The CICA report

The Commission into Child Abuse report is out. It found that children lived in ‘daily terror’ of being beaten in industrial schools (which weren’t really schools at all) from 1940 onwards.

It found that corporal punishment was “pervasive, severe, arbitrary and unpredictable” in the institutions where “children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from.” The report said that the level of emotional abuse of disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children by religious and lay staff was “disturbing” and that the Catholic Church was aware long-term sex offenders were repeatedly abusing children…the Commission found that “children were frequently hungry, food was inadequate, inedible and badly prepared in many schools.”…Accommodation in the institutions was “cold, spartan and bleak” with sanitary provision “primitive” in most boys’ schools particularly. Academic education “was not seen as a priority for industrials school children” and “in reality, the industrial training afforded by all schools was of a nature that served the needs of the institution rather than the needs of the child.”

But the emotional abuse was even worse.

A finding which the Commission said was “a disturbing element” of the evidence presented before it, was “`the level of emotional abuse that disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children were subjected to generally by religious and lay staff” at the institutions…Separation of siblings and restrictions on family contacts “were profoundly damaging for family relationships.” It meant that “some children lost their sense of identity and kinship, which was never recovered.”

This is the Catholic church, don’t forget, which is always making a parade of its extreme compassion and sympathy and tenderness toward the fetus. These are real, thinking, feeling children who were starved, frozen, beaten, terrorized, taken away from their mothers, prevented from ever seeing their mothers, called horrible names, denied an education, made to work at slave labour, denied even the small wages they had theoretically earned – this is the compassion and tenderness of the Catholic church.

It was institutional.

The five-volume study concluded that church officials encouraged ritual beatings and consistently shielded their orders’ paedophiles from arrest amid a “culture of self-serving secrecy”. It also found that government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.

Well hey, these were only children. If they’d been fetuses it would have been a different story.

The report said that girls supervised by orders of nuns, chiefly the Sisters of Mercy, suffered much less sexual abuse but frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless.

Yeah – we know. Marie-Therese has told us.

Sister Fabian always called children by disparaging names; she had a list as long as her arm. Amadan; oinseach; gombeen; half-wit; crackawley; cracked; dope, clown, clot, crackpot; she predominantly said to me; “there is a ‘want’ in you Lougho” – meaning that I was not “the full shilling!”…We were mere nonentities who were never going to quantify to anything in this life. We were never, ever, going anywhere. The sisters could as a result unremittingly lay before us reminders of our lowly status…Sr. Fabian for all time held her nose at children and said “you dirty thing, get out of my sight.” She was a very intolerant sister and caused huge damage to children because of it.

As the report says:

The commission said overwhelming, consistent testimony from still-traumatized men and women, now in their 50s to 80s, had demonstrated beyond a doubt that the entire system treated children more like prison inmates and slaves than people with legal rights and human potential. “The reformatory and industrial schools depended on rigid control by means of severe corporal punishment and the fear of such punishment,” it said. “The harshness of the regime was inculcated into the culture of the schools by successive generations of brothers, priests and nuns.”

Like Sadie O’Meara for instance.

Sadie O’Meara, a 15-year-old Tipperary girl working in Dublin, was brought to one of the Magdalene Laundries by the Legion of Mary. There she worked long hours washing and ironing customers laundry. The daughter of an unmarried mother, she says she never found out why she ended up there and for four years suffered physical and emotional abuse in an institution run by the Sisters of Charity. “You’d be up at 6am and you had to go to two Masses,” she said. “Your cell door was locked every night when you went in and you had a bucket and an iron bed and you couldn’t look out the window. It was all bars. The food was absolutely brutal. And my mam died but they never told me she died. She died on Christmas Day but they never told me. I didn’t know that until they let me out four years later. That’s something that really upsets me.”

Well it would. They told Marie-Therese, on the other hand, that her mother was dead when she wasn’t. “Those at the industrial schools have said the abuse they suffered stays with them all their lives.”

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