Abuse in Ireland?

I came across this. It upsets me.

The other day at the movie rental store I saw a movie, I can’t remember it’s name, but it was about an irish school run by catholic brothers who severly physically and mentally abused the boys in the school. It said it was based on a true story.

Is it something to do with the Irish clergy in particular?

You’ve heard the old expression “children should be seen and not heard”?
In the old days it was common practice, in not just catholic countries, to discipline children with corporal punishment. The Irish were always considered a lazy and untrustworthy race by the Victorians, and certainly there was a school of thought in the country (newly independent and seeking to prove itself) that thought that the lower classes needed straightening out!
Some sick individuals, some in orders, but many outside the church, took advantage of this environment and that explains for the awful degrading practice of raping. Surely the hierarchy as well as the government of the time bear a lot of responsibility for allowing this to go on. No question!

Now why do we hear so much about it? Well the negative publicity is a good opportunity for penance, but I really do think that the church is also getting quite a raw deal The reason is that Ireland is a suing culture. Per capita we are far worse than our British neighbors, and even a little worse than the Americans. In 1922 we(the Irish) booted out the British but kept their Common Law system. I often wonder if we should have kept the British and booted out the law system instead.

Irish lawyers have made a lot more money suing institutions than they have by suing individuals. I’ve heard plaintiffs, who want to make claims for being abused (the majority are not sexual, but for slappings and beatings), being advised to wait until the individual priest was dead. Once dead the church can be sued directly, and hence far more money can be made. So we have a situation where everyone who was slapped by a priest is suing the church. (and lets face it who wasnt - I know good teachers who succumbed to this after losing their nerve - it was the norm)
Money, more than justice is the main mover in Ireland.

Is it something to do with the Irish clergy in particular?


David Quinn wrote a very good article in the Jesuit *Studies *magazine about the Ryan Report. He attended most of the Inquiry’s hearings and reported them for the Irish Independent. He felt compelled to give the report greater analysis, having realized that most media commentators read little more than the summary.


Here are a few of the facts: 1,090 former residents reported to the Ryan commission; they named 800 alleged abusers in over 200 institutions.

Boys: 50% of the physical abuse reports and 64% of the sexual abuse reports came from 4 institutions.

Girls: 40% of the physical abuse reports came from 3 institutions; 241 women religious were named as physical abusers, but 4 of these were named by 125 witnesses and 156 sisters were named by only one witness each.

Of the 800 religious and others named as abusers, 400 were named by only one person. Sixteen institutions had more than 20 complaints made against them.

Quinn’s point about the discipline is also echoed by Fr Michael Hughes, archivist for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation, and who had been involved with supervision at Daingean. According to the Irish Times ( ‘Living hell’ reformatory claim rejected; Wednesday, June 07, 2006): "He agreed there were gangs and a hierarchy among the boys with newcomers known as “fish”. He did not agree it was a situation which got out of control, though there were disturbances at times. “Discipline at the school was very severe for that very purpose, so staff could keep control. It was intended as protection for the children . . . these lads were not small boys.”

He agreed the Brothers worked all year around, seven days a week with no day off until the 1970s, and that 20 of them were responsible for 150 boys.

The left-liberal Professor of History at UCD, Diarmaid Ferriter (who certainly cannot be accused of pro-Catholic bias) also notes something similar in his book ‘The Transformation of Ireland’ (page 517):

Though it was not fashionable to admit it towards the end of the century, many of the members of religious orders had worked hard under difficult conditions to educate and provide for vulnerable children…one can have some sympathy with the contention of Patrick Touher, an inmate of Artane Industrial School, that ‘on the whole the [Christian] Brothers were doing their best, within limited circumstances in hard times and with frightening numbers. They too shared in the hard rigid life. They had no luxuries, nothing to look forward to, except more of the same’.

The ultra liberal Fr Joseph S O’Leary (of the Spirit of Vatican II blog) describes his experiences as a schoolboy with the Christian Brothers in the 50s and early 60s:

My school, the North Monastery, Cork, was a well-run school, and the Brothers devoted their free time to organizing sports, excursions, pageants, debates, concerts, bands, summer schools in the Irish-speaking area of West Cork, even an ecumenical meeting with a Church of Ireland school. These men led Spartan lives and most of them conveyed a sense of idealism that they passed on to their pupils. This had a very wholesome impact on Irish life.

As teachers the Brothers had the gift of making us study and actually acquire knowledge — something rare in contemporary education. We spent thousands of hours poring over classical English, Irish and Latin poetry and prose — a privilege more with-it curricula no longer accord — and the amount of maths, math-physics, physics and chemistry absorbed then — and now entirely lost — boggles the mind. It is true that students with learning disabilities or incapacity for Irish were sometimes badly handled. Corporal punishment allowed some loutish teachers to use the stick too freely.

A letter to the Irish Times, May 25, 2009:

Madam, – From the age of seven (1930) to 17 (1940) I was a boarder in a Christian Brothers-run Dublin orphanage after the death of my father in 1930. My mother died in 1938, having been left in poor circumstances after the death of my father.

During the years I was a boarder I was not abused in any way by the Christian Brothers and knew of no abuse of the approximately 100 other boarders.

I was given free board and lodgings; a good education to Leaving Cert standard. Facilities were made available for all who wished to avail of them to engage in Gaelic football and hurling; handball, outdoor parallel bars; outdoor tennis during summer months; table-tennis for indoor amusement, and every effort was made to occupy us during summer holidays (for those without a home to go to) including occasional day excursions in CIÉ buses to places of interest within reasonable distance of Dublin. As anyone will tell you, looking after 100 lively boys required discipline but, in my experience, any discipline (eg slaps with a leather) was administered without excessive severity. I speak from personal experience.

The education given so generously was first class and some Brothers gave special classes in their own free time to bright children to help them sit for scholarships.

When schooldays were over, the Brothers worked might-and-main to secure employment for school leavers. They even provided a hostel in the grounds of the orphanage where low-paid ex-boarders were accommodated until they found their feet.

I will always be grateful to them for the help they gave me and my brother at an extremely difficult time, and the peace of mind they gave my mother in the last few years of her life. So please don’t tar all these fine men with the same brush. – Yours, etc,


Incidentally the Ryan Report does acknowledge some efforts of the CBs to keep the use of corporal punishment under control:

7.224 He [Br Yves] remembered being reprimanded by the principal of the School for beating a boy too harshly, and toned down his severity accordingly.

7.66 Br Noonan was Superior General of the Congregation from 1930 to 1949. He was anxious to reduce the reliance on corporal punishment and he admonished those who were intemperate in its use. There are some grounds for believing he did keep down its excessive use during his tenure of office.

7.67 A Visitation Report in the early 1930s described an extraordinary penalty imposed on a Brother in the refectory: ‘Br Sebastien erred on two occasions in punishing boys severely. The Superior reproved him publicly and ordered him to make a public apology, on his knees in the Refectory

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