Thursday, May 21, 2009

Abuse in Ireland


I think every Catholic should read the terrible report on sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children in Ireland.

In other parts of the world similar abuse took place in similar institutions, in Ireland all took place under the heading of the Church, which more or less ran Irish social services.

I am left wondering why such ghastly things should have happened.

Was "child care" pre-1980s like this everywhere; brutality, violence, humiliation were part of even the best schools.
Is it a fault of the Catholic Church as a whole?

Is it the particular fault of the the Church in Ireland?

Is it something to do with Irish culture in particular?

I am also left wondering whether there are other areas of society, in Ireland especially, but also elsewhere, where similar acts of abuse took place.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fr Ray,
I am an Irish reader and I read your blog regularly. This litany of abuse is truly shocking and I myself think it was perpetuated because of our history and culture of secrecy. Ireland has a very difficult and painful history and sensitivity to pain and abuse was not high as the Ireland I grew up in was a cold and poverty stricken place where surviving and keeping things to yourself was the way to go. I think many people entered the church then because it was a job. The other options were emigration. Obviously a lot of people were in religous institutions that should have never been accepted. I think the most damming thing is the secrecy and culture of cover up. Its devestating for the many good catholic clergy and laity. There is untold damage done to the faith particulary of the young. We are on the floor.

nickbris said...

There is far too much emphasis on the sexual abuse part of this report,discipline and physical abuse was commonplace in all institutions all over the British Empire.Prabably coming from Roman times.

The sexual part of it is what sells papers.Catholics have always had a problem with sex,Sex outside marriage,sex using contraception,masturbation and anything else to do with it.

Being in one of those places where beds are searched for stains is abuse beyond comprehension.We even suspected the priest of breaching the confession and stopped going until they brought in somebody from outside.

These things do not constitute the sexual abuse which is intimated but is another serious attack on Catholicism and another attack on FREEDOM

Fr Ray Blake said...

Anon.
I don't normally allow "anonymous" comments, but you make useful points.

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

What about the abuse of our young children with sex education..graphic sexual images & materials?

Catholic Observer said...

Irish Catholicism degenerated in its morals because of a historic entanglement with Jansenism. The report you cite expresses acutely the fruits of this noxious heresy, which creates an attitude to sex that is downright gnostic and engenders a suspicion of human kindness, and especially for the innocence of children. This spread to other areas missionized and ministered to by Irish clerics. I have always maintained that British culture is more amenable to Catholicism, and certainly its culture is greatly more influenced by Catholicism than we are. There are no Irish theologians of great repute, nor is there any distinctive Catholic literature from Ireland, at least for the last 3 centuries. A short and by no means comprehensive list of British Catholic luminaries will suffice to highlight the disparity: Gerard Manley Hopkins, Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, Edward Elgar, Eric Gill, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Elizabeth Anscombe, Elizabeth Jennings, Michael MacMillan - the Irish equivalents of such figures simply don’t exist. In fact the vast majority of Irish writers were Protestant -hence the name 'Anglo-Irish literature'. A theological sewer (which is what essentially Ireland was) is never prodigious for literatary or theological talent.

Unfortunately Ireland has long been rife with Jansenism. There are historic reasons for this. The first Irish seminary since the Reformation, the Royal College of St Patrick in Maynooth (still the main seminary), was founded in 1795 and staffed by French emigrants from the Revolution. A very high percentage of the faculty were Jansenists. Even before the Royal College, the Irish students at Louvain were taught by the Irishman Lord Trimblestown, who was a Jansenist and whose family played a crucial role in trying to defend Jansenism from persecution.

There has thus always been a Jansenistical air in Irish Catholicism, for historic reasons, and this has caused immeasurable harm to souls. I can remember my uncle telling me about going to Mass, and the priest demanding that any couples who had sexual relations would have to go to confession. No wonder you hear so many horror stories of this sort coming from Ireland.

The lesson in all this: Jansenism is a spiritual cancer. In this age of unrestrained hedonism, the heresy is in a more insidious and impressionable position, particularly for traditionalists. It should always be ruthlessly suppressed.

-Shane O'Neill

GOR said...

