Category Archives: Sister Alphonso

A life unlived: 35 years of slavery in a Magdalene Laundry


A life unlived: 35 years of slavery in a Magdalene Laundry

One woman tells the story of her mother who was sent to a Laundry in Dublin at the age of 16 – and died there at the age of 51.

From the link: http://www.thejournal.ie/magdalene-laundry-true-story-margaret-bullen-samantha-long-614350-Sep2012/

THE TREATMENT OF women incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries – and the level of State involvement in these Church-run institutions – has been highlighted yet again this month. There was disappointment among survivors and relatives of those kept in the Laundries when it was announced that a State committee’s final report into the matter would be delayed until the end of the year.

To reiterate the urgency of revealing the inter-departmental findings, the Justice for Magdalene advocacy group last week distributed some redacted statements of women detailing their lives in such institutions. (The group claims that there was State involvement in the operation of the Laundries as places to send women considered to be “problem girls”, due to poverty or pregnancy outside marriage for example.)

Samantha Long’s mother Margaret Bullen was placed in Gloucester Street (now Sean McDermott Street) Laundry c.1967 and died 35 years later, never having been released into society and her own home. Margaret died of an illness known as Goodpasture Syndrome, a disease of the kidneys and liver – one of the causes is exposure to industrial-strength chemicals such as those used in the Laundries.

Samantha made a lengthy statement to the interdepartmental committee, led by Senator Martin McAleese, about her mother’s life. Margaret Bullen had a tragic start in life: she was born in a mental institution in Grangegorman, Dublin to a mother who already had six children, Margaret being the youngest. Margaret was sent home to Kimmage to live with her siblings and father, where she remained until she was three years old. At that point, Margaret’s brother was sent to Artane industrial school and Margaret and her sister closest to her in age sent to the notorious High Park industrial school and Laundry in Drumcondra. That, as Samantha says of her mother, “was the end of her and the outside world”.

A second statement sent to Senator McAleese’s committee from a former Laundry inmate who remembers Margaret and her sister recounts how Margaret suffered fits as a young child but that they were ignored by the nuns there (then known as the Sisters of Charity of Refuge, now the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity).

Margaret appears to have been moved in her early teens to a special school called St Teresa’s in Blackrock, after she was certified mentally unfit for education, but fit for work. Her daughter Samantha says in her own statement:

She was assessed at age thirteen as being mentally challenged because on the day that they measured her, they said that she had an IQ of fifty, which I dispute after meeting her, even after all those years of institutionalisation.. And I think that if you’re hungry and tired from your slavery, your IQ wouldn’t be very sharp, or your skills on any given moment mightn’t be sharp. You would be probably just pulled into this room – “now we’re going to measure your IQ” – so even the shock of that wouldn’t, you know, you could shut down.

At roughly the age of 16, Margaret was sent to the Magdalene Laundry at Gloucester Street. The exact time and circumstances of her move there are not clear because Samantha and her sister are still waiting on full records to be supplied to them on their mother’s past.

She became pregnant – twice – with Samantha and her twin sister Etta, and later with another daughter, while officially under the care of the Gloucester Street nuns. The circumstances of these conceptions are again shrouded in mystery but Samantha says her conversations in later life with her mother when they were reunited led her to believe that Margaret had been the victim of sexual abuse and predators several times.

There was no education, no education and I, you know, I honestly believe for a long time she didn’t know how she got pregnant, she just knew that somebody hurt her once and then she had babies. I really believe that. She didn’t make that connection, I know that for sure. She was no, she didn’t have a boyfriend, let’s put it that way. And that’s the politest way that I can say that.

Some of the more harrowing details of Samantha’s testimony recount how her mother was denied society, education, wages and other basic rights for most of her life. This extract recalls Samantha and Etta’s first meeting with Margaret in the Gresham Hotel when they were 23 and had traced her as their biological mother. (Samantha and Etta were adopted by a loving couple in Dublin and later moved to Sligo in childhood.)

Margaret was only 42 at the time but looked much older. She was carrying a handbag but it was completely empty, because she didn’t own anything nor did she have any money. Samantha recalls:

And, she was just lovely, and she was asking extremely innocent questions like, she, it was the first time she ever had coffee and it was very exciting for her to have coffee and she hadn’t seen brown sugar before either and obviously in the Gresham there was brown and white sugar cubes on the table and it was all very fancy to her. And she was just overjoyed to be there and absolutely wowed by everything.

She looked, she looked like a pensioner. I couldn’t believe she was forty-two, I kept looking, I kept looking into her face to find a forty-two year old and I couldn’t, because she had the face of hard work, that face that you see in so many women that have just had to work too hard and have never had a rest and have never had anyone to take care of them or tell them to put their feet up, and who have just, just worked too hard. Because, as I said on the radio a few years ago, this was slavery and I don’t use that term lightly and I’m not an emotive person but slavery is a form of work for which you get no pay and you can’t leave and these were the white slaves of Ireland and they were never emancipated. And nobody stood up for them until now, until you guys (Justice for Magdalenes) did.

Samantha Long was asked by Senator McAleese’s commission what she would like the State to do to redress any wrongs committed against the women in Magdalene Laundries. She answered:

I would like the state to apologise for keeping those young girls behind bars, literally and figuratively. I would like the church and state to apologise for forcing them to do slave labour. 

I would like the church, the state and society to redress their reputations and apologise for keeping them down, for denying them education, freedom, money, their babies and their lives, all of those things.

And I would like that the circumstances that they find themselves in, through the missing pieces that the rest of us get in life, because they had no education, so how could they make it?

They were sitting ducks, keep them down, keep them unaware of their rights, keep them without money, keep the roof over their head, feed them a little bit, keep them alive, just enough for work. Give them their wages now, give them their wages.

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Irish religious orders confirm they will not pay Magdalene Laundry victims


Irish religious orders confirm they will not pay Magdalene Laundry victims

From the link: http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Irish-nuns-orders-confirm-they-will-not-pay-Magdalene-Laundry-victims.html

Young girls at work in a Magdalene Laundry. Waiting out the clock as elderly victims see their hopes fade.

Young girls at work in a Magdalene Laundry. Waiting out the clock as elderly victims see their hopes fade.

 

In a completely enraging move, two of the four religious orders that once ran Magdalene laundries in Ireland have again refused to contribute any money toward compensating the surviving women.

Over a year after the Irish Taoiseach (Prime minister) Enda Kenny gave a heartfelt State apology to the tens of thousands of women who had been cruelly incarcerated in Magdalene laundries, the Irish government’s repeated attempts to hold the orders financially accountable have met with blank refusals.

All four orders, which include The Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Sisters of Charity have, at various times, publicly refused to contribute financially to the proposed compensation scheme.

According to recent reports in the Irish press, the four orders, which ran the Magdalene laundries, made almost $415 million in property deals during the Irish economic boom. Given those eye-popping figures, the refusal to offer one thin dime in compensation can be seen in its proper light.

It hasn’t quite been two decades since the last Magdalene Laundry in Ireland closed in 1996. That’s well within the living memory of young adults. All those decades of unpaid drudgery, with moral opprobrium added on top, and the orders don’t feel they have a case to answer?

Clearly they are hoping that even now most Irish people would prefer to look the other way – exactly the way they used to when these for-profit gulags were in operation.

Recall that the Irish government had to be brow beaten for years by a group of committed former inmates and their offspring before they finally offered the women a full apology. That apology was only offered in February 2013, by the way.

So the deep Irish reluctance to face up to the legacy of exploitation and widespread physical and sexual abuse within the church has been one of the most remarkable aspects of the now three decade long crisis.

Instead of principled stock-taking, denial, defensiveness and withholding have been the standard responses.

What fascinates me is what happens to a nation that fails to confront its own traumas? Will it hand them on to the next generation without comment? These orders profited for decades from indentured servitude. The women they incarcerated had to pay their own way out.

Now, flush with cash from their extensive property deals, they are withholding all material support from the women they once treated as chattel.

It is estimated that 600 Irish women who were once incarcerated in one of the laundries run by the four orders are still alive. All of them are elderly. The orders may hope that time turns the page on their stories and the nation forgets them. Waiting out the clock, they may be right.

A Priest Rape Survivor told to count his blessings…ok.


I was told by a few Christians that instead of being pissed off at God and Jesus for all the wrongs done to me by those claiming to be followers of theirs, to count my blessings. The gist goes…If I count my blessings and then count the wrongs…the blessings will far rise above the wrongs.

So I took a few days to ponder this weighty question. Here is my answer:

First let me quantify something here. Even though I hate God and Jesus….it is NOT the kind of God and Jesus I read about and believe in somewhere deep down inside of me…it is the ones those whom Jesus said of: “For many shall call themselves by my name, but their hearts and minds are far from my teachings.”…that I do NOT accept nor will I EVER bow my knee down to. I do love the teachings of Jesus Christ.as I do all great teachers of peace, love, hope, charity..though I do have a problem with some of them, I believe it is those teachings in the bible that ring wrong with me…that were changed by Constantine and the council of hackers whom produced the first bible for use. So I do not really pay attention to them.

But what gets me about this story of this guy named Jesus…without all the extraneous bullshit…like the virgin birth, etc…was his core principle teaching and commandments (with my own revision because I truly believe that the original Hebrew translation…which was in the first King James but subsequently taken out stated: We made them in our image, male and female we made them like unto us. This would mean that there HAS to be a male and a female God…for a male God cannot make a female…it is not in his likeness, nor can a female God make a male…it is not in her likeness):

Love the Lord your God and Goddess with all of your heart and soul, and the second is like it…love your neighbor as you do yourself. On these two commands should hang all the laws.

Yet I am going to combine in judging my list here of the blessings and wrongs by both standards…mine and what these Christians tell me their God and Jesus are all about. I am going to use the bible too as a guide and what it says to make my list.

So here goes.

