'Endemic' rape and abuse of Irish children in Catholic care.

Yes it’s me…. here’s Mr Cheerful!!

the_shining

If you hadn’t noticed, this sad tale of the treatment of children in Catholic care in Ireland is all over the news – BBCGuardianNYTReuters – and so on!

You can read the actual report on-line and here is the executive summary page.

Abuse has been associated with the Catholic church so much that the whole idea has become something of a cliché. That’s a shame because it both lessens the importance of the genuine cases and puffs smoke where there may be no fire. John Paul II had to go as far as to state “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young”. Benedict XVI admitted that he is “deeply ashamed” of the clergy sex abuse scandal that devastated the American church. He also made a historic full apology for child sex abuse by priests and clergymen in Australia. In 2007 alone, the Catholic church spent $615 million on sex abuse cases. Now we have this in Ireland.

One of the biggest group of offenders in the Irish cases was the Congregation of Christian Brothers or as the Polish version of Wiki calls them the Kongregacja Braci w Chrystusie. They are called a ‘world-wide community of religious brothers within the Roman Catholic church’, are they here in Poland? I’m certain similar groups ARE here in Poland so…..should we be concerned?

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Is this an Irish (and American, oh, and Australian too) thing? Is this a Catholic thing? Is this an organised religion thing? Or do statistics suggest that the Catholic church is just being picked on?

Ireland is a very Catholic country, so is Poland. How do we know this isn’t going on right here, right now? More importantly, who’s checking that it isn’t?

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34 thoughts on “'Endemic' rape and abuse of Irish children in Catholic care.

  1. Mick says:

    Unfortunately it’s a catholic thing.

    I am certain that it doesn’t only happen in Ireland. Ireland used to be run by Catholics and this in turn gave a lot of the ‘Christian’ brothers a free rein to do what they wanted.

    It is a disturbing thought, but you’re right. Who’s checking it here? Someone should…

  2. guest says:

    The Polish education and child care system is mostly run by the state or by catholic…nuns. In Poland there is also a “scout” tradition and the families are much more important than in the west.

    Schools and other things like that run by male-priests is more an “Anglo Saxon” “irish” and “German” thing.

    But Poland is of course not “child abusers” free.

  3. me says:

    In my opinion, in Poland such abuse does not take place so much in schools as it does in vestries. Many children (mostly primary school students) are encouraged to help in church – by some families this is believed to be a privilege and a blessing which makes it easier for priests to “recruit” kids during religion classes. There have been several such cases over the years and the thing that irritates me most is that the priests never (or almost never) get punished properly for what they do to these youngsters. Instead being sent to prison they usually get transferred to a different parish…

  4. wildphelps says:

    As a Protestant, I do not try to understand the calculus that goes into the Catholic Church’s decision making and how it handles “endemic” abuse of children. To answer Scatts’s question, we cannot know whether it happened or is happening here in Poland until people feel comfortable enough to come forward.

    That might be awhile. Based on how my students respond (and I freely admit that they are not the best cross-representation of all Polish society) in discussions and essays about topics delaing with any sort of victimization, there is quite a lot of blaming the victim: she shouldn’t have been dressed like that; what were you doing there in the first place, etc.

    A politician in the US, Frank Keating, I think, had as a younger man been a prosecuter who spent quite a bit of time working Mafia trials. As an older man, he took part in a governmental inquiry into sex abuse within the American RC Church. He likened the Chuch to the Mafia, which brought a ton of condmenation his way. An inaccurate comparison? Considering how very few of the priests who abused the children have ever seen jail time, how most have been shuttled around parishes and hidden from law enforcement, how it refused to work with law enforcement, and how the Church promises to punish its own in its own way, it does not seem to be that different, in some ways, to how the Mafia punishes its own.

    The Church will very cleverly change the subject to something else as soon as possible, just like they did a few years ago when they decided that homosexuals should not be allowed to serve as priests. The claim then becomes that they are saving/reforming the Church by doing so – somehow equating homosexuality with pedophilia. Like I said, strange calculus.