It is difficult to deal with the abuse that was common in institutions of the past without appearing to either make light of the situation or to exaggerate what went on. Viewing past history through the lens of today’s enlightenment is a precarious business. Those who weren’t personally exposed to that past find it shockingly unbelievable. Those who were, find it difficult to explain or to even talk about it.

I used to wonder how Germany could come to the pass it did by 1939. I couldn’t understand how the public at large could let that happen. Didn’t they know? Couldn’t they see what was going on? Didn’t anyone object? Where were the bishops, priests and committed Catholic laity? Where was the Catholic Church?

Of course, I wasn’t there. I didn’t experience firsthand how people were brainwashed, manipulated and their freedoms progressively eliminated. Had I been there, would I have been any different from the majority of the population…? One likes to think that one would have gone against the grain and opposed the injustices. But would I have? In that atmosphere…? I’ll never know - because I wasn’t there.

Today, the corporal punishment of yesteryear would be deemed ‘child abuse’ and parents and teachers could be imprisoned for it. Yes, I know corporal punishment is not sexual abuse, but it is a small step from the abuse in a sadistic wielding of cane or leather strap to abuse in other areas. The subject is completely under your control and there is no avenue of appeal.

To even admit to your parents that you had been physically punished might result in further punishment from your parents (“What did you do to deserve it?”). To intimate that sexual abuse had occurred would be met with shocked disbelief that you would dare to lie about such a thing and would probably result in a further beating.

And I’m not talking about an institution such as a Borstal. This was in a normal secondary school where all the students knew that abuse was going on, but the parents didn’t. And the perpetrators were secure in the knowledge that they would not be reported upon - or if they were - no one would believe it.

Get the picture? And to think that I couldn’t understand 1939 Germany!

Crux Fidelis said...

Catholic Observer, by saying "British culture" do you in fact mean English culture? So many English people seem to think the terms are interchangeable. I would say that the Scots are closer culturally to the Irish than they are to the English.

I take your points about Jansenism and will ponder them but your post has a strong aftertaste of anti-Irishism.

As for literature, what of James Joyce? Did he not produce great literature or was he not a Catholic? Or both?

Richard Duncan said...

The root of the problem must lie in defective formation. However, as Fr Tim points out, the solution lies in a sane and prudent asceticism, based on a classical psychology of virtue, not in the superstitious drivel of "affective maturity", "human development", "wholeness", "need for intimacy" and all the other "ambiguous ideals which could co-exist with what were previously considered mortal sins". It would be tragic if the Irish Church concluded that what was needed was more therapeutic psychology, not less.

However, the lesson here may well be that physical or psychological austerity for its own sake is not the same thing as Christian asceticism, as it is unlikely that the religious mentioned in the report were formed according to the culture and mentality of the 1960s. As Catholic Observer points out, the problem is that the formation of Irish religious in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was infected by what writers such as Garrigou-Lagrange (e.g. in Ch 19 of The Three Ages of the Interior Life) calls "the proud Jansenist austerity" which "lost sight of the spirit of Christian mortification, which is not a spirit of pride, but of love of God".

The results of this "proud austerity" fill the pages of the Irish Report. But if we could recover a true understanding of the nature and purpose of asceticism, we might be able to avoid both these brutalities and the problems associated with the therapeutic atmosphere that Fr Tim and you identify as being so destructive.

Richard said...

Father, you ask: "Was 'child care' pre-1980s like this everywhere?"

Sadly, it was like that everywhere, or at least all across England, in State childrens' homes as well as Chirch institutions.

The Islington Council child abuse scandal that broke in the early 1990s had almost identical issues of abuse and cover-up (the cover-up being done by the then Council leader Margaret Hodge, later made Childrens' Minister by Blair).

The Bryn Estyn and Wrexham abuse, described by a government Minister as involving "deeds of appalling wickedness", eventually led to the Waterhouse Report. But initially investigations were blocked by the Council's "wall of disbelief" when confronted by the allegations, allowing many of the abusers to find jobs elsewhere.