BLESSINGS:
1. My two sons top this list. Joshua and Austin are my most important blessings. Even though they were taken away from me by their cruel mothers and an evil system designed to destroy fathers for the sake of a buck….the two biggest blessings in my life are Joshua Michael LaFerriere-Fifer and Austin LaFerriere. There is a LOT of things I would have changed…but the birth of my two beautiful sons….nope.

2. My loving and caring “family” and friends. I have a lot of brothers and sisters from other mothers. They are much more blood to me than my own blood relations. Most of them are also survivors of the evil that I too went through. Most of them were raped, beaten, abused, by either a religious person or a supposedly loving family member. We all have survived some of the worst horrors, some of the most brutal degradations done to a child or a teenager. Yet we have somehow survived without becoming the evil that has tried it’s hardest to destroy us. We are good, kind, loving souls with generous hearts. We love each other because we have experienced the same things in life. We survived through horrendous ordeals to come to the point we are today, and we offer each other things that NO ONE has EVER offered us in our lives before…true love, without exception or condition….not based on a perverted, evil concept of love…if you want to call what these people did to us love…..we offer each other support and acceptance….and we stand tall together…when one of us is falling into another Dark Night of the Soul…where we feel no hope.

My true friends and family are a blessing to me.

3. My love and my skills as a nature photographer are a blessing to me. The fact that I can wander around in a forest, taking pictures of all the beauty I see around me, and then able to share it…well that is a blessing to me. The reality to me, that I can go anywhere in a forest and not feel fear of it? That I have admired the stars far too long to be afraid of the dark? To be able to say that I am NOT an evil person because I have actually had wildlife come right up to me and let me pet them? Or take pics of them? Yeah if I were evil….then they would NOT come near me. One thing I have learned from tramping in the woods and being around peoples pets…animals can tell when someone is evil…VERY RARELY have I EVER had an animal react strangely around me…or in fear of me…and that was more dogs whom were abused and are afraid of EVERYONE.

But my photography also blesses me because it brings me incredible peace and joy. In the forest I have no real fear…except for humans…so through my photography and being outdoors…it is a blessing.

4.  Music. Next to my photography, music to me is a blessing.

5. That I am even alive is a blessing. I think about all the times I should be dead. From almost drowning because of my stupidity at Bow Lake when I was 16, to that murdering rapist whom picked me up and drugged me and I woke up to raping me in the back of his RV, to my dedicated drug overdoses, especially when I dissolved all those pills in that glass of vodka, drank it….if it were not for that girl showing up that night…and knowing what to do….I would be dead. Or the other suicide attempts where I should be dead? The fact that I am still even alive…is sort of a blessing one would say. They would say I am here for a reason…if I tried to kill myself like this or survived these things….but hey…..look into the curse section too lol.

Well that is about all I can really think of for blessings. I mean hey…I am really trying…you know…even though I do go starving at least I do eat….or even though I am homeless…I have a friend whom is letting me crash on her couch til next week…but I cannot stay any longer as it would NOT be fair to her….it is my responsibility and if I cannot afford to live in my own place…then I gotta go live in my tent until I do. The biggest problem is security deposits…and anyone whom knows me…thinks that Catholic Charities is going to help me? After what I say about their Pedophile Pimps? Not in this lifetime.

Now honestly lets look at the negatives:

CURSES:

1. Even though my sons are the greatest blessings in my life….their mothers have been the greatest curses of my life. To have done to me what was done to me at the hands of their mothers…should be illegal. To have done to me what was done to me by Holly Hepp of the CPS in Ohio…she should be in prison for the rest of her life so she can never harm another father or their children ever again. Yet I am made out to be the one whom is wrong, the one to blame, the evil one, the one whom would rape his own sons or abuse them as Holly Hepp said to me.

No one can seem to understand the Catch-22 I am in here with my soul over this..as well as my life. Sure with Josh I got to be with him maybe a total of two months after his birth, but with Austin, hell I haven’t even been able to tell him I love him. Not even kiss him. Nothing. So here it is…I think about them and it destroys me. So I try to put them out of my mind to retain my sanity and it is even more of a curse on me…because what kind of father am I to not want to think about my sons? I love looking at their pictures, they bring me joy, but they also bring me incredible pain, because of all the loss…and then I hide the pic for a while so I do not have to look at them and then again condemn myself for it because…what kind of loving, caring father does this?

2. I guess I am supposed to consider being raped by a priest, to have my soul destroyed and taken from me and all the living hell I went through and been through because of it…and because of now standing up about it and demanding the Pedophile Pimps…hell anyone whom participated in these evils against us…be put where they belong…in prison….is a BLESSING? OK about the ONLY blessing I can consider coming from this is the fact I made some beautiful friends and family from it. Otherwise ANYONE whom got raped by a priest…or by any pastor, minister or supposed Holy Person…..would consider it a curse and evil and a HUGE NEGATIVE.

3. How about that scumbag whom picked me up hitch-hiking and drugged and raped me? Nope…I sure would NOT consider that a blessing…even in disguise!! Why did you NOT just kill me that day and get it done and over with?

4. The last scumbag, whom picked me up hitch-hiking….showed me those gay books, would NOT take no for an answer…drove down the dirt road before the Gloucester bridge and in MY MIND I was about to be raped again when he pulled out his knife. Well I guess being arrested when I flagged down that cop car and told him what happened, and the scumbag jerk being in the back seat of that car, and then pressing charges against me for assault with a deadly weapon, attempted armed robbery etc…well that is supposed to be a blessing too?

5.  My blood family turning their backs on me. Ok let me get this straight. Was I a problem kid? Freaking right I was. Did I steal cigs from my parents to smoke? Yuppers. Did I steal a check from my dad, cash it, bought a carton of cigs? Yuppers. I believe those were really my worse crimes. Yeah I skipped school….but hey….ya know? Did I steal porn mags from the local book store and sell them to my friends? Guilty! I wonder how many of us actually did this as kids? I know at least my older brother used to steal cigs and drink and smoke dope…but hey that was him…..the freaking hypocrite…and oh yeah…he did have a chance to get his girlfriend knocked up at such a young age….but hey I don’t have all the facts to judge him…but even though he does not have all the facts…he can judge me.

Yet in my older brothers eyes….that made me Hitler…hell that made me worse than Hitler.

When my life fell apart after the priest rape, or anything else…it did not matter to any of them….I was the black sheep of the family…well the ONLY one whom it mattered to was my father and mother…..and I damn well know my father…loved me and so did my mother. But to my brothers and sister…I am still the evil black sheep of the family, without one redeeming quality, bound for hell….so I got that going for me.

I ALWAYS thought that family…blood family…though they could get pissed off at the wrongs you did….unless you truly were a rapist, a murderer, etc….but come on…for this shit????? They were supposed to at least never disown you for this kind of crap. So yeah…I would consider the loss of my family…though I did wrong…this was NOT deserving….and I consider it a major negative. Yeah my older self righteous brother thinks I am such a Hitler that I should be banned from any family reunions that he may be at….and have me arrested if I decide to come. Gotta love older brothers like that. Should I BELIEVE what my mother used to say about him to me…how he was such a defender and protector of me when I was sick, had all those operations and was blind for a while because I had to wear eye patches? Nah.

6. Donohue and the whole Catholic Church. THEY ARE A CURSE TO ME. Need I say more? Cardinals like Timothy Dolan, George Pell, Donald Wuerl, Justin Rigali, Bernard Law, Roger Mahony and the whole lot of them…they are a curse not only to me…but to all mankind. They preferred to protect their pedophile priests over us whom were being raped and abused by them….and became Pedophile Pimps. They then became LYING PEDOPHILE PIMPS. when they all signed those Promise to Protect Pledge to Heal charters, the Dallas Charter and all the Charters with the United Nations on children’s rights. They became LYING PEDOPHILE PIMPS when they PROMISED to help us victims…then attacked us at every chance they could, saying they wanted to beat us with baseball bats, or we were to blame for our own rapes, or we were the seducers of these disgusting scumbag rapists. Or we are liars, gold diggers out looking for a payday. Or how we are Anti-Catholic bigot scum for daring to challenge them. Yeah this whole thing is a curse to me, a double edged sword.

For if I walk away…I am no better, hell I am even worse than they are. See I have a soul, I have a conscious…something people like Dolan, Donohue, Law and the rest do not have…I feel real pain when a victim comes to me with their story, or I read their stories. I feel real pain when I see what the scumbag Pedophile Pimps and their buddies are doing to us…when all we want is justice and healing…all they give us is more pain and suffering. Well they are a curse…and they deserve to be cursed.

I could no sooner walk away from this, or helping others whom were harmed by these scumbags as I could live without breathing. But it is a curse, a double curse…because this is also destroying what is left of my soul…..for my soul cannot take this evil much longer.

7. Christianists. Always telling me what to do…be like them!!! What? A bigoted, self righteous, hate filled scumbag? Well thanks but no thanks…you people have instilled enough hate in my heart for you that you make it almost impossible to do what your own Jesus tells you to do….love thy neighbor as thyself….for if I do like these Christianists do…I could rape a child, cover it up and say….oh I did not know it was a crime…and even if it is…..you should just forgive and turn the other cheek.

I also love their hatred towards women, gays, etc….They demonstrate to me the truth when Jesus said…Many shall call themselves by my name but their hearts and minds are far from my teachings.

I seem to attract these psycho, freak Christianists in my life in droves…why am I such a magnet for these psychos? Oh…it is because I tell the truth about them and it pisses them off.

8. MY LIFE OF ABJECT POVERTY. Oh Jesus and God….I am supposed to count as a blessing the abject poverty I have lived through in my life eh? Now wait a minute….I thought you guys were supposed to bless good people and curse bad people. That you all slammed these religious holy people living off the fat of the land? That you were supposed to punish the bad and reward the good. Oh I haven’t been being good just for the reward….like most of those Christianists attempt to portray they do…but fail miserably….I’ve done good because it is the right thing to do. Besides…that Spirit that is inside of me? Each and every time I claim I must be evil because of all the evil things that happen to me……it says NO I AM GOOD AND NOT EVIL. Yet again…in the bible, it says…As you sow…so shall you reap.

