The Horror, The Evil

The week’s revelations about the scale of neglect, slavery, sadism and sexual abuse in Ireland’s church-run children’s institutions are shocking. Read Marie-Therese O’Loughlin’s account of the Goldenbridge rosary bead factory:

I remember clearly, at 6:30 in the mornings, when I was eleven years old or thereabouts having to go to St Joseph’s babies/infants dormitory. I had to dress the toddlers. It was normal for some of them to have slept in their own excrement. When I took them from their destroyed beds, I found it so upsetting as they were always covered from head to toe in excrement. They were shivering and were all colours of the rainbow as they stood there waiting to be cleaned. I had to use the clean corners of the destroyed sheets. The only place to get water was from a very small toilet bowl. I dipped the sheet in the bowl and then cleaned the children. The whole dormitory which was a dark dank cold place stank to high heaven. The head honcho of the Sisters of Mercy at this time of morning was up in the convent saying her prayers.

The Commission into Child Abuse report has triggered an outpouring of Christian sympathy from clerics and commentators – not for the survivors and victims, naturally, but for the priests. This is the new Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols:

I think of those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin who have to face these facts from their past which instinctively and quite naturally they’d rather not look at. That takes courage, and also we shouldn’t forget that this account today will also overshadow all of the good that they also did.

The Christian Brothers, one of the main providers of this faith-based welfare, said that: 

We acknowledge and regret that our responses to physical and sexual abuse failed to consider the long term psychological effects on children. As we have come to better understand the impact of such abuse, our goal and best endeavour has been to promote healing for complainants.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor did not address the crimes – perhaps wisely given his history of covering up child abuse. Instead he chose this week to identify ‘the greatest of evils’ as… a lack of faith.

The subtext appears to be: ‘Okay, some children were raped, but what about those poor old bishops?’ Doesn’t it take courage to own up to something under duress and after failed attempts to buy out the victims; to confess with little possibility of repercussions, with the public paying ninety per cent of your fines and under guarantee of anonymity? And also, erm, some priests are not paedophiles. Let’s not forget that, overall, faith makes you a better person. Can’t we talk about those nasty atheists instead? And they wonder why people have nothing good to say about religion!

Read Ophelia, and also here; and here; also Oliver Kamm, and here; and even Madeleine Bunting understands. There are survivors’ accounts on the Guardian letters page.

At Nick Cohen’s blog, Paul Fauvet raises the point that if a secular organisation were found guilty of such systematic and sustained evil – say, St Helens Council or the NCH children’s charity – the consequences for those responsible would be far harsher. Contra the self-pitying talk about the decline of religion, it’s clear that we still hold religious institutions to lower moral and legal standards than those to which the average citizen abides. If they could not condemn the perpetrators and send their hopes and prayers to the survivors and victims, it could have occurred to the pro-faith apologists that they should just stay out of this one. That they have not, illustrates the depths to which they are capable of sinking in defence of religion.

One Response to “The Horror, The Evil”

  1. Ultimate Insult to Ultimate Injury « Max Dunbar Says:

    […] Insult to Ultimate Injury By maxdunbar The Vatican has responded to the Ryan report. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, its observer to the UN, issued a statement yesterday. This would have […]

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