News: Horror report

Comment: Why apologies are not enough

  • Famine left Church in dominant position
  • Doctrine focused on repression
  • De Valera let Church run education

After the great famine devastated Ireland, the Catholic Church moved quickly to tighten its grip on the population. Millions had fled or starved and those left  were incredibly demoralized.

There was also an incredible sense of guilt concerning what had transpired over the Famine and a sense that the Irish people as a whole were doomed.

Into this milieu stepped the doctrine of Jansenism, imported from France by Irish priests who studied there. Jansenism originated in the writings of the Dutch theologian Cornelius Otto Jansen.

Jansenism emphasized original sin, human depravity, especially of the flesh and need to suffer to prevail in the end.

The Catholic Church in Ireland became an outpost of Jansenism, especially its intense focus on bodily functions and the need to repress all sexual urges.

The result was generations of Irish who lived by a creed that emphasized above all that  sins of the flesh were the worst evil of all and that keeping the body pure was the greatest gift to God.

It led to incredible sexual repression especially among those who went into religious life. Trainee nuns, priests and brothers were regularly cloistered away from  the age of 14 in special schools to educate them to Holy Orders.

Not surprisingly, when they then emerged in later years and re-entered society they had no experience of the opposite sex and little sexual maturity. All were educated in the Janesnist model.

Eamon De Valera, the dominant figure in Irish life from the 1930s on, gave the church total control over educational institutions and let them operate as a seperate fiefdom. It was during this period that much of the worst clerical abuse happened

Many were themselves abused in the training institutions which led to further abuse by them on young victims. Overall the lack of questioning by society as a whole of the enormous power the church had prolonged the crisis well into the late 1980s when the dam burst.