Society for the Prevention of Kindness

Society for the Prevention of Kindness

Aug 23rd, 2005 | By 

Category: Notes and Comment Blog

Jesus Christ. There is just no limit to human disgustingness, is there.

I am here to talk about her catastrophic childhood in an industrial school — a euphemism for workhouse — in Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s, and as anyone who survived this experience will confirm, it is a painful subject. There, incarcerated by 6ft walls and under the tutelage of the Sisters of Mercy nuns, Kathleen was beaten, starved and humiliated to a point where she felt worthless and wanted only to be invisible. Her education was scant; instead she was put to work scrubbing floors, in the laundry and, barefoot and dressed in rags, in the surrounding fields…Denied water between what passed for meals, she drank from toilets.

Denied water between meals. For what? For what purpose? For what monstrous purpose? Is it the Jane Eyre thing again, Catholic version instead of Protestant? You’re poor therefore you have to be given especially bad treatment, treatment that goes beyond mere neglect to outright sadism, so that – so that what? So that you’ll know ‘God’ hates poor people?

…the quality of their mother’s care counted for nothing when the NSPCC charged her with being “destitute” — ie, unmarried — and sent her daughters to St Vincent’s Goldenbridge, an Industrial School. Kathleen was 5. There she was put to work threading rosary beads on to wire that cut into her hands, and she was beaten…By the time Kathleen and her sister escaped a year later, they had scabies and ringworm and were painfully thin.

She was allowed to stay home for awhile but then she was raped by a neighbour and her mother tried to push for a prosecution –

unwittingly giving the NSPCC the proof it needed that she was an unfit mother and that her children needed “protection”. This time her daughters — there were now three — were committed to Mount Carmel Industrial School in Moate, Co Westmeath, until their 16th birthdays…But as she describes the eight years of persistent neglect and abuse that she endured, it is the emotional deprivation that is most disturbing. The girls were not allowed to talk to each other, which meant that there was no friendship or solidarity between them, no care for each other, no way of expressing how they felt — indeed they learnt not to express their feelings. Kathleen felt lost and alone and as she cried herself to sleep each night (and then invariably wet the bed), she could only conclude that she was a very bad girl.

It’s the NSPCC that got her sent there. Funny way to prevent cruelty to children.

We had no rights. We were fortunate that the nuns gave us a roof over our heads or we’d be walking the streets of Dublin. They had such power. When people visited we were threatened to within an inch of our lives. We had to say, ‘I’m very well, thank you, I’m very happy, thank you, we have lovely food, thank you’. You did it because you were within 6ft walls, there was no one to talk to and if you talked, you knew what you would get.

Sounds exactly, to the letter, like Mary McCarthy’s Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. If you haven’t read it – lose no time.

Thousands of children in Ireland were tortured, robbed of their childhoods, by the religious…How could they call themselves religious and treat children in this manner?…How could they have thought that they were doing good by beating us? Well, if you’re obsessed by the Devil, you need it beaten out of you, and that is what we were told. They were evil, sadistic people.

Also sounds exactly, to the letter, like that account of ‘exorcists’ and ‘witchcraft’ in small villages in Kinshasa. It seems safe to assume that immense numbers of children are treated this way around the globe.

17 RESPONSES TO “SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF KINDNESS”

  • #1

    For what purpose? Why, to teach them not to have been born out of wedlock, of course. If we don’t torture and abuse illegitimate children, sinners will continue to breed unsanctioned outside the marriage bed. Besides, since we can’t get at the actual fornicators, at least we can scapegoat their offspring. Also, we can torture girls who have been raped (hussies!)and girls who simply attract too much male attention (harlots!). It sort of makes up for our own miserable blighted lives if we can torture others with impunity. Weeee!

    BTW, have you seen Peter Mullan’s excellent but deeply depressing “The Magdalene Sisters”?

  • #2

    No, I haven’t seen it, though I’ve had it in mind to. Want to. [makes mental note] But I did see a very good, hair-raising 60 Minutes segment on the subject. Almost unwatchable, just as that Times piece borders on the unreadable.

