Legacy of an authoritarian age when children were seen and not heard

FOLLOWING publication of the Ryan commission report, no doubt the accusing finger will be pointed at the Catholic Church for its failure to monitor the behaviour of the personnel of these orders and take appropriate disciplinary action.

Perhaps in those days there was less of a perceived need to vet the applicant’s aptitude and psychological suitability for such a sensitive roll.

A “vocation” to the priesthood or religious orders was so highly prized that all other failings in the character of an applicant were subordinated to the greater good of serving one’s creator in such an exalted