Friday, May 29, 2009
[From The Tablet, May 30, 2009. By Paul Keenan.]
One priest's reaction sums up Ireland's increasing fury over the sexual and physical abuse suffered by so many of its children, and the cover-ups and paltry compensation offered by the religious orders guilty of such appalling crimes against those in their care
"They raped me on a Saturday, gave me an unmerciful beating afterwards, and then gave me Communion on Sunday. My God."
Among the myriad harrowing stories coming daily from victims of institutional abuse, Michael O'Brien's words, prompted by last week's Ryan report into abuse by Irish Religious, stood out starkly as the country struggled to cope with the scale of what had occurred in its institutions over five decades.
A former child resident at the Rosminian order's Ferryhouse institution in rural Ireland, it is not that the awful details of Michael's tale stand out from the thousands of horror stories related in the five-volume report, but rather his unscripted and unscheduled relating of the story in an explosion of fury and frustration on national broadcaster RTE's Questions and Answers programme on Tuesday night.
As a panel of suited commentators quietly surrendered the airwaves to a real-time testimony, and the nation sat in rapt attention, the trembling pensioner vented his years of helpless and fearful silence, his traumatic enduring of attacks on his "lies" from the legal arm of the order and the nightmares that still today bring him sweating from sleep.
Faced with this personification of victims whose childhoods are forever marked by torture, rape and the depraved whims of Ireland's "most respected", the nation hung its head in collective shame and - finally - let Michael speak. More importantly, however, a full week on from the findings of the Ryan investigation, Michael's interjection served to enunciate precisely a growing mood in Ireland in the face of an unexpected new chapter in the sordid mess that is the involvement of Ireland's religious orders in institutional "care".
[Read the rest, here.]