“The information was there” – Abp. Martin on Irish abuse report

May 25, 2009

martin1Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has shown a refreshing frankness in talking about the widespread abuse of children in Catholic-run schools and orphanages documented in the Ryan report last week. In an op-ed page piece for the Irish Times today, he described himself as shocked but not totally surprised and recalled hearing about the abuse from victims up to 40 years ago. He refers to reporting by “a few courageous and isolated journalists like Michael Viney,” whose series on abuse appeared in the Irish Times in 1966.

(Photo: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin/Dublin Archdiocese)

“The stories they told then were not radically different from what the Ryan report presents, albeit in a systemic and objective way which reveals the horror in its integrity,” he wrote. “Anyone who had contact with ex-residents of Irish industrial schools at that time knew that what those schools were offering was, to put it mildly, poor-quality childcare by the standards of the time. The information was there.”

The official Church reaction in Ireland has been shame and apologies all around, starting with Cardinal Sean Brady. It included apologies from the Christian Brothers, a teaching order with a reputation for stern discipline and abuse charges that won a lawsuit to bar the report from naming abusers. These were certainly appropriate. What was missing, though, was the admission that the problem was well known, even if all the details were not. There was even a film made about one of these schools, The Magdelene Sisters, that won the Golden Lion at the 2002 Biennale Venice Film Festival.

dublin-cross-2(Photo: Papal Cross in Phoenix Park in Dublin, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

Irish novelist John Banville tackled this in an op-ed piece for the New York Times on Friday:

Everyone knew. When the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse issued its report this week, after nine years of investigation, the Irish collectively threw up their hands in horror, asking that question we have heard so often, from so many parts of the world, throughout the past century: How could it happen?

Surely the systematic cruelty visited upon hundreds of thousands of children incarcerated in state institutions in this country from 1914 to 2000, the period covered by the inquiry, but particularly from 1930 until 1990, would have been prevented if enough right-thinking people had been aware of what was going on? Well, no. Because everyone knew…

Ireland from 1930 to the late 1990s was a closed state, ruled — the word is not too strong — by an all-powerful Catholic Church with the connivance of politicians and, indeed, the populace as a whole, with some honorable exceptions. The doctrine of original sin was ingrained in us from our earliest years, and we borrowed from Protestantism the concepts of the elect and the unelect. If children were sent to orphanages, industrial schools and reformatories, it must be because they were destined for it, and must belong there. What happened to them within those unscalable walls was no concern of ours.

We knew, and did not know. That is our shame today.

Irish Jesuit blogger Fergus O’Donoghue disputes Banville’s description of Ireland as a “closed state … ruled… by an all-powerful Catholic Church.” That was not factually the case, of course, but the Catholic Church certainly did enjoy great influence for much of that period. And many lay people accepted the Church’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to issues like this.

saint-patrick-stampAs O’Donoghue explained in another post:
Part of the background is the middle class mentality which infused Irish society and the Irish Church: the children in institutions had to be taught to know their place.

Why did so many Catholic institutions fail so appallingly? A hundred reasons can be suggested, but three come to mind: undue respect for authority (which was self-justifying and rarely self-critical); religious authoritarianism (government of communities by self-perpetuating cliques, who rarely saw the need for fresh thinking); and a rancid clericalism (product of a religious culture that increasingly turned in on itself).

Religious life in Ireland has wonderful aspects, but this one is shameful.

(Photo: 1937 Irish stamp showing Saint Patrick/Wikimedia Commons)

Martin’s frank approach seems to be the background to the unusual exchange between himself and the new London Archbishop Vincent Nichols, whose comments about the “courage” of Irish religious orders to confront their past he dismissed as “not … helpful.” Instead of praising them for confronting abuse he says was already known, Martin wants them to do more for their victims. And that means money.

This is not going to go away anytime soon. The Irish cabinet is due to discuss the Ryan report this week, and the Dail (parliament) will debate it in early June. Another damning report, this time just on abuse in the Dublin archdiocese, is due out this summer.

6 comments

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PUBLIC APOLOGIES FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY?I agree with the statements Tom Doyle O.P. makes in the American publication, the National Catholic Reporter “Irish abuse report demands decisive action,” (05/21/09):http://ncronline.org/news/acc ountability/irish-abuse-report-demands-d ecisive-action“The report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is not unique though it may well be the most shocking example of the reality of such a culture of evil. In the past two decades over two dozen reports have described physical and sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults by Catholic clergy and religious.”I’m sorry but a whole lot more than public apologies from cardinals, bishops and government officials are necessary here.The government of Ireland made a deal with the Devil in agreeing not to prosecute or name any of the individuals, living or dead, who were party to the widespread torture and abuse of children as has been reported in the recently released Ryan Report.The Holy See itself along with the bishops and superiors of every religious order implicated in this tragedy like the Christian Brothers, the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Charity and the individual perpetrators, living or dead, who were ever convicted, credibly accused or known by church authorites to have raped, sodomized, tortured and abused the children in their care should be brought before the world court.The two nuns who brokered the arrangement with the Irish government to limit the institutional Roman Catholic Church’s accountability and transparency should be ashamed of themselves, I know I am.They are Sisters Elizabeth Maxwell who was then the secretary general of the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI) and currently heads the northern province of the Presentation Sisters, and Helena O’Donoghue the leader of the Sisters of Mercy, south central province. Sadly, they personify the worst of the church’s clericalism and patriarchial system, just in the female variation.These are nothing less than crimes against humanity and they should be prosecuted as such.The Holy See is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child even though it has never submitted one of the required compliance reports and I suspect that Ireland is a signatory to that document as well.Crimes against humanity!Every single God given right has been denied these children and they are deserving of some justice. They should get it from the world court and the sooner the better.Where is the outrage?Sister Maureen Paul TurlishVictims’ AdvocateNew Castle, Delaware, USAmaureenpaulturlish@yahoo.comSister Turlish is a Delaware educator and victims’ advocate who testified before the Delaware Senate and House Judiciary Committees in the U.S in support of the state of Delaware’s 2007 Child Victims Law.

