Prisoners of the Catholic Church


(Photo: Kevin Flannagan, brother of a victim of child abuse in Catholid-run schools in Ireland, shouts at members of a commission which issued a report on the abuse. He was not allowed to attend a news conference where the report was released on Wednesday.)

Few news stories will lead reasonable people to shake their head more so than the bomb dropped by a commission in Ireland today. A 2,600 page report said thousands of children sent to state-sponsored schools were subjected to “beatings, rapes and humiliation” in the schools run by the Catholic church in, perhaps, the most devout Catholic country. And, it says, the government did nothing to stop it until the schools were closed in the ’80s.

Says the New York Times:

“The management did not listen to or believe children when they complained of the activities of some of the men who had responsibility for their care,” the commission found. “At best, the abusers were moved, but nothing was done about the harm done to the child. At worst, the child was blamed and seen as corrupted by the sexual activity, and was punished severely.”

There are no names of the accused, many of whom are long dead. But it says the kids, sent to the schools by their families for such things as being pregnant or truant, became virtual prisoners.

“The commission dismissed as implausible a central defence of the religious orders – that, in bygone days, people did not recognise the sexual abuse of a child as a criminal offence, but rather as a sin that required repentance,” the Australian reported.

“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,” Thomas Wall told the BBC.

“Your cell door was locked every night when you went in and you had a bucket and an iron bed and you couldn’t look out the window. It was all bars,” another former student prisoner said.

(The report is available here, but the server has crashed repeatedly today.)