Betrayal of Faith
By Cris Foehlinger
Sunday News [Pennsylvania]
January 16, 2005
LANCASTER COUNTY, PA – Patricia Cahill is overcoming a life of abuse and secrecy at the hands of the Catholic church.Her childhood was destroyed by the sexual abuse of a priest and later when she was a teenager by the very nun in whom she confided the abuse.
Through alcohol, drugs and a position of authority, Sister Eileen Shaw determined, in large part, the woman Cahill is today. One with no sexuality and no understanding of normalcy, yet one with a strong drive to right the wrongs of a church that molded her into a quagmire of guilt.
Although the nun’s ministry has since been restricted, Cahill, now 52 and living in Lancaster, is angry at the church for stealing her childhood, her family and her dreams.
She has found support through the nationwide Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. And, in turn, she is trying to focus on the future. Later this week she will launch a support group in Lebanon to help local survivors. (See related story.)
Child of faith
Cahill and her five siblings were born into a wealthy Ridgewood, N.J., family and attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel elementary school. Their father sold cars at his dealership and their mother sold real estate between bottles of vodka, Cahill said.
She said she was in first grade when a priest took her to his bed, the clergyman always wearing pieces of his priestly garb.
“He never took the white collar or stole off,” said Cahill. “He said it was a mortal sin to talk about anything we did while he had them on. Catholics are taught that if you commit a mortal sin you will go to hell.” So Cahill wouldn’t breathe a word of the abuse.
At home, she’d pick up empty liquor bottles before her father’s return from work. “I took over for Mom raising three younger siblings,” said Cahill, whose parents are now deceased.
“I remember cleaning Dad’s bathroom when I was 7. He made a big deal about it and I thought, “Wow!’ ” Craving that kind of positive attention, Cahill set her sights on the rest of the house.
“I was the chief bottle washer and surrogate housewife,” she said. “I was very strict and rigid like my Dad. I demanded a lot of my siblings and I regret that now, but I didn’t know anything else.” Cahill said her father was abusive. He was not an alcoholic, but the disease is a family one. “He would rule with an iron fist and for no reason,” she said, “he would pick out one of the three oldest and send them upstairs for a beating.” Meanwhile, the priest’s abuse continued until she was 13. It stopped because Cahill said, “No.” “I felt 100-percent responsible because all I had to do was say “no,’ ” she said. “I don’t know if his abuse was widespread, but I know of some victims and am looking for others.”
From priest to nun
Although Cahill was able to remove herself from the priest’s grasp, she couldn’t escape the need for the love and support she didn’t get at home.
At age 15, she confided the priest’s abuse in a family friend: the nun.
“She said, “He was a sick man so it wasn’t his fault’,” Cahill recalled. “Looking back, I see a lot of conflict with what she said.” Cahill said Sister Shaw, a member of the Sisters of Charity at Convent Station, N.J., saw that she was in dire need of love and attention. Shaw offered encouragement, spent time with her and told her she was special.
“She took me out of a dysfunctional home and promised me the world,” Cahill said. “She said no one would ever hurt me again.” By age 16, Cahill spent summers at the shore with Shaw and the nun’s family and friends. “All of them were 20 years older than me,” Cahill said. “What were they thinking? Why didn’t they think it was odd?” The sexual advances didn’t start right away, Cahill said.
“She became my mother figure but,” Cahill said with obvious fury, “you don’t sleep with your mother.
“I had kept secrets my whole life. I thought I was a sinner. Then Eileen told me I was. She also said it was my job to keep her vows because I was the stronger of the two of us.” Cahill said she was 15 when Shaw introduced her to alcohol and drugs, namely Valium and Librium.
And Shaw gave Cahill a medallion to wear only when the two were intimate. Cahill calls it her “medal of shame” as she was never to speak about what went on while she wore it.
One night when Cahill was 17, she remembers crying and asking Shaw to let her go. “She should have let me go, but she wouldn’t,” Cahill said.
“She made me call her “Sister Eileen’ in bed and told me that she loved me,” Cahill said.
“No one had ever loved me before.”
Search for justice
That love, however, cost Cahill a chance to have a family and children of her own, she said. Because of internal conflicts caused by the relationship, she said, it cost her a chance to join the Sisters of Charity in her teens.