    Based on the pattern of abuse that has come to light in other countries, why, sadly, should we expect it to be different here? It is probably, sadly, just a matter time before it comes to light.

  5. richardlith says:

    From years of experience reading the Central European press in countries such as Lithuania, Russia and Poland, I think that child abuse in institutional settings (children’s homes, internat schools, the church) is one of the last taboos of journalism in the region.

    When stories of child abuse break, the guilty parties are presented as isolated cases and described, often by court psycholgists, as maniaks, perverts, devients etc.

    However, there is no follow up investigation of child abuse on the institutional level, and into how much those in authority are covering up the matter and not taking action when complaints from children are made. Maybe the police do investigate this, but the press is not interested.

    CEE journalists need to do some serious digging and not just report the details of individual cases. Unfortunately, of course, their editors and press ownerrs do not want to run in-depth child abuse investigations. That would be a bad move poltically and possibly financially.

  6. Ania says:

    wildphelps:

    ‘As a Protestant, I do not try to understand the calculus that goes into the Catholic Church’

    and

    ‘The Church will very cleverly change the subject’

    It’s funny how Protestants (splitters) always know best.

    I wonder how common are kiddie-fiddling affairs in Protestant churches… probably non-zero as well. But we will not know, because of how many and how small PCs there are – it’s like an crash of a bus and ten crashes of small cars: which one will make the news?

    richardlith:
    ‘CEE journalists need to do some serious digging and not just report the details of individual cases’

    are you hoping to find a Jersey school with corpses of children raped and beaten to death by politicians?

    IMHO:
    1. Protestants should concentrate on their worshipping, instead of being bothered with somebody else’s Church – unless of course they wish to convert. Because right now the Web is full of various new denominations calling somebody else’s leader ‘Benny’.

    2. There is the assumption in the last two comments, again, that Poland is exactly like the West only worse. Did deep enough and you’ll find the same filth. I disagree – I find the West very filthy. And in any rate you are welcome to have an opinion that some things in Poland are filthy – as long as you don’t assume they are the same things.

    3. There may not be investigations on institutional level, becasue we don’t have a system of million dollar payouts. The thing to be had is a jail sentence. So we don’t have uber-rich lawyers who will find a case even if they have to make it themselves.

  7. wildphelps says:

    Ania-

    Please quote correctly – you left off the possessive case of Church, which changes the context of my statement. And I never claimed that abuse does not happen in other Christian denominations or other faiths. I was just pointing out (my) confusion as to why the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church feels that its priests and nuns are somehow above the law or at least above man’s law.

    Now to quote you:

    “1. Protestants should concentrate on their worshipping, instead of being bothered with somebody else’s Church – unless of course they wish to convert. Because right now the Web is full of various new denominations calling somebody else’s leader ‘Benny’.”

    Are you suggesting that as citizens of countries that adhere to the rule of law, we should not be bothered by an institution that tolerated, abetted, and covered up the “endemic” physical and sexual abuse of children over the course of decades? That isn’t something about which to be bothered?

    Do you think the victims of abuse just want to be paid? After suffering for years in silence, do you honestly believe that it is just about a payday?

  8. Scatts says:

    Just for the record regarding “dead bodies” in Jersey:

    In November 2008, the Deputy Chief Officer, David Warcup, expressed “much regret” that misleading information had been released throughout the conduct of the enquiry, and stated that there was “no evidence” of any child murders at Haut de la Garenne, nor was there any indication that bodies may have been destroyed at the property. Most of the evidential claims released during the investigation were debunked by the police upon further inquiries, including the existence of blood spots, secret underground chambers, mysterious pits, and metal restraint shackles, all of which were found to be innocuous or misidentified.

  9. island1 says:

    Not to mention the fact that whether the dead bodies of children were or were not found in Jersey is completely irrelevant to the point Scatts is making.

  10. Ania says:

    ‘(my) confusion as to why the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church feels that its priests and nuns are somehow above the law or at least above man’s law’

    – I personally think that they are far too embarrassed about it to ever go public. That’s why. You can’t expect an offender to go public – the victim might. But has the right to be embarrassed as well.

