From the 1930s to the 1990s, tens of thousands of Irish children were tortured and enslaved in schools run by the Catholic Church, according to a government report released last week.
Ireland has been revealed as a land of savage cruelty, said The Irish Independent in an editorial. From the 1930s to the 1990s, tens of thousands of Irish children were tortured and enslaved in schools run by the Catholic Church, according to a long-awaited government report released last week. Among the thousands of accounts uncovered by the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse are shameful stories “of boys and girls being raped, flogged, beaten up, burned, scalded, left hungry and cold, and tortured in ways that only perverted sadists could invent.” One Christian Brother plunged a little boy’s hand into boiling water “just to teach him a lesson.” Nuns locked a little girl in a furnace room for two days, as the other girls listened to her screams. These are not aberrant examples, not are they from the distant past. Daily life for nearly all the orphans and poor children who were warehoused in Ireland’s Catholic institutions was a living hell. “Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from,” the report said.
The abuse is indefensible, said Kevin Myers in the Irish Independent, but it needs to be put in perspective. The church wasn’t the only organization that used corporal punishment during this time. Virtually everyone believed in not sparing the rod. As a teenager in a secular boarding school, I was twice beaten so severely that the welts on my buttocks oozed blood. “That was Ireland. We were a backward, introverted, unenlightened, superstitious society.”
Don’t be so quick to use the past tense, said Mary Raftery in The Irish Times. Most of the Catholic orders, in particular the Christian Brothers, continue “to deny, to obfuscate, and to challenge any and all of the allegations against them.” Yet the Christian Brothers is still the largest provider of boys’ schools in Ireland, and the Sisters of Mercy, another organization with a track record of shame, is the largest provider of girls’ schools. We can’t simply “conveniently agree that everything is much better today.” Shockingly, the report does not name any of the abusers—not even the ones who have been convicted in court. Until the perpetrators of abuse, and the authorities who failed to check them, are truly held accountable, this sorry chapter of Irish history cannot be closed.
See Related: A Century of Looking the Other Way, By John Banville, Op-Ed, The New York Times, May 22, 2009
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