    There really is something deeply bizarre about the level of sadism involved.

    But I guess it’s silly of me to think so. Religion makes cruel people worse, not better. And nuns are famously sadistic. Irish catholicism is famously sadistic – Portrait of the Artist made that clear enough.

  • #3

    Gosh, you mean nuns aren’t all Julie Andrews?

    The Catholic church needs calling to account for a lot of offences.

    Any bets on Pope Rottweiler dealing with that?

  • #4

    “Gosh, you mean nuns aren’t all Julie Andrews?”

    Of course not, silly. Only half are like Julie Andrews; the rest are like Sister Wendy.

  • #5

    No, a third are like Julie Andrews, a third are –

    No, a quarter are like Julie Andrews, a quarter are like Sister Wendy, a quarter are like Sally Fields, and a quarter are like Audrey Hepburn.

  • #6

    You forgot Debbie Reynolds and Greer Garson. So, six prototypes.

  • #7

    Don:

    kudos to Jesus’ General (my FAVORITE immature, silly, over the top fantastic secularist/lefty site!), but the proper title, given his background as a goose-steppin’ youth:

    Pope Panzerfaust. 🙂

  • #8

    A nun vs. an unbeliever John Huston’s film “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” – with Deborah Kerr as the nun and Robert Mitchum as the Marine NCO stranded on a Pacific island in WW 2

  • #9

    Not to mention Jennifer Jones. Yowza! What healthy, red-blooded heterosexual male wouldn’twant to join a church that’s got luscious Jennifer Jones? Sign me up!

  • #10

    Brian T. Urmann

    Doesn’t all this fit the standard pattern for the Catholic Church? The Vatican has covered up a long-standing pedophilia problem among its clergy and it has sheltered Cardinal Bernard Law from arrest by the United States. It actively discourages condom use in poor countries plagued by AIDS, thus leading to the deaths of millions. Why wouldn’t a church with such a strange and cruel fixation on sexuality also abuse and torment little girls in its care, especially since the abusers know they will never be prosecuted for it and will always be protected by an extremely powerful organization?

  • #11

    Marie – Therese O’ Loughlin

    FROM THE TIME I WAS BORN TILL I WAS 33YRS OLD I WAS IN ONE FORM OF INSTITUTION OR OTHER. THE MOST INFAMOUS ONE OF THESE WAS ST. VINCENT’S INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL GOLDENBRIDGE, INCHICORE DUBLIN. IRELAND. I WAS INCARCERATED THERE AT THE YOUNG AGE OF 4 & LEFT AT 16. HAVING SPENT 6MONTHS ON THE OUTSIDE I LANDED BACK IN GOLDENBRIDGE FOR AN EXTRA 6MONTHS. INSTITUTIONALISATION PROBLEMS WAS THE REASON. THE HARROWING STORIES OF COUNTLESS INMATES WHO WERE IN THE SYSTEM FROM VERY YOUNG AGES WILL NEVER BE TOLD, AS THESE PEOPLE ARE SO FRAGMENTED & TORN. THEIR PERSONALITIES WERE WROUGHT & SHAPED BY THE SYSTEM. TO GIVE A SNIPPET. I WAS TOLD THAT MY MOTHER WAS DEAD. I WENT LOOKING FOR HER GRAVE WHEN I WAS 29YRS OLD. I DISCOVERED THAT SHE WAS IN FACT ALIVE & LIVING IN BIRMINGHAM. I WAS AT THE TIME LIVING IN A HOSTEL IN LONDON. THROUGHOUT MY WHOLE LOCK-UP TIME IN GOLDENBRIDGE GULAG I NEVER HAD A VISIT FROM A FAMILY MEMBER. I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHO I WAS OR HOW OLD I WAS. I ALWAYS LOOKED OUT THE SACRED HEART DORMITORY WINDOW ON SUNDAYS TO SEE IF SOMEONE WOULD VISIT ME. NOBODY RELATED TO ME EVER DID. MAMMY & DADDY WORDS WERE SYNONYMOUS WITH FLOGGINGS IN THAT DURING THESE TIMES WE HOLLERED THESE WORDS OUT TO COMFORT OURSELVES. I ONCE WENT UP TO A LADY WHO CAME TO VISIT US AT XMAS, SHE HAD BEAUTIFUL LONG HAIR I ASKED HER IF SHE WOULD BE MY AUNTIE. SHE TOOK ME OUT FOR A WEEKEND. I NEVER RECEIVED EDUCATION BEYOND PRIMARY LEVEL.IN ACTUAL FACT I SAT THE PRIMARY CERT, BUT ANSWERS WERE LAID OUT BEFOREHAND. THE ETHOS OF THE SISTERS OF MERCY WAS TO EDUCATE THE POOR. WE WERE SENT INTO THESE PRIVATELY RUN RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS IN THE FIRST INSTANCE TO BE EDUCATED, AFTER-ALL WHAT OTHER PROSPECTS DID WE HAVE IN LIFE. WE WERE ‘THE FORGOTTEN ONES’ IT WAS THE LEAST THEY COULD HAVE DONE. INSTEAD WE WERE FORCED INTO MAKING ROSARY BEADS. A QUOTA OF 60 DECADES HAD TO BE REACHED EVERY DAY. ST. BRIDGETS CLASS ROOM WAS TURNED INTO A MAKE-SHIFT FACTORY. IT WAS ABSOLUTELY AGAINST OUR HUMAN RIGHTS.

