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May 24, 2009



Dear Joseph,
I am very surprised by your reaction to the horrific report of abuses.
I hardly recognise your habitual judgment on situations of injustice.
I simply do not understand...
What a pity...!

Spirit of Vatican II

I have not really taken in all the implications, the full horror of it. Those were rougher times in all schools. The indecent cruelty of the schools condemned in the report was not, however, at all typical of the majority of schools. To extrapolate from the report to a general condemnation of the teaching orders or the Church of that time, and even more, of today, would be a formula for unfairness. Suppose I were to extrapolate from a situation of injustice such as the waterboarding of US detainees a judgment that the US as a whole is radically corrupt, irredeemable, and should be abolished, would I not be committing a further injustice? The sweeping nihilistic swerve to which commentators on the report are inviting us is a dangerous path to take.


Hi Joseph,

By any chance would you be related to a woman of the same name O'Leary who was a Primary School teacher in the 1950's in Dublin?


Let's be honest here about our Irish Catholic history. Those who claim to have been psychologically unharmed by their experience of Catholic-run schools are obviously the most damaged people of all. This is like claiming one survive a raging inferno as if walking away bored from a picnic!

Spirit of Vatican II

Martha, no, I am no relation.

"Those who claim to have been psychologically unharmed by their experience of Catholic-run schools are obviously the most damaged people of all. This is like claiming one survive a raging inferno as if walking away bored from a picnic!"

Sorry, I really do not see how you can say this -- about the vast majority of the people of Ireland. You could easily add that we were all psychologically harmed by being raised in Irish Catholic families. But such sweeping generalizations are meaningless. Why not go one step further and say that the entire human race is psychologically damaged by the traumas of having gone to school and having been raised in a family?

The Christian Brothers gave their pupils a great sense of self-worth by assuring their academic attainments, and raising them a notch in the social hierarchy; they also instilled high ideals which raised the tone of the pupils' existence. Many schools today fail students in the most basic way by not giving them a proper education and by not providing them with any sense of values, and this does great psychological harm. So credit where credit is due.


The institutions under discussion were a product of their time and place – pre-Vatican II Catholic Ireland. The non-religious element reflected residual British influence modified to some extent by the indigenous tradition. But, from my perspective, the overwhelming influence was Catholicism.

The influence of the church on families was indirect. Fathers and mothers were influenced for the most part by human nature in their dealings with children. The influence of the Pope and parish priest was secondary. I suspect that by and large, Irish parents were no better and no worse than others.

Schools, on the other hand, were largely under the control of religious. And cruelty was a feature of Irish schools. Of course schools were institutions; and, institutions tend to be cruel. But I do not think this was the entire explanation.

I wish that religious had read “the hymn to Agape” – really read it. But perhaps St. Paul did not have children in mind when he decided to incorporate the hymn into his letter. At any rate such a judgment on the part of Irish religious would explain their behavior.

I’m being simplistic here. There is adequate warrant for cruelty in Scripture. God is seen as requiring the crucifixion of his son. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was unquestioned. People freely spoke of “beating the devil out” of children. The opponents of Christ and his church are “antichrists” and “children of the devil”. And there is a long history of savagery toward opponents of Orthodox/Catholic Christianity – which remained un-condemned in “pre-Enlightenment” Ireland.

In my judgment, the sexual impropriety detailed in the report is quantitatively the lesser sin.

Spirit of Vatican II

Orphaned children need more than anything the assurance of being loved. If the religious had been pro-actively concerned with this, rather than with discipline, things would have been very different. But back then we did not talk about love, but about "cold charity". Erich Fromm's book "The Art of Loving" swept through convents and seminaries as a Revelation in 1966. Fenichel's 1938 paper on masturbation, linked to above, also emphasizes the importance of providing the security of a loving environment to children; beating a kid for bed-wetting and threatening Hell for masturbation pushed them into a spiral of anxiety instead.


I think the writer here has deliberately ignored the fact that the Ryan Report heard witnesses who were in the 216 Institutions between 1914 and the year 2000.

That's witnesses from eight and a half decades covering 216 Institutions.

The grants paid for each child in the Institutions was equal to one-third of a labourer's wage.

The viewpoints in the Ryan Report cover the years 1914 all the way up to the year 2000.

!?!? .. real and grave abuse ... !?!?

I think YOU ought to go back and maturely reflect on what you've written.

A few quotes from the Executive Summary of the Ryan Report ... where the words SYSTEMIC and ENDEMIC are mentioned:

Neglect and emotional abuse were often described as endemic within institutions where there was a systemic failure to provide for children’s safety and welfare.