So hey…not to brag….but I have sowed a lot of good things…some incredible things….so how come????

I tried and tried to sell my photography…I do not want a hand out…I want a hand up. Yet nada for 7 years. I bust my ass to work and I do not deserve any pay for it? While your religious leaders basically sit on their asses, raping children, covering up the rapes of children, murdering children and burying them in septic systems…..and do all kinds of other evils…then go to their church on Sunday and you forgive them for all their evil…but you still shit on us? Oh and how rich do they have to be? Before some of that trickles down to us? They do not earn their pay…but you sure give it to them in stacks of $100s!!!

I am supposed to bow down and worship this type of God and his Son? REALLY? I am supposed to be grateful? I am supposed to count abject poverty where at the end of the month…like the last two weeks…I am lucky to eat one meal a day? While those fat pigs whom raped us and covered up the rapes of us look like they have not missed a meal in decades? Oh and then if I bitch about it…not only does that mean I am an ungrateful little prick….I get shoved deeper into poverty to see what it is like to have even less? I am supposed to thank you and love you for this? When I see you barely lift a finger to help me? But you sure the HELL lift your big fat hands to make those whom did these evils to us…not want for ANYTHING?

Yeah abject poverty…now I consider that a real BLESSING….not!!!

7.  That I am even alive. I have suffered so damn much. Jesus and God must think I am Superman times two. They really must. Look at all the loss I have suffered…if I look at it…my life is the life of Job in a way. Trouble is….there is a saying in the bible that goes…Suffer the children that they may come unto me. REALLY?

Unrelenting suffering is a way to make someone come to you? Raping them is a way to make them come unto you? Forcing them to live in abject poverty is the way to make someone come to you? Taking away their children and giving them to their evil mothers…that too is how you make someone come to you?

Listen bozos…I’ve tried….oh how I’ve tried…to come to you. I have begged you, I have screamed at you, I have threatened you, I have cried to you, I have pleaded with you…to help me…to show me God and Jesus Christ that YOU are worthy…of my love and faith…but you have NOT SHOWN ME ANY OF THIS!!!! You keep saying to have faith? Faith in what? That one day you are going to find that I have suffered enough? That I have lived in abject poverty, loss and suffering enough? When will that be please? I sure would LOVE to pencil it in on my calender. That I have been denied justice for the crimes done to me? Your sure did punish the living shit out of me when I broke into that hotel room and stole the wallet from the car. You sure punished the living shit out of me with a five year prison term over that utter and complete bullshit over my son Josh. You are even punishing the shit outta me for standing up to Pig Face Donohue.

So which is it Bozos? Do you truly hate evil like you say? God…you say you cannot stand the sight of evil. Jesus…you say it would be better for you to tie a huge millstone around your neck and throw yourself into the deepest of lakes than to harm a single hair on the head of a child.

Seems though….you do the exact opposite. You punish the good and you reward the evil.

Again…I am supposed to love you, follow you, bend my knee to you? Be like those whom proclaim to follow you and then do all manners of evil against humanity…and then claim they are doing it in your names and then you do not punish them….like you promised to do…but you sure the FUCK punish us when we stand up and fight it…like you supposedly tell us to do. Do you not tell us to fight this evil? Oh wait…I guess there is a caviat to this rule eh?

Those whom do fight this evil will be destroyed…is that not what you said? We whom fight this evil will be murdered, thrown into prison, slaughtered and butchered????

Wow… now you are making me wonder….why should I not join the bad guys if this is what you are going to do and allow to be done to the good guys. I thought God and Jesus were supposed to defend the righteous, to fight on our side…but hey…look honestly and realistically at it…if they are real…man are you guys dropping the ball.

So I would say essentially though my life is a blessing…it is more of a curse. I have been made to suffer some of the most evil things that can be done to another…and still to this day…I am still suffering.

Put it bluntly there God and Jesus…do I want to be rich? Yeah…I do not want to ever worry about putting a roof over my head, or food in my stomach…or wait until my clothes totally disintegrate before I can spend 5 bucks on a used pair of pants. I want to give my sons some beautiful things. I want to help many others whom have been harmed by your followers. I want to set up a foundation that truly and honestly helps the religious abuse survivor with their needs….but I guess this is wrong to ask for in your eyes isn’t it?

Because God and Jesus….you would rather make those religious freaks all fat and sassy and rich….than the children you supposedly love…but I guess we are the ones whom are supposed to suffer for truly wanting to follow you. While the hypocrite Pharisee and Sadducee get all the help they need from you. Oh wait a minute…I forgot….

I am not supposed to blame you…I am not supposed to blame YOU God or YOU Jesus for turning your backs on us….I am supposed to blame Satan and his followers….I guess this then all goes to prove…that when it comes time to fighting Satan and his followers….you arm your combatants with nothing and expect them to do everything for you…but give them NOT one drop of help…because I guess that would be messing with our free will again…wouldn’t it? Our free will to be raped, destroyed and live in abject poverty……because you deem that more fit for us…than you do for the scum whom did this to us…in YOUR names.

SO IN CLOSING…I COULD POST MORE NEGATIVES…BUT HEY THIS IS MORE THAN ENOUGH…TO SAY TO THOSE CHRISTIANS WHOM SAY IF I COUNT MY BLESSINGS AND MY CURSES I WOULD FIND THAT MY LIFE IS MUCH MORE BLESSED THAN CURSED….YOU’RE WRONG.

THEN AGAIN…MAYBE YOU CHRISTIANISTS WHOM SAY THIS TO ME…CAN PROVIDE ME WITH WHAT I NEED….CAUSE YOUR GOD YOU WANT ME TO FOLLOW SURE ISN’T. AGAIN…..I DO NOT WANT A HAND OUT…I WANT A HAND UP.

 

Time has come for all good people to take a stand!!


We arrest, we try, we convict and we imprison and execute, people whom rape children and murder children. This is the supposed norm of what we do to those whom prey on children. Yet we allow one religious organization, to rape children, to murder children, to destroy children with impunity, without going after them, without arresting them, without prosecuting them, without imprisoning them or executing them in the most horrible and gruesome fashion we can think of, because when you rape or murder a child, this is exactly what you deserve….but hey…the

UNHOLY, ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF PEDOPHILE PIMP LEADERS, PEDOPHILE PRIESTS, PSYCHO ABUSIVE NUNS, AND FREAK PARISHIONERS WHOM LOVE THESE PEOPLE WHOM RAPE AND MURDER THEIR OWN CHILDREN ARE ABOVE THE FUCKING LAW.

We have overwhelming, concrete, irrefutable proof, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if this evidence was heard by a jury, these scumbags would be convicted of their crimes….that the leaders of the Unholy Roman Catholic Church of Pedophiles…have moved rapist priests from parish to parish, state to state, country to country and are STILL DOING THIS TO THIS VERY DAY.

We have overwhelming, concrete, irrefutable proof, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if this evidence was heard by a jury, these scumbags would be convicted of their crimes, that these leaders and others of the Roman Catholic Church have in fact murdered children. We have the bodies and the graves to prove it. Yet again, the Unholy Roman Catholic Church seems to be above the law and not one of these evil leaders have every been arrested nor prosecuted for their crimes.

IT IS TIME, FOR ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE, THE GOOD, DECENT, HONEST, MORAL PEOPLE OF THE WORLD TO GATHER TOGETHER AND JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIE NETWORK….SAY WE ARE MAD AS HELL AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANY LONGER!!!

WE NEED REAL PEOPLE TO FINALLY SAY…ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, WE WILL NOT ALLOW ONE MORE OF OUR CHILDREN TO BE RAPED, TO BE ABUSED, TO BE MURDERED BY THESE SCUM OF THE UNHOLY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.

WE AS A PEOPLE, NEED TO COME TOGETHER, TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN FROM THESE EVIL, SOULESS, MONSTERS WHOM HIDE BEHIND RELIGIOUS ROBES….AND WE MUST DESTROY THEM AS A PEOPLE. WE MUST TAKE A STAND.

WE MUST STAND UP FOR OUR CHILDREN…WE MUST PLACE THE LIVES OF OUR CHILDREN FIRST, ABOVE THESE RELIGIOUS, SADISTIC, PSYCHOTIC FREAKS. WE MUST DESTROY COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY THESE PEOPLE OF SATAN, WHOM DESTROY LIVES.

ONLY UNTIL WE HAVE CARDINALS SUCH AS TIMOTHY DOLAN, BERNARD LAW, JUSTIN RIGALI, ROGER MAHONY, DOLAND WUERL, POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT AND ALL THE OTHERS, THEIR BODIES ROTTING WHILE SWINGING ON ROPES, HANGED IN FRONT OF THEIR VATICAN AND IN ST PETERS SQUARE FOR ALL TO SEE….THAT WE WILL NO LONGER PUT UP WITH THEIR POPES, CARDINALS, BISHOPS, ARCHBISHOPS, PRIESTS AND NUNS…RAPING OUR CHILDREN, MURDERING OUR CHILDREN AND THINKING THEY ARE ABOVE THE LAW BECAUSE THEY ARE THE LEADERS OF THIS PSYCHOTIC RELIGIOUS SECT.

WE EXECUTE CHILD RAPISTS AND MURDERERS ALL THE TIME, WE IMPRISON FOR LIFE EVIL, SOULESS, MORALESS, SCUMBAGS LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME.

WELL IT IS TIME TO START DOING THE SAME THING WITH THE PEDOPHILE PIMPS, PRIESTS, NUNS AND THE SCUM OF THE UNHOLY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.

