Irish church knew abuse 'endemic'
The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was established in 2000 to investigate allegations of abuse at Catholic-run children's institutions in Ireland. The main findings were:
— Physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of the institutions.
— Sexual abuse occurred in many of them, particularly 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.
— Absconders were severely beaten, at times publicly. Some had their heads shaved and were humiliated.
— Inspectors, on their occasional visits, rarely spoke to the children in the institutions.
Irish church knew abuse 'endemic'
BBC Wednesday, 20 May 2009 16:38 UK
An inquiry into child abuse at Catholic institutions in Ireland has found church leaders knew that sexual abuse was "endemic" in boys' institutions.
It also found physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of institutions.
Schools were run "in a severe, regimented manner that imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on children and even on staff".
The nine-year inquiry investigated a 60-year period.
About 35,000 children were placed in a network of reformatories, industrial schools and workhouses up to the 1980s.
More than 2,000 told the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse they suffered physical and sexual abuse while there.
Police were called to the commission's news conference amid angry scenes as victims were prevented from attending.
More allegations were made against the Christian Brothers than the other male orders combined.
The report found child safety was not a priority for the Christian Brothers who ran the institutions, the order was defensive in its response to complaints and failed to accept any congregational responsibility for abuse.
The report said that 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 leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said those who perpetrated violence and abuse should be held to account, "no matter how long ago it happened".
"Every time there is a single incident of abuse in the Catholic Church, it is a scandal. I would be very worried if it wasn't a scandal... I hope these things don't happen again, but I hope they're never a matter of indifference," he said.
The five-volume study concluded that Irish church officials encouraged ritual beatings and consistently shielded their orders' paedophiles from arrest amid a "culture of self-serving secrecy".
It also found that government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.
The commission said overwhelming, consistent testimony from still- traumatized 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 reformatory and industrial schools depended on rigid control by means of severe corporal punishment and the fear of such punishment," it said.
"The harshness of the regime was inculcated into the culture of the schools by successive generations of brothers, priests and nuns.
"It was systemic and not the result of individual breaches by persons who operated outside lawful and acceptable boundaries.
"Excesses of punishment generated the fear that the school authorities believed to be essential for the maintenance of order."
The report proposed 21 ways the government could recognise past wrongs, including building a permanent memorial, providing counselling and education to victims, and improving Ireland's current child protection services.
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.
No real names, whether of victims or perpetrators, appear in the final document.
Child abuse victims seek justice
BBC Wednesday, 20 May 2009
BBC NI's Dublin correspondent Shane Harrison speaks to three people abused at institutions run by the Catholic Church in the Republic of Ireland.
The report, by Mr Justice Sean Ryan, looks at how children were physically, sexually and emotionally abused in industrial schools or reform schools run by religious orders.
An estimated 35,000 children went through the schools that only closed in the late 1980s.
Two men in their 60s and a woman in her 70s sit around a long table in a wood panelled room discussing their experiences.
They are an unlikely-looking group of victims of the Catholic religious orders.
Thomas Wall, an orphan from Limerick, was sent by the criminal courts to a Christian Brothers run reform school when he was just three.
"From eight years of age I was sexually abused by a Christian brother at Glin," he said.
"If they took a liking to a person then you became a danger, then you became a target. And there was no way of avoiding it... I mean they had access to you 24 hours a day."
Tom Hayes, another Limerick orphan but now living in Richhill in County Armagh, was also sent to the same County Limerick school.
He said he too was sexually abused, not by the Christian Brothers but by the older boys who supervised or monitored the dormitories at night.
"It was common during the night to be woken by individuals interfering with you sexually," said Mr Hayes.
"When you informed the Christian Brothers yourself you were beaten up as a result of it and threatened by the very people, such as the monitors and such people, who perpetrated these acts."
Sadie O'Meara, a 15-year-old Tipperary girl working in Dublin, was brought to one of the Magdalene Laundries by the Legion of Mary.
There she worked long hours washing and ironing customers laundry.
The daughter of an unmarried mother she says she never found out why she ended up there and for four years suffered physical and emotional abuse in an institution run by the Sisters of Charity.
"You'd be up at 6am and you had to go to two Masses," she said.
"Your cell door was locked every night when you went in and you had a bucket and an iron bed and you couldn't look out the window. It was all bars.
"The food was absolutely brutal. And my mam died but they never told me she died. She died on Christmas Day but they never told me.
"I didn't know that until they let me out four years later. That's something that really upsets me."
Thomas Wall said he only has to look at the mirror to see evidence of the physical abuse he received at the hands of the Christian Brothers.
"I will carry a scar on my forehead which I got from a Brother in the classroom. Got my head banged off the desk," he said.
"It spouted blood and I went to the infirmary block, met the Superior, who was also a brother who was over the institution.
"I was questioned about what had happened to upset the Brother to this standard and I told him that I had done absolutely nothing and he did absolutely nothing about it."
Those at the industrial schools have said the abuse they suffered stays with them all their lives.
All three agree they have lost their belief in the Catholic Church.
"I have absolutely no faith in the Catholic Church. I am a Christian but I am not a Catholic. I left my Catholic religion at the industrial school gates," said Mr Hayes.
Thomas Wall, a single man, said he is not just physically scarred by the reform schools, he is also emotionally scarred.
"I found it impossible to mix with people, to trust people, to form any type of relationship with the opposite sex," he said.
"It damaged me totally, I think, for life. I'm convinced of that."
As for the report being published on Wednesday, all three, members of the Alliance Victims Support Group, say they want something simple - the truth.
And that means the religious orders admitting there was physical, sexual and emotional abuse at their institutions.
They also want the state to acknowledge that they were not criminals and to admit that it should have fulfilled its legal obligations and protected the most innocent of those it was tasked to care for.
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