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Ireland’s New Troubles Print E-mail
By Patrick Fagan   
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

When the recent news from Ireland appeared, my friend Robert Royal asked me to comment on the physical and sexual abuse scandal swirling around the Christian Brothers and other orders. Initially, I turned it down because it was too intense and conflicted an issue for me, for I owe an immense and un-repayable debt to the brothers. I was born in Ireland, and they educated me for next to nothing and attracted me enough by their kindness and goodness that I tried out their life and rule for a while. Though I left at age twenty I had never seen the slightest indication of abuse anywhere I lived.

How many Irish Christian Brothers abused boys sexually and physically? I don’t know, but maybe something similar to the percentage of U.S. priests who were sexual abusers. That would mean about 97 percent of the brothers remained decent, dedicated men. If the rest of us suffer just reading the reports, how much more do they?

The deeper and more difficult question is: how did superiors and government auditors permit this to happen? The Irish have their own weaknesses and one of them is never to correct moral failings face-to-face. Behind the back, yes, face-to-face, no.

The Christian Brothers in the 1950s, the ones I knew, were good men. Some of them were a bit tough. But as kids we much preferred to get our “biffs” (slap on the hand, sometimes severe) rather than other disciplines, such as staying after school. This was not ideal pedagogy but it was admired by many parents, and often preferred by pupils.

It may be that therein lay the harsher seeds that corrupted some brothers. That and a “warehousing” dictated by tradition and national economic realities: class sizes were often fifty boys. Export that to the locales of the scandals, the “industrial schools” filled with sometimes difficult, though mostly lonely, abandoned boys. Add a few men who stayed there and got tougher and tougher, and gradually got satisfaction from inflicting pain, while the more normal brothers exited to ordinary schools as quickly as they could. This is pure speculative interpretation of the report on my part.

What to do?

I leave the legal consequences to the courts. And though since my days with the brothers, I have taken advanced degrees and practiced both clinical psychology and social policy, I would begin with some simple, spiritual advice. Confess, repent, and start all over again. Plus, ruthless self-examination and examination of the structures that allowed the corruption. The Church deals with corruption repeatedly, which it confronts with both firmness and kindness. St. Paul had to deal with corrupt members in the early Church. We’ve even had corrupt popes (sexually and in lots of other ways, too).

But don’t expect the Irish, especially those on a rant right now, to lead the reform of sexual attitudes and practices in Ireland. They love their license too much and will flay you, as only the Irish can, should you dare criticize them. They are silent on other forms of present serious sexual abuse of children, but refrain from calling them such: the abuse of sexually transmitted diseases, even deadly HIV; the abuse of children born out of wedlock, or much worse, aborted; the abuse of children abandoned by fathers for other women or women leaving husbands for other men. Are these serious sexual abuses? Of course they are, but not in modern Ireland.

Now how to deal with the children who were abused? Monetary compensation is certainly justified, but it can’t fix where the damage is worst, in the hearts and in the later adult sexual capacities of the abused. The likely consequences in their lives: Broken marriages, depressions, anger, abortions and out-of-wedlock births, all of which will tumble on into the future for at least a few generations to come. The only real answer is the kindness and patience they need to heal whatever damage manifests itself. There is no real recompense but the closest to it is love, care, patience, and understanding.

If God is willing and the Irish Christian Brothers are to survive, they have a stinging nettle to grasp. They will first have to establish a reputation for sanctity. Do they have the saints to lead them that way? I hope they do. Our Lord called them to follow Him and their own Calvary certainly has begun. They might start anew with a special dedication to the children and grandchildren of the abused.

But even with that they will suffer much for a long time. Those who hate the Church will see to that. It will take a special courage, humility, and grace to enter the order to serve the abused and their children. But with God nothing is impossible.

There are many to pray for in this debacle: the abused and their families, the innocent. brothers, those superiors who lacked sound judgment, and the abusers who have to face a Judge Who said “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” May the Lord forgive them – and all the rest of us, too.

