The Cica Report

The CICA report

May 20th, 2009 | By 

Category: Notes and Comment Blog

The Commission into Child Abuse report is out. It found that children lived in ‘daily terror’ of being beaten in industrial schools (which weren’t really schools at all) from 1940 onwards.

It found that corporal punishment was “pervasive, severe, arbitrary and unpredictable” in the institutions where “children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from.” The report said that the level of emotional abuse of disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children by religious and lay staff was “disturbing” and that the Catholic Church was aware long-term sex offenders were repeatedly abusing children…the Commission found that “children were frequently hungry, food was inadequate, inedible and badly prepared in many schools.”…Accommodation in the institutions was “cold, spartan and bleak” with sanitary provision “primitive” in most boys’ schools particularly. Academic education “was not seen as a priority for industrials school children” and “in reality, the industrial training afforded by all schools was of a nature that served the needs of the institution rather than the needs of the child.”

But the emotional abuse was even worse.

A finding which the Commission said was “a disturbing element” of the evidence presented before it, was “`the level of emotional abuse that disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children were subjected to generally by religious and lay staff” at the institutions…Separation of siblings and restrictions on family contacts “were profoundly damaging for family relationships.” It meant that “some children lost their sense of identity and kinship, which was never recovered.”

This is the Catholic church, don’t forget, which is always making a parade of its extreme compassion and sympathy and tenderness toward the fetus. These are real, thinking, feeling children who were starved, frozen, beaten, terrorized, taken away from their mothers, prevented from ever seeing their mothers, called horrible names, denied an education, made to work at slave labour, denied even the small wages they had theoretically earned – this is the compassion and tenderness of the Catholic church.

It was institutional.

The five-volume study concluded that church officials encouraged ritual beatings and consistently shielded their orders’ paedophiles from arrest amid a “culture of self-serving secrecy”. It also found that government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.

Well hey, these were only children. If they’d been fetuses it would have been a different story.

The report said that girls supervised by orders of nuns, chiefly the Sisters of Mercy, suffered much less sexual abuse but frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless.

Yeah – we know. Marie-Therese has told us.

Sister Fabian always called children by disparaging names; she had a list as long as her arm. Amadan; oinseach; gombeen; half-wit; crackawley; cracked; dope, clown, clot, crackpot; she predominantly said to me; “there is a ‘want’ in you Lougho” – meaning that I was not “the full shilling!”…We were mere nonentities who were never going to quantify to anything in this life. We were never, ever, going anywhere. The sisters could as a result unremittingly lay before us reminders of our lowly status…Sr. Fabian for all time held her nose at children and said “you dirty thing, get out of my sight.” She was a very intolerant sister and caused huge damage to children because of it.

As the report says:

The commission said overwhelming, consistent testimony from still-traumatized men and women, now in their 50s to 80s, had demonstrated beyond a doubt that the entire system treated children more like prison inmates and slaves than people with legal rights and human potential. “The reformatory and industrial schools depended on rigid control by means of severe corporal punishment and the fear of such punishment,” it said. “The harshness of the regime was inculcated into the culture of the schools by successive generations of brothers, priests and nuns.”

Like Sadie O’Meara for instance.

Sadie O’Meara, a 15-year-old Tipperary girl working in Dublin, was brought to one of the Magdalene Laundries by the Legion of Mary. There she worked long hours washing and ironing customers laundry. The daughter of an unmarried mother, she says she never found out why she ended up there and for four years suffered physical and emotional abuse in an institution run by the Sisters of Charity. “You’d be up at 6am and you had to go to two Masses,” she said. “Your cell door was locked every night when you went in and you had a bucket and an iron bed and you couldn’t look out the window. It was all bars. The food was absolutely brutal. And my mam died but they never told me she died. She died on Christmas Day but they never told me. I didn’t know that until they let me out four years later. That’s something that really upsets me.”

Well it would. They told Marie-Therese, on the other hand, that her mother was dead when she wasn’t. “Those at the industrial schools have said the abuse they suffered stays with them all their lives.”