    It’s ‘still not as fashionable’ in Poland. Speaking from experience, a certain Steve from Rugby has a brother who was accused of kiddie-fiddling, and Steve was always taking about it when we met him – we were so fed up. ‘oh ,my brother, you know, I’m so embarrassed, he can go to jail’. Probably he was proud to have a brother who could be on TV… But that’s a horror case, this particular Steve.

    ‘Do you think the victims of abuse just want to be paid?’

    no, I think that people who want to be paid are posing as victims of abuse, while the hype lasts.

    Jamie, I know, I said I referred to the two comments.

    Scatts: I think that we are safe. The Irish Church is made to look like a mob of maniacs, the same as Poland is made to look as country of Jew-eaters. That’s all part of TV feed.
    I read here that you are disinterested in the religion, at least the RC. Fine, but just think about how come this is still a going concern: 2009 years, 1 billion members. Just pure reason states it can’t all be evil.

  11. Scatts says:

    I read here that you are disinterested in the religion, at least the RC. Fine, but just think about how come this is still a going concern: 2009 years, 1 billion members. Just pure reason states it can’t all be evil.

    If you mean ‘disinterested’ in the true meaning of the word (impartial, neutral) then I suppose I am, more or less. I have a general disregard for organised religion of any kind but do believe in something that some might call God. I have no special axe to grind with RC.

    However, from the following sentence I’m not sure that that IS what you mean?? Are you asking if I think the whole RC church is evil?

  12. Pawel says:

    ANIA,
    Catholic church is *special* when child abuse in concerned. There was an official and secret Vatican instruction to conceal incidents of child molestation and rape. So bishops moved thse priests to other parishes. This happened, in Poland, Mexico, Ireland everywhere. Moreover Vatican used to provide asylum to child molesting priests wanted by some countries – including the USA. Have a look at this documentary http://video.google.pl/videoplay?docid=3335354490744010763&ei=M_4VSrqWOIz4-AaI4dHBDw&q=vatican+child+abuse
    I doubt any Protestant Church would sport such vile policies.

  13. Baduin says:

    It is rather well known fact that Polish church does have some problems.

    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juliusz_Paetz
    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanis%C5%82aw_Wielgus
    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lustracja_w_Ko%C5%9Bciele

    Unfortunately, in Polish tradition it is thought better not to quarrel with people – and especially not with members of your own corporation or people with influence. For that reason mistakes generally stays hidden – as long as nobody goes public, there is no problem.

    http://www.money.pl/gospodarka/wiadomosci/artykul/rodzice;quot;slowikowquot;;nie;chca;zejsc;na;ziemie,94,0,59742.html

    “Pod budynkiem poznańskiego aresztu pikietowała grupa rodziców chórzystów z “Polskich Słowików”. Wznosząc hasła: “Wojtku jesteśmy z tobą. Trzymaj się” – manifestowali swoje poparcie dla aresztowanego dyrektora i dyrygenta zespołu – Wojciecha K., podejrzewanego o molestowanie i wykorzystywanie seksualne chórzystów. W manifestacji uczestniczyło kilkunastu rodziców. W chórze śpiewa około 50 chłopców w wieku szkolnym.

    Rodzice, którzy przyszli na demonstrację, nie wierzą w zarzuty postawione Wojciechowi K. Są jednak pojedyncze osoby, które zaczynają mieć wątpliwości.

    Tymczasem według prokuratury, w sprawie zebrano już dowody, potwierdzające winę dyrektora. Podczas przeszukania mieszkania podejrzanego znaleziono zdjęcia, kasety wideo i pisma pornograficzne z udziałem dzieci.”

    So, even if there is abuse, there will be no official reaction unless children themselves do complain or there is some hard proof. In fact, if the boys are over fifteen (or there has been an honest mistake), and are not in the care of the men, it is entirely legal. Poland is a genuinely tolerant country in that respect; especially if you have a good taste not to make yourself a public nuisance.