Patrick Fagan, Ph.D. is a Washington policy analyst and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Social Services Policy at the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Comments (9)Add Comment
0
As one who was Abused
written by debby, May 27, 2009
personal experience. years & years at the hands of my own father.

sin is pervasive in this world. there is no escape. the enemy wants to kill your soul & birth hate in your eternal heart. only the Greatest Heart of Mercy Who pours out His Love for us can heal, deliver, liberate & breathe life into each & everyone of us.
am i surprised that any persons could be cruel to another? not at all.
am i sick that we hear of it yet again? are there thousands of wounded on this battle-field earth we
0
cont
written by debby, May 27, 2009
earth we will never hear about? Yes & YES.
my family of believers, we need to pray, pray, fast & pray, receive communion in union w/all of our fellow man who need forgiveness, mercy, grace to change our sinful hearts.
each one of us is capable of these sins of the "Christinan Brothers."
in fact, we commit worse.
we abuse God Who is Love all the time.
He longs to bathe us in His Mercy. We need only to ask Him & chose to
believe in His Love.
only say the Word, and my soul WILL BE HEALED.
0
...
written by WJ, May 27, 2009
This is a great post. It is amazing to think how much scandal may be caused by such a small minority of priests. If Fagan is right in his conjecture that the abuse in question was perpetrated by only three percent or less of the Brothers in question, then it becomes all the more imperative that superiors who knew of offending priests and did nothing be held accountable. Unfortunately, this scandal presents more evidence that the Churchs internal handling of these matters requires an overhaul.
0
Crisis of Faith!
written by William Dennis, May 27, 2009
It is hard to make a comment on this disgusting scandel, since all the facts are not known. From my own point of view as a Brother's boy in high school in the USA in the 60s, I have never experienced anything that resembled abuse or perversion in this all boys prep school. In fact, I do not think I could have received a better education. I also thought for a period of time that I might want to join the order.They were a great group to emulate. Moral decay and reletavism again has taken its toll.
0
...
written by William Dennis, May 27, 2009
Just a note of clarification is in order if I may. The Christian Brothers or the Brothers of The Christian Schools is not an order of priests even though the order was founded by a French priest, St. John the Baptist de LaSalle. The order is a teaching order originally for boys and young men. They have established many schools and colleges. This is mentioned not to dimiinish any culpability, but rather to clarify their role in the Church. There are, indeed, academic notables among them.
0
continued
written by William Dennis, May 27, 2009
The Christian Brothers of Ireland are similar to the Christian Brothers of LaSalle but a different order founded by Blessed Edmund Rice but also primarily involved in the teaching of young boys and men. They started their first school in Waterford, Ireland. This is the order involved in the abuse accusations.
0
My Autobiography
written by Jaker Ray, May 30, 2009
My verse dedicated to all the abuse victims--living or dead:

"My Autobiography"
In my eyes I see a child
Frightened-cold-and lilywhite
In reality, out of sight
'Crying his eyes out with all his might
Full of fear of the night

In my eyes I see a lad
Who's just turned from eleven to twelve?
And who in later years will hate himself
'Cos of all the abuse, he’ll keep a “secret"
Oh, how he'll hate-this "secret"

And now in later years he's getting old
The nightmares and the fear his mind still holds
And his story is a story told
On hundreds or more faces growing old (growing old)

In my eyes, I see a man
Whose life turned out… not as he planned?
He wishes he could be that child again
And live the life-he never had, again
Maybe it could be so good, so different?
In my eyes I see…………my autobiography


Written by Jaker, (nom-de-plume)
© Friday, 29 May 2009
0
Mr
written by Jaker Ray, June 01, 2009
Part 2. "My Autobiography"
The nightmares and the fear his mind still holds
And his story is a story told
On hundreds or more faces growing old (growing old)

In my eyes, I see a man
Whose life turned out… not as he planned?
He wishes he could be that child again
And live the life-he never had, again
Maybe it could be so good, so different?
In my eyes I see…………my autobiography


Written by Jaker, (nom-de-plume)
© Friday, 29 May 2009
0
...
written by Roy Stokes, January 16, 2012
I knew Pat, I know his brother. There are not many years between us. I know his brother and I would never agree that the beatings we received in school were 'often preferred'. They were not 'sometimes severe slaps, nor just 'biffs'. They were sadistic beatings delivered by teachers that new no better and remained unchecked, because that was they way it was. The fact that I am writing this now, is a reflection of the deep hurt that was done so long ago. Worse still, I ended up running away from the beatings never to return, thus depriving myself of an opportunity to grow the love of education, which I have only regained in my late life. Let's call a 'spade a spade'. The remainder of the article is relevant.

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