Support the victims not the victimizers


Frank LaFerriere: Support the victims not the victimizers

Published Date Thursday, April 24,2014
From the Link: http://www.berlindailysun.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49465:frank-laferriere-support-the-victims-not-the-victimizers&catid=73:letter&Itemid=428

To the editor:

If you were to find out that the leadership of a group or organization you belonged to had appeared before commissions and grand juries and openly admitted to covering up the abuses of children, from rape to severe beatings, to even the death of a child, and that this involved tens of thousands of members own children, and that the cover ups are wide spread throughout the organization or group, you would think that the membership of the group would rise up in arms and make sure that the leadership is arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows. That they would stand up and defend and protect their children over the leadership of their group or organization. Yet there is one such organization…though there are others….that its leadership is totally immune from liability for crimes such as these by it’s membership. This organization is known as the Roman Catholic Church.

While they have come far with this problem of child abuse, the Vatican announced that for 2011-2012 almost 400 priests had to be let go because of credible accusations of child abuse, including rape, there is still much to be done. While it is commendable that they caught and fired these priests, what about those whom participated in the cover ups of these crimes? Why are they not called to account for their crimes of the members own children? Why are the leadership of the church put above the law and those whom they have harmed? Why are they defended and even praised or made a saint?

There have been at least a half a dozen commission reports, like the Ryan Report, that detail the systematic sexual, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual abuse of children and teens, children of the Roman Catholic Church; and the cover ups of these abuses by the leaders and even their highest leaders, ones whom are supposed to be the Vicars of Jesus while on this earth and in their position. Yet even to this day, not one credibly accused leader has ever been arrested or prosecuted for their crimes save one, Bishop Robert Finn and that case is being retried. Matter of fact, one of these, John Paul II was given sainthood. There is overwhelming evidence he participated in the cover up of and through acts of omission, turned a blind eye to, the pederast Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ. Yet he is given sainthood? This is an insult to all those whom are survivors of these evil crimes against us.

There are some incredible priests and leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. I have met some of them. From Fr Tom Doyle, ret., whom has fought tirelessly for the victims of priest abuse, at the cost of his being a priest, to even our own local priest Fr Kyle Stanton whom has helped me immensely, to groups like Catholic Whistleblowers, and others, they have sort of restored my faith that this problem of priests and nuns abusing children and teens will stop. Yet to truly set things right the following must be done.

1. All credibly accused leaders, from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, to Cardinals like Timothy Dolan, Donald Wuerl, Roger Mahony, Bernard Law, George Pell, and many others, against whom there is overwhelming evidence, through commission reports, grand jury testimonies and the churches own documents, must be fired. They must be arrested and prosecuted. We do this to other criminals, we demand this of any rapist or those whom cover up the rapes and abuses of children. They may be leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, but these men are criminals and deserve to be arrested and prosecuted and the victims deserve their day in court and justice for the crimes committed against them because of these leaders actions.

2. Abide by the Pledge to Protect, Promise to Heal charter all of the diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States signed. All attacks against the victims must stop. We are not responsible for our rapes, we did not enjoy being raped. We are not homosexuals because we were raped by a male priest. We are not liars, gold diggers who are out looking for a payday from the Roman Catholic Church.

We are your sons, we are your daughters, who want justice, whom want those who perpetrated these crimes against us punished, whom went through one of the most horrifying and terrifying experiences a human being can go through. We trusted these priests and nuns and they destroyed that trust with their evil crimes against us. We were raped, we were beaten, we had our souls, our hearts stolen from us, we had our bodies destroyed and abused. We did not deserve this, we were not willing participants and we refuse to remain silent while those whom are responsible for these crimes against us go free while we still remain trapped inside the prisons they created for us.

3. No matter what….put your children before your leaders. Protect and stand up and defend your children….not the leaders whom committed these evils against us. Your children should come first. Stand up for the victims of these crimes, whom are your own children. You may know one. Again, we are your sons, your daughters, your nieces and nephews, your God children, whom you vowed and promised to protect and defend.

I started going back to church. I even started photographing St Annes, an incredibly beautiful place of worship. I had no choice though, I had to stop because I felt like such a hypocrite. Far too many of us whom were victims still see those responsible for these evils against us in their positions as if nothing in the world is wrong. We victims are still being attacked, by people like Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League. We are still being attacked by parishioners whom have called me a liar to my face and how dare I spread lies and rumors and false accusations and gossip against the leaders. Well, sadly, I am not spreading lies, rumors and false accusations, these statements I have made can all be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law if it were allowed.

Yet while these leaders whom perpetrated these crimes against us are still in power, I cannot in good conscious go into the church. I cannot be part of a church where the leadership covered up the crimes of child abuse, child rape and put the church before the children and are still in power, for that makes me a hypocrite in my eyes.

I would love to go on a regular basis to St Anne, to be among the other worshipers, some of whom I made acquaintance and even friends with, especially Fr Kyle, but I cannot, for while the wolves are still in control….someone must stand outside the door for the defense and protection of the children and the victims.

Sin is one thing…sin can be forgiven when there is true repentance from the sin. There has been no true repentance among the leadership whom covered up these crimes. There have been staged acts of contrition, but no true repentance. For if they are to truly repent they must also submit to prosecution for the crimes they committed. They must not hide behind their robes of religion. If they seek to make laws for man like they do, they also must submit to the laws of man and be arrested and prosecuted for their crimes. No one, not even religious leaders, should be allowed to get away with crimes against children. They should not be above the law!

When it comes time to the crimes of the rapes and abuses of children and teens and the cover up of these crimes by the leadership…only justice in a court of law, where the victims may have their day in court to see those responsible for the crimes against them be tried and if found guilty sentenced to prison…that is true justice. The Roman Catholic Church promised this to victims and to prosecuting attorneys…but have failed to deliver on this promise. Instead they still fight the victims and hide behind the statue of limitations to deny justice to the victims. Ask yourself is this true justice? If you were raped would you say this is true justice?

In closing whom do you think Jesus Christ will stand up for in the end?

Those whom perpetrated these crimes against children and teens…or the children and teen victims?

Here is a clue: “For it would be better for you to tie a huge boulder around your neck and throw yourself into the deepest of lakes than to harm a single hair on the head of a child.”

Well the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church did a lot more than harm a hair on the head of a child. Whom are you going to stand besides? The ones Jesus Christ would stand up for? Or the ones He would toss into the pit of hell for their evils against children?

Frank LaFerriere, Berlin

Column: The Catholic Church owes the women of the Magdalene Laundries


Column: The Catholic Church owes the women of the Magdalene Laundries

The Catholic Church and the Irish State were both responsible for incarcerating women in the Magdalene Laundries – and so both must pay, writes Anne Ferris TD.

From the link: http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/column-the-catholic-church-owes-the-women-of-the-magdalene-laundries-975017-Jul2013/

IN APRIL 1955, a Scottish writer researching a book about Ireland talked his way into the Magdalene Laundry in Galway. First he had to obtain the permission of the Bishop of Galway, Dr Michael John Browne, the same man who a decade later would refer to the RTE broadcaster Gay Byrne as “a purveyor of filth” for the sin of discussing the colour of a lady’s nightgown on the Late Late Show.

True to form, Bishop Browne warned the Scotsman “if you write anything wrong it will come back on you” adding as a condition of entry to the laundry that anything intended to be published about the visit would have to be approved in advance by the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Mercy.

The Scotsman, Dr Halliday Sutherland, agreed to abide by the bishop’s stipulation and was granted rare access to a Magdalene laundry.  His subsequent account is worked into a single chapter in his 1956 book ‘Irish Journey’. To what extent it was censored by the Mother Superior, we will never know.

An ‘agreed’ year of unpaid domestic service

The day before he visited the laundry in Galway, Dr Sutherland visited the Mother and Baby home in Tuam. He noted that the accepted practice was that unmarried mothers in the Tuam home ‘agreed’ to provide a year of unpaid domestic service to the nuns, and that in addition to this servitude, the home received State support, via Galway County Council, to the tune of £1 per child or mother per week.

Sutherland was told that any child not adopted by the age of seven was sent to work in one of Ireland’s notorious Industrial Schools, no doubt a factor in the decisions of the thousands of Irish women who ‘agreed’ to the export of their children for Catholic adoptions abroad. Women who were re-admitted to the Tuam Mother and Baby Home on a second occasion were automatically sent to work at the Magdalene Home Laundry in Galway.  By directing the women to the laundry and the children to the industrial schools the State saved money and the Church made money.

Church and State incarcerated women: both must pay

Today, thanks to the Magdalene survivors groups we know what the women suffered and that the Mother and Baby homes were only one of many routes by which the Church and State incarcerated women in the Magdalene laundries and similarly operated religious institutions.  This is why in February of this year, after successive governments failed to engage meaningfully with the Magdalene survivors, the current Taoiseach made a formal apology to the women on behalf of the State.

This week the Government announced a redress fund for the survivors. It remains to be seen if the amount and means of payment will prove sufficient to compensate for the State’s role in this tragedy. No sum of money can take away the pain that these women have endured.  In my capacity of Vice Chair of the Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality I personally undertake to closely monitor the progress of any necessary legislation designed to effect the speedy and appropriate distribution of redress to the women concerned. But there can be absolutely no ambiguity regarding the financial contribution to be made by the Church. There is now no hiding from the enormity of what these women suffered in the so called ‘care’ of these religious institutions.

Stripped of personal liberty

On the day in 1955 that Dr Halliday Sutherland visited the Galway Magdalene he met some of its seventy-three unpaid manual workers who lifted and toiled in the heat and wet doing laundry work for businesses, institutions and homes in Galway.  One woman told him she had been there for 25 years. He asked another if she liked the laundry.  She answered “yes” but according to Sutherland she did not look him in the eye. Later, he said, a nun told him that she was a bold girl.

“On Sundays they’re allowed to use cosmetics”, the sister-in-charge told him.

But…“Are the girls free?” asked Sutherland.

“Yes” said the nun.

“Can a girl leave whenever she chooses?

“No, we are not as lenient as all that.” said the Mother Superior.

Anne Ferris is the Labour Party TD for Wicklow and East Carlow.  She is also Vice Chair of the Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality.

