- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2009

DUBLIN | A fiercely debated, long-delayed 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, rape and humiliation.

Nine years in the making, Wednesday’s 2,600-page report sides almost completely with the horrific reports of abuse from former students sent to more than 250 church-run, mostly residential institutions. But victims’ leaders said it didn’t go far enough - particularly because none of their abusers were identified by name.

The report concluded that church officials always shielded their orders’ pedophiles from arrest to protect their own reputations and, according to documents uncovered in the Vatican, knew that many pedophiles were serial attackers.

The investigators said overwhelming, consistent testimony from still-traumatized 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.

“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 final report of Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse concluded.



The leader of Ireland’s 4 million Catholics, Cardinal Sean Brady, and religious orders at the center of the scandal offered immediate apologies.

“I am profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions. Children deserved better and especially from those caring for them in the name of Jesus Christ,” Cardinal Brady said.

The Sisters of Mercy, which ran several refuges for girls where the report documented chronic brutality, said in a statement that its nuns “accept that many who spent their childhoods in our orphanages or industrial schools were hurt and damaged while in our care.”

“There is a great sadness in all of our hearts at this time and our deepest desire is to continue the healing process for all involved,” the Sisters of Mercy stated.

The Rev. Edmund Garvey, spokesman for the Christian Brothers order that once ran dozens of boys’ schools, said that inreading the report’s “presentation of the history of our institutions, it is hard to avoid feeling shame.”

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, unveiled by High Court Justice Sean Ryan, found that molestation and rape were “endemic” in boys’ facilities, chiefly run by the Christian Brothers, and supervisors pursued policies that increased the danger. Girls supervised by orders of nuns, chiefly the Sisters of Mercy, suffered much less sexual abuse but endured frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless.

Several victims - who were prevented from attending Wednesday’s report launch and scuffled with police outside a central Dublin hotel - said the report didn’t go far enough and rejected the church leaders’ apologies as insincere.

John Kelly, a former inmate of a Dublin industrial school who fled to London and today leads a pressure group called Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, said any apologies offered now were “hollow, shallow and have no substance or merit at all. We feel betrayed and cheated today.”

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.

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