A fiercely debated, long-delayed investigation into Ireland’s Roman Catholic-run institutions says priests and nuns terrorized thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades — and government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.
Nine years in the making, Wednesday’s 2,600-page report sides almost completely with the horrific reports of abuse from former students sent to more than 250 church-run, mostly residential institutions. But victims’ leaders said it didn’t go far enough — particularly because none of their abusers were identified by name.
The report concluded that church officials always shielded their orders’ pedophiles from arrest to protect their own reputations and, according to documents uncovered in the Vatican, knew that many pedophiles were serial attackers.
The investigators 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.
“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,” the final report of Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse concluded.
The leader of Ireland’s 4 million Catholics, Cardinal Sean Brady, and religious orders at the center of the scandal offered immediate apologies.
“I am profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions. Children deserved better and especially from those caring for them in the name of Jesus Christ,” Brady said.