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.

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