This article gives some idea of the scale of the problem - 34 police forces in the UK involved in 98 enquiries, probably covering over 1,000 institutions. Although one Catholic institution is mentioned, the vast majority were Council ones.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/becks-appalling-crimes-just-the-tip-of-child-abuse-scandal-702598.html

There do seem to have been false accusations made, and some of the investigations are dropped due to lack of evidence. But there also seems to be a large core of truth; a single police investigation in Merseyside led to 36 convictions.

The Irish scandal is disgraceful. But no, this is not a Catholic problem alone, never mind a purely Irish one (although the media like to focus on Catholic abuse). It happened all across the UK, and local governmen officials and councillors tried to cover it up.

There is a dreadful legacy that still has not been properly addressed.

gemoftheocean said...

I know I may be pulling the pin on a handgrenade here, and by no mean does it apply to many good, fine, Irish people I've known. But when an Irishman does wrong no matter how egregious they seem to protect their own far too often.

JoannaB said...

I think there was misuse, if not abuse, of power in schools and institutions across the board, both public and private and was an accepted part of society. A throw back to Victorian times when life was hard for the poor and especially in institutions and work houses when poor people did not expect that they had any 'rights'. There must too have been an element of shame and secrecy where misuse has gone on to become abuse in an institution and where poor was often synonymous with sinful. It was only when misuse of power was rooted out that deeper abuses were able to be rooted out as well. Thankfully nowadays we have much more transparent educational systems in place and more transparency in the church as well.

epsilon said...

I appreciate the very thoughtful comments from anonymous, Catholic Observer, Gor and Richard. I really don’t feel there was any anti-Irishism involved in CO’s comments, being an Irishwoman from 50s Ireland / UK immigrant of the 70s, Crux Fidelis. But, ye know, Jackie Parkes is right – we should all be concerned about how we’re taking care of the children NOW – whether it’s AB Nichols’ worksheets or the Christian brothers in the field today. They are out there with the poorest of the poor in far flung corners of the earth – how about the brothers inviting the witnesses to visit and advise them where they are today to make sure there’s not a modern-day version of the same cycle, or AB Nichols asking for advice from the witnesses on his explicit worksheets? To be given that level of respect would surely be therapeutic for the witnesses, and a whole generation of children would be saved a lot of emotional wounds

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

I recall when the Eamonn Casey scandal broke (which marked the beginning of the ruin of the reputation of the Irish Catholicism), there was a tale that the Irish police once caught the bishop speeding in his BMW, but they let him off instantly as soon as they realized who he was.

If this is true, it suggests that the covering-up of clerical malpractice was not just practised by the clergy. The Catholic Church was Ireland's greatest single institution, and it was almost a matter of national pride to keep the reputation of the Church untarnished.

I fully agree with the comments that many people in Ireland became priests and nuns who were completely unfit for the task. In the case of my Irish relatives, up until the 1960s, it was very much as if the eldest son inherited the farm, the second son became a priest and all the others emigrated! I've heard stories of how bright teenage boys were hand-picked for the seminary: it was the Irish equivalent of winning a place at Harvard. The problem was that many of these young men weren't vocations -- they were just conscripts.

It's very interesting to hear the theories about Jansenism being one of the problems. Maybe Scottish Calvinist austerity has a direct counterpart in Irish Jansenist austerity. When Scotland went protestant outside the Catholic Church, did Ireland actually go protestant inside it, despite all appearances to the contrary?

Crux Fidelis said...

Paedophiles are extremely cunning and devious people and will go to amazing lengths to provide for their lusts. Some will inveigle themselves with single mothers in order to get at their children while, in extreme cases, others have been known to father children to provide objects for their depravity. Others infiltrate youth organisations such as scouts, boys' football clubs etc. And some have infiltrated religious orders. These are not priests or brothers who happen to be paedophiles - they are paedophiles who have gone through the long process of formation for the religious life in order to achieve what they crave. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority these perverts were be found among the ranks of orders devoted to teaching and social work and that you will find none among the contemplative orders or those with no regular access to children. Formation and screening was obviously very flawed, even lax, in the past and it would seem that many false vocations were taken at face value.

Maryrose said...

