Ireland's Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse has reported back on an inquiry beginning in 2000. In this final report, 2,600 long, the Commission documents the abuse of thousands of children in the 'care' of Catholic-run institutions over a period of 60 years. These children were subjected to neglect, violence, emotional cruelty and sexual abuse. The Church knew and did nothing.
The cost of compensation to these children will be €1.3bn. The Church has struck a deal whereby it will meet a paltry 10% of this cost - Ireland's recession-battered taxpayers will meet the remainder. And what price do you put on a happy childhood, anyway? How do you compensate the spouses and families of the abused, who have no doubt shared in their ongoing pain and unhappiness?
I'm Catholic, and I've tried to share the belief that the clergy who abuse children are simply the bad apples in a otherwise good institution. But I can't reconcile this belief with the knowledge that this massive abuse of children took place because Irish society allowed it to happen. Colleagues of offending priests and nuns looked the other way. The Church hierarchy relocated sexual predators from one institution to the next. Catholic parents refused to believe their children's stories of abuse; or practiced their faith so fervently that children knew they simply couldn't confide what was happening in their own families. And some of the abused children didn't have parents to confide in. Corrupt clergy singled out the orphans, children with disabilities and the poor for abuse, for these children were the most vulnerable.
I can't actually describe the rage and the sorrow which these children's stories make me feel. And I can't any longer accept that the blame belongs with a few bad apples. Bad fruit comes from a rotten tree.