And it cost Cahill her sexuality. Since she’s been away from Shaw, Cahill said, she has never been attracted to another woman. Because she remembers fear and pain from the priest, she won’t get involved with men.
For her, the guilt and shame blend with anger and bitterness.
Cahill, who is no longer a practicing Catholic, said one of the biggest obstacles to healing is trying to understand why so many nuns turned their heads and allowed the abuse to continue.
Ten years ago Cahill received help from the Sisters of Charity, who did “everything they are legally obligated to do,” according to a recent statement issued by Mother Superior Maureen Shaughnessy.
At the time, Cahill received treatment and about $46,000, Cahill said.
She is seeking additional treatment costs, a request she and members of her support network see as a moral obligation of the church.
Part of her larger mission now is to make sure nuns are punished for abusive actions. Because they are part of a religious order, they are more insulated and protected, Cahill said.
“We (Shaw and Cahill) would sleep in convents up and down the East Coast,” Cahill said. “Nuns would turn their heads when I ran up the back staircases.” Yet the conflict for Cahill remains.
Shaw encouraged her to go to college, something no member of Cahill’s family managed to accomplish. Her first teaching job was at St. Cecelia’s in Kearny, N.J. Shaw was the principal of the now-defunct school.
Shaw gave Cahill a ring during that first year of teaching, one that was identical to one the nun wore. “It never dawned on me what that ring was supposed to mean,” she said. “But it’s pretty clear now.” The nun even selected Cahill’s apartment, one where Shaw’s car could be parked undetected, Cahill said.
“During the day, she was extra authoritative with me in front of other people,” Cahill said. “Away from school, she would tell me not to befriend the other teachers and not to bring my home life into work.” Brief trips were routine.
“One weekend, we went to a convent in Connecticut and got snowed in,” Cahill said. “I think it was a bit obvious when we both didn’t show up for school, but she wouldn’t talk about it.” After a year of teaching under Shaw, Cahill realized she needed to get away and took a job in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. “I really liked teaching and made friends,” she said. “Shaw would still come on weekends, which wasn’t a problem since no one knew her.” By this time, Cahill said she was sick with drugs and alcohol. “I would drink on my way to school,” she said.
Cahill shared an apartment with a friend. “She was very indiscriminate with sex and would entertain men at night,” Cahill said. “After walking in on her one night, she came up with a system where she would put the man’s shoes outside her door to let me know she was with a man.
“So I would leave Shaw’s shoes outside my door and hang her veil on the doorknob,” she said. It’s an image that still haunts Cahill and one that will become the title of her book, “Veiled Threat.” Cahill said the nun thought the roommate’s conduct was immoral. But as Cahill’s questions persisted, Shaw refused to answer or make any sense out of her relationship with Cahill.
“What happened at night, happened at night,” Cahill said. “What happened during the day saved my life.
“She helped me out in lots of ways that I felt indebted to her so much that I kept her secret for too many years.” Cahill viewed everything as her fault. But then her emotional struggle becomes evident and contradictions reemerge.
“She was 36 and I was 15,” Cahill said of their early relationship. “It couldn’t have been my fault.”
Path to peace
By 1979 Cahill sought help through a 12-step program. It cost her any hope of a relationship with her siblings; they felt Cahill betrayed them by airing the family’s laundry, she said.
In her 30s, Cahill again studied to become a member of the Sisters of Charity, Shaw’s order. “I have learned since then that victims almost always return to the scene of the crime,” she said.
Cahill could not complete her quest because of internal conflicts that centered on the relationship with Shaw.
By 1992, Cahill knew she was in trouble and approached the Sisters of Charity for help. “I was very foolish,” she said. “I wanted therapy and nothing else.” Yet she also asked that Shaw be removed from her position as school principal. “They took her out and promoted her,” Cahill said.
Shaw is now the administrator of the Caritas Community in Jersey City, N.J., a retirement home for nuns. Repeated attempts to reach her were unsuccessful. Nuns who answered the phones said Shaw was on “holiday.” Caritas Community is in a convent that sits next to an elementary school.
When recently questioned about Shaw’s duties, Jim Goodness, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., said that the nun “is not allowed in the school.” She does attend Mass in the local parish, but is not part of the spiritual team. She is not involved in parish functions.
