuns terrorised thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades – and government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.

Nine years in the making, today’s 2,600-page report sides almost completely with the horrific reports of abuse from former students sent to more than 250 church-run, mostly residential institutions. But victims’ leaders said it didn’t go far enough.

Furthermore, its findings will not be used for criminal prosecutions – in part because the Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report.

Kevin Flannigan from the group 'Survivors of Child Abuse', protests at not being allowed into the launch of the long awaited Child Abuse Commission report at a hotel Dublin today

Kevin Flannigan from the group 'Survivors of Child Abuse', protests at not being allowed into the launch of the long awaited Child Abuse Commission report at a hotel in Dublin today

Ironically, the report was issued on the same day that the Pope, in his weekly audience in Rome, encouraged young Catholics to make better use of the internet to “spread the church’s message”.

The Irish report – one of the most widely-read stories on the internet today -concluded that church officials always shielded their orders’ abusers from arrest to protect their own reputations and, according to documents uncovered in the Vatican, knew that many paedophiles were serial attackers.

The investigators said overwhelming, consistent testimony from still-traumatised men and women, now in their 50s to 80s, had demonstrated beyond a doubt that the entire system treated children more like prison inmates and slaves than people with legal rights and human potential.

The final report of Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse concluded:

A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from.

The leader of Ireland’s four million Catholics, Cardinal Sean Brady, and religious orders at the centre of the scandal offered immediate apologies.

I am profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions. Children deserved better and especially from those caring for them in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Sisters of Mercy, which ran several refuges for girls where the report documented chronic brutality, said in a statement that its nuns:

Accept that many who spent their childhoods in our orphanages or industrial schools were hurt and damaged while in our care. There is a great sadness in all of our hearts at this time and our deepest desire is to continue the healing process for all involved.

And the Rev Edmund Garvey, spokesman for the Christian Brothers order that once ran dozens of boys’ schools, said that reading the report’s “presentation of the history of our institutions, it is hard to avoid feeling shame.”

More than 30,000 children deemed to be petty thieves, truants or from dysfunctional families – a category that often included unmarried mothers – were sent to Ireland’s austere network of industrial schools, reformatories, orphanages and hostels from the 1930s until the last church-run facilities shut in the 1990s.

The report, unveiled by High Court Justice Sean Ryan, found that molestation and rape were “endemic” in boys’ facilities, chiefly run by the Christian Brothers, and supervisors pursued policies that increased the danger. Girls supervised by orders of nuns, chiefly the Sisters of Mercy, suffered much less sexual abuse but frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless.

The report said:

In some schools a high level of ritualized beating was routine. … Girls were struck with implements designed to maximize pain and were struck on all parts of the body. Personal and family denigration was widespread.

Victims of the system have long demanded that the truth of their experiences be documented and made public.

But several victims – who were prevented from attending Wednesday’s report launch and scuffled with police outside a central Dublin hotel – said the report didn’t go far enough and rejected the church leaders’ apologies as insincere.

Said John Kelly, a former inmate of a Dublin industial school who fled to London and today leads a pressure group called Irish Survivors of Child Abuse:

Victims will feel a small degree of comfort that they’ve been vindicated. But the findings do not go far enough.

He added that any apologies offered now were:

Hollow, shallow and have no substance or merit at all. We feel betrayed and cheated today.

The report proposed 21 ways the government could recognize past wrongs, including building a permanent memorial, providing counseling and education to victims and improving Ireland’s current child protection services.

Irish church leaders and religious orders all declined to comment today, citing the need to read the massive document first. The Vatican also declined to comment.

You can read the full report here.

11 responses to “Catholic Church is “sorry and ashamed” over widespread abuse of Irish children”

  1. Iago says:

    What about stopping such institution from ever again being in a position of trust or power over children? No church should be allowed to run their own schools and indoctrinate children, and even less so with public funding

  2. petursey says:

    The Catholic Church should never be allowed to be near children ever again.

    Whether they're abusing children with their claptrap Jebus rubbish.. or doing even worse as described above they have proved beyond doubt that they have a culture of protecting true evil and stopping justice and what is right in order to protect an image of infallibility and protectionism of their "celibate" twisted abusers..

    They are sick and should be banned, stopped, banished, and shut down..simple as that.

  3. CybrgnX says:

    And this is a big surprise to who???? Only to those who buried their heads in the sands of pious belief in the church. I found they were doing stuff during the medevil ages it just the witch burns got better press. nothing new here its just that people are dicovering that the church really is no better than any other cult.

  4. Har Davids says:

    First they cover up for years, then there's an investigation that doesn't name and shame, followed by apologies! And still the RC church manages to influence peoples' lives. It's truly amazing!!!

  5. Callisto says:

    Hollow apologies? Yes; what they're sorry for is that they've finally been caught out.

    I agree with Iago and Petursey; never again should the RCC be allowed any access to children through schools, orphanages or anything else they may run; they should be shut down and barred from all and everything related to children and young people, and the Vatican should be forced to open its coffers and dispense its billions of dollars of profit in way of compensation to every single person it has abused over the decades.
    The Pope should be made to stand and face charges for crimes against humanity, stretching back centuries, and he and his stinking institution should be thrown down, and its wealth distributed to the poor, especially to child victims of theirs and to the people of Africa riddled with AIDS due to their 'no condom' dogma.

    The Pope should be shunned by all world governments (and if this would ever really happen) and crowds bussed in to boo, jeer and throw rotten eggs at the bastard whenever he makes his grand window appearances in St Peter's square. It's time this rotten edifice was pulled down and exposed as the corrupt, vile and abusive seat of inhumanity that it is. It is time!

  6. barriejohn says:

    I said from the start that this was the reason for Comic Murphy O`Cobbler`s unprecedented retirement – he was obviously tipped off ages ago as to what was in the pipeline! Of course, there`s no chance of any of this happening in "Faith Schools" is there?!!!!!

  7. tony e says:

    Callisto – well put.

    However, does anyone care to wager that no-one will be charged over this?

  8. Angela_K says:

    The catholic church has its tentacles of corruption and influence in every government of the World, so no one will be charged for their abuse, and no doubt that revolting papist Blair will assist them in a cover-up.

    I’m pleased that this subject has at last made headlines; it may cause some people to question their support of religion.

  9. If it ever did emerge that a hypothetical atheist or humanist group was inflicting systematic physical and sexual abuse on extremely vulnerable children, I would expect full co-operation with the authorities, and those responsible to be arrested, tried and jailed.

    Although most of those responsible for the abuse are dead, I would still like to see those involved in the cover-up prosecuted, or at least some evidence of contrition and shame on the part of the Catholic church , not just mealy-mouthed, arrogant platitudes. Who the hell do they think they are?

  10. wow « fume says:

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  11. Carolyn says:

    Indifferentist, well said! and I will enter a hearty Amen! Carolyn