Via Pharyngula, here are two reactions to the reports of systemic abuse within the Catholic reform schools in Ireland:

Dublin Archbishop Diarmud Martin:

The church has failed people. The church has failed children. There is no denying that. This can only be regretted and it must be regretted. Yet “sorry” can be an easy word to say. When it has to be said so often, then “sorry” is no longer enough.

And on the other side of the spectrum, we have the American president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, who decided that it really wasn’t all that bad, and it was a long time ago anyway:

The Irish report suffers from conflating minor instances of abuse with serious ones, thus demeaning the latter. When most people hear of the term abuse, they do not think about being slapped, being chilly, being ignored or, for that matter, having someone stare at you in the shower. They think about rape.

By cheapening rape, the report demeans the big victims. But, of course, there is a huge market for such distortions, especially when the accused is the Catholic Church.

Bill, being as he is blinkered by his affiliation with the church, is unable to see the implications of this latest Catholic scandal. Instead, his organization has been spending its time decrying Obama’s visit to Notre Dame.

Oh — and it’s interesting to note that Donohue is very concerned about possible rapes of children. Just not when the rapists are Catholic clergymen.


Nine years ago, while studying abroad in Austria, my girlfriend at the time and I visited Ireland on a 10-day break. At that point in my life, I was a rather serious Catholic, and I figured Ireland would be a study in devotion — in addition to yet another locale on the European landmass devoted to beer.

While I wasn’t disappointed on the second count, I was surprised — after a many-hours-long hitchhiking trip along the south coast of the island to the city of Cork — to sit down in a large church Sunday evening and hear the mass said at breakneck speed. It was over in less than half an hour. I found it stunning that people in Ireland (clergy included, apparently) were so eager to get out of church as quickly as possible.

Little wonder, after today’s headline: Catholic Church shamed by Irish abuse report.

DUBLIN – After a nine-year investigation, a commission published a damning report Wednesday on decades of rapes, humiliation and beatings at CatholicChurch-run reform schools for Ireland’s castaway children.

The report details the institutionalized humiliation of thousands of Irish children sent to “reform schools” run by the “Christian Brothers” and other clerical orders. This was no case of Abu Ghraib-type “bad apples” (although we’re getting more of a picture of the institutionalization of that abuse, too, which puts the lie to the “bad apples” argument to begin with); this was a system-wide program of humiliation and torture — mental, physical, and, of course, sexual.