“The community has dealt with the issue and she is restricted in her ministry,” he said. “There has never been an incident where she broke her assignment since this came to light.” Goodness clarified that the Sisters of Charity is not officially part of the archdiocese. “But the sisters work in the archdiocese under the spiritual direction of the archbishop,” he said. “Religious communities operate under their own rules and authorities.” This is part of the problem as far as Cahill is concerned. “Priests are defrocked when they are exposed for abuse,” she said. “But there is no punishment for nuns.” Shaughnessy, Sister of Charity’s mother superior, said there was a confidentiality agreement at the time the sisters offered Cahill help. “I’m certainly not going to break that, and I have nothing to say about it.” Shaw has been cleared to serve in her new position, Shaughnessy said recently. “I don’t want to talk about this.” In a letter dated July 1, 1994, the Sisters of Charity agreed to pay for “certain professional services” from July 1, 1994, through June 30, 1996.
“In order to qualify for payment by the Sisters of Charity, the services: (a) must have been provided by a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker, and (b) must, in the provider’s professional judgment, have been made necessary by the alleged inappropriate conduct of a member of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, who is alleged to have had sexual contact with Patricia Cahill at various times between the years 1968 and 1992,” the letter states.
The letter goes on to say that all charges must be included on an invoice mailed to Sister Mary Canavan, general superior, in an envelope marked “personal and confidential.” “The Sisters of Charity consider this letter and the information contained herein to be confidential,” the letter, signed by Canavan, states.
“I never healed because they made me sign a gag order not to talk about it,” said Cahill, who is now recovering from alcohol and drug addictions.
She moved to Lancaster in 1997 to get away from her family and Shaw.
She thought about suicide. Reaching rock bottom, she again turned to the nuns she had grown up with.
By this time, the order had established a response team, made up of nuns, priests, lawyers and psychologists.
Shaughnessy encouraged Cahill to meet with them. She agreed.
Lancaster friend Donna Wilcox accompanied her to the session held at the Mother House in New Jersey. While the two were greeted cordially, Wilcox said, “The building was imposing and it was dark and empty. The surroundings felt very big and I felt very small.” Cahill wasn’t intimidated by the familiar atmosphere. But at the meeting there with two lawyers and two therapists, she said, ” “I feel like I need a lawyer,’ and they said, “No dear, we’re here for your healing.”‘ Cahill described the exhausting 3-hour session as “interrogation with a smile.” “I was impressed by one nun who seemed compassionate,” Wilcox said. “Patricia was so articulate and focused while my composure was gone. When you hear her story, it’s very humbling.
“They seemed caring and supportive,” Wilcox said. “I left thinking help was on the way.” Two weeks later Cahill received word that there would be no further therapy from the sisters, but “we will pray for you.” That’s all it took.
The anger that roared through Cahill catapulted her on the road to healing.
THE EXECUTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT Part One the story
by Kobutsu Malone
From the Link: http://www.bergencatholicabuse.com/
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.”
Serial Sexual Harassment, Assault & Battery by Irish Christian Brothers
at Bergen Catholic High School, Oradell, New Jersey: A memoir from 1964
Written on: January 20, 2002
The year was 1964. I was 14 years old and had just entered Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, New Jersey. I did not want to go to Bergen but my domineering father whose self-interests for me showed no concern whatsoever for mine, or anyone else’s, feelings forced me into the school. I remember taking a long test for placement in the school in the gymnasium and I recall receiving the acceptance form. I had mixed feelings about this, having just spent eight years under the tutelage of Dominican nuns and the Sisters of Charity.
The experiences with the nuns during those years were traumatic. Many of us kids were humiliated and intimidated by the nuns on an ongoing basis. The image of a stern nun in full habit, bearing down on you with ruler in hand is the stuff of nightmares. I graduated from the grasp of the Sisters of Charity from Our Lady of the Visitation Church School in Paramus, New Jersey in 1963. Unbeknownst to me then, my experiences with the nuns were nothing in comparison to what was to come at the hands of the Irish Christian Brothers in Bergen Catholic High School the following two years.
|Kevin Malone – 1964|
|(Ven. Kobutsu Malone)|
The first days in Bergen Catholic were disorienting. It was my first exposure to an all male environment and my first dealings with Brothers. I was assigned to Room 34 as my homeroom, in what was then the new extension to the original school building. It was intimidating at first meeting the teachers, Brothers and lay men, who taught at the school. Up until that point in time I had only had women as teachers and suddenly the teachers were all men.