The Catholic church should be outlawed forthwith


The Catholic church should be outlawed forthwith

JohnB on outlawing the Catholic church today

From the link: http://www.molestedcatholics.com/

After all my anger at the crimes and the harm done to society by the Catholic cover up is the need to understand how the healing journey can go and how it can help straighten a part of your life – it helps to regain a part of your truth and to show the depth of the damage and the harm caused by the actions of Catholics in their attempts to cover up the crimes of their fellow Catholics and their clergy.

Talking whilst driving with my son today and I began to relate to him some details about a foot injury I had as a child. He had come home and shown me a blister on his foot; I told him he had not spent enough time in bare feet – that was the prompt,  my topic could be my right foot or how long/harmful/life distorting the repression of the day to day Catholic cover up are – its part of the healing journey and a son who smiled today when he listened to me about this – its the story of how I had to cover up the injury even though I had to have ongoing medical attention and purpose made boots it was always done in the name of something else – my injured foot which had left me with a distinct limp because I walked with my foot turned in as it had been injured seriously when the car door was repeatedly slammed on my foot on the day the priest raped me at a little church in the beautiful hills of Central Victoria – its about how every Catholic knew what the cause was and every Catholic knew I was not permitted to speak about it – they were able to assist me with my pigeon toed-ness but they were not able to help me with my injured foot due to being slammed in the lock of the car door as that was a lie that would send me to hell – that’s why other kids parents were permitted to beat you if they heard you speak about it being what it in fact was. This was a conscious campaign by every catholic in that town, nuns and priests, knights of the Southern Cross, bishops, the local Catholic Policeman, the Editor of the local newspaper included – they all knew and participated – that to me is what the cover up was and the to me is what the cover up is today – that is what Catholic parishes across the world participate in still today – that is the Catholic cover up in action. It is bigger and stronger than just the Catholic hierarchy because so many have built their careers and their fortunes on.

The part skepticism plays in helping to clarify those truths and facts of your life – you realize that your own brothers and sisters were blackmailed in the same way over this and over dozens of other crimes that had occurred and were covered up – there was a regular murmurous uproar as another instances of sexual abuse was gossiped and whispered about and some kid bullied into fear of their life until the rules of secrecy were instilled (rather this repression was the enforcement of denial into the entire catholic population.

How deep is that repression?
How clarifying it is to me as a person. Reason and memory fit as another part of the jig-saw each of us who experienced this repression which was deployed on to all Catholic children. This was the cruelest and most psychologically damaging process that a human being could be put through- the entire religion and its entire congregation believed fervently that the were the leading light of Christianity – they led the world in morality, justice, humanity, compassion, leadership, ethics, community,salvation, redemption whilst they practiced the ways of the psychopath through a regime of terror inflicted through the fear of eternal hell, damnation, spiritual death and the very real and very often ostracism they deployed on those in the community the wished to bring into line.
Catholics were and remain efficient at that form of repression, they are persistent and ruthless as they are religiously sanctioned by the bishops, priest and nuns (each of whom backed up the story of the priest – this sealed the fate of any victim child of any form of torture who attempted to break out from it.
Those who survived that became good Catholics and continued with this genocidal war against their own children to ensure they would be as psychologically harmed as their parents – it became a self replicating child repressing monster that enshrined its rites to continue with these atrocious abuses of the rights  of a human child. The Catholic church is riven with this thinking and behavior, it is endemic in its persistence within the entire life of a Catholic it is endemic in all those religions which followed the same course and who between them have polluted our society to the point where the blatant sexual abuse of more than 30 million people alive today must be held in repression by the believers in the Catholic religion.

If society does not turn away from the path of the Catholic church and if it does not freeze its assets, its businesses then the vast majority of the real crime in our society will never be addressed and the world will never have had a real chance to raise our children in a peaceful, loving and truthful environment. Lets make 2011 the year we all come together to unite in the single cause of demanding our government ceases to trade with and Catholic or religious entity until democracy is restored in our country.

There is no precedent that permits a sector of society to enact genocide on its followers on the basis of religion. That is what we have today and what we have today is insidious and at the core of the ability of society to progress in the areas of human rights, dignity, respect, individuality, freedom of expression of thought and the freedom of speech.

While ever the Catholic church continues to exist and to be able to function as an organized religion it will be in the process of enacting the genocidal practices of the religion against some portion of society and it will continue to enable wars just as any organized religion can and repeatedly to the detriment of society does. The Catholic church is our most obvious example. We can either help the Catholic church to  prevail or we can help our children to prevail. For every person on the planet the real choice they have to make is whether they will support the Catholic church or will they support the children.

2011 must be the year when those of us across the world who have an understanding of this and for us to collectively demand our governments brings it to a halt and never permits it to occur again. That is a part of their moral obligation to society. Any politician who today stands in support of the Catholic church should be collectively condemned through our united and collective voices.

Make 2011 the year when you connect up with a proactive survivor who speaks clearly and directly about the needs and the means of providing the safety and the protection our children and our society need.

The Catholic church and those who follow it today need to stand back and permit reason and justice to prevail, to permit each and every person within the boundaries of their country to live with the legitimate right to live in a free and democratic country free of repression and child abuse.

The Catholic church stands condemned as a psychopathic pariah and must be rejected in all forms wherever it is not regulated and policed.

Join with us and support us in our demand to governments across the world that the repression and actions of genocide carried out by Catholics and the Catholic church must cease immediately.

JohnB

Depressing but not surprising: how the Magdalene Laundries got away with it


Depressing but not surprising: how the Magdalene Laundries got away with it

From the link: http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/07/depressing-not-surprising-how-magdalene-laundries-got-away-it

Inside a Magdalene Laundry. Photograph: Wikimedia/Magnus Manske

Inside a Magdalene Laundry. Photograph: Wikimedia/Magnus Manske

 

As a child, Anna Carey saw the dead-eyed women who had been forced to work for free in the laundries sit among the congregation at Mass, seen and yet ignored. Now, as the religious orders responsible refuse to contribute towards financial compensation, it’s not difficult to see how Irish society allowed these abuses to go on for so long.

I loved High Park when I was a kid. The rambling grounds of the convent were just across the road from the quiet Dublin housing estate where I grew up in the 1980s, and every Sunday my family went to Mass in the convent chapel. The chapel was a pretty little Victorian building; when I was very small, I used to jump slowly down the wooden steps of the choir stalls and pretend to be Professor Yaffle from Bagpuss.

Away from the cluster of convent buildings, the grounds were beautiful, with meadows full of wild flowers and a small herd of cows. We would go on nature walks, looking out for squirrels and gathering leaves and flowers. It was all rather idyllic, apart from the fact that we were playing in what had, for decades, essentially been a forced labour camp.

Run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, High Park Convent was the site of Ireland’s largest Magdalene Laundry. Until well into the twentieth century, girls deemed to be “difficult”  – because they were sexually active, or sexually abused, or simply poor – were sent to laundries by their families or the state. Despite having committed no crime, they were not allowed to leave the institutions and were forced to work for no pay, making them literally slaves. Many women spent their entire lives there, remaining long after the actual laundries closed down. They had nowhere else to go.

I used to see some of those women at Mass, the ones left behind, although I was almost grown up before I realised who they were. They’d shuffle in behind the nuns and sit quietly at the back. Their eyes were vacant, and they seemed completely institutionalised.  I’m sure they weren’t as old as they looked. There was a large, empty building near the chapel which was still referred to as “the laundry”; it wasn’t until my late teens that I realised it was where those dead-eyed women had been forced to slave. The adults around me must have known, but nobody ever talked about it.

Then, in 1993, High Park hit the news. The nuns sold some of the grounds to a property developer for IR£1.5m, but the sold land included a mass grave containing the remains of 155 women, many of whom were unnamed. The scandal forced Ireland to confront just what had happened in those laundries, and ask why we’d tolerated them for so long. It didn’t stop shameless religious orders continuing to sell land for vast amounts of money – thanks to further land sales, High Park made €61.7m between 1999 and 2009, and today the former grounds are covered in houses and apartments. But while nuns made millions, former Magdalenes began a long campaign for justice.

This year, they finally got results. Following a demand from the UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) in 2011, a government enquiry into the laundries was established. Released in February this year, the enquiry’s report has been widely criticised by UNCAT among others for being neither independent nor thorough enough. It did, however, officially confirm that not only did the state commit at least 2500 young women to the convents’ “care”, it took advantage of the slave labour, giving the laundries government contracts despite being aware that the institutions were breaking the state’s own labour laws. Taoiseach Enda Kenny offered Magdalene survivors an official state apology, and last month details were announced of a financial compensation scheme.

The scheme, which has also been criticised, will cost the state about €58m. You might think, what with the millions they earned from selling land, that the various religious orders would be paying for some of this. But yesterday it was announced that they are refusing to contribute. This is depressing but not surprising, as they’ve repeatedly failed to apologise for running their lucrative labour camps.

But that’s the thing about the Irish Catholic church – it never thinks it’s done anything wrong. Its officials always claim mitigating circumstances – things were different in the twentieth century! Nobody thought there was anything wrong with slavery, or raping children! This is nonsense, of course. But when I think of those old women at the back of the church, carefully ignored by the nice middle class families around them, I can see how Irish society allowed the Church to pretend it was true.

 

Magdalene laundries’ controversy – 20 years on


Magdalene laundries’ controversy – 20 years on

Updated: 16:12, Wednesday, 26 June 2013

RTÉ’s Religious & Social Affairs Correspondent Joe Little reports

From the link: http://www.rte.ie/news/special-reports/2013/0626/458949-magdalene/

It is 20 years since the State's Magdalene laundries became a source of public controversy

It is 20 years since the State’s Magdalene laundries became a source of public controversy

 

The Government has unveiled a package of financial and other supports for survivors of Magdalene laundries.

It was based on recommendations of Mr Justice John Quirke who was asked by the cabinet to devise eligibility criteria and other aspects of a non-adversarial scheme.

