– At Goldenbridge Industrial School in Dublin, children who had been taken away from their parents would regularly wet their beds; for this, the Sisters of Mercy beat them on their hands and buttocks. Children who had wet their bed were obliged to wait on a landing for their punishments, and one complainant said that this waiting was worse than the actual beatings. In an attempt to stop bed-wetting, the sisters would not give water to some children in the evening, so some children would drink from toilet bowls to assuage their thirst.
– At Artane Industrial School in Dublin, one boy who soiled himself was forced to eat his own feces by a Christian Brother, who admitted the incident in his evidence to the commission.
– In 1944, an inspection of St Michael’s Industrial School, run by the Sisters of Mercy in Cappoquin, found children living in overcrowded conditions and on a semi-starvation diet. A doctor found that, of 75 boys, 61 were under the normal weight for their age-height groups by 3-21 pounds.
– In the 1980s, children in Cappoquin were left in the care of an alcoholic nun, who was regularly drunk on duty, who beat children regularly and who would take a girl to bed with her every night.
– In 1950, the bishop of Galway wrote to the Christian Brothers about one of their employees at Salthill Industrial School whom he said was beating boys severely. The bishop wrote that the man’s “methods would evoke indignation if they were directed against brute animals.”
– In 1944, St. Anne’s Reformatory School in Kilmacud, outside Dublin, was established to accommodate girls who were considered a risk to other children because of sexual experiences. Girls as young as 8 who had been raped or abused, or even those children in contact with such girls, were considered unsuitable for an ordinary industrial school and were sent to St. Anne’s.
Is it any wonder that people think Catholics are a bunch of hypocrites? And anyone who knows anything about Ireland can tell you that the church hardly holds any relevance there anymore for people. A friend recently went to Ireland to do a workshop on young adult ministry and he said: “When I got back to the United States I literally kissed the ground I walk on.”
I would say that when I was in Ireland, the clergy seem saddened and standoffish. But not because they are mean themselves, no. They are afraid and unwelcomed by their parishioners now. I went to the parish my dad was baptized in and the priest seemed to be waiting until everyone left before he went outside. I caught up with him and he seemed happy to find someone from the states. A justified reaction from the laity, perhaps, but also one that is unfair to those who are not abusers and who hope to give their life in service to others.
Today as our prayer: Let us remember those who have been abused in Ireland and all over the world but let us remember that priests are not all abusers and that not everyone should bear the brunt of the sins of their brothers and sisters. Amen.