Miscellaneous, Page 31

Religious Reaction to Religious Abuse

I’m working on a new literary review, a departure from my usual fare. I hope to have it up within a week or two. Until then, I thought I’d offer my reflections regarding Catholic school torment and the seemingly paradoxical resulting devoutness towards the faith exhibited by some of its most profoundly affected victims.

What prompted this reflective essay was the release of the long awaited report by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in Ireland. In its wake, His Grace, Diarmuid Martin, the current Archbishop of Dublin, has been quoted as responding: "[There were without doubt] church institutions where children were placed in the care of people with practically no morals." [CTV.ca, May 25, 2009]

Reading this observation, for all the world, I was reminded of Captain Renault (played by Claude Rains) in Casablanca answering Rick Blaine as to why he was shutting down his establishment: “I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

The Irish government’s commission’s report focused on numerous abuse allegations, mostly of a physical nature inflicted upon girls and physical and sexual abuse visited upon boys in Church run institutions referred to as "industrial schools," and to a lesser extent in orphanages. (Orphanages came off somewhat better within the report in that there were less abuse allegations and even some complimentary remembrances by former orphaned residents.)

By way of background, the Irish industrial schools were a concept imported from Britain which had established workhouses for juvenile delinquents and “fallen women. “ In Ireland, they became dumping grounds for children from dysfunctional and indigent families in the impoverished nation. Although orphans would sometimes “graduate” to them at a certain age from orphanages, most of the children and teens were not orphans.

Eventually, the schools became institutions where parents and parish priests could dump “problem children,” often on the flimsiest of pretexts. Technically, they were not reform schools and therefore not prisons. Nevertheless, once placed in many of these institutions, children found themselves to be virtual prison inmates shut off from the outside world in cloistered atmospheres, often housed in schools shielded by high walls and wire. Click to continue:

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