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Devastating account of abuse inflicted on children

By Adrian Rutherford

Today's revelations come after months of scandal over sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

Last May the Church was rocked to its core after a nine-year investigation by Irish high court judge Sean Ryan uncovered a litany of abuse.

The Ryan Report concluded that rape and sexual molestation were “endemic” in Irish Catholic Church-run industrial schools and orphanages.

Comprising 2,600 pages of often harrowing detail, it drew on testimony from thousands of former inmates and officials at over 250 Church-run institutions.

Of the 25,000 children who attended institutions between 1914 and the start of the investigation in 2000, around 1,500 made complaints.

Commission records show 474 claims of physical abuse and 253 claims of sexual abuse were made by boys against the institutions. A further 383 claims of physical abuse and 128 claims of sexual abuse came from girls.

Complaints were made against both religious and lay personnel. It revealed a devastating litany of torment inflected on defenceless children. And it shamed Irish society.

One victim spoke of an attempt to tell nuns they had been molested by an ambulance driver. They recalled being “stripped naked and whipped by four nuns to ‘get the devil out of you’”.

Another described how they were removed from their bed and “made to walk around naked with other boys”.

At the time Irish President Mary McAleese described the abuse as “an atrocious betrayal of love”.

Cardinal Sean Brady said he was “profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways”.

The end of 2009 would see yet more lurid and shameful headlines. In November an investigation into abuse in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin resulted in the Murphy Report.

The 720-page report concluded there was “no doubt that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up” from January 1975 to May 2004.

The investigation identified 320 victims between 1975 and 2004, and 120 from May 2004.

One of the priests who admitted abuse stated he did so more than 100 times. Another did so fortnightly for 25 years.

It stated that the four archbishops, John Charles McQuaid, Dermot Ryan, Kevin McNamara and Desmond Connell, who were serving during that time, handled complaints badly.

There have been claims of similar mistreatment of children by priests in Austria and Germany, while an independent inquiry has been set up to look into allegations in the Netherlands.

At the weekend Cardinal Brady admitted representing the Church at meetings in 1975, years before he became a bishop himself, when two victims of Father Brendan Smyth were asked to sign an oath of silence about their complaints.

The notorious paedophile later moved to other dioceses and countries, where he continued to abuse children for another 20 years.

Cardinal Brady yesterday apologised to “all those who feel I have let them down”, stating he would “reflect on what he had heard” from those who have been hurt by abuse.

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