    I am not speaking here about children’s homes – in Poland there are very few men working in such institutions – at most an occassional director or teacher. Certainly not enough to get organized enough to do such things safely. In fact, I can assure you that such things do not happen; I have a quite good knowledge in the matter.

    The problem is different – since the homes are mostly mixed sex, “children” (teens, really), often “play” with each other – or with others. Most such institutions are open, and their clients are very often deeply immoral at the start.

  14. wildphelps says:

    I would have to agree with Pawel that the Church’s policy is suspicious. The similarities of how various diocheses around the world responded to or dealt with allegations cannot be coincindetal. It seems as if there was a clear procedure on how to deal with it.

    If anyone is interested, here is a link to a fine documentary by Frontline (one of the most respected investigative journalism programs in the U.S) about one family’s struggle with abuse from a priest.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/handofgod/view/

    Cardinal Law, the former archbishop who was pulling most of the strings in the cover up resigned, but was immediately given a plum job in the Vatican by none other the John Paul II.

    p.s. Off topic, but Frontline has quality, respected documentaties, and most are viewable online for free. Can’t recommend them enough.

  15. Iota says:

    Have been peeking at Poland-related expat blogs, including Polandian, from time to time. I usually stay put and shut, but this time I’ll make an exception:

    A material that I believe is quite pertinent to the topic – Child protection policy published by The Irish Bishops’ Conference in 2005

    A lengthy read but probably worth it for those who would like to be updated on the current (and I suppose authoritative) procedures concerning Catholic Church related child abuse, at least in Ireland. I suppose other documents of this sort could be found either for other Bishops’ Conferences or on the level of the Holy See – takes some time to research though.

    Oh, and another one of note: Holy See guidelines for giving psychological tests as part of the selection procedure of seminarians (2008) (Again, long and not necessarily easy reading).

  16. Roy says:

    As a ‘trainee’ catholic I’m finding this news hard to comprehend. Child Abusers are child abusers wherever and whatever walks of life. Sad but true. What I am struggling to comprehend is that the Catholic Church in Ireland, in whatever name or organisation, apparently knew this was happening. I know in Poland that the concept of papal infallibility is taken more seriously than in Ireland. Apologies if I paint using a large brush. The point is do I want to belong to such a church and are there limits to christian forgiveness. This event has seriously undermined my faith and understanding of the Catholic church.

  17. Iota says:

    [One more research comment, again on Catholicism…]

    Roy – you wrote: I know in Poland that the concept of papal infallibility is taken more seriously than in Ireland.

    Just a thought – since you are a “trainee Catholic” I am not sure if you apply the term “papal infallibility” as it should be done. If you think you can benefit from an explanation of the concept try the Catholic Answers Library (click). Regards.

    [Wonder when/if I’ll make another research related comment…]

  18. Scatts says:

    Can I just say, excellent comments on this post from diverse sources with a lot good material linked to. Thanks to all.

  19. CuriousCat says:

    @Scatts

    “I read here that you are disinterested in the religion, at least the RC. Fine, but just think about how come this is still a going concern: 2009 years, 1 billion members. Just pure reason states it can’t all be evil.

    If you mean ‘disinterested’ in the true meaning of the word (impartial, neutral) then I suppose I am, more or less. I have a general disregard for organised religion of any kind but do believe in something that some might call God. I have no special axe to grind with RC. (…)”

    Scatts, please don’t tell me You worship the Great Architect:)

  20. Scatts says:

    If you mean this guy – http://www.religiouscounterfeits.org/ml_gaotu.htm then no, not him/her, although I was once a Freemason for about a year. Interesting story, possibly worth telling one day! :)

  21. CuriousCat says:

    @Scatts

    Yes, I meant him/her/it :) and the brotherhood. I knew You wouldn’t worship it, I just wanted to have a laugh at his/her/its expense :)

    Would love to hear the story, really.