One can only understand the position of the church in Ireland in the light of history. Ireland did not have a government that was acceptable to the population for hundreds of years. The penal laws which were enforced left the catholic population beggared and illiterate as no catholic could receive an education or even own a horse. Those who became priests had to leave the country and smuggle their way back in. The famine left the county traumitised and the only leadership trusted by the catholic people was the priest. Families were really proud to have someone enter religous life. This attitude helps us to understand the protectiveness of people towards the church and church representatives and it is demonstrated in your story of the police waving on Bishop Casey's BMW even though he was over the drink driving limit.The orders such as the Christian brother and Sisters of Mercy that sprang up after Catholic Emancipation had the primary purpose of educating the young and rescuing them from destitution. I think religous formation of the members was not properly focussed on and as time passed this weakness has contributed to the problem as many of the members did not operate from love of God and love of neighbour which has to be the foundation stone of any vocation. Sin is always with us and the church in Ireland now needs to reinvigorate itself and to make amends even if this means divesting itself of property and becoming a poorer church and a humbler church. There are many lessons to be learnt from this whole debacle.

ADV said...

I must say it is great to see others picking up on the influence of Jansenism in Irish culture and the Irish Catholic church.I really do agree with some of what Catholic Observer says. I also believe (though not quite sure of the detail yet) that something happens in the ‘Cromwellian Settlement’ period which causes a ‘puritain’ influence to come into Irish culture. I see hints of it. It is something I want to look into a bit further if I ever have the chance. Perhaps it also helps to explain why the possible acceptance of Jansenism was easier?

As to the present – this is something that my sister and I have discussed a lot. She is a clinical psychologist who deals with this issue on a daily basis in Ireland and has for many years now. She also sees the problem as lying deep in Irish culture and by extension to areas where this has been ‘exported’.

From what I understand there are many possible causes but very little if any of it is down to sexual attraction or a link to homosexuality (which stupidly gets thrown around as a reason). True paedophilia is even rarer. Most of the historic and current (because it still happens) abuse is of course in families – over 90% and very little was or is reported or ends up in court. There is fundamentally a problem with immature formation of sexual identity, relationships, repression of emotion and a lack of empathy by the perpetrators. A lot of the abuse is physical violence rather than sexual.

I we have discussed the possible effects of ideas such as Puritanism and Jansinism and she does agree that there is perhaps something in that, based on what she has dealt with. There was certainly something wrong with the formation of many clerics, religious, and laity and the way many things to do with the body or human nature were (and are) seen as ‘dirty’. Repression and avoidance then become the norm. There were also many who entered the Church almost automatically who perhaps in hindsight should not have, but that in and of itself will not explain everything.

Richard – I am not sure I would be blaming Garrigou-Lagrange. It is clear that while he does advocate mortification (which is necessary) though he roundly condemns the 17th C errors of Jansinism which is similar to the error of early Protestantism which exaggerates the effect of Original Sin (Three Ages. Part 2. Ch.19). It is exactly that ‘proud austerity’ that is condemned. Read the end of that Chapter. One sees this shift in culture from the medieval to post-medieval period with the change in understanding of ‘nature’ – human and creation.

Crux Fidelis – While Joyce certainly grew up as a Catholic and came from a wealthy Catholic family in Dublin he had a ‘difficult’ relationship with his Catholicism, which he seems to have rejected by his late teens. His writing does however maintain a element of Catholicism and this struggle which is of course no surprise.

On one level none of this should be shocking – sounds silly to say that I know! We are human, we are fallible and it proves the need for humility, honesty and above all the love of Our Blessed Lord and our neighbour. While the Church can do and teach no wrong ‘as such’ we are not as fortunate. Extremes are always dangerous.

Richard Duncan said...

ADV

Thanks. I don't think I said that Garrigou-Lagrange was endorsing Jansenism (I certainly didn't intend to), but if you read it that way, I obviously didn't make myself clear.

There is an on line edition of his magnum opus here, so people can read the relevant chapter for themselves.

Crux Fidelis said...

ADV - Could 'Dubliners', 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' and, to a lesser extent, 'Ulysses' have been written by anyone other than a Catholic? I think not.

Volpius Leonius said...

Everyone used to get corporal punishment back in those days, today that is labelled abuse, if every child who got caned back then claimed for abuse there would not be a teacher from that period found innocent.

The Catholic League have a good article on this. You can read it on my blog.