  • #1


  • #2

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    The report in to child abuse has found that religious congregations are not prepared to accept responsibility for the abuse perpetrated by their members. I know for fact that the religious have shielded some of their religious perpetrators of abuse, as they find it so unfathomable that they could be responsible for such cruelty, both sexual and physical, towards children. The church continues to protect their own, even to the point of allowing them to be buried in consecrated ground.

    I see that the long-awaited report recommends that management should be held accountable. I sincerely hope Sr Helena O’ Donoghue, ex leader of the congregation of the southern province of the Sisters of Mercy, swallows a spoonful of this tasteless medicine.

    It also recommends that a memorial should be erected for the victims with the words of the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s apology on behalf of the State in 1999.

    Yeah, the Goldenbridge folk, I do know, from past conversations, would like their own memorial placed in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow. They were very embittered that a statue of a well-known Irish figure was erected on the very ground of the holiday home – which is incidentaly, in the most scenic part of the garden of Ireland.

    The Commission has spent the past ten years examining the abuse of children in schools and religious institutions since the 1940s.

    What a long decade it has been indeed! It is hard to believe that CICA has reached its finality.

    Thank you OB, for playing your part in all of this – I am so indebted to you.

  • #3

    Marie-Therese, it is a bastardly set of crimes we learn of here. I am very sorry that you and so many others suffered from them.

  • #4

    Eric MacDonald

    OB, I’m glad you made the connnexion between the abuse in the schools and the so-called “pro-life” (heavy scare quote) position of the abusing church. This needs to be underlined. This is a power-hungry institution that really cares not a whit for others. Its pro-life nonsense is a way of holding on tight, a way of continuing to subordinate and abuse women.

    One of the victims whose statement was recorded by (I think) the BBC, said that victims want justice, not just a report. I don’t know how many victims would like to see their tormenters charged with criminal offences, but it is inconceivable that so many living criminals should be permitted to walk away from this.

    The Christian Brothers – the guilty ones in the St. John’s, Newfoundland, abuse case, some of whom were imprisoned, and at a private school in British Columbia too, I think – were apparently the worst offenders, and the least willing to take responsibility, “explaining”, rather than apologising, and they managed to get an injunction to expunge names of ofenders from the report.

    The church surely can’t just walk away, saying, as its befrocked leaders will, how terrible it all was, and how shocking, if it’s not willing to step up and pay the price. There should be some way to keep this pot on the boil until they come clean, hand over the guilty, stop playing the moral leader game, and admit that power is not good for churches. Sadie should be more than upset; she should be boiling mad, and we should be angry on her behalf.

    And let’s not pretend this was yesterday. The pope’s idiotic statements in Africa, the excommunication of the doctors and the mother of a child in Brazil, the continuing hold that the Vatican holds on every RC majority country and its laws, is clear proof of that. Churches are criminal organisations – and big ones ruled by a closed club of ‘celibates’ especially so – extorting money and loyalty out of people with lies (a kind of after-life protection racket). They push pretty hard. They make absolute moral claims. Is there an organised way that we can we push back? At least to see that its enforcers in Ireland are sent directly to jail (gaol)?

  • #5

    I agree with Eric. A report is not enough. These organizations need to be DISSOLVED. Their proeprty taken and distributed to the victims. No mercy.

  • #6

    Eric MacDonald

    I wrote my response first thing this morning, before I had a chance to reread Marie-Therese’s heart-breaking accounts of a childhood in Goldenbridge.

    But the story just keeps getting worse. Archbishop Nichols has just remarked on the courage of the religious orders who have faced their past. This is not a matter of courage, and he should have pointed out that the religious orders still have not answered charges of criminality that should have been brought against them. This is bizarre, someone who is to be installed as Archbishop of Westminster, today, who has the never to speak of courage with respect to religious orders that torments and cruelly treated and enslaved generations of children for their own and the Vatican’s benefit! The man himself should be charged for aiding and abetting the criminal behaviour of the institution he represents. For shame!

    Religions, they do poison everything. Nichols praises courage, and has none himself. For shame!

