Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Suffer, Little Children

Those of you who have read Ken Bruen’s THE MAGDALEN MARTYRS and perhaps thought that Ken was, as writers tend to do, exaggerating the horrors of the ‘Magdalene laundries’ for dramatic purposes, might be interested in the findings of the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, published earlier this week. The report details systematic abuses – including physical and psychological brutality, gang-rape and torture – on an industrial scale, all of which were perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church’s various bodies. Yesterday’s Irish Times editorial, under the heading ‘The savage reality of our darkest days’, had this to say:
The key to understanding these attitudes is surely to realise that abuse was not a failure of the system. It was the system. Terror was both the point of these institutions and their standard operating procedure. Their function in Irish society was to impose social control, particularly on the poor, by acting as a threat. Without the horror of an institution like Letterfrack, it could not fulfil that function. Within the institutions, terror was systematic and deliberate. It was a methodology handed down through “successive generations of [Christian] Brothers, priests and nuns”.
  There is a nightmarish quality to this systemic malice, reminiscent of authoritarian regimes. We read of children “flogged, kicked . . . scalded, burned and held under water”. We read of deliberate psychological torment inflicted through humiliation, expressions of contempt and the practice of incorrectly telling children that their parents were dead …
  For the full editorial, click here
  Those inclined to defend, rebut, apologise for or otherwise try to contextualise the horror by way of the ‘one bad apple in a barrel’ argument should realise that some apples are bad going into the barrel, some apples are made bad by the barrel, and some barrels are better than others at creating bad apples.
  Last week I mentioned that the Minister for Justice, Mr Brian Lenihan, is pressing ahead with his plans to put the crime of blasphemy on the statute books in Ireland. Given the findings of the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, he might make better use of his time by banning religions, and particularly those who make a virtue of deviant sexual practices, such as celibacy.


Ego said...

Hear hear. The tragedy of this report is that it's too late. Most of the victims lived and died before the nineties - before there was any interest or sympathy for them in Irish society.

They died still hearing the 'religious' who'd brutalised them being cravenly praised by the state institutions that should have protected them.

There was no rescue for these savagely abused children. The nation is in tears, but it's too late.

Donna said...

Dec - your posts always make me think, often they make me laugh; today you made me cry. My heart aches for those children, and the lives that were scarred.

Joe Barone said...

My comment to my wife when I read these reports was, "I wonder how many other countries have this kind of abuse by the Roman Catholic Church or other religious institutions." I fear the hiding of priest pedophiles in the United States and abuses such as these in Ireland are a beginning of the revelations, not the end.

msteed said...

What's saddest is the Ryan report and, in general, the Redress Board, completely ignored the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries in the retribution scheme. These women, who laboured for no money whatsoever (slavery), were systematically abused and demeaned, and see as sub-human by most of their 'carers,' have received no pension or justice for the unpaid labour they performed.

Moreover, those victims whose abuse was investigated do not get the satisfaction of being able to name or prosecute their abusers, so the report is a hollow vindication.

Declan Burke said...

Ego / Msteed - I couldn't agree more. The report is utterly hollow, and in effect is meaningless, given that that the knowledge has long been in the public domain.

And here's the thing - if any of the organistions involved had been civil organisations - i.e., non-religious - they'd have been crucified for the lack of control over members and / or the deliberate fostering of a culture of barbarity. They'd have been wound up, banned, sued and demonised ...

If these organisations had a shred of decency to them, they'd offer voluntary winding-up, at the very least, perhaps to start again afresh ... If the individual priests, nuns and brothers had only a shadow of the conscience Christ is alleged to have preached about, there would be mass resignings.

I won't be holding my breath ...

Cheers, Dec

Declan Burke said...

Donna - You wouldn't believe some of the details that are emerging ... I've heard more than one victim use the phrase 'concentration camp'. It's a miracle we're not talking about mass murder, through a combination of violence, overwork and starvation. It's certainly not because the bastards in charge had any moral issue about the worth of the lives in their care ... of the children - babies and tots too - in their care.

If there's any consolation (and it's a small one), it's that most of these perverts, criminals and pimps believe in hell ... I sincerely hope they die screaming.

Cheers, Dec

Declan Burke said...

Joe - You're all too right, squire. I mean, Ireland at least had the patina of being a "civilised" country ... God alone knows what was perpetrated on children in countries regarded as less "civilised". It's a heart-rending thought ...

Cheers, Dec

John McFetridge said...

Joe, I think many other countries have things like this in their history - sometimes very recent history.

In Canada we had something called Residential Schools - Native children were taken from their families and given to the United Church of Canada to be "educated." It went on for years and years and was as bad as any other re-education camps in the world.

We started a Truth and Reconciliation Commission but it's been a disaster. From the very beginning the commission was to hear victims' stories only, it wouldn't be able to do anything, the lead justice (a pretty honourable guy) resigned.

There's lots of info here ina report the CBC called Stolen Children.

And Declan, you're right, if it had been non-religious organizations it would have been handled quite differently.

This is only one example of a religious groups attack on the Native people of Canada. It's really one long, sad history (though here the civil organizations haven't been much better, they've just been shut down when evidence appeared).

seanag said...

I saw the movie The Magdalene Sisters, so this news doesn't really shock me, though it still has the power to sadden me. I do think the point that we, as gullible, naive and even optimistic human beings must be made to face again and again is the opener of that editorial:

The key to understanding these attitudes is surely to realise that abuse was not a failure of the system. It was the system.Because I do think there is something in the human psyche that doesn't really want to acknowledge the brutality that we must necessarily live under, it becomes a call to all of us to not 'stand idly by' when something happens institutionly that, if our enemy was doing it, we would have no trouble at all labelling as torture.