  22. Pawel says:

    Roy, in Catholic Church it doesn’t matter what people think. Everything in Catholic Church is decided in Canon Law, which applies to Catholic bishops, priests and Catholic people everywhere around the world.

  23. Sylwia says:

    I’d like to thank everyone for the most hilarious thread at Polandian ever! It’s so refreshing to sit back and watch presumably intelligent and educated people claim, with their faces straight, that the earth is flat and held by four turtles.

    There’s hardly a line here that didn’t send me rolling on the floor, but just a few highlights:

    The obviously contagious by association Congregation of Christian Brothers that Scatt is certain ARE here in Poland, training Polish priests-discreet-paedophiles-to-be. Brilliant!

    Pawel’s *special* case with a document that’s official and secret at once, being a Vatican’s instruction to conceal incidents of child molestation and rape. You go, Pawel! If Giertych or Rydzek were ever on the other side of the fence they couldn’t have said it better!

    Wildphelps was simply amazing accusing the church of homophobia and of being the Lavender Mafia at once. A twist of mind worthy of Holocaust deniers!

    Pawel again, with his Pulitzer prize worthy theory of how the Canon Law replaced the Tradition in RC! Beautiful!

    I truly hope none of you followed the links given by Iota. There’s always the risk that the actual meaning of the pope’s infallibility might disturb the flaw of your wit.

    For the same reason I’d like to ask anyone who has any idea of what you guys are actually talking about to never ever give you any links to any documents at all. Yes, I’m aware that it’s just 5 minutes of googling, but since you didn’t bother to do that before forming your opinions I’m sure we’re not in danger of your doing it now.

    Keep up your great work. Thank you!

  24. CuriousCat says:

    @Scatts

    Thank You so much!

  25. Scatts says:

    Sylwia,

    “Congregation of Christian Brothers that Scatt is certain ARE here in Poland, training Polish priests-discreet-paedophiles-to-be.”

    That’s not what I said. Did you actually read it properly?

  26. Sylwia says:

    Don’t worry, Scatts, I’ve been reading it daily for nearly two weeks. Enough time to do it properly. If I were quoting you I’d use quotation marks. However, if you think that my sarcasm was too farfetched, then I wonder what do you think about:

    “Ireland is a very Catholic country, so is Poland. How do we know this isn’t going on right here, right now?”

  27. Scatts says:

    I think it’s a genuine concern that you seem to treat as a laughably ridiculous accusation.

  28. Sylwia says:

    What I treat as laughably ridiculous is the logic behind all of it, not the attitude though – that is sad and worrying.

    So is your genuine concern basically grounded on the premise of Poland’s being a Catholic country? Excuse me, but that’s simply a genuine prejudice.

  29. Scatts says:

    Replace the word “Catholic” with “religious” if it makes you feel better, it doesn’t matter too much. I don’t think drawing parallels between Ireland and Poland is really all that mad, to be honest, and the fact that both countries are Catholic is hardly my fault.

    I think the worrying signs are:

    1/ An organised religion that is very significantly influential and trusted
    2/ Members of that organisation who are so well respected and held in some ways to be “better than the rest of us”, above reproach even.
    3/ Tendency for various “splinter groups” to form alongside the main organisation, oftentimes with unusual agendas.
    4/ Tendency for the organisation to be so big and so ‘political’ with so much to lose that bad news might be brushed under carpets.
    5/ Deep involvement of that organisation with the community, especially youngsters.
    6/ Restrictions put on members of the organisation that might, in some cases, have less than ideal psychological outcomes.

    Should one add

    7/ Long history of past offences of a similar nature?

  30. Sylwia says:

    Just replace “Catholic” with “Jewish”, “gay” or “black” if you don’t see the problem.

  31. Malaysian says:

    I agree that media has always written news that mislead readers into over-generalising an issue.

    It is not something new, and even those who got implicated in a certain issue would go around doing the same thing to other people.

    Think about the kind of stereotype the media has made out of Muslims – 1430 years, 1.5 billion members. Just pure reason states it can’t all be evil.

    The only evil that is present within all of us is this – we’re all hypocrites.

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