Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"A Shameful Catalogue of Cruelty"

In another damning report to fall on the scandal-scarred Irish church, a decade-long government inquest reported today that the physical and sexual abuse experienced by children over six decades in industrial and residential schools run by religious orders was "shameful and disturbing," alleging that the communities often "failed to accept" responsibility for their members' actions and judging the response of the civil authorities woefully insufficient.

Alongside its findings -- mostly culled from the testimonies of over 1,000 victims -- a state Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse recommended that a permanent memorial to the survivors be constructed, including within it the 1999 apology of then-Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern "for our collective failure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue."

After the release, the Christian Brothers -- who've been accused of "stifling debate" on the findings even into the present -- apologized "openly and unreservedly" for their order's role, the Isle's Cardinal-Primate said he was "profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways" in the schools, while the archbishop of Dublin called the victims' "stories of horrible abuse... stomach turning," and "their courage in telling their stories, admirable.

"This is not a report to be put on a shelf," Diarmuid Martin added. "It’s a real cry for a new look at the way we care for our children.

"If we truly regret what happened in the past we must commit ourselves to a very different future."

In his homily at the capital's Chrism Mass last month, Martin repeated his prior forecast on the next inquiry's close -- namely, that this summer's report on abuse in the Dublin church "will shock us all.

"It is likely that thousands of children or young people across Ireland were abused by priests in the period under investigation," the archbishop said, "and the horror of that abuse was not recognized for what it is.

"The report," Martin said, "will make each of us and the entire church in Dublin a humbler church."

The schools report is but the latest shockwave from Irish Catholicism's two-decade-long abuse crisis to hit even in recent months.

After Bishop John Magee of Cloyne was alleged to have mishandled accusations in his diocese and refused to leave office after a state inquiry was chartered, the former private secretary to three Popes was stripped of his powers by the Vatican in early March.