The harshness of the regime was inculcated into the culture of the schools by successive generations of Brothers, priests and nuns. It was systemic and not the result of individual breaches by persons who operated outside lawful and acceptable boundaries.

The Congregations need to examine how their ideals became debased by systemic abuse. They must ask themselves how they came to tolerate breaches of their own rules and, when sexual and physical abuse was discovered, how they responded to it, and to those who perpetrated

Complaints of physical abuse were frequent enough for the Department of Education to be aware that they referred to more than acts of sporadic violence by some individuals. The Department knew that violence and beatings were endemic within the system itself.

Spirit of Vatican II

Daniel, you are reacting to a phrase toward the beginning of my text (as it appears on July 13) -- of course I do not deny that the abuse was real, grave, endemic and systemic. All I am saying is that not all 216 schools nor even all of the 20 or so schools formally discussed in the Report were found guilty thereof.


Could you pick out just one Industrial School that was cleared of abusing children ?

- - - -

Just a random sample of conclusions from the Ryan Report - leaving out the well-known and well documented Industrial Schools where findings of abuse were made :

Carriglea:> Chronic mismanagement, followed by a harsh and punitive regime, caused abuse of the children.

Glin had a severe, systemic regime of corporal punishment.

Salthill: In regard to physical abuse, the documents contain a record of general complaints about violent behaviour by Brothers as well as cases that occurred in Salthill. One Brother who was found to have engaged in harsh and cruel treatment of boys in Letterfrack was again the subject of complaints of severity towards children in Salthill. Another Brother was found to be repeatedly guilty of excessive harshness in schools to which he was assigned after his service in Salthill. A further Brother was warned by the Superior General about his conduct towards boys and it was said of yet another that he should not be put in charge of boys. 9.Concerns were raised about three Brothers in regard to sexual abuse while they were in Salthill. In none of the cases was the abuse addressed other than as a practical problem for the Congregation. In the case of one Brother, there is documentary evidence of serious abuse of young boys continuing for over 20 years after his transfer from Salthill.

Cabra: The management in Cabra failed to protect children from sexual abuse by staff. When complaints were made, they were not believed or ignored or dealt with inadequately. The level and extent of abuse perpetrated by one lay worker, as late as the 1990s, was an indication of the lack of any proper safeguards.

Greenmount: A harsh regime with excessive corporal punishment was implemented by one Resident Manager, who continued to serve as a senior Brother after his period of office, and would accordingly have influenced the policy of the School, but there was evidence of a softening of the regime in subsequent years. No formal record was kept, as required by the regulations.

Dundalk: The children were poorly educated and trained, and their full potential was not realised. 4.Family contacts were not maintained and children were deprived of crucial information that would have helped them form family ties and establish identity. 5.For most of its existence, recreational facilities were almost non-existent. The children were kept occupied by doing daily chores. The need for children to play was not considered by management. This regime harmed their emotional development.
- - - - - -

Chapter 6: 6.10 The Reformatory and Industrial Schools depended on rigid control by means of severe corporal punishment and the fear of such punishment.

6.11 A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from.

6.15 There was little variation in the use of physical beating from region to region, from decade to decade, or from Congregation to Congregation.

This would indicate a cultural understanding within the system that beating boys was acceptable and appropriate. Individual Brothers, priests or lay staff who were extreme in their punishments were tolerated by management and their behaviour was rarely challenged.

Spirit of Vatican II

You refer to the 20 or so schools named in the report -- not all of which are found guilty of grave, systemic, endemic abuse. 216 schools were examined altogether.

I do not know how many Industrial Schools there were altogether, and you may be right that all of them were found to be gravely abusive.

I think we still have not got any objective perspective on the Ryan report because of the lack of basic information about the percentage of Irish schools found to be abusive and of the relative degrees of abuse.

Emotional neglect was probably very common at that time -- psychologists used to urge parents not to hug their children so as to make them sturdily independent. Corporal punishment was an accepted, even popular pedagogic method, and it would have been rare and rather eccentric for someone to object to it on principle until the 1970s.

Ireland was a rougher and poorer place then, so that the really abusive schools may not have stood out so obviously as they should have. Some were closed down because they did acquire a bad reputation -- Greenmount (5 minutes walk from my home) in 1959, Artane in 1969.

The Government has paid huge sums of compensations to victims of abuse -- and huge legal fees -- but another question that no one has answered is this: What percentage of this compensation is connected with actual criminal behavior on the part of teachers or school authorities or the Dept of Education at the time? What percentage is just payment to console people for emotional neglect and other miseries suffered with no criminal responsibility? Can homeless children on the streets of Dublin today look forward to compensation from the Government in ten years time?