    I COULD GO ON FOREVER TELLING SAD STORIES…………6 GOLDENBRIDGE PEOPLE, THIS YEAR, HAVE ALREADY PREMATURELY DIED. 75 PEOPLE HAVE EITHER DIED OR HAVE TAKEN THEIR OWN LIVES SINCE THE OUTSET OF THE COMMISSION TO INQUIRE INTO CHILD ABUSE. FRIGHTENING STATISTICS!. I ASK THE GENERAL PUBLIC OUT THERE TO GIVE A THOUGHT TO THOSE VICTIMS/SURVIVORS OF INSTITUTIONS IN IRELAND & ELSEWHERE WHO DIDN’T – AS CHILDREN HAVE {& STILL DONT HAVE} THE SUPPORT, ON A PERSONAL LEVEL. SOME PEOPLE I KNOW – DON’T HAVE THE CONFIDENCE TO SPEAK ON THE PHONE. SOME CAN’T EVEN READ , BASICALLY DRAGGED MYSELF OUT OF A QUAGMIRE.

  • #12

    Marie – Therese O’ Loughlin

    There will be a Referendum,- hopefully in Ireland in March 2007, concerning the rights of children. This is sweet music to the ears of victims/survivors of institutional abuse who have, along with other organisations virtually shouted for a very long time. from – outside the political rooftops. At long last voices of Irish children will be heard when their rights are enshrined into the Irish Constitution.IT IS ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said there will be change because of past abuse, he said that he has seen first hand what the effects of child abuse can do to humans.

    I WANT TO CONGRATULATE KATHLEEN O’MALLEY ON HER BOOK. OTHERS LIKE HER WHO WERE DEALT THE SAME BLOW IN LIFE DIDN’T HAVE THE VISION OR WISDOM TO PUT THEIR PAIN BEHIND THEM – IN THIS RESPECT ITS SURVIVORS LIKE HER WHO MUST BECOME THE VOICES FOR THEM.

    SLAN AGUS BEANNACHT. Marie-Therese O’Loughlin

  • #13

    Yikes. Thanks you for the comments, Marie-Therese. We missed them because this post is old, but I’ve mentioned it in a post today in hopes that readers will see them. I’ll look for news of the Referendum and post about it in News.

