“We had heard from a few journalists and from a number of graduates of these schools about the horrible treatment that the kids received from those who were paid to care for them the past number of years,” he said.
O’Shea, from Kenmare, County Kerry, attended both primary and secondary school in Kerry, and said the victims’ stories of frequent flogging, of starvation and perverted sexual abuse, perpetrated against the most vulnerable children in Irish society, “shocked and enraged” him.
“As an educator who worked in high schools in Dublin and New York for 40 years, I find it completely unconscionable that boys and girls, who had nobody to speak for them, nobody even to listen or to comfort them, nobody in their corner, should have been subjected to daily terror by bullies, acting in the name of Christ,” said O’Shea.
The Ryan report, said O’Shea, makes it clear that the years of abuse reports were not the result of a “few bad apples.”
“No, the reign of terror took place up and down the country, over a period of more than 50 years, and involved no less than 18 religious orders of men and women,” he said.
Angered by the tortures and abuse that were administered at the hands of those who claimed to be holy, O’Shea questions, “How could men and women, trained in Catholic spirituality, attend Mass every day and walk around with breviaries and rosary beads, while terrorizing the children in their care?”
O’Shea feels monetary restitution is a must for all victims. “Payments to all those who suffered should be substantial and should come equally from the religious orders and the government,” he said.
And, moreover, he feels it’s necessary to make the abusers available so victims can face their torturers if they desire to do so.
“Where possible, those who were terrorized and abused should be allowed to confront their tormentors,” he said.
Micheal Corridan, 36, from County Dublin, said he was surprised at “the extent of these crimes.”
“Growing up in Catholic Ireland, we were taught that our religion was our savior. Guiding us safe through life,” said Corridan.
“Even the teachers who were members of religious orders were given higher respect than lay teachers. To hear that these so-called religious people would commit such a crime was hard to comprehend and even harder to understand after the extent of the crimes came out.”
Like many others, Corridan feels that those responsible for the abuse documented in the Ryan report should face the law like everyone else who commits a crime.
“The fact that someone wears a collar, it doesn't exempt them from prosecution,” he says.
In order for the church to survive the crisis, Corridan feels it needs to “take responsibility for the wrongdoings of its members,” and act in a “proper manner” towards the victims instead of making halfhearted apologies.
American-born Mike McGovern, with roots in County Cavan, is an extremely devout Catholic. McGovern, 65, has been a Eucharistic minister for 12 years, and a catechist in his parish in Long Island for 11 years. He was the parish school board president and a volunteer with his wife at the parish social ministry office.
McGovern said that priests should be allowed to marry. “Then maybe pedophiles would most likely not be accepted,” he added.
McGovern, who attended Catholic schools during his childhood, said he could remember two nuns and two religious brothers hitting the kids.
“In eighth grade there was a nun called Sister Dynamite. She was feared by all the boys; she was always hitting them. She was about five-foot tall and about 250 pounds, I think. The brother principal loved to put the boys' over his knee, and wack them with a ruler, or hard across the hands,” recalls McGovern.
McGovern said those responsible for the lewd acts reported in the Ryan report should be “punished for the evil things they did.”
“Even priests and religious people should face up to what they have done,” he said.
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