Miscellaneous, Page 32

Religious Reaction to Religious Abuse (continued)

The youngsters were supposed to be both academically educated and taught a useful trade for when they reached adulthood. In practice, academic education often stopped after the sixth grade and children became virtual slave laborers in school industries, with laundries being a prominent occupation in establishments for girls. “Students” were often forced to work long hours, seven days a week, with time off, of course, for Mass and other religious observances. There were some diversions, however, such as sporting events and movies as time went on. The last of these institutions closed in the 1990s, having been established by a legal act of 1868.

In Ireland, the government ceded control of the industrial schools to Catholic religious orders; nuns for girls, and mostly lay brothers for boys. The children were subjected to a harsh regime of corporal punishment and sometimes sexual abuse, the latter especially in the establishments for boys. Although the Irish government retained the right of oversight, in practice governmental inspectors were lapse to the point of complicity in either being unwilling to report on abuse or simply not investigating very thoroughly for fear of what they might discover.

I am not opposed in principle to reasonable corporal punishment in schools, and recognize its utility in trying to maintain some semblance of order in such environments where administrators of such schools must deal with a great many children, some with unruly and even violent temperaments. Unfortunately, as was my own experience in the much more benign atmosphere of an American Catholic parochial school, allowing corporal punishment inevitably leads to excesses as certain individuals amongst the staff are themselves given to violent temperaments and occasionally even sadistic natures.

In my case, at least the Catholic school I attended did not have custodial rights over its students. We went home each and every day and this consideration kept the worst offenders among the order of nuns that taught me within some bounds, though given the tenor of the times, when a great many people took their religion very seriously, they could still get away with a great deal.

It is, therefore, not much of a stretch of the imagination for me to envision what my life would have been like had I been forced into Catholic custodial care as these unfortunate youngsters had been in Ireland. As bad as my situation had been for a few years in grade school, I have no doubt it would have seemed like Heaven to many of these kids. The person with severe diabetes does not pause to contemplate that the person with cancer envies him or her.  Click to continue:

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