HYSTERIA OVER IRISH CLERGY ABUSE

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Oh there are perverts for sure in the Traditional Catholic Church after my sons.

epsilon said...

As in all colonised cultures, the anger of the Irish imploded in on itself. The clever Brits found it much easier to control the Irish by giving power to Maynooth than to carry on planting. If British schools had ever taught history through the lense of the colonies they raped and pillaged we might not be standing idly by while children in Iraq and elsewhere are suffering unimaginable indignities as a result of British interference on the world stage.

Ma Tucker said...

I have read some of this report and frankly I'm afraid it is unbelievable. I do not find the reports convincing at all. No doubt the children were beaten but the stupid exageration here is plainly rediculous. Furthermore the numbers don't make sense. I was beaten 50 times with a rolling pin! yeah right! I was surprised not to see a report of Br X throwing a house at my head!

Why was the sex abuse not identified singularly but only grouped with other forms of "abuse". Very strange.

When I was in junior school we were hit with bamboo canes and skipping ropes. It was considered normal discipline. If a teacher was particularly harsh everyone was really careful to not incur their wrath. You would not dare throw anything or mess at all.
If this report is to be believed you really have to suspend your critical reasoning.

Furthermore, you are not dealing with children who have been normally socialised in the first instance. These children themselves were probably well out of control. I have taught children who have very little idea of proper behaviour and no discipline and if the facility to physically punish them were there I think it would have done them a very good service. As it stands teachers and other pupils carry the can and the child suffers far more from exclusion as a result. Fear is not a great tool and obviously love is much better but some children are very wild and fear may be a necessary starting point until they learn to control themselves.

Statements such as "we were punished for messing and throwing things, "normal kids stuff". I'm sorry but throwing things around the class room when you have monster brother X with a big leather strap going to beat you to a pulp - now forgive me but that is simply not the way it works.

We were beaten for "talking back". Hold on a minute. We would not talk back to stern teachers who would only give you a good scolding. Furthermore, to talk back to a religious was not even on the cards. I don't know what planet these people are on but I find these accounts very dubious.

nickbris said...

Got to agree with Ma Tucker.Eminent people have been involved with this report but unfortunately they have lived on a different planet all their lives.

I have been reading the report into the Court Lees approved school abuse,corporal punishment was meted out willy-nilly and there were breaches in regulations about when & where it was administered.

The School was closed down by "Genius's,"the boy's were crying in the road while they were being sent away to other establishments for the simple reason that becoming "new boys" again was far worse than what had already been happening to them.This was not a Catholic School.

In my school we regularly tempted fate by getting up to mischief,for leavind the dorm.to go scrumping was worth about 4 strokes but if you didn't take it like a man you would get 6.This was all part of growing up.Many thousands went through this and probably 99.9% finished up as excellent citizens and remain CATHOLICS and proud of it.

matthias said...

Recently here in Australia ,there was concerned raised by Eastern Rite Catholic clergy about the fact that the children from these Churches were being singled out in Catholic schools for having different liturgical practices to the dominant Latin Rite children. Some comments were made as to the influence of 19th Century Irish Catholicism still being present in its 21st Century Australian Counterpart

Callisto said...

Far worse than the sexual abuse was the fact that those children were basically moneymakers. Meant to produce goods for sale and subject to beatings if they did not make their quota.

That is slavery, and since it was a money making enterprise, all of the Church who received in some ways those ill-gotten gains was implicated. Even the most saintly among them, even the worthiest cause was tainted by being paid for by blood money.

The fact that bishops kept covering it up to "protect" the laity and their faith showed how little they cared for the children in their charge, because they never thought to include among those who needed protecting. They were not human, they had no souls. They were just money making machines.

If this scandal shows anything is that the Church sucks at policing itself. Any other institution who had so many scandals and *covered them up* would have been dissolved in shame long ago.

By the way *covering it up* is also called *accessory after the fact*, and in normal circumstances can lead to prison sentences.

Can the Church ever behave better than a criminal organization?

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Ma Tucker, none of the religious congregations accused in the report have denied that these things happened, Indeed, they have said they were sorry they did.

