Catholic schools abused 1000s
|Dublin – A fiercely debated, nine-year investigation into Ireland’s Roman Catholic-run institutions says priests and nuns terrorized thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades -and government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.
High Court Justice Sean Ryan on Wednesday unveiled the 2 600 page final report of Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse, which is based on testimony from thousands of former students as well as retired officials from more than 250 church-run institutions.
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 found that molestation and rape were “endemic” in boys’ facilities, chiefly run by the Christian Brothers order.
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.
“In some schools a high level of ritualised beating was routine. … Girls were struck with implements designed to maximise pain and were struck on all parts of the body,” the report said.
“Personal and family denigration was widespread.”
Victims of the system have long demanded that the truth of their experiences be documented and made public, so that children in Ireland never endure such suffering again.
But most leaders of religious orders have rejected the allegations as exaggerations and lies, and testified to the commission that any abuses were the responsibility of often long-dead individuals.
Wednesday’s five-volume report sides almost completely with the former students’ accounts.
It concludes that church officials encouraged ritual beatings and consistently shielded their orders’ paedophiles from arrest amid a culture of self-serving secrecy.
“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 report concluded.
The commission 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.