It’s 20 years since the State’s Magdalene laundries became a source of public controversy. In 1993 the exhumation, transfer and cremation of the remains of 155 former residents of a Magdalene laundry in Dublin by an order of nuns clearing its land for sale sparked public outrage.

Eighty of the women had not been identified because death certificates were missing or never existed in the first place.

Earlier this year a committee of civil servants independently chaired by Dr Martin McAleese said “the most likely reason” for the blunder was the absence at that time of catalogued records in the order’s archives.

He noted the concern and distress caused to – potentially thousands of – women who had spent some of their lives in the State’s ten Catholic Magdalen laundries. And he said the women’s pain had been shared by their families and the general public.

But exhumations were not the only focus of criticism. In the landmark ‘States of Fear’ television documentary series, produced for RTÉ in 1999 by the late Mary Raftery, forced labour and wrongful deprivation of liberty were identified as hallmarks of the laundry life.

Women told of how, as young girls, they were made to work without pay in sweltering laundries with no indication of when, if ever, they would be released by their families, the nuns and the State which together frequently conspired to keep them hidden from wider society behind high walls and locked gates.

Raftery’s work on the plight of institutionalised children here– she also co-authored ‘Suffer Little Children’ with the Trinity College Dublin academic, Eoin O’Sullivan – forced the State to apologise to thousands of survivors of industrial schools and reformatories.

But the survivors of Magdalene laundries were largely ignored despite the fact that laundries often shared campuses with the other kinds of Catholic-run residential institutions and took referrals from them when girls were nearing graduation age.

While the State paid €1.5bn on a Redress Scheme for the survivors who merited its apology – much of it on lawyers’ fees – “the Magdalenes” as they came to be known, were virtually ignored.

However, movies were made on their plight and the making of Steven O’Riordan’s documentary ‘The Forgotten Maggies’, (2009, TG4) brought together the nucleus of Magdalene Survivors Together, an organisation that represents about 80 women in their campaign for justice.

Simultaneously, the Justice For Magdalenes Campaign (JFM) lobbied the Government and the Catholic Church for apologies and restorative justice measures for the ageing cohort of survivors and their families.

In 2011, JFM’s a recently-graduated legal academic, Maeve O’Rourke, brought their case to the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva.

It was moved to strongly criticise the Irish Government for failing to launch a prompt, independent and statutory investigation into the women’s claims and for failing to apologise to them.

The State’s representative testified that, from the limited evidence available, the Government was satisfied that the great majority of the women had been admitted voluntarily to the laundries and, in the case of minors, had been put there with the consent of their families.

Embarrassed by the findings in Geneva, the newly-elected Fine Gael-Labour Government promptly asked Dr Martin McAleese in 2011 to chair a group of civil servants from relevant departments to establish any State involvement with the laundries.

Report details State’s responsibility

Last February saw the publication of the 1,000-page McAleese Report. It found that approximately 10,000 women and girls had been put into the laundries between the founding of the State and 1996 when the last one closed.

It also found that the State was responsible for about a quarter of all referrals.

Many of the survivors who Dr McAleese met “experienced the laundries as lonely and frightening places” This was true, he added, particularly in the case of those who were put there as young girls”.

Dr McAleese noted that most girls were not told why they were put away. Possible reasons included poverty, the loss of a mother, disability, the risk of becoming pregnant, being sexually abused, and having had a second child outside marriage.

Girls committed by industrial schools – where they had been detained for some of their earlier years – were not told how long they would have to stay in the laundries. Dr McAleese added that the same open-ended policy was applied to those admitted by families and charities.

“To add to this confusion,” the report continues, “most found themselves quite alone in what was, by today’s standards, a harsh and physically demanding work environment. The psychological impact on these girls was undoubtedly traumatic and lasting.”

The report’s impact was blunted somewhat by the finding that 61% of residents had spent less than one year in the institutions. It was as if some sections of public opinion were disappointed that the picture painted by the report did not live up to the stereotype of laundry life portrayed by film-makers in particular.

But this was based on information concerning only 42% of admissions, those for which duration is known. The report in fact finds that the average duration of stay of those particular admissions was 3.22 years.

While some former residents who met the committee said the laundries were “their only refuge at times of great personal difficulty”, “the majority described the atmosphere in (them) as cold, with a rigid and uncompromising regime of physically demanding work and prayer, with many instances of verbal censure, scoldings or even humiliating put-downs.”

However, the vast majority told the committee that the ill-treatment, physical punishment and abuse that had been prevalent in the industrial school system was not something they experienced in the laundries.

Critically, although the laundries were owned and run by four religious congregations of nuns, the State was directly involved with the institutions. The McAleese Report detailed four cross-overs in addition to the previously mentioned responsibility the State bore for about a quarter of all fully recorded admissions:

State inspections and State funding of the laundries; State involvement in the routes by which women left the institutions; and its role in death registration, burials and exhumations.

Almost immediately after the report’s publication last February, the four Catholic congregations that had run the Laundries expressed their regrets for how they had treated women and girls in their care and apologised with varying degrees of intensity.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also expressed regret for what had been revealed but stopped short of making an unequivocal apology to the women. But two weeks later, on the 19 February, he apologised unreservedly on behalf of the State to the survivors.

In a well-attended but hushed Dáil, his voice broke with emotion as he apologised for the hurt the women had endured in the laundries and for any stigma they suffered as a result of their time there. Dozens of survivors were moved to tears as they looked on from the visitors’ gallery.

Mr Kenny said that he wanted to initiate a process to help and support the women in their remaining years, and announced that the retired High Court Judge John Quirke had agreed to review how the Government could provide support to the women.

Shortly afterwards, the Department of Justice invited survivors of the laundries – and of a Catholic residential training centre for females in Dublin’s Stanhope Street – to register their intent to seek State support. So far more than 750 have done so. Meanwhile, Mr Justice Quirke began devising the eligibility criteria for the general scheme of supports and a payments system.

The Government had already decided all assistance should be given on an an ex gratia basis, that is, out of a sense of its moral obligation rather than because of any legal requirement.

The judge has been asked to estimate how much his proposed payments will come to. He’ll define their “nature” and “amount” and propose a method for deciding on payments “in an effective and timely manner that ensures the…. Fund (is) directed only to the benefit of eligible applicants and not on legal fees and expenses”.

Critically, his terms of reference also oblige him “to take into account relevant criteria including work undertaken by the women”. He has also been asked to examine “other matters as considered appropriate, to contribute to a healing and reconciliation process”

Judge Quirke will advise as well on help-in-kind for former residents who need it. Examples given are medical cards and other public health supports like mental health and counselling services and other welfare needs.

He’ll tackle the complex and thorny question of double-payments: how the government should respond to women who have already received money from the now defunct Residential Institutions Redress Board in recognition of abuse suffered in an Industrial School but where the payment included “a sum specifically due to their direct transfer to a Laundry and time spent there.

He has been asked to propose ways of ensuring that former residents living in the UK won’t lose existing entitlements to benefits and supports if they receive a payment from the Fund.

And finally, he will suggest ways of ensuring that “payments or supports or assistance” provided here are disregarded when Social Welfare entitlements and/or income tax liability are being determined.

The report, and the Government’s response to it, are scheduled to be launched in Dublin at 3.30pm today by Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter and Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch.

Sisters of no mercy


Sisters of no mercy

From the link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/apr/12/religion.childprotection

In the pre- and post-war period, orphans were often sent to homes run by religious orders, such as the Sisters of Nazareth. There they found a disciplined regime which, they say, tipped over into violence. Now, decades later, more than 500 former inmates are suing the nuns for damages. Beatrix Campbell reports

Fred Aitken is 70 years old and still he is haunted by sounds – the racket of children “banging their heads against the walls of the dormitories”. The walls were in a gothic mansion called Nazareth House, an orphanage in Aberdeen where Aitken was dispatched when he was six. There, he says, nuns regularly beat him and made him witness the violent degradation of other children. Sleep was routinely interrupted by their constant checks for children wetting their beds and the beating that followed. One bed-wetter was held out of the window by her ankles as punishment. “You woke up to this thrashing. Nuns with leather straps hanging from their waist beside their rosary beads. The strap was socially acceptable. The excuse is that it was normal in those days.”

Aitken, who now lives near Chester, was taken to Nazareth House after his mother died in the 1930s. He ran away constantly, and in his early teens one of his older sisters, then living in one room, took him in and tried to take care of him. He avoided school, sauntered around shops, cinemas, anywhere warm, until he was picked up and sent to an approved school for “delinquents”. He joined the RAF and although other young men lay in their beds weeping for their mothers, Aitken thrived: the military were “the first people who treated me as a human being. I was clothed, fed, paid a weekly wage. And they didn’t beat me.” Even then Aitken was shadowed by unhappiness. In the 1960s, when he was in his 30s, he sought help. “I told a doctor about the nuns. The man said he thought I was fantasising.” It was only 30 years later, when other Nazareth House survivors began to speak out about their experiences, that his childhood and its bleak effects could no longer be dismissed as his imaginings.

The Poor Sisters of Nazareth were founded in the mid-19th century in Hammersmith, London, to take care of the young and the old. For more than a hundred years, Nazareth Houses all over Britain were home to thousands of children. They aren’t children’s homes any longer. These days the nuns look after old people. And the Poor Sisters aren’t poor (the order has £154m in the bank) – they’ve been rebranded and they’re simply Sisters.

Now the Sisters of Nazareth – the order also has houses in Australia, South Africa, the United States and Ireland – are the subject of an international campaign to call them to account for a regime of violence. In a symbolic trial in Aberdeen in 2000, one nun, known in her childcare days as Sister Alphonso, was convicted of cruel and unnatural treatment. And 40 nuns belonging to the Poor Sisters of Nazareth and the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul are named in a civil action by more than 500 people, mostly middle-aged or elderly, who are claiming compensation from the orders. It is to be a test case, in which 11 former inmates will appear in court, and is expected to be heard in Scotland later this year.