As teenagers in the mid sixties, we were very naive, not having been exposed to much beyond the confines of the Catholic schools that most of us had attended before coming to Bergen Catholic. We had universally been taught that teachers, and especially, priests, nuns and brothers were to be held in high esteem and could do no wrong. To us, they represented the direct intervention of the Church and God himself. We had no knowledge of the psychology of oppression or the idea of child abuse, or even heard the word “pedophile.”
There was nothing in my life that prepared me for the horror that was to unfold in Bergen Catholic High School in the following two years. Only in retrospect, looking back at the experiences some thirty five years later can I even begin to communicate what I, and certainly many of my fellow students, went through in that place.
In our freshman class we were introduced to the teachers of the subjects on day one. We had Latin, History, Biology, Math, English and Religion. There were a few teachers I remember as likable, most were intimidating, one in particular was perhaps one of the more despicable creatures to ever wear a Brother’s cassock. Brother Charles Borromeo Irwin was his name; he taught us freshman mathematics and served as the school treasurer.
|Br. Charles Borromeo Irwin|
I remember clearly the first day this individual came to the classroom. He was unkempt, smelled of stale tobacco, with nicotine stained fingers, yellow teeth and had the most hateful demeanor I had ever encountered. He would make snorting noises in an attempt to clear his sinuses instead of using a handkerchief. He would wipe his nose with his hand and then wipe the snot from his hand on his clothes or into his hair. He would terrorize us orally with tirades of abuse, shouting out loudly without warning, calling individual students “cretin, retard, pot-head, idiot, bungler” and “toad.” He would at times spontaneously begin singing the ditty, “Mares eat oats And does eat oats And little lambs eat ivy. A kid’ll eat ivy too, Wouldn’t you?” His demeanor would change in an instant, bringing forth an outburst of vitriolic hatred directed at an individual student or the entire class. His behavior was bizarre to say the least; he built on the terror he projected, taking delight in the trauma and meanness he spewed forth on us kids.
“Charlie Irwin” AKA “The Chest” had an even darker side. This individual was given total authority over a class of thirty some odd adolescent boys. These young men were subject to him in private for forty minutes every day of the school week, we endured his presence through over 180 classes that year. His irrational behavior was obvious from the start; we all feared him right off the bat and as time progressed, our unmentionable fears became paramount in our days at school.
Irwin was a math teacher, and well accustomed to having his way with students. He had the habit of walking up and down the rows of the classroom while he talked or while we were doing tests or assignments. Periodically he would assign us work and retired to the back corner of the classroom near and open window and have a cigarette, heaven help the boy who dared to turn and look at him thus disposed.
Irwin’s most traumatic actions consisted of engaging in a verbal tirade over the stupidity of a particular student followed by a walk down the aisle next to the targeted student’s desk. Irwin was a tall skinny man, with an evident potbelly and pronounced slouch, he was far and away taller than all of the boys. His physical size coupled with his nasty demeanor and our lack of ability to communicate was totally intimidating.
I sat in the desk directly in front of the teacher’s desk in the classroom and we were required to sit at the same desks throughout the school year. I remember distinctly the first time Irwin molested a student in the classroom.
|Br. Charles Borromeo Irwin|
His first indecent assault and battery were tremendously shocking to me and I lived in fear from that moment on throughout my tenure in that school.
Irwin came down the isle next to mine and leaned over a young man and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. He pushed down with some force so that the boy was forced forward into his seat, leaving a space between the boy’s back and the rear of the seat. Irwin did this with his left hand, approaching the boy from the boy’s rear left hand side. After pushing the young man down in his seat, Irwin reached behind the boy in the space created by the boy’s position in the chair and began pulling out the boy’s shirttail from his trousers. All during this episode Irwin was making wise cracks and calling the young man derogatory names in a hate filled voice. His final action, on the squirming victim, was to insert his hand into the boy’s pants and, placing it on the young man’s bare backside, squeezing his buttocks while the youth squirmed in terror and embarrassment in front of all his classmates.
