Sex abuse 'endemic' in Catholic institutions
More than 800 priests, nuns, monks and teachers created an "endemic" culture of child sex abuse in Catholic schools and residential homes over
almost 80 years, an inquiry has found.
By Auslan Cramb Last Updated: 1:04PM BST 21 May 2009
The state-funded institutions in Ireland were a "secret and closed world run on fear", the decade-long report concluded. However, no new
prosecutions are expected.
The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse found that nuns and priests terrorised children and covered up years of brutality, rape and molestation in
workhouse-style schools. Ritual beatings were encouraged and paedophiles were shielded.
Archbishop Nichols's response to abuse scandal is perfectly judged
Church failed to act on child sex abuse - report
Hundreds of Irish Catholic priests 'to be implicated in child abuse report'
New Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols attacks secularists
Clergy who admit child abuse 'courageous',claims Catholic leader Vincent Nichols
'The Catholic church failed me. I despised myself and lost all confidence'
The investigation found that in most cases the religious orders hid the crimes and protected the abusers, sometimes moving them to different schools
where they carried on attacking children. One serial sex abuser who began his career as a Christian brother was excused his vows after three cases of
sex abuse, but was able to teach for 40 years.
He terrorised and sexually abused children in six different schools before he was convicted of sex abuse in the 1980s. In another case, a monk who
abused children in England was brought back to Ireland and assigned a teaching post at Lota School in Co Cork, which was run by the Brothers of
Charity. He later admitted multiple sexual assaults on boys.
Many of the worst outrages involved schools run by the Christian Brothers, who were the largest providers of residential care for boys. At Letterfrack
School in Galway, founded on a remote hillside in 1885, levels of sexual abuse were chronic and physical punishment was "severe, excessive and
pervasive". Two sex abusers were present at the school for 14 years each.
Schools run by the Sisters of Mercy were also part of the culture of abuse. They operated 26 "industrial" schools for girls, including Goldenbridge
in Dublin where the regime was "cruel, unrelenting and severe".
There was a high level of physical abuse by religious and lay staff and children lived in constant fear of beatings. The school ran a rosary bead
industry and imposed "impossible standards" on the girls, who suffered emotional abuse and were regularly "humiliated and belittled".
The report calls for a permanent public memorial to the victims. The Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the report was an appalling reminder of a "bygone
day" and its recommendations would be taken on board. The Irish state is accused of abdicating responsibility for around 35,000 children who were
placed in the network of reformatories, industrial schools and orphanages up to the 1990s, including disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned boys and
girls as well as unmarried mothers.
The commission's five-volume, 2,500-page report describes a Victorian model of childcare that survived from 1914 through most of the 20th century and
will further erode the moral authority of the Catholic Church in Ireland. It says a climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary
punishment, permeated most of the institutions and "all those run for boys", adding: "Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the
next beating was coming from."
Sex abuse was endemic in boys' homes and common in girls' schools - with predatory abuse from male employees and even visitors - but the Department
of Education did little to stop it and was "completely deferential" to the religious orders. The commission took evidence in detail from 1,100
people who complained of abuse by 800 members of staff and lay workers in 216 residential homes and schools.
Nearly all the victims complained of physical abuse, and half said they had been sexually abused Many of those who carried out the abuse are now dead,
and a government compensation scheme has already paid out almost one billion euros in compensation to 12,500 people.
There will be no new prosecutions as a result of the inquiry and alleged abusers have not been "named and shamed".
Victims of the regime, who were barred from the report's launch yesterday, complained yesterday that the commission's report did not go far enough
and failed to hold those responsible to account.
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.
John Walsh, of campaign group Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, himself a victim who gave evidence, said: "I'm very angry, very bitter, and feel
cheated and deceived.
"I would have never opened my wounds if I'd known this was going to be the end result. It has devastated me and will devastate most victims because
there is no criminal proceedings and no accountability whatsoever."
The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the new leader of Catholics in England and Wales, said: "Those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin...
have to face these facts from their past which instinctively and quite naturally they'd rather not look at.
"Those that abused the trust that was placed in them should be brought to public account."