The report also shows that women can be every bit as cruel as men. What was being done by persons who had committed themselves publicly as followers of Jesus Christ was what Charles Dickens wrote about in 19th century England.

I don't understand what you mean by 'Why was the sex abuse not identified singularly but only grouped with other forms of "abuse". Very strange.'

The Report defines four different categories of abuse: The expression “abuse” is defined in section 1(i) of the Principal Act, as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act, as:-
(a) the wilful, reckless or negligent infliction of physical injury on, or failure to prevent such injury to, the child,
(b) the use of the child by a person for sexual arousal or sexual gratification of that person or another person,
(c) failure to care for the child which results, or could reasonably be expected to result, in serious impairment of the physical or mental or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare, or
(d) any other act or omission towards the child which results, or could reasonably be expected to result, in serious impairment of the physical or mental health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his behaviour or welfare,
and cognate words shall be construed accordingly.

In 1962, Fr Henry Moore, then chaplain at St Joseph's, Artane, submitted a report to Archbishop McQuaid of Dublin at the latter's request: http://artane.blogspot.com/ . It makes very bleak reading. I was born in Dublin in 1943 and 'Artane' was a common threat by parents if you misbehaved, though I don't think that most parents or children had any real idea of what life was like there.

One question I am almost afraid to ask is if the Christian Brothers who taught me and to whom I am profoundly grateful knew what was being done by some of their confreres.

The Ryan Report is not any kind of attack on the Catholic Church. Read Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's article in today's Irish Times: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/0525/1224247324722.html . Among many other things he says 'The first thing the church has to do is to move out of any mode of denial. That was the position for far too long and it is still there.' he also refers to Father Moore's report.

If the Catholic Church or any of its members persist in denying what was done they are preventing the Church from carrying out its divine mission. Its ability to do so has been crippled by what has happened in Ireland. Pope John Paul II in the very early days of his pontificate said that evil must be named as evil. The Ryan Report has done that.

I have some other points on my own blog, if I may be permitted to mention it here: http://bangortobobbio.blogspot.com/2009/05/my-clothes-and-teddy-thrown-away-they.html

Tim Costelloe said...

Fr Ray,

We had a similar problem in the church in New Zealand and it would be tempting to conclude that our "Irish Catholicism" was responsible for it (the Church was the only way we maintained our Irish culture in any form for such a long time). But. the Catholic Church in NZ was not the only organisation found guilty of such practices and it is here that I can perhaps add some perspective. Many of the Welfare organisations of other countries where the Catholics are not the majority as in Ireland have also been accused. The most notable example is the Salvation Army homes being accused of similar crimes in the USA, in Australia and in New Zealand.

So its not a phenomenon based on some anti-Irish Catholic viewpoint as suggested by an earlier post, but more a symptom of the way Western Countries used to raise our kids, remember? Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child... its a short way from such abuse to other forms of abusive control, also not helped by a generally unhealthy attitude to sex, genitals and sexual or bodily functions (almost all our swear words are derived from this unhealthy attitude. THE CATHOLICS DO NOT CORNER THE MARKET on such behaviour, it only seems like it in Ireland because its 95% Catholic. And England or other countires have had their own such scandals (eg public schools) so its a human condition of that time. I know because I was caught up in it, and I wasn't an orphan, I came from a good family.

I have full respect for thr Catholic Church in Ireland for facing up to it. Let the healing begin.

Ma Tucker said...

Fr Sean,
extract from Prof Carr summary
"3.07In the analysis of groups of participants who had spent different amounts of time in institutions and entered under different circumstances, the most poorly adjusted as adults were not those who had spent longest living in institutions (more than 12 years), but rather, those who had spent less time in institutions (under 11 years), entered institutions through the courts and reported institutional sexual abuse, in addition to physical abuse within their families"


"This study had three main limitations: (1) there was a high exclusion rate and a low response rate; (2) there was no control group; (3) the study used a crossectional, not a longitudinal design"

Father, this report is very odd. Hearsay is not evidence.A very small group with mental adjustment problems constitute the vast bulk of the testimony untested by the courts.This testimony is placed in the public domain and the Catholic Church is being accused in public on hearsay. Given that the children turned out to be better adjusted from longer stays in the institutions that those who only had short stays should prompt a some further questioning by reasonable people.




