Archive for May 27th, 2009

No one took responsibility for the rape and brutalisation of children by religious orders when it was happening but there are more ways to respond now than simply by being appalled and swearing it will never happen again.
For a start, the orders which were responsible should be disbanded. This will only have token value, since there are few people left in them here and they have no responsibility for children any more. But if they stood down themselves it would be a singular admission of disgrace, and that is what is required of them.
Further, the state should impound their property and reverse legal sweetheart deals to limit the amount of compensation they would have to pay.
Those who continue to celebrate the contribution of these orders should examine their consciences carefully.
Currently there are Christian Brother trusts running schools on both sides of the border, preserving, as they see it, the ethos of the Christian Brothers.
Well the legacy of the Brothers may include some doctors and solicitors who think they got a fine education, but the suffering inflicted by the Brothers was not a fair price for that.
Those trusts should divest themselves of the name and reputation of the Brothers.
Further, I would like to see the history of the depredations, the cynicism and the corruption of the orders and much of the secular church taught to children in schools. It is as important that the history of this hideous period be taught to children here as it is that the history of the Holocaust be taught in Germany.
The atrocities were different in scale and degree, but the story is the same, of how ordinary people can become bestial.
And if the story is told, it has to be related to the global story. In many other countries, the sexual exploitation of disadvantaged children by Irish missionaries was disastrous.
In Canada, they were involved in running schools for Native American children. Those children were trained for servility before their white masters. Thousands were raped and many of those who fled the schools died.
In Australia they were responsible for the importation of Irish orphans and their severance from all hope of knowing who they were.
And if the evidence of experience now is that these celibate orders fostered sadism and sexual perversion, then we must look closely at how they are now conducting themselves in countries where they still function and claim respect.
There are no Christian Brothers teaching in Ireland but there are many in India and in several African countries.
If Ireland is to accept responsibility for the suffering that past generations allowed to be inflicted on children, then it must speak to those other countries and alert them to the danger that their own children may be abused in this way.This could be an Irish diplomatic responsibility.
Never again should these orders be respected or their word be taken untested about what they are doing.
And then we must try to understand how these things happen. Presumably many of those who joined the orders did so with an honest intention of living a disciplined and celibate life. Many of them left home at 14 to join junior seminaries, before their own sexuality was awakened and then had to learn to live with an impossible pledge to celibacy taken before they were fully formed.
These boys and girls also swore obedience to their orders and were, therefore, easily manipulated.
And then they were clustered together in single sex institutions, treated like gormless functionaries by their own superiors and put in charge of vulnerable children, who served the role of the cat that the office boy kicks.
But we have seen it in prisons and concentration camps and in English public schools, that a combination of sexual repression and power produces sadism.
Our own beloved CS Lewis, in a book regarded as a spiritual classic, Surprised By Joy, describes, indulgently, the routine sexual exploitation of little boys in an English public school.
These things were worse in Ireland than elsewhere, and where they were at their worst elsewhere it was often Irish clergy and religious who were doing it. That is the unforgettable legacy of a proud Irish missionary endeavour.
Well, let’s at least be sure, as far as we can, that future generations remember and understand, and that anywhere on this earth that an Irish missionary is in charge of children there is someone keeping a close watch on him.

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