The head of the Irish Catholic Church, Cardinal Seán Brady, has pleaded for forgiveness after a horrific report showed that thousands of children were raped, beaten and abused both mentally and physically at Catholic reformatory schools and institutions in Ireland.
“I am profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed,' the Cardinal said, 'that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions. Children deserved better and especially from those caring for them in the name of Jesus Christ.”
The 2,600-page report, unveiled by High Court Justice Sean Ryan on Wednesday, concluded nine years of investigations into claims that children were treated cruelly at supposed safe havens and that the Irish government failed to do anything.
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.”
The award-winning film, The Magdalen Sisters, was based on the experiences of girls who were dumped into Church-run laundries.
The victims have lobbied for justice for nearly two decades now.
The five-volume report, released by Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse, is based on statements from past pupils and administrators spanning over 250 Catholic institutions.
"The management did not listen to or believe children when they complained of the activities of some of the men who had responsibility for their care," the commission found. "At best, the abusers were moved, but nothing was done about the harm done to the child. At worst, the child was blamed and seen as corrupted by the sexual activity, and was punished severely."
The reports unraveled a series of disturbing abuses between 1930 and the early 1990s when the final facility closed its doors.
In male facilities, mainly run by the Christian Brothers, molestation and rape was rampant. In the girls' institutions, run by the Sisters of Mercy, physical assaults and humiliation were a daily occurrence, while sexual abuse was rarer.
"In some schools a high level of ritualized beating was routine. ... Girls were struck with implements designed to maximize pain and were struck on all parts of the body," the report said. "Personal and family denigration was widespread."
The report also strongly criticized the Department of Education for its handling of complaints about residential institutions.
The report concludes that officials from the church always kept acts of pedophilia under wraps from law enforcement. It also states that the entire system treated young children like inmates in prison and slaves than regular human beings with rights.
"A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from," the report concluded.
The report suggests ways the government can recognize the wrong doings of the past, including providing education and counseling to the still suffering victims, erecting a permanent memorial and improving Irelands’ current child protection services.
To date the Irish government has compensated 12,000 abuse victims an average of $90,000 each. Another 2,000 claims are outstanding.
Because the Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to withhold the identities of its members, either dead or alive, from the report, no criminal charges can be brought against them.