herald

Tuesday 22 July 2014

No justice after unforgivable crimes

Torture, rape and beatings. That's the unforgivable story of Catholic Ireland in the 20th century. Still the perpetrators have not been named and may never be brought to justice.

In all, 30,000 children were sent to these state-funded and mostly Church-run institutions, and the last one did not close until the 1990s.

It would be no exaggeration to call this a holocaust of abuse.

Yet there will be no prosecutions for those perpetrators who are still alive, or naming of those who are dead.

The Christian Brothers in 2004 won the legal right to anonymity for all those responsible.

The Brothers, one of the most influential of the Church's male religious orders, opened their first school in Ireland in 1802 and went on to run schools and residential homes for children in Canada, Australia and Britain.

In all countries, children suffered abuse at the hands of the brothers.

In Ontario alone, the Christian Brothers paid out €23m to 700 former students.

Time after time, victims of the various religious orders complained, even though in most cases merely speaking out constituted an immense act of courage.

Yet despite 2,000 pages of evidence, the Holy See and leaders of the Church continued their silence as the report was published, seeking time to read it in detail before commenting.

The anonymity of perpetrators is likely to be enough to save the Church from the effects of the widespread revulsion that will result from this report. If anything, the protection the Christian Brothers have secured will merely add to the disgust.

Everyone will be asking, Catholic or not, how these superficially holy men and women could square their actions with their human conscience, never mind their Christian one.

The only ray of light is that the abuse has now stopped. In Britain, the United States, Australia, Ireland and elsewhere in Europe, the Church has by and large woken up to its staggering sins and put itself in order.

This has happened too late to save the victims.

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