21 May 2009

Entrenched evil-doing in Ireland

We all knew what to expect. It is still shocking though when you read the report, or, as much of it as you can stomach. The people of the church carried it out, they covered it up. Generations of children had their lives ruined, and in some cases, taken. The state conspired with the church leaders to hush the suffering children and to ensure that their pain wasn't made known beyond the cold stone walls of the orphanages, reformatories, "care" homes for disabled children and industrial schools. What was done to these children was brutal, far worse than the accepted level of child abuse tolerated at almost all schools in the country, the run of the mill beatings and canings by teachers which were legal and known as corporal punishment. These were an expected part of education in those not far gone days. What happened to these children, taken from their families or who had no families, was far worse. They were abused in every way. They were beaten, bullied, raped, neglected.

Reading Nick's blog today I learned of the chapter of this massive document dedicated to the abuses perpetrated in Special Needs Schools and residential services. A table is used to show the 11 combination of types of abuse the witnesses endured. It is a long list of heart breaking tales, examples of hurts, lives destroyed, families torn apart. To pick a random example:
"I was locked in the washroom overnight. ......( named religious staff member)... would walk out and close the door, you’d have your ...night clothes... on and you could stand at your basin and do what you liked but you had to stay there, no blankets, mattress, sleep on the bare floor. We used to get together in a corner and try to keep each other warm, it was scary, you’d hope that nothing would happen, you could also be there on your own. ... You could be there for more than a few nights in a row, freezing cold."

For these disabled children, the report describes how they;
"generally reported having great difficulty in finding ways of disclosing their abuse to anyone. In all instances the witnesses’ particular disability was described as a barrier to communication and disclosure, both at the time and subsequently. A number stated that this difficulty was particularly highlighted when addressing such a sensitive topic as sexual abuse."
The report also details ways in which the appalling start these people had in life has affected them as they've grown up. I do not excuse or forgive this brutalisation of the vulnerable. I cannot. I want to see a revolution. The people who did this and the others who colluded in the cover up cannot be allowed to continue to wield the power and influence over so much of Irish life any longer. We ,must stay away from their churches and ceremonies. We must freeze them out. We must take back control of our schools and hospitals, care homes and residential facilities. They cannot be allowed to get away with this. They have bullied and impeded our lives for long enough. The children who suffered in the Irish gulags are owed a duty by all citizens to stand up against the vile creatures who harmed them. It is no longer good enough to point to all the good some of the clergy and others in the religious orders have done and to say that many of them are not abusers, that the majority are decent men and women of faith. That is true, at least I think so, but then I haven't read the full report. But the leaders are up to their necks in their culpability for allowing this to happen and as such have tarnished the whole show.

There must be trials and prison sentences. The guilty must be named and sent down for their crimes. The incoming leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales was wrong when he described the people who have admitted some portion of their crimes (and only when absolutely forced to do so as their cloak of concealment was finally dragged away) as "courageous".

I remember being a child and how powerless I was, and I had a very safe and happy childhood. I can’t imagine living in fear every day like generations of my country people have. I look at my own children, exasperating, joyful, vulnerable, hopeful and the idea that little people like them can be harmed for the perverse pleasure and convenience of religious orders fills me with fear and anger and unfortunately, hate. I am ashamed of my nationality and of my abandoned religion.

Other posts:
Paddy Doyle


kristina said...

So sickened by this report. My husband has been writing something about the scandal of sexual abuse by priests here in the US. At my own college, a Jesuit (former VP of Missions) suddenly disappeared a few years ago: Pornographic images had been found on his office computer. He has been charged and convicted.

CS McClellan/Catana said...

What's really sickening is that it's been going on for over 100 years. Check out the 2002 movie, The Magdalene Sisters. It's fiction, but based on the same reality as the report.

Anonymous said...

As an Irishman and a lapsed Catholic, I too am embarrassed and ashamed. Not only of the clergy, but also of the deferential way in which the Irish Catholic Church has been treated by the Irish government departments charged with ensuring the safety of children and young adults. Every single person involved in this child abuse should be prosecuted - if it is acceptable for Israel to still be chasing Nazis 65 years after WWII, it is certainly acceptable for these abusers to face jail time for their heinous crimes.
The vulnerable in society need protection - they shouldn't need protection from their "protectors".