Why was the response rate for abuse so low? We are talking about a 67 year period? Where was the control group? Without a control group you have no way of checking the validity of the sample that has been used. For all we know these could be a group of people who have a distorted view of reality.

A proper longitudinal study, based upon the length of stay would show the effect of the schooling.

As regards the appology given by the orders in question I would like to see exactly what they apologised for. Hearsay? Please, don't get me wrong. What was common discipline is now considered abuse. What I really question is the release of a report that makes extraordinay allegations that have not been tested in the courts, by a small group of people, many of who have mental problems. Mental problems that appear to be less prevalent among pupils who remained longer at the institutions in question. IT DOES NOT ADD UP. I believe Arcbishop Martin did a great diservice to the Catholic Church by this action. Having said that, reading this report has simply confirmed to me that there is no story stupid enough that cannot be used to injure the Bride of Christ. Fair enough for the truth to be revealed but this story book is not the truth as far as a reasonable reading can discern. Take a good look at the tables. Look how the categorizations were grouped? Do some math on the entries.

Most impotantly of all, follow the money!

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Ma Tucker, thank you for your response. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘hearsay’. The Irish Times last Saturday gave direct quotations from persons interviewed http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/0523/1224247210382.html .

Yes, many of us heard our parents say, for example, ‘I’ll kill you if you do that again’. Most of us knew it was a warning to behave and not to be taken literally. But one of the things that comes out again and again in reports on sexual abuse in particular is the perpetrator threatening to kill. If a child is a victim of violence from any person in authority, especially on a regular basis, how can they distinguish a formula of words from a real threat?

The examples of abuse I’ve read in the Ryan Report – and I’ve read only bits and pieces – are not what most Irish children experienced before. Corporal punishment in schools was legal and supported by the vast majority of parents. However, there was a recognized limit. In my experience in a Christian Brothers’ school in Dublin six ‘biffs’ of the leather on the palm of the hand was considered a serious punishment and I rarely saw it applied. I did hear horror stories from my father and I occasionally heard similar stories during my ten years with the Brothers, 1951 to 1961, but never witnessed any form of brutality. Nor did I ever hear a whisper of sexual abuse.

I agree with you that there is a danger of what was considered normal punishment before as abuse, according to today’s standards. That trivializes real abuse. But I have heard teachers on Irish radio in recent years complain about the violence some of them have suffered, mainly verbal, from students. And I recall reading about students in Britain committing suicide because of bullying. There is the potential for violence in each of us.

I hope too that the focus on abuse by religious and by priests will eventually lead Irish and other societies to look at the reality of abuse in families. I am in regular contact with young people here in the Philippines who have suffered abuse and in the vast majority of cases this happens within the wider family, often within the nuclear family. My colleague Father Shay Cullen has devoted his life here to saving and rehabilitating children who have been abused. Much of the abuse takes place with the knowledge and connivance of people in authority.

The Ryan Commission wasn’t a court. The Irish police may pursue some cases as a result of the report.

There are many more questions to be asked. It is often said that abusers have themselves been abused. Kevin O’Connor has an article in today’s Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/0526/1224247402162.html in which he claims that he saw a classmate being sexually abused by a Christian Brother. 40 years later he saw that same boy in court for sexual abuse – as a Christian Brother. Are there many others like him? When does a victim become a perpetrator? How many victims become perpetrators?

The responses from bishops and religious in Ireland don’t indicate any doubt about the reality of the abuse that was so widespread and for so long.

Ma Tucker said...

Fr Sean I think the points I've raised are very pertinent. You have not considered them.
1) Very few people came forward to report abuse given the coverage of a 67 year period.
2) The longer a student remained at the institution the more likely that student would emerge well adjusted. This is a significant observation.
3)Quite a number of the children came from home as a direct placement. Furthermore they came through the courts system.
4)4/5 of the the respondants have mental problems


You talk about punishments. In vocational schools, six of the best was standard punishment, especially for boys. My brothers experienced this themselves and I can say they deserved every belt they got.

We worked before and after school and at weekends with very few outings to the seaside or film evenings. Most children living in country areas help out their families as is expected. Ought we all sue our parents?