I recall leaving that classroom that day feeling depressed and frightened at what had taken place in front of thirty other boys. None of us had the vocabulary or psychological sophistication to even talk about what we had witnessed, few said anything, and none of us had the courage to even address the issue.
Brother Irwin became bolder from that point on. He made threats to all of us as to revealing what took place in the classroom and engaged in wholesale terrorism for the remainder of the year. Irwin would repeat his molestation countless times on various students. He had certain favorites he would molest and assault repeatedly. His method always seemed to involve placing his hands down a boy’s pants and squeezing the boy’s buttocks while holding the child in his seat by a hand on the young man’s leg or by holding him down by his shoulder.
There was rarely a week that went by that Irwin did not molest someone in that classroom. We had no words to describe what we were experiencing and witnessing. The word “pedophile” was not in our vocabulary, nor was the word “molest.”
The closest we came to having a word for what we were experiencing was what some boys voiced as “MO” (short for “homosexual” that was barely, if at all, in our vocabulary)
Charlie Irwin had a biological brother, a lay teacher, named Thomas Irwin who was also a teacher in the school. I remember being in “Tommy” Irwin’s class in sophomore year, one day when one of the students called his brother (“Charlie”) a “MO”. Tommy Irwin denied that his brother was “like that”, indicating that even his brother had heard something and was in denial.
Looking back on it now, I find it impossible to fathom that no one in authority in that school or no parent ever took issue with what was taking place in the classroom and what we kids were being subjected to on a daily basis. I can only conclude that either not one of us communicated what was going on or that if anyone did, whatever repercussions ensued were suppressed and “handled quietly.” If the latter was the case, there are some issues of accountability outstanding. Thirty-five years later, I am the parent of two fine young men. If one of my boys came home from school with such a tale of abuse, assault, battery and sexual molestation, I would instantly remove my child from harm, seek immediate legal recourse and insure that the offender never ever entered another classroom or had any dealings with young people.
That is now… back then, at 14 years old, I for one would have been petrified to tell my parents of such things. The fear I had of my own father was a terror in its own right. I wanted as little to do with interacting with him as possible then. I most certainly could not have imagined ever bringing up what was happening to us in school by having to describe how an Irish Christian Brother, who my father held in high esteem just for the fact that he might wear a cassock and belong to the order, would regularly patrol the isles putting his hands down our pants, repeatedly molesting us during our math classes.
Back then things were not as open as they are now, there were many topics that were just not discussed in high school that are easily broached nowadays. Then, as victims, as Catholic school students, we were tremendously embarrassed to talk of any sexual matters, let alone homosexual matters, let alone being molested on a daily basis by a Brother in the School that our parents had selected because of its supposed superior educational qualities.
What happened to us was not our fault, but it could not have been any more embarrassing to talk about than any other topic imaginable. It was hard to understand why our parents wanted us so much to attend that place when we were being criminally assaulted and battered on an almost daily basis.
The damage some of us incurred in that place is inestimable. I presently live in the same area as the school and periodically in my travels I pass by the place. Each time I drive by, I remember the horror of those years. I think of the harm done by Irwin to hundreds of young boys over the years and I think of the institution that would allow such behavior to perpetuate. Mostly, I resent ever being sent into that hell hole and how relieved I was when I finally flunked out of there at the end of my sophomore year. I also remember the wrath of my father when my failure became known.
But who failed in reality? My father never had a clue what us kids were going through in there. He wasn’t there in the classroom when Brother Charlie Irwin came down the isle, sticking his hands in our pants, running his fingers in out butt cracks and then surreptitiously smelling his fingers afterwards. How do you tell that to your staunch Irish Catholic father in 1965?
|Br. Ronald Alexius Howe|
We lived in fear in that school, there were other Brothers there who taught us who were indeed sociopathic, violent men who frightened and intimidated us throughout the school year. I remember one of them, Brother Howe, pulling me out of my seat in the cafeteria one day because I was practicing hypnosis on another student. This individual lifted me bodily from the chair, threw me into a concrete block wall, lifted me up the wall by my arms, held me pinned to the wall by my neck while holding his right hand in a fist in front of my face. His words still resonate in me, “You fucker, you bring him out of that trance or I will drag you up to the principal’s office and beat the fucking shit out of you every step of the way.” This is an educator of young men? Brother Howe was well known for violent outbursts, his attack on me was not at all out of character, yet he continued to serve as a teacher in Bergen Catholic.
