FaithWorld

Irish clergy abuse victims torn between Dublin monument and Haiti aid

ryanreport

The Ryan report into child abuse, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton

One of the healing measures suggested when Ireland’s Catholic clerical sex scandals shocked the country last year was a proposal to erect a monument in Dublin to all the youths abused for decades at schools and orphanages run by religious orders that looked the other way.  The idea, proposed by the government’s Ryan report last May, won so much support that half a million euros were earmarked for the project. The government appointed a group to consider what the Irish Times called “the most difficult public art commission in the history of the state.”

It’s just become even more difficult because one group of clerical abuse victims has now said the funds should instead be donated to victims of the Haiti earthquake. The gesture would genuinely mean more to victims of clerical abuse than a piece of stone on O’Connell Street,” the victims’ group Right of Place said last week at a meeting with Prime Minister Brian Cowen. O’Connell Street is Dublin’s main thoroughfare, an ideal place for any memorial.

Others disagree.

Christine Buckley, who works at the Aislinn Centre to support victims, said she recognised the deep suffering of Haitian people. But Ireland, whose government and citizens have already contributed millions in aid to Haiti, should still be able to afford just over 3 euros per each child affected by abuse, she said.

The Ryan commission that issued the shocking report about abuse committed throughout much of the past century recommended that the monument should have the words of an 1999 government apology inscribed on it:

“On behalf of the State and all citizens of the State, the Government wishes to make a sincere and overdue apology to the victims of childhood abuse for our collective failure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue .”

In abuse by Irish priests, a little “mental reservation”

irish-countrysideIt was a ride and I was hitchhiking around Ireland and the driver of a tiny Morris Minor who’d stopped was a priest, so what could be wrong?

This was the 1970s when I was fresh out of an American college, bumming around Europe on almost no money. But it was the Ireland of my ancestors and they had no money either, so we were all in this together. (Photo: Irish countryside, 26 Sept 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

A little too much so, I discovered shortly after getting into the front passenger seat when the priest — and he was wearing his clerical collar, so there could be no doubt — put his hand on my knee.

Ireland braces for another Catholic clergy sex abuse report

irish-reportA damning report on sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Dublin is due out later this week, only six months after another report on abuse in industrial and reformatory schools across the country accused priests and nuns of flogging, starving and, in some cases, raping children in their care.

“It will not be easy reading,” Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said of this new report back in May when the uproar over the first report prompted so many calls to counseling services for abuse victims that the advice centre had to close temporarily because it couldn’t handle all the inquiries. (Photo: Copy of the first report on clergy child abuse, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

The Sunday Independent newspaper, which broke the news, said the report will accuse the four archbishops who preceded Martin of covering up the abuse “to preserve the power and aura of the Church and to avoid giving scandal to their congregations.”

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

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.