Nick McGivney said...

I'll be a while kicking around in the foul rag and bone shop over this final face-to-face meeting we're having with ourselves. But when I come away I'll want to know who is still alive and protected, and I want to hear the protectors say 'We are wrong to shield this indefensible behaviour.' And I will want to atone for my own blithe life and me getting blithely on with it. I will want to know that it stops now and no matter how perilous our economy or how fragile our standing in the world, it becomes slowly clear that we love our children. All of our children, especially those who have no family to turn to. I am ashamed.

kathleen said...

Very powerful-very well written. I look at my children and think-what if? What if they aren't able to live on their own one day...What if they have to rely on assisted living and care givers...It would be so easy to say-"oh those things only happen in Ireland"..but the sad truth is that they happen everywhere..Until the day that people are held accountable for their actions-that responsibility is required..it will continue. Bravo for taking action.

Ed said...

It is no longer good enough to point to all the good some of the clergy and others in the religious orders have done and to say that many of them are not abusers, that the majority are decent men and women of faith.

That's a good point and well said.The number of good people involved isn't valid at all to me. Whenever any religious group takes on the role that governments do (such as educating or caring for those who are more vulnerable), that groups authority should be held responsible for human violations of humans by other humans just like governments that are responsible to their citizens for the violations of other citizens.

That should be even more true when the established religious group has gained trust by having been established and have abused that trust.

Lisa said...

I've left my comments with Nick who like you did more research than I feel able to.

I hope the President can find a way to mark the day. I suggest a candlelight vigil in the Phoenix Park at dusk.


Kent Adams said...

The report could be sneaked to someone in the US who would be free to publish the religious' names. I can't understand how the church was successful in getting that blocked. Libel laws in the UK seem way too restrictive to me.

I simply don't understand the behavior of some humans towards others. Particularly in this instance when it was on such a massive scale. There wasn't just some rogue individual committing these crimes. It was a systemic and institutional state and church sponsorship of abuse.

AnnB said...

We should be aware that, even with evidence available on the wrongs committed, to date there is still no legislative framework to protect our children against this type of abuse. What has been put in place is a voluntary code of practice with no sanction for any breach of the guidelines.

This has not gone away.

Sharon McDaid said...

@Kristina, it is sickening. It brings the reputation of the whole
church very low. It is not so unusual unfortunately, to know a priest
who acted illegally and immorally.

@Catana, I have seen that film. It's heartbreaking and yes, is
certainly based on reality.

@Bog Raver, I agree with everything you wrote.

@Nick, that there are still children incarcerated means we have to act
now. Our society must atone for our part in this too. And the bastards
who committed the crimes and covered them up can't be allowed to get
away with this.

@Kathleen, these horrors happen everywhere. What is unusual in Ireland
is that this was all done by an organisation who are supposed to "love
others as themselves".

@Ed, yes. The church must be held responsible for the actions of its
members. Each member of the orders worked in these schools and
institutions as representatives of their order. Each order must take
responsibility for what they did. The whole point of these schools was
to brutalise, to create fear.

@Lisa I read your comment there. I'd like to see a vigil in the park
or something, but more than that, I'd like to see mass demonstrations
outside every Catholic church each Sunday.

@Kent, UK libel laws are restrictive and the Irish ones are severe
too, I think. There are no names on the report as this was a
precondition for the church to finally agree to the bare minimum of
cooperation with the reports authors. As explained in the report,
there had been an indemnity agreement: "Under the terms of the
indemnity agreement reached with the Religious Congregations on 5th
June 2002, the Congregations agreed to make a contribution of €128
million towards the redress scheme." The guilty are guaranteed
anonymity and to remain free and the churches pay out a paltry sum in
compensation, which only goes to those who were sexually assaulted,
(So if you where whipped with a leather belt studded with coins,
tough.) The Irish state is to pay 9/10 of the compensation costs.

@AnnB, too right this is not over. a voluntary code is not good enough. I don't think the state should be outsourcing all it's responsibilities for the care and education of children to multinational organisations like the religious orders. they ought to start finally taking their responsibilities more seriously.