What happened to Charlie Irwin after I left Bergen Catholic I may never know. How many boys did he molest after that? How many young men were forced to endure his criminal attacks prior to my being there? How much damage did that vile individual do to innocent young men over his career as a so-called teacher? What of Brother Howe? I may never know the answers to these questions, none of us may ever know. I know one thing, it took me over thirty years to be able to put some of these experiences down on paper. I have spent a good portion of my life in introspection and self-examination and yet it has taken me more that three decades to be able to speak openly about Irwin.
For all I know, Irwin is long dead, if so he can no longer hurt any young boys. I know full well the implications of being a victim of that criminal in monk’s clothing, I know full well about survivor’s guilt and the sense of feeling dirty as a victim of such vile, degrading and filthy sexual abuse.
There is no closure, it does not just go away “in time” it is always a part of every victim’s life experience throughout the extent of their lives. So much pain, such shame, such unfairness, such betrayal. Forgiveness? It is a quaint notion, perhaps if faced with Irwin in person today; I might be able to manage such a feat. He is not in my life any more; he disappeared from my universe in 1966. Given his state of mind and general unhealthiness, I doubt he is still alive, but the memories of his abuse and battery linger.
It’s hard to forgive a memory, even more difficult as a victim to forgive a memory of terror and profound humiliation. I sincerely hope that in my putting these words on paper, other individuals who suffered as victims of Irwin and other pedophiles hiding in the Catholic Church will find the courage to come forward and elucidate their experiences.
Ven. Kobutsu Malone-Osho
Obituary Link for Br. Ronald Joseph Howe http://www.bergencatholicabuse.com/PDFs/20120124_Howe_Obit.pdf
Obituary Link for Br. Charles B. Irwin http://www.bergencatholicabuse.com/PDFs/IrwinObit.pdf
Their Deeds Shame the Devils in HellhellIf you’ve got the stomach to read the news from Ireland these days, you can click here and do so:Opinion: Mass grave ‘filled to the brim with tiny bones and skulls’ shows how we cherish children.Their deeds shame the devils of hell. Twisted Catholicism. When religion is spread by the power of laying guilt on others so some remain in total control. And the nuns TODAY, NOW, RIGHT NOW, see no reason to compensate survivors or families… “Hey! If you survived that’s your compensation!” There are no words for the lack of any sense of shame on the part of these religious orders and zero sense of accountability. This is going on in Ireland in a very dramatic show down between those harmed and their families vs the nuns who couldn’t care less. They are beyond all that. Much the same as the LCWR is toward victims of abuse by its member communities’ sisters. They are beyond responding to this. To do so would sully their pious reputation among their blind supporters, and would cast a bit of mud on their ridicule of hierarchy. What creates this kind of compartmentalization of conscience? It’s got to have some survival benefit to be so strong in the religious and clergy. How does hypocrisy rationalize itself when cloaked in religious life that preaches to others about social justice and how to live by some Catholic moral code? It has got to have some benefit or the Church would not be in the kind of state it is in right now, and we would not be finding tanks of dead babies in Irish convent gardens. What is the price of power? At what cost did one emerge from the bog to clerical heights, or from a poor neighborhood or family in the States to teach our young in Catholic schools? Was the cost integrity? Was it mental illness with a religious uniform? Was it the cost of one’s soul? What kind of families, what kind of parents sent their kids off to religious life and priesthood without a conscience, and what kind of superiors never noticed the lack of conscience in their predatory, and cruel novices and professed members? What is the price of twisted Catholicism and its perks? The price of trusting them is innocence, and sometimes mental stability, and all too often, at the end of the day, one’s Faith, and even one’s life if healing is not found. When is the price too high? When is it high enough for the Vatican to crack down on their sickos, both priests and nuns, and force them to step up to the plate and do right by their victims? I honestly have never believed that pedophiles should be in civil jails with general population. I think an island with an electric fence is fine, just because they are sick and we have hospitals for sick criminals. But the superiors of these religious orders need to be jailed. Just my opinion, as the stomach turns over these dead babies, and the many more to be discovered, and all those who’ve died with their wounds never healed. Jail is fine for those superiors.Hell is empty
Irish religious orders confirm they will not pay Magdalene Laundry victims
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.