Ranged against them are the Catholic hierarchy, the asylums’ insurers, who insist that there must be no admission of liability, and a sceptical hauteur that flourishes across the political and legal establishment. It was voiced at the highest level last year when the reforming Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, claimed that many convictions of people accused of abusing children in institutional care were flawed and that the law was in need of review. Archbishop Mario Conti, Scotland’s most senior Catholic churchman, has accused the former Nazareth House inmates of being seekers not of justice but of “pots of gold”.

Six years ago, Joseph Currie was wandering past Nazareth House in Aberdeen, the place where he, too, spent his childhood. In the grounds, he noticed that where once there were playing fields there was now a children’s nursery. Currie was horrified and took himself to the police to tell them about his memories of the place he remembered as the “House of Hell”.

Currie, now in his early 50s, lives in a Glasgow tenement. Everything in his flat is neatly arranged – his shoes, his clothes, his videos, his crockery, his correspondence. Every surface is wiped clean. This is not the work of an obsessive, he says, just typical of an orphan. The military and emergency services found those abandoned, bereaved children attractive recruits because, though they lacked education, they knew how to iron their shirts, polish their shoes and obey orders.

On the shelves around his Victorian tiled fireplace Currie displays old toy fire engines – it was his boyhood ambition to be a firefighter. On the mantelpiece there is a fading photograph of him in a grey bow tie with the queen of the Eurovision Song Contest, Katie Boyle. They’re at the annual bash of the contest’s fan club. Currie is one of the organisers. He is a fast-talking, busy man, a retired postman, “a bit of a cheeky chap, straight to the point”, he says of himself. But though he is active in progressive politics and his music club, says, “I’m also very lonely, I have to admit that.”

He was put in Nazareth House when he was two. According to his social services records, his family was “destitute” and his mother admitted selling a pair of shoes for food. Joseph had been left alone in verminous conditions. But there was worse to come. He remembers Nazareth House as dour and cruel. For years after he left in 1967, he tried to put the place out of his mind. But that walk beside his old home provoked a rush of recollections. “As a precaution, in case I died,” he made a tape-recording and put two pieces of paper in an envelope. The papers showed a copy of a newspaper photograph of Aberdeen’s Nazareth House. He had put a cross by one of the windows in the eaves. On the other piece of paper he mapped all the features of the room behind that window, its pipes, floorboards, walls, doors, a cupboard. He sent the envelope to Cameron Fyfe, a Scottish solicitor, with a note naming the boy with whom he had shared that room. His map also showed a plywood panel, a false wall, and behind that panel, he said, were some significant documents.

Joseph Currie, the orphanage child, had something important to say, but there was no one to tell it to. So he wrote to God. Now, 30 years on, he wanted the police and his solicitor to find those hidden documents because, he believed, they would confirm his recollections of his time at the orphanage. Currie took Cameron Fyfe, other lawyers and Nazareth House officials to the building, to the locked door of his former bedroom. When finally a key was found, they went in: the room was almost as he had left it, and behind a plywood panel there were his childhood documents, exactly as he had predicted.

One of them, dated Sunday April 2, 1967, pledges: “I will keep these promises seen here.” The boy forswears spending his pocket money, bad language and playing at fire engines, but the letter begins with “No Dirt At All”, the ‘No’ underlined many times. “The real meaning of ‘dirt’ was sexual abuse,” Currie says, “I felt dirty. It started when I was about eight. A man who came in as a volunteer to help bath the kids started molesting me in the bath and in the toilets.”

Currie also told his priest about the “dirt” in confession, “but he was deaf and he would say ‘speak up’. I’d come out and all the other boys would be laughing.” He told a teacher about his embarrassment and she suggested that he could go into any church. “So I went to St Mary’s Cathedral in Aberdeen and I said, ‘There’s this man comes to the home and plays with my private parts.’ The priest asked me his name and whether he was still doing it. He said, ‘Pray for him my son.’ He knew the guy because he came to Nazareth House. I thought maybe he’d do something about it. But it didn’t stop the man coming in.” The priest to whom he made his confession, he says, was Father Conti.

Archbishop Conti has strongly denied Currie’s claims, indeed he denies that he ever, “either in the context of confessional or outside the confessional, received any complaint of any kind of abuse relating to the care of children in Nazareth House”. The archbishop also accused Currie of being unreliable. Currie had likened some of his childhood documents to a diary, but the archbishop insists, “only three sheets of paper were found, two containing aspirations Joseph had listed for himself and the other listing the timing of the Benny Hill show on TV”.

Currie is one of the more than 500 bringing the action against the Sisters of Nazareth and the other orders. His childhood memories of the orphanage are filled with emotional and physical terror. He had lost his family, and letters from his siblings and his mother were never given to him. For a minor misdemeanour, children had to kneel down and face the wall of the main corridor while nuns passed. “Some would smack you as they came by. You’d hear their footsteps but you didn’t know who they were. It was a form of mental torture.”

Another inmate, Helen Cusiter, returned to Nazareth House six or seven years ago, to visit a woman who was working there. An unexpected encounter with one of the nuns she’d known when she was at the orphanage – Sister Alphonso – changed her life.

“I started screaming. She asked me to go upstairs and tell her how I was getting on. She started to tell me how wonderful it was working with the old people, but her hands were shaking. She asked, ‘What do you remember about your childhood?’ I said, ‘Every bit.’ She said, ‘I was young at the time and I was just following orders.’ She never said, ‘I’m sorry.’ ”

Cusiter fled home from that meeting with the nun. “I had a panic attack – I thought I was having a heart attack. Then there were all these flashbacks.” Her days and nights were haunted. Her own fond family life with her husband and children was swamped by her fears: “What if I was in a crash with my husband and Sister Alphonso got my children? What if I ended up in Nazareth House as an old person?” She became imprisoned in the safety of her own home. She was overwhelmed by shame – ashamed of leaving other children behind, of failing to protect them from harm.

Eventually, four years after her encounter with Sister Alphonso, she went to a solicitor. “He sat, feet on the table, and said there were several options. ‘Is it money you’re after?’ I said no.” Instead she decided to go to the police. “I was passed to the child abuse unit at the age of 39.” That was in 1996. Grampian police advised her to get a lawyer and began to interview other residents, crosschecking dates and names to verify the growing archive of allegations against the order.

Cusiter became one of the former inmates whose evidence initiated the unprecedented criminal prosecution in Scotland in autumn 2000, when Sister Alphonso, appearing as Marie Docherty, was convicted of four charges of cruel and unnatural treatment. Sheriff Colin Harris ordered that several other charges be rejected and said that he would only admonish, rather than imprison, her because of her age and her health.

Cusiter recalls a particular incident when Sister Alphonso came for her while she was playing on swings. “She took me off by the hair, twisted me round and threw me against the church wall,” she says. “She broke all my front teeth, my face was a mashed mess, the other kids were all screaming.” Helen Howie, a 77-year-old woman who had been raised in the orphanage and later worked there as a helper, still remembers the blood on Cusiter’s face. “Sister Alphonso didn’t use leather straps, she used her fists, she had some strength.” When the child was taken to the dentist, he asked, “What’s all this bruising?” She fell, he was told.

Cusiter was eight when her mother disappeared and she and her five brothers and sisters were taken from Glasgow to Aberdeen’s Nazareth House. There were separate quarters for boys and girls, and the siblings were allowed no communication, though they would see each other across a crowded church on Sundays and on the school bus. After leaving Nazareth House, the six were never again in the same room together. Helen’s younger brother grew up a distressed, drifting young man. “Most of the time he was like a recluse. Finally, he took his own life. He told me he’d been sexually abused by a priest. He’d never told anyone. It was so tragic.”

Of her time at the orphanage, Cusiter remembers the raucous insults that came from the mouths of the supposedly pious sisters: “They’d say, ‘No wonder your mother left you… whore… freak… Glasgow trash… I’d have left you… you’re just Glasgow tinks.’ ”

Like other inmates, Cusiter vividly recalls night-time. “They’d come round the beds and make sure you were in the right position – flat on your back with arms crossed out of the covers (otherwise you’d be touching yourself). If you were lying on your side, you’d be yanked back. They’d lift the covers to see if your bed was wet. If it was, then you’d be yanked out, called all filthy names.”

Some former residents say they were sexually abused – Cusiter remembers a driver who “would touch up the boys and the girls” and, she says, a child would often be used to keep watch while one of the handymen pursued his sexual relationship with a nun – but most of the cases against the Sisters of Nazareth concern physical violence. Mealtimes, predictably, were the occasion of routine power struggles between nuns and children. Cusiter says she was force-fed: “She’d be pulling your head back, then she’d hold your nose so you couldn’t breathe, until your mouth opened, and she’d shove food in. Then you’d choke and the food would end up on your plate again and she would force-feed you your own vomit. That started from the moment I went in there.”

Other inmates have similar memories. A retired telephonist living in an elegant Glasgow apartment block for senior citizens recalls that “several of the children were force-fed. One of them was my sister. She was three or four years old. I saw it.”

She had been sent with her sisters to Glasgow’s Nazareth House from their home in the Highlands after their mother was diagnosed with tuberculosis, a disease that was still “like a death knell in the 1950s”. She was eight. Her first night was marked by her younger sister’s screams as she was taken off to a separate dormitory. She, too, remembers the nuns’ nocturnal inspections.

“Wetting the bed was a nightmare – they’d strip the covers off and the child would be made to stand with the wet sheets for hours, to set an example. They stood there like ghosts, covered in the wet sheets. My sister didn’t wet the bed at home, but one night she was crying and came to us and said she’d wet the bed. So we swapped our sheets for her, rinsed the wet one out and went to dry it on the radiator. But it was off. So we sat on the sheet to dry it – we were only children. My sister got caned on the hands and the back for that. The nun would roll her sleeves up, so she got a real good whack. I felt she took relish out of that.”

