Irish Americans have reacted with outrage and disgust to the Ryan Commission report on clerical abuse of children in Ireland.
The 2,600-page report concluded nine years of investigations into the claims by thousands of adults that they were abused for decades at reform schools and that the Irish government failed to do anything to stop it.
Over 30,000 Irish children, now between 50 and 80 years of age, were sent to industrial schools, orphanages and reformatories because they were deemed “dysfunctional.”
Johnny Rush, from County Roscommon native, said the findings were “just disgusting.”
Rush, 72, who attended Mass at St Barnabas church Sunday in the heavily Irish neighborhood of Woodlawn in New York said: “We knew it was going on for years, this sort of thing, but no one said a thing.
"I myself saw a lot of things that I will never repeat in the Christian Brothers School that I went to as a young lad, and it’s just a shame that it took all these years for it to come out in the open.”
Rush, who said he is still a devout Catholic and will be until the day he dies, added that what angered him the most is that parents, other teachers and adults turned a blind eye to what went on.
“Kids would tell their parents, but sure what would happen then - they would get the beating at home for disrespecting their elders,” said Rush.
“Back then that was how it was, you kept your mouth shut and it was supposed to all go away. Well, that report in Ireland proves that it never went away.”
Rush tucked his rosary beads away as he left the steps of the church and blessed himself, a blessing he was giving up for the victims.
Fiona Brennan, who spent the first 10 years of her life in County Sligo before moving to County Derry with her family, said she wasn’t surprised.
“The church has continuously moved priests around from parish to parish knowing that they had been accused of horrendous crimes,” she said angrily. “Nothing will ever change unless prosecutions come from this.”
Church 'no longer respectable'
Brennan, a niece of John Hume -- leader of the Catholic civil rights movement in Northern Ireland for over 40 years and winner of a Nobel Peace Prize -- remembers when she was growing up that it was forbidden to speak ill of a priest or say anything that would damage the reputation of the Catholic Church.
Brennan, 40, feels that it is now time, after the release of the Ryan report, for the hierarchy in the Catholic Church to realize that the church is no longer a “respectable institution.”
Seeking punishment for all the physical and mental scars that have been left with the thousands of victims, Brennan said, “The priests should be treated the same as any other male that committed these crimes. It’s disgusting that so many lives have been ruined by this.”
Brennan, who has been living in New York for 20 years, said she was very close to a case where a priest was accused of abusing a four-year-old child in Ireland.
“The Catholic Church paid his bail saying he was innocent until proven guilty. Then my question to them was why if he was innocent did he skip bail, and why justice has since never been served?”
Maurice Brick, a devout Catholic from Dingle, County Kerry who now lives in New York, described the report as “devastating.”
Brick, who attends Mass every morning of the week, said he was seriously shook up and would like to see the abusers accept responsibility.
“I hope they own up to it, to somehow assuage a fraction of the frustration and consternation they have caused for us throughout the world,” he said.
“But they’ll never erase the visions of children screaming in dank and darkened corridors. The fears. The shaking. The dread of day and night approaching.”
Brick said his best friend, Brother Quinn, who passed away two years ago at the age of 93, would have been repulsed to discover what really went on in those reform schools.
“His passion was learning and teaching English and Irish literature. He just couldn’t wait to impart his newfound knowledge to anyone. And he prayed a lot. I know, I caught him at it a number of times,” said Brick.
Brick said he would try and focus on the good souls he knows in the church.
“There is Fr. Tom Lynch from Dingle who has spent almost all his life in India serving his people. The laws of the area prohibit him from spreading Christianity. He says Mass alone. But his life is the people he serves,” he said.
“And there’s Fr. Sean Myres in South America. Another local hero from Killarney who serves the poor. I will draw from them for now for hope and encouragement and a healing for the hurt I feel in the core of my soul.”
Another Kerryman, Gerry O’Shea, 65, said that the report just corroborates the stories of abuse that were already out in the open.