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Ní neart go cur le chéile
Priest calls for inquiry into north’s institutions 
20th-Jun-2009 07:19 pm
By Diana Rusk
Irish News

THE publication of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, detailing the shocking scale of the abuse of children in homes run by clergy, has encouraged many more victims to come forward.

Fr Patrick McCafferty, who was sexually assaulted at the hands of a priest and who now helps other abuse survivors, said the report published last month had empowered victims to tell their story and find help.

In 2003, after decades of silence, the Belfast-born priest spoke publicly about his ordeal, to encourage the many hundreds of other victims to find the strength to deal with the horrors of their past.

He said the report – known as the Ryan report – into the abuse of children in institutions run by Catholic religious orders in the Republic had “reawakened a lot of trauma”.

“People who didn’t feel empowered have been given the courage by the stories of others told in this report to tell their own histories to someone who they trust and someone who can help them,” he said.

“I have had people coming to me and speaking about their abuse for the first time because of the publication of the Ryan report.

“We saw that happening after the Ferns Report [into clerical sexual abuse in Co Wexford published in 2005] and we’ll see it again after the [upcoming] Dublin report.”

However, Fr McCafferty said an investigation still needed to be carried out into the beatings, humiliation and sexual assaults meted on children in institutions run by religious orders in Northern Ireland.

He specifically highlighted three places: Rubane House, a boys home in Kircubbin, Co Down, and St Patrick’s Home in west Belfast, both run by the De La Salle Brothers, and Nazareth Lodge children’s home in east Belfast, run by the Sisters of Nazareth.

“In the north there hasn’t been as much focus,” he said.

“People were abused sexually and physically in Rubane House, Nazareth House and St Patrick’s Home on the Glen Road, which is demolished now.

“I have received calls from people who were in those institutions in the north and just today I received a text message from someone who was brutally sexually abused by a Christian Brother in a primary school in Belfast.

“There needs to be an inquiry into abuse in institutions in the north and all the books should be open so that there is an objective investigation.

“Inquiries into child abuse should apply to the diocese of Down and Connor as much as to Ferns.”

Fr McCafferty said he had also been contacted by people from Northern Ireland in recent weeks to talk about the abuse they had suffered in institutions in the Republic.

The report by the commission headed by High Court judge Mr Justice Sean Ryan found that abuse including sexual molestation and rape was “endemic” in more than 250 Church-run children’s homes.

Evidence was collected from more than 1,000 people – many now pensioners – who spoke about their childhood of terror and intimidation.

Fr McCafferty said those who completed the difficult process of exposing the pain buried in their past must be shown the same leadership from those in authority.

“We don’t need nice words from the bishops anymore,” he said.

“‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t stitch up a wound. We need transparency and openness and cooperation with criminal investigations.”
Sister Maureen Turlish

In the U.S. publication, the National Catholic Reporter, Dominican priest, the Rev. Thomas Doyle has this to say in the article, ”Irish abuse report demands decisive action,” (05/21/09:

“The report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is not unique though it may well be the most shocking example of the reality of such a culture of evil. In the past two decades over two dozen reports have described physical and sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults by Catholic clergy and religious.” (1)

Church authorities and individual religious communities of men and women are tripping over each other saying how sorry they are that this tragedy happened. A lot more than public apologies from cardinals, bishops, religious superiors and government officials is necessary here.

The government of Ireland made a deal with the Devil in agreeing not to prosecute or name any of the individuals, living or dead, who were party to the widespread torture and abuse of children as has been reported in the recently released Ryan Report.

The Holy See itself along with the bishops and superiors of every religious order implicated in this tragedy like the Christian Brothers, the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Charity and the individual perpetrators, living or dead, who were ever convicted, credibly accused or known by church authorities to have raped, sodomized, tortured or abused the children in their care should be brought before the world court.

The two nuns who brokered the arrangement with the Irish government to limit institutional accountability and transparency should be ashamed of themselves, I know I am.

They are Sisters Elizabeth Maxwell who was then the secretary general of the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI) and currently heads the northern province of the Presentation Sisters, and Helena O’Donoghue the leader of the Sisters of Mercy, south central province.

Sadly, they personify the worst of the church’s clericalism and patriarchal system, just in the female variation.

These are nothing less than crimes against humanity and they should be prosecuted as such.

The Holy See is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child even though it has not submitted the required compliance reports. I suspect that Ireland is a signatory to that document as well.

Every single God given right has been denied these children and they are deserving of justice.

They should get it from the world court and the sooner the better.

Only now are we finding out that the communities involved have met with governmental officials and the Conference of Religious and have said they “will not reopen discussions on the child abuse compensation deal agreed with the Government,” while government officials are set to destroy all the evidence and testimony on which the Ryan Report was based. (2)

Recent comments by the new Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, have been less than helpful. “Courage” is not a word that comes immediately to mind when thinking of the Irish religious communities who were party to this debacle and Nichols was unwise to use it.

Neither Ireland’s Cardinal Sean Brady nor Archbishop Diarmuid Martin seem to be able to exert any control over the 18 religious communities involved so it falls to the Holy See and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life to step in.

It is unbelievable that the government of Ireland cannot find the authority to void the damming agreement that was made with these religious communities in 2002.

That these communities in a statement released by the the Conference of the Religious in Ireland (Cori) refuse to revisit this agreement while professing concern for the victims involved is disingenuous as well as insulting to those of us who are members of religious communities around the world. (3)

I suggest that Ireland’s Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin meet with Pope Benedict XVI as soon as possible and impress upon him the necessity of action.

As Tom Doyle puts it, “there is something radically wrong with the institutional Catholic Church. This is painfully obvious because it allows systemic abuse and radical dishonesty to coexist with its self-proclaimed identity as the Kingdom of God on earth.”

Anything less would amount to a sin against the Holy Spirit. /mpt

(1) http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/irish-abuse-report-demands-decisive-action
(2) http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/0525/breaking14.html?via=mr
(3) http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/0525/breaking64.htm

Sister Maureen Turlish is a Delaware educator and victims’ advocate who testified before the Delaware Senate and House Judiciary Committees in support of Delaware’s 2007 Child Victims Law.

She is a a member of Delaware's Child Victims Voice (www.childvictimsvoice.com), the National Survivor Advocates Coalition (www.nsacoalition.org), the Greater Philadelphia Voice of the Faithful (www.votfgp.org), and a board member of the DACOA, the Delaware Association for Children of Alcoholics.

She can be reached at: maureenpaulturlish@yahoo.com
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