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Conspiracy of silence over religious abuse

Published 10/08/2016

Disclosures about the oppressive and secretive atmosphere that pervades the seminary at Maynooth don't surprise me (Saturday Review, August 6).

While researching a book on the industrial school era, Escape From Grievous Faults, I spoke to retired clerics and former members of religious orders who told me of bizarre practices to which they were subjected.

The obligatory signing of confidentiality agreements at Maynooth and other similar venues has been deeply unhelpful to investigations of alleged clerical sexual abuse and the widespread (now proven) physical, sexual and emotional abuse in industrial schools and other institutions.

While recognising that abusers in the Catholic priesthood and the religious orders have always been in the minority, it is also a sad fact that far too many of those "good" men and women of the cloth failed to intervene when they became aware of what their errant colleagues were doing.

One can debate the relative gravity of the various sins set forth in catechisms and prayer books, but surely the destruction of innocent young lives is a sin that puts most of the others in the shade?

Not far behind it ought to be the "culture of secrecy" that facilitated the vilest abuses. Where was the "holiness" in muzzling potential whistleblowers, or staying silent about a crime that never stops hurting?


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