Endemic Abuse of Children
May 20, 2009
Irish church knew abuse 'endemic'
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An inquiry into child abuse at Catholic institutions
in Ireland has found church leaders knew that sexual
abuse was "endemic" in boys' institutions.
It also found physical and emotional abuse and neglect
were features of institutions.
Schools were run "in a severe, regimented manner that
imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on
children and even on staff".
The nine-year inquiry investigated a 60-year period.
About 35,000 children were placed in a network of
reformatories, industrial schools and workhouses up
to the 1980s.
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LEGACY OF HURT
From Shane Harrison, BBC News, Dublin
Thomas Wall, an orphan from Limerick, was sent by
the criminal courts to a Christian Brothers run reform
school when he was just three.
"From eight years of age I was sexually abused by a
Christian brother at Glin," he said.
"If they took a liking to a person then you became a
danger, then you became a target. And there was no
way of avoiding it... I mean they had access to you
24 hours a day."
Read more of Shane Harrison's piece here
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More than 2,000 told the Commission to Inquire Into
Child Abuse they suffered physical and sexual abuse
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal
Sean Brady, said he was "profoundly sorry and deeply
ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in
"This report makes it clear that great wrong and hurt
were caused to some of the most vulnerable children
in our society," he said.
"It documents a shameful catalogue of cruelty: neglect,
physical, sexual and emotional abuse, perpetrated
Police were called to the commission's news conference
amid angry scenes as victims were prevented from at-
More allegations were made against the Christian Brothers
than the other male orders combined.
The report found child safety was not a priority for the
Christian Brothers who ran the institutions, the order was
defensive in its response to complaints and failed to ac-
cept any congregational responsibility for abuse.
The report said that 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.
Abuse report - at a glance
Reaction to Irish abuse report
The five-volume study concluded that Irish church offi-
cials encouraged ritual beatings and consistently shielded
their orders' paedophiles from arrest amid a "culture of
It also found that government inspectors failed to stop
the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.
The commission said overwhelming, consistent testimony
from still-traumatized men and women, now in their 50s to
80s, had demonstrated beyond a doubt that the entire sys-
tem treated children more like prison inmates and slaves
than people with legal rights and human potential.
"The reformatory and industrial schools depended on rigid
control by means of severe corporal punishment and the
fear of such punishment," it said.
"The harshness of the regime was inculcated into the cul-
ture of the schools by successive generations of brothers,
priests and nuns.
READ THE INQUIRY'S SUMMARY
Summary of findings from the Commission to Inquire Into
Child Abuse (105Kb)
"It was systemic and not the result of individual breaches
by persons who operated outside lawful and acceptable
Its findings will not be used for criminal prosecutions - in
part because the Christian Brothers successfully sued the
commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its mem-
bers, dead or alive, unnamed in the report.
No real names, whether of victims or perpetrators, appear
in the final document.
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