Priests behind child abuse 'were dregs of society'

A former student of Pope Benedict today branded clerics who ran abusive institutions as the “dregs of society”.

A former student of Pope Benedict today branded clerics who ran abusive institutions as the “dregs of society”.

Those to blame for the violence were monsters, Fr Vincent Twomey said.

Last Friday, Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin briefed the Pope in the Vatican on the devastating Ryan inquiry and the subsequent fall-out and criticisms of religious orders.

Later, John Kelly from the Survivors of Child Abuse (Soca) said the group welcomed the meeting with the Pope.

In the wake of the damning report by Judge Sean Ryan the organisation called on Pope Benedict to intervene directly and set up a Consistory Court in Rome to examine the historical misconduct of Catholic religious orders in Ireland and elsewhere.

Soca said its members would be happy to assist Vatican officials in any inquiry established by the Holy See.

Fr Twomey told BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme: “I think we were looking at the dregs of society in a certain sense.”

Industrial schools across Ireland were involved in endemic physical abuse and sexual predators were able to prey on the most vulnerable children, the Ryan report found.

The Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy were among religious orders criticised for conduct in their schools.

Father Twomey is a former doctoral student of Pope Benedict and meets him annually.

Acknowledging that priests, brothers and nuns in authority had known about “the reign of terror” in their institutions, he asked how it was possible for religious who were devoted to Christ and the care of children to turn out to be “monsters”.

He said having a priest, Christian brother or a nun in the family was a status symbol and would ensure they were cared for to the end of their days.

He also addressed the practice of celibacy. “Many of those had no real vocations and in that sense they were frustrated sexually,” he added.

“It was not in that sense a choice, it was almost a condition they accepted reluctantly.”

Fr Twomey highlighted the puritanism of the church in its attitudes to sexuality, and branded it parochial and narrow-minded.

A silent march of solidarity is to be held through central Dublin to Leinster House on Wednesday.

The demonstration will end outside the Dáil where representatives of the 18 disgraced religious orders have been invited to accept a petition from the survivors.

It calls for justice, accountability and restitution for “the unimaginable crimes committed against the children of our country by religious orders in 216 institutions”.

Survivors will also carry a single banner with words from the Proclamation: “Cherishing all of the children of the nation equally.”

Four wreaths, two white and two black, will also be laid outside the Dáil in memory of those who survived, suffered and died in the institutions.

The silent march has been organised by Survivors of Institutional Abuse Ireland, Christine Buckley of Aislinn, Survivors of Child Abuse in Ireland, Right of Place and Michael O’Brien, former Fianna Fáil mayor of Clonmel.

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