Posted by SISTER MAUREEN PAUL TURLISH | Report as abusive

I’m with you Sister Turlish.What you see in Ireland is only small scale to what is not seen in Australia.Politicians, Police Commissioners and Police Ministers, Premiers refuse to address the issue here. Some newspapers refuse to make comment or to print in regards the Ryan Report.Our Prime Minister still holds with the concept that the sexual abuse of children when committed by Catholic clergy is a matter for the Catholic church. What an abhorrent stance for a political leader and hopefully he and other so called political leaders will face charges of crimes against humanity.In my city of Toowoomba we have a Bishop (whose own history is very “doubtful”) about to do “the usual” of investigating a local headmaster for his part in covering up the sexual abuse of young children.When the Canon law of the Church includes the historic covering up of these abuses back into the 1920′s and earlier (see http://www.priestsofdarkness/crimen.pdf  ) it takes little to see that he was simply being the best catholic he could be through protecting the good name of the church and just like our local newspaper was prepared to go to any length to keep the knowledge of the scandal of these abuses and the truths behind them a secret.If this man followed the philosophies and the ethos of his church here then he is surely protected by our constitution which protects his right to freely practice his religion. His religion practiced the sexual abuse of children and set down as part of its law the requirement to keep it secret.Should he be charged with a criminal offence when his Bishop was aware of these crimes (the one orchestrating the vigorous investigation), his Bishop was aware of the Canon law as found in the document which has been a part of the catholic church’s teaching for generations.The hypocrisy of this here in Australia can be seen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13wwuU1NE 9E when this evidence was provided to the Minister for Police, the Commissioner for Police and his assistants. When men at this level of society act directly to withhold evidence they too should be charged with crimes against humanity.Australia the silent country is a cess-pool of corruption and cover-up at the highest levels. Our understanding is that the rape of children has been on a much larger scale here than that currently found in Ireland. Every single right to justice has been so effectively barred here that few make their way through our corrupted legal, Political and Policing systems.Australia played a major role in the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights yet we are not full signatories to it as quite simply if we were and it was upheld the Catholic church would simply not be able to exist here and our children would be much safer if that were the case.The human rights of thousand of everyday Australians are trodden into the filth of the Australian Catholic church here on a daily basis simply because of the need of the Catholic (and other) church to keep secret the knowledge of the sexual abuse of children.We have a beautiful country which is affected by this pox at all levels – the denial of the facts and the scale of the abuses here does appear to eclipse the silence which permitted the horrors of the Jewish holocaust and it is being maintained at great cost to our communities here by the work of the Catholic church and subsequently by the work of our governments. The people of Australia have repeatedly paid for the privilege of having their children sexually abused by Catholic clergy through their tax system.Amazingly a number of victims who turn out to be those who refused to go through the corrupted “healing” process of the church have offered both church and government a solution – it is amazingly simple and can be found here http://www.september12009.com/ This follows the “marketing” and spin of our governments and we simply say to them that they should put into practice that which they preach to us.Everything is there – it simply needs approval, the churchs approval and the governments approval – after all it provides exactly what they say is needed – so why not do it this way?John BrownToowoombaAustraliajohn@september120 09.comJohn Brown is a parent who simply refuses to permit children to be sexually abused. In doing that he has found himself at odds with all forms of policing, politics and religion and has been falsely charged and found guilty of spurious offences. He has been locked up and forcibly drugged in a mental institution for refusing to be quite about the involvement of the Catholic church in the sexual abuse of children in Australia.

Wait a second…”he described himself as shocked but not totally surprised and recalled hearing about the abuse from victims up to 40 years ago.”So. He knew about it 40 years ago and his response was to become archbishop? Guess calling the police and stopping the rape and horrors against the children would have been detrimental to the good man’s career.The Catholic Church systematically protect the abusers of children all around the world.That is a fact.I don’t understand how anyone can be part of such an organization. Is the Catholic god so frightening that his followers excuse any behavior of his emissaries to curry favor? Tell me that Jesus would come back and look at the crimes of the wealthy Vatican and say “Yes, that’s exactly what I meant, well done!”

Would that more clergy were real followers of Christ’s teachings like Sister Turlish!To comment on the question on how Jesus would react to this, why not look at the source of Christianity, the New Testament.”Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” Mark 9One of the rare times that Jesus became enraged was when he overturned the moneychanger’s tables and drove them out of the temple. “Saying to them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but you have made it a den of thieves”.Luke 19These clergy who abused or protected the abusers stole the childhood from thousands of children.

Posted by D. Bennett | Report as abusive

Justice must be done and must be seen to be done. If the culprits are not made known, the Bishops, the Religious Orders, Congregations, Religious Institutes and Organizations, etc. will be seen as suspects of complicity in this abominable scandal.

Posted by Francis Pimentel-Pinto | Report as abusive

The devil is being kept very busy by the Catholic church. We have a pope in Rome who covered up the child sex abuse for his predecessor and still the sheeple flock to see him! Buggers belief!

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