A new report issued by Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse blasted the Catholic Church for its failure to protect children against systematic beatings and sexual abuse. ” 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 system created to deal with children placed in industrial and reform schools turned out to be one in which those in charge behaved like criminals and those subject to their authority were treated like slaves. According to the report, thousands of boys and girls were raped and exploited by the religious brothers and nuns who theoretically were responsible for their well being.
The Ryan Commission also was critical of the Irish government for failure to supervise these institutions and protect children instead of simply going along with anything proposed by those in charge of the Catholic Church. There were calls for Pope Benedict to hold a special investigation into what happened to children in Ireland.
I have taught at a Catholic College and knew many wonderful nuns and priests. The horror of such stories is that all too often, those who are abusive to children are the ones placed in charge of children. In confronting this horrible story, hopefully, we don’t forget the decent priests and nuns.