Punishment was perpetually lurking: “You never knew when or what. There is still never a day when my sister does not fear being punished for something. We were just miserable people, that was all.”

Enduring companionship between friends and siblings seemed to be discouraged. Sometimes companions simply disappeared. The retired telephonist has never forgotten the summer of 1955 when the children of Cardonald Nazareth House in Glasgow went to Aberdeen on an exchange. This was their holiday. “We were taken to the beach, it was so grey and wild and windy, we were frozen.” The girls were told to change into their swimsuits while the nuns huddled together in a beach hut. “My sister and her friend Betsy Owens were playing with a beach ball. It blew into the sea and they went into retrieve it, a stupid plastic ball – of course, they wouldn’t have dared do otherwise. Betsy was drowned. We saw her being brought out of the water.”

Her younger sister has never forgotten that day: she could scarcely swim, but managed to grasp a long log. “I held on tight but the waves kept dashing me against the wood and my leg was badly gashed. Eventually I was rescued by a small boat, but it was terrifying.” Her big sister saw her being lifted out of the water, “all cut and bleeding. One of the nuns said: ‘You watch you don’t get blood on your dress or you’ll catch it.’ My sister and I have tried unsuccessfully to follow this up. There was no record of Betsy after that incident, nothing. No prayers. No mass. Nothing.”

The Edinburgh lawyer representing Nazareth House, Dr Pamela Abernathy, insists, “No one still alive who was intimately connected with Nazareth House at the time has any recollection of such an incident, nor are there any records of the death of any child during that period.”

When the retired telephonist recently began to make inquiries about Betsy Owens, the order responded by denying any knowledge that she herself had ever been there that summer. They said there were no records of her presence. It seems that, she, like Betsy Owens, might never have existed. But in her collection of personal records, there is the evidence: a telegram adorned with top hats and lucky horseshoes, addressed to her at Aberdeen’s Nazareth House on August 3, 1955, saying, “Happy Birthday Darling, from Mummy.” She was there.

This woman, like Currie and Cusiter, has joined the civil action against the Sisters of Nazareth because they believe it is the only way of calling the order to account. She and her sisters were in Nazareth House for just 18 months – they left when their father, who regularly made the long trek across the country to see his daughters, suddenly arrived in his work clothes to take them away. To this day, she doesn’t know what had so alarmed him – all visits were patrolled by nuns who remained in the room, like sentries. The children didn’t speak about what had happened, “none of us did, believe it or not”. But it left the family with inconsolable sadness. “We had wonderful parents. Right to her death, Mum kept saying, ‘If only I hadn’t got ill.’ She thought it was her fault. It broke her heart.” Her father took the child to the local priest “to explain what he’d discovered and how angry he was for his children, but the priest never took it up”.

Her own efforts to challenge the hierarchy of the church have been distressing and her association with the public campaign against the Sisters enraged other members of her congregation. “I was spat on. After we pray, we shake hands, but one woman refused and said I was bringing the church down. I said, ‘No, this is about crimes against children.’ ”

She is outraged by suggestions that her motivation is securing compensation. “I didn’t want money. We have tried every way to get the church to accept what happened, but they’ve done nothing. Nothing. These are major things, the experience was a severe danger to people’s lives.” She points out that “15 members of my group have taken their own lives. I am all right, I’m surviving. I don’t need financial help. Money would never take away what happened – God’s representatives on earth behaving in such an appalling manner.” She had worried about what had happened for years. “I need answers, not just about Betsy but about the whole damned thing. I telephoned Cardinal Winning, and asked him to do something about all the things that were coming to light about Nazareth House. He said very little, I would have liked him just to say sorry. He wasn’t prepared to accept that it was the truth. I felt terrible all over again.”

Kathleen Batey, a 47-year-old cleaner living near Newcastle United Football Club’s mighty stadium, is not one of the campaigners seeking legal redress. She has never consulted lawyers, nor sought compensation from the church. “I don’t want their money,” she says. “I just want it out of my mind.” And, like all of those involved in the civil action, she wants to have her story heard.

Kathleen Batey’s back is lined with a ladder of scars – they are the relics of her life at Nazareth House in Tyneside, received, she says, when nuns took off the belts buckled round their habits and beat her. She was sent to the orphanage, with her brother, when she was five – her grandmother had just died, her mother had left, and her father felt he could not take care of the children. She remembers Nazareth the house as “spooky, horrible”. She, too, remembers children being force-fed, and also being required to work. “There was a big polished floor, it was really polished. They’d cut up woollen jumpers and we had to put them on our feet and we had to skate on the floor and make sure the shine came up. If you did it wrong, you got a clip.” Or worse. “The nuns would take off the belt and just hit you with it. It was just the routine.”

The punishments accelerated, she says, after she and her brother began running away. In vain, they’d find their father, but before long the police would turn up to take them back. Their father didn’t stop them: “I thought there was nobody. Dad didn’t want us, nobody loved us, no one took care of us.” The violence in the orphanage didn’t seem exceptional to her, just part of life.

What often makes detection of childhood abuse difficult for the police is that it’s an adult’s word against a child’s, and there often isn’t any surviving physical evidence (a sign, say the sceptics, that abuse didn’t happen or that it didn’t cause any harm). This may be qualified in cases of alleged institutional abuse because there is sometimes a chain of corroboration. Cameron Fyfe says there’s no great problem of proof in this case: individuals who have not seen each other for years, who may scarcely remember each other, are corroborating each other’s narratives. They are recalling what were, after all, very public regimes of pain and punishment.

The survivors have to get past the argument that the religious orders merely delivered the discipline that was standardised, sanctioned and universal in those days. The Sisters of Nazareth lawyer, Dr Abernathy, points out that Nazareth Houses were overseen by local authorities and by the government. There were frequent visits by “children’s officers, town councillors, inspectors, including doctors and psychologists from the home and health department”.

None the less, there have been scandals and debates within the church about the ill-treatment of children for decades. Eoin O’Sullivan, the Irish historian of Catholic orphanages and schools, cites a very public challenge to the church by Father Flanagan, the priest whose humane childcare was the model for Spencer Tracy in the film, Men Of Boys Town. This embarrassed both church and state in the 1940s. “Violence was an intrinsic part of the culture of these institutions,” O’Sullivan says; they were committed to the “destruction of will”. He has unearthed state archives revealing many complaints about cruelty and inspectors’ concerns about “dangerous and undesirable punishment”. Violent discipline, he says, was not uncontested.

Father Tindall, the church’s child protection coordinator in the north-east of England, ventured: “Too much of the organised culture of the church was very disciplined and rule-bound, and gave an opportunity for people under pressure to use the language of discipline to be punitive.”

What was it, though, that caused such cruelty by women? Sister Margaret McCurtain, a glinting Dominican scholar and one of Ireland’s best-known Catholic reformers, suggests the “sexual oppression of nuns could emerge later in the form of cruelty”. She also comments that the very notion of charity was “a virtue that never brought with it affectivity.” Feminist scholar Ailbhe Smyth adds, “Christianity tells us that we have to help the poor, but we don’t have to like them. It is a Christian duty, for your greater glory, not theirs. There is, in this context, an absence of any recognition that tenderness should be the norm in relations between adults and children.”

The orphanage survivors’ civil case must show that their complaints refer not just to rogue nuns but to a regime for which the order itself was responsible. Cameron Fyfe insists that similar stories have surfaced against the Sisters of Nazareth in Australia and Ireland, where their practices, such as the response to bed-wetting and the force-feeding, “were very similar and esoteric”. Fyfe argues that the cultures of orphanages and schools tend to be specific and different – he also represents clients who were in the hands of the de la Salle monks in Britain, against whom there are more allegations of sexual abuse than there are against the Nazareth House nuns.

The Nazareth House children face another difficulty: the time bar. “After a real struggle, we have persuaded the legal aid board to support 11 test cases,” says Fyfe. All of these concern allegations of ill-treatment after 1964. The current limit on cases before that date is being challenged in the courts, and members of the Scottish parliament are mooting a change in the law. If that fails, Fyfe intends to take the challenge to the European Court of Human Rights.

Cases are being compiled in England, too, though there seems to be some reluctance to prosecute physical abuse. Sex with children is a crime, but “reasonable chastisement is still a lawful reason for inflicting pain on children,” explains David Spicer, a barrister and former chair of the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

Dr Abernathy denies the allegations of cruelty and abuse, and argues that for 130 years the Sisters of Nazareth “devoted their entire lives to the care of orphans, abandoned children, children from broken homes and in many cases children referred from the courts. Many of these unfortunate children suffered consequential emotional disturbance, and some of them no other institutions would accept.”

Francis Docherty is 58 and runs a helpline, Historical Survivors of In-Care Abuse, whose cases include people as old as 95 who are still suffering, still searching for their lost brothers and sisters, still trying to sort things out. He was brought up in Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark, run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul. “The horrifying thing was that being hurt by implements was bad enough, but to see a holy person, a righteous person with – I don’t want to exaggerate – a face full of hate, an angelic, holy face turning into a face of horror, a woman crunching her teeth in hate, going berserk, screaming while you are pleading for mercy, the wee leather boots just booting into you. Bruises go away, but the horror stays in your mind.”

Docherty, too, has joined the action against the Daughters of Charity and the Sisters of Nazareth. “This isn’t revenge against the Catholic church, we just want them to come out of denial. They’ve always ruled by fear. It’s their power mania. These people told you that you were the scum of the earth. Maybe you started to believe it.”

Docherty worked for most of his life as a driver, and for as many years he has been “in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous. I haven’t taken a drink for more than five years,” he says. He is never surprised by attempts to discredit people like himself. “We’ve had a lifetime of being accused of being liars and cheats, searching for a pot of gold.” Archbishop Conti has not only accused the victims of seeking pots of gold, he has told them that, “on your part, there is a need to forgive”. That’s not up to the Archbishop, says Docherty. “It’s up to us whether we want to forgive. Give us an apology. All we want is for the Catholic church to change its ways and let us live in peace.”