Excuse me, irish families were so big because the catholic church had banned condoms and abortion, which in itself is a vindictive social crime against women who could not control their own families. If the catholic church had their way 100% women would probably be on a production line giving birth non stop. Why this policy? I dont know, maybe they wanted more catholics. Whichever way you look at it, it was a bad social policy which lead to untold suffering, especially for women. I know what im talking about my parents were from large families that were impoverished. Also, id like to point out that many, if not the vast majority, of the kids locked up were ABDUCTED FROM THEIR FAMILIES. And we now know the catholic church, with its secret societies inside the department of education, was planning and carrying out all if this so they could make huge profits. Putting pressure on the department of education to literally shovel innocent children in their thousands into these consentration camps to turn a profit. Truely sickening. Any and every reason was used to send kids in there. Missing a day at school, minor theft, being illigitimate or having a single mother to name a few. Kids in most of these insitutions were even starved cause the church was too tight with its cash, cash with was coming from the government to pay for the kids food. Once again, truly sickening. To say they didnt to that much bad or that they even did a good job is beyond belief. This entire system thrived because the chirch was making to much money off it, getting paid per head of child population. Society was beset with catholic social facism to the extent that the church could just say "that women isnt a good catholic or she is having sex outside marriage so go take her kids away so we can profit off them", thats what was going on. Some of these children were thrown in their as babies, which is a sentence of 17 years. They were not just beating kids in there, they were terrorizing them in every possible way and was a method for broader social control. This whole scandal has the catholic churches ideology all over it. The only reason the church and government isnt being dragged before the european court of humans rights is because todays irish population is the result of the social engineering in an age gone past, and they are incapable of breaking cycle. You apologists are akin to nazi sympathizers. The fact is the catholic church raped, beat, tortured well over 100,000 innocent irish children and they did it for social control and profit. Most of the churches assets should be seized and given back to the society that they were extracted from in the first place.

Florence Horsman Hogan

350 of us from the Irish Industrial schools came together to form the group 'Let Our Voices Emerge'. We ranged from those who were inmates in the schools in the 40's to the late 60's. Our purpose was to make it known that although many of us had suffered abuse either in the schools, or in our own homes on being returned to our parents, we would not support those fellow inmates that we knew were making fraudulent allegations of abuse in the Redress Board. The Ryan Commission refused to take our evidence on board - evidence that would have proven many were using the abuse experiences of others for finiantial gain or 'celebrity victimhood'. I salute you Joseph for your work here. And you're right - when and if the report is ever fully examined by independent investigators with no secular/religious agenda - there will be a very different outcome to the media reportage.


My mother had to take her school friend's little blackboard home and wash the blood off it. A nun had used it to beat a little girl who had a nervous tic. That was Ireland 1950's, in a Catholic School where kids got to go home to parents. Imagine what happened where there were no other adult authority figures apart from the teachers/brothers/nuns/priests in industrial schools.

Yes, I am imagining a horror show also. I was in the doctor's waiting room one day in Ireland in early 2002. An anxious type of man sat next to me and we struck up conversation. He told me he was in the Ferryhouse Industrial School in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, and he had been abused regularly; "they ruined my life", he told me. I believe him. He attended therapy on a regular basis, had alcohol problems and generally did not function well.

I remember a nun locking an eight year old in a small closet (not a walk-in closet, more like a closet for paper supplies), leaving her there during lunch break, as punishment for talking in class. I am not lying, I was there, circa 1980. The same nun beat my cousin black and blue on his ass, she did the same to two other boys. The police (Garda) were approached about this, but nothing was done.

I don't know what happened to Irish people, and I am one. Did the British beat the backbone out of us, or is it because the Catholic church educated us and sometimes fed us, that we tolerated their cruelty? Yes they did educate us, and some of them are fine educators and decent men and women, but some of them are animals and will burn in hell. My parents are in their early 60's now, and they are still of the mind that if a priest, nun, policeman or doctor says something it must be right. There is no questioning of anyone of the uniform, the cloth or the medical profession. The Catholic Church have a lot to answer for, as does anyone who defends their system of abuse. I think they would still be abusive if they thought they could get away with it. I was baptized and confirmed but from early adulthood to the present day I do not attend mass. No amount of money that the abusive instiution known as the Catholic Church gives out to its victims will wash away what they did. The Bishops and Cardinals knew what was going on; they chose to ignore it. Never a more hyprocritical bunch of animals were gathered together as those of the Catholic Cloth.

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