Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done!’.
DUBLIN, April 26, 2010 (AFP) –
One of the first whistle blowers in the clerical abuse scandal which has shaken the Catholic Church in Ireland to its foundations can still recall the fear that stalked his wretched childhood. Sent to a Church-run school at the age of four, Paddy Doyle was severely abused. It was not until he was 38 that he was able to open up about the horrors he had suffered.
“For saying anything at all, you would be seriously punished,” he recalls in an AFP interview, when asked why the systematic abuse meted out across the predominantly Catholic country was allowed to continue unchecked for so long. When his mother died of cancer and his father hanged himself in front of him and his two-year-old sister, the Irish justice system in 1955 labelled him as “not being in possession of a proper guardian”. He was sent to the now notorious St Michael’s Industrial School, at Cappoquin, County Waterford, south-east Ireland, where he was viciously assaulted and sexually abused. “They were very serious abusers. We couldn’t even dream of speaking out.You could be deprived of food, of any kind of social interaction with other children.
“So you just went with the way things were. All the children were under the age of 10, so it was very difficult.
“There was a silence,” he said, recalling Ireland at a time when the Catholic Church in Ireland was all-powerful.
“The country was run by religious orders: schools, hospitals and some say even the government.
“The Church called all the shots, decided practically everything. There wasn’t a school that wasn’t run by the Catholic Church.
“In fact, 20 years ago, you couldn’t open a school if no member of the Church was on the board.” Doyle soon developed dystonia, a severe neurological disorder. He was sent to a succession of Church-run hospitals and says he was subjected to”surgery experimentation”.
“I walked in but I came out in a wheelchair,” he said. He never recovered the use of his legs. When he finally felt able to reveal what had happened to him, he was worried how others would react.
He recalled: “I sat in front of my computer and told (it): ‘I want to tell you something’. It didn’t answer me back.” Eventually he poured all the pain of his ordeal into a book, “The God Squad”. The first publisher he approached “said it was a brilliant book but too risky to be published”, but an independent publishing house took it on (Raven Arts Press)and the book went on sale in 1989.
The initial reaction was underwhelming. “It fell on deaf ears. The Irish psyche didn’t want to believe (it),” Doyle said. The disbelief was perhaps even greater because Doyle recounted in the book that he had been abused not by men, but by the nuns who ran the school.
“An awful lot of people couldn’t get their head around the idea of a woman who could become an abuser,” he said. “The God Squad” became a success and showed the way forward for other victims to overcome their fear.
Subsequent government investigations have revealed substantial levels of abuse in many Catholic-run institutions from the 1950s to the 1970s and the Church’s complicity in covering it up. Even the current head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, has faced calls to resign after it emerged that he had required two abused children to sign an oath of silence. Doyle says that despite the progress, and financial compensation for victims, he is still appalled that the “denial” of his country’s dark years continues. “There is no abuser in jail. Why aren’t they in prison?” he asks,dismissing Pope Benedict XVI’s recent apologies for the handling of the abuse scandal as “farcical”.
“From the Pope right down, they should be before the court.”
Child abuse in the Catholic Church: why Ireland kept quiet
DUBLIN, April 26, 2010 (AFP) – The extent of the unimaginable sexual and physical abuse suffered by thousands of children in Catholic-run institutions in Ireland is becoming clear, but why did it remain secret for so long? Academics and victims say that the Church itself as well as police,teachers and even victims’ families all helped maintain the veil of secrecy. This was because of the huge authority wielded by the Church in Ireland which meant that some parents actually blamed children for bringing abuse on themselves. Until the early 1990s, “it was simply impossible to challenge the Church”, said Kevin Lalor, head of the School of Social Sciences and Law at the Dublin Institute of Technology. To understand the Catholic Church’s central role in society, you have to recognise its role as an “anti-British force” prior to Irish independence in1921, Lalor said. “As the centre of identity, it had an overly inflated status. More so than in any other country, the Church was an official arm of the state,” he added. The majority of schools and hospitals were managed by the Catholic Church, and it even influenced the composition of governments.
“The Church was extremely dominant. People were living through the Church,” said Dr Helen Buckley, senior lecturer in child protection at Trinity College Dublin. It set the moral code and victims of abuse committed by priests or nuns who dared to speak up faced formidable obstacles. “The priest was the ultimate symbol of morality and chastity and was highly respected. The victim might not have been believed by the community,friends and even relatives,” said Sue Donnelly, a sociologist at University College Dublin. A significant breakthrough came in 1990, when a local newspaper dared to print accusations of abuse against a priest in Ferns diocese in south-eastern of the country.
“People reacted in complete disbelief. They gathered in front of the offices of the newspaper, burned some issues and boycotted the businesses that advertised in it,” Donnelly recalled. But the story sparked a huge investigation which eventually led to the government-backed Ferns report of 2005. It detailed serious abuse and the failure of senior churchmen to identify and remove paedophile priests. A fundamental lack of understanding about sexual abuse also helped to keep the lid on what was happening in orphanages and state-run reform schools. “There was a lack of awareness about sexual abuse. Up to 15 or 20 year ago, people thought it was committed by very strange people, living in remote areas, who had mental difficulties or drink problems,” Buckley says. Ignorance of sexual abuse and the belief that the Church could do no wrong meant some parents would even say “you must have deserved it if a child would come and say he was punished by his teacher,” according to Lalor. The police were reluctant to rock the boat. “They felt a quiet word to the bishop was the best option, that it was a moral issue, not a legal one,”Lalor added. Reports into institutional abuse have repeatedly found that priests found to be abusing children were quietly moved to another parish, where they often started abusing again. Donnelly stressed that victims also faced the difficulty of talking about sexuality in the extremely conservative Ireland of the 1960s and 1970s, and those who “told tales” faced being accused of not being “a good Catholic”.
Paddy Doyle, one of the first victims to lift the lid on the scandal with his 1990 book “The God Squad”, says that small children also lived in fear of being “punished even stronger” if they tried to denounce their abusers. “For saying anything at all, you would be seriously punished, beaten, you could be deprived of food, of any kind of social interaction with other children,” he recalls of his childhood in a Catholic-run institution where he was sent as an orphan aged four in 1955. Then, in the 1990s, people gradually started to talk about their experiences, encouraged by various counselling services set up around that time.
Lalor said that “all of a sudden, we went from a total absence of the subject” to the start of the chain of events that led to the resignations of a succession of Irish bishops for failing to stamp out abuse. The latest to stand down, on Thursday, was James Moriarty, bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, who recognised that the “long struggle of survivors” had revealed an “un-Christian” culture within the Church.