The report is very badly flawed. It's bias is disgusting. It fails to throw any true light and is significantly misleading.

I have a degree in Mathematics(thanks to some rather terrifying nuns) and so know quite well how statistics are used and really abused.

By the way you may be interested to know that they are now talking about shredding the so-called "evidence" which formed the basis of this shoddy rubbish. Also they are claiming that no prosecutions will result. Come on Fr. Sean. You know what this is. The truth should be revealed, all I'm saying is that this report is pathetically incompetant. Any junior maths student would spot the glaring errors. Considering the seriousness of the allegations, some of the evidence is so ridiculous as to be laughable. Eg. Br X with his big strap hit a boy 50 times on one hand then 50 times on the other then 50 times on the first hand... Father you above all people should know the fraility of fallen man and his tendancy to exaggerate. Certain of the reports were obviously fabricated because they were so ridiculous. Why, given such a large exclusion rate, were these people included? It's so bizare.

Maybe some children were beaten too harshly. Maybe some children were sexually abused. This report is not relevant to throw any light on these possibilities. It is only fit for the bin. Which, incidently, is also the view of the authors given their desire to shred the evidence.

Headlines today in the Irish press
"In God's name pay up"

As I always say, follow the money!

By the way, you may note that the major recommendations given by the pscycologists at the end of the report is that the victims(yet to be proven so) need pscycotherapy!

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Ma Tucker, thanks again for your response.

The congregations accused of abusing children in their care have acknowledged that they have done so. 1,090 persons were interviewed. The Exectuive Summary of the Report says, 'The most frequently cited reasons given by witnesses for attending to give evidence to the Confidential Committee were to have the abuse they experienced as children officially recorded and to tell their story. Most witnesses expressed the hope that a formal record of their experiences would contribute to a greater understanding of the circumstances in which such abuse occurs and would assist in the future protection of children.' No mention of money.

The least the Irish State can do is to lift the stigma of 'criminal' from people whose only 'crime' was that they were poor and often below the age of reason when they were put into institutions.

One paragraph in the Executive Summary of the Report that caught my eye was this: 'Children who ran away were subjected to extremely severe punishment.

'Absconders were severely beaten, at times publicly. Some had their heads shaved and were humiliated. Details were not reported to the Department, which did not insist on receiving information about the causes of absconding. Neither the Department nor the school management investigated the reasons why children absconded even when schools had a particularly high rate of absconding. Cases of absconding associated with chronic sexual or physical abuse therefore remained undiscovered. In some instances all the children in a school were punished because a child ran away which meant that the child was then a target for mistreatment by other children as well as the staff.'

This brought to my mind the martyrdom of St Maximilian Kolbe who took the place of one of ten prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp sentenced to a cruel death because another prisoner had escaped. The only difference is that of degree.

I really don't understand your mathematical approach to this. No doubt some of the 1,090 who gave testimony exaggerated to some degree, whether deliberately or in the way that most of us do when recalling the past, whether we see it as good or bad.

Certainly in the case of sexual abuse in the USA there has been a money trail where Catholics have been involved and parishioners find themselves being taxed for the sins of individual priests and bishops, whereas no other group is treated in the same way. In the Irish Republic the State was involved in all of these places and in what went on there.

I do share some of your concerns that people would label as 'abuse' what was considered standard punishment at the time, or plain hard work as in your case. But even in those days people had a sense of what was too much. My father's stories of some teachers in the 20s beating up boys showed a sense of something being wrong.

There are still many more questions to be answered and it would be very easy for people to still not look at the widespread reality of abuse within families.

I hope too that people in Britain will look again at the abuse going on legally there. Recently a girl in Edinburgh was taken from her maternal grandparents, both of them reasonably young, and put in the 'care' of two active homosexual men.

Fear prevented many youngsters and adults from facing the truth of what was going on in Ireland and elsewhere in the past. Is there a similar kind of fear now of speaking out against the 'gay' agenda, the aggressive bullying of a small minority within a small minority, who have managed to have laws on marriage and family changed in many western countries and in some of the United States of America?

And the Ryan Report seems to show that most of the sexual abuse was by males against males.

God bless you.