  • #14

    The stories that I have recently come across re the cruelty of the Irish nuns fills me with horror. I would like to ask Marie-Therese O’Loughlin whether the hostel in London that she refers to in the above comment was in fact St Louise’s Hostel in Medway st, London. This hostel was run by the sisters of mercy and my divorced mother, my sister and I lived here for about 18 months. Although we lived together in one small cubicle, we were very lucky that we were threated with kindness but I shudder to think what could have been. Although I was brought up a catholic, I now question my religion as I can’t understand how nuns and priests could be so barbaric to other human beings, especially children. In Kathleen O,Malley’s book entitled Childhood Interrupted, she relates the story of a nun actually using her ‘wedding’ ring to Christ to torture young children.

  • #15

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    “I would like to ask Marie-Therese O’Loughlin whether the hostel in London that she refers to in the above comment was in fact St Louise’s Hostel in Medway st, London. This hostel was run by the sisters of mercy”

    Jane, I have just acidentally stumbled across your post at this late stage – so here is hoping you drop in once again.

    Yes, indeed, the hostel you mention was indeed St Louise’s, Medway St. But nope, the hostel, though, was not not run by the sisters, of mercy, but rather, the daughters of charity of St Vincent De Paul. (In olden days, they were habitually known as the butterfly nuns.)

    They wore navy blue habits as opposed to black austere ones such as that worn by the sisters of mercy. They take vows, (light ones, I think) each year, the latter take solemn ones for life.

    The DC were very secularised and slept in cubicles beside the rest of the girls.

    They are also the female half of the Vincentians.

    They were very kind to me, two sisters in particular were very special and tried to understand me (although they knew nothing about me – as I in turn knew nothing about myself. – and I also shied away from everyone – because I did not have the social skills with which to adapt to outside life.

    Sr Anthony and Sr Ellen Flynn were the two sisters who treated me so well. Sr Ellen was a very young beautiful singer/guitarist, and she reached out to me through music. I learned how to play the guitar and it has been for me, since then, a therapeutic instrument throughout the rest of my life.

    Sr Anthony, by all accounts, is momentarily living in Carisle place, Victoria.

    Sr Anne took over the hostel after Sr Anthony was moved by the order – the former was a very harsh northerner. She found me to be a trifle difficult, wild and impertinent – which I was, and she wanted to kick me out into the world, and I was really afraid and scared.

    She did not like the girls from Ballet Rambert befriending me – as in her book I was a mere nonetity.

    There was also another sister there (on the periphery, who did parochial church work) and she also tried to discourage another guitarist girl from making friends with me. But I was young and foolish and never understood then the meaning of their bias.

    Goldenbridge industrial school was another nightmarish kettle of fish. No comparison, not even in the slightest.

  • #16

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    “In Kathleen O,Malley’s book entitled Childhood Interrupted, she relates the story of a nun actually using her ‘wedding’ ring to Christ to torture young children.”

    Wedding bands, heavyweight crucifixes of gigantic rosary beads, which hung around some stout pot bellied black-garbed waists of the sisters of mercy and strong black leather straps were used as implements to regularly beat children.

    Children were also pinched on their arms (by staff) with rosary bead pliers. So you see, religious objects had by the religious/staff a multiciplicity of purposes.

  • #17

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    Oops, multiplicity – it should have read in last line of last post.

    “The stories that I have recently come across re the cruelty of the Irish nuns fills me with horror.”

    Sadly, Jane, the majority of stories you have come across are true.

    Children in industrial schools had terrible lives. They were, used by the religious, (throughout their whole childhoods) as slaves by their religious caregivers. From morn till night they slaved away in laundries/rosary bead factory.

    When I was as a late teenager in Medway St, I habitually steeped my white sheets in frozen cold water in the bathroom. Sr Raphael, who had a cubicle next to the bathroom could not figure me out when I told her that the cold water would make the sheets snow-white. I now know that this practice harped back to my days in Goldenbridge when as a child worked almost every day in a laundry.

    One only (mostly) ever hears of teenagers slaving in Magdalen laundries. But there were also pre-teen children doing the same work every single day of their lives (in the early hours of the morn – before so-called school) hidden behind high enclosed prison walls in Goldenbridge.

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