  • #7

    Eric MacDonald

    What passion can do. The word ‘never’ in the second paragraph of my last note should read ‘nerve’, ‘torments’ should have been ‘tormented’.

  • #8

    I’ve been reading some of the statements from senior clergy regarding this and their choice of phrasing is interesting. There are frequent references to regret that children ‘were abused’, regret that ‘this happened’, regret that the victims ‘feel’ pain.

    I believe this is characteristic of abusers confronted with their crimes – they talk about what they did as though it were something that ‘happened’ and tend to use the passive voice. They also make frequent references to how bad they feel, as if they were also victims of some impersonal event.

    I may have missed it, but I have not yet seen an honest mea culpa. Saying ‘We regret that this happened’ rather than ‘We are guilty of this and we are sorry.’ strongly implies that they have not actually absorbed the horror of what they did but are merely reacting to being caught out.

    Of course, that implication is redundant, as capping the compensation and refusing to identify the abusers screams it from the roof tops. An irredeemably vile institution, may it wither away and may I live to see it.

  • #9

    Indeed. I’ve just been composing an enraged comment on the archbishop. ‘Courage’ indeed! The mind reels.

  • #10

    And I didn’t even remember to say never mind the courage to confront blah blah, how about the courage to face prosecution?!

    Courage?!? The gall of it!

  • #11

    This is the first time I’ve read about what you suffered under that hideous regime, Marie-Therese. I am so very sorry.

  • #12

    And Mary Kenny’s piece was disgusting. At such times you either pay your respects to the victims’ pain and suffering or you shut up. She did neither.

  • #13

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    Thanks KB, and Eric.

    I am in total shock at the reaction of the world at large to the publication of this diabolical child abuse report. It is beyond belief.

    Yeah, it was a very cruel regime and the publication of the child abuse report is such a relief to those who grew up in the industrial school system in the past in Ireland.

    There were people out there telling us that we were suffering with false memory syndrome, we were in it for compensation alone and we were out to get at the church.

    We have been vindicated at long last.

    I am presently numb-struck and cannot articulate my thoughts on the whole scenario. The phone-lines of radio shows, and counselling services in Ireland have been flooded with people expressing their horror of the contents of the report.

    So many people have broken down – including radio presenters.

    Bernadette Fahy, Goldenbridge, “Freedom of Angels”, author and Mary Raftery, “Suffer the Little Children” co-author, are now both this instant on “Prime Time” giving a Christian Brother leader a run for his money, by reflecting to him the failure of his order to believe victims, in the first place and also the reluctance of the order to pay sufficient monies to the indemnity deal that was struck up by the government to recompense those who were abused in the system.

  • #14

    Marie-Therese O’ Loughlin

    “At such times you either pay your respects to the victims’ pain and suffering or you shut up. She did neither”.

    Aye, she never shut up about the black garbs, at all.


    Strange are the crooked priests of humanity, that Mary Kenny had to repeat *priests* twenty-one times, in her article at B&W, in order to convey to readers, I would assume, her obsession with same.


  • #15

    “The phone-lines of radio shows, and counselling services in Ireland have been flooded with people expressing their horror of the contents of the report.

    So many people have broken down – including radio presenters.”

    Good. Good, good, good. It’s about sodding time.

  • #16

    Marie-Therese, thats the trouble with public moral outrage, it produces evidentiary corruption like false memory ‘therapists’ capitalising on true suffering from real crimes.

    If you look at the articles by Richard Webster about the witch-hunts in England known as police trawling operations, you see how judges were corrupted by public outrage into convicting many innocents.

    We also have in Australia many who suffered hardship and abuse in child migrant schemes and welfare homes, most publicly Aboriginal children but there were always many non-Aboriginals in institutions too. It has been shown here that the evidence offered in investigations such as the one in Ireland where no trials and prosecutions are possible, may be overwhelmed with anecdote only distantly able to form evidence. The ‘public moral outrage’ is less beneficial, I think, than actual prosecution and jailing of the perpetrators of the real acts of these criminal exploiters.

  • #17

    Great post! Just wanted to let you know you have a new subscriber- me!

  • #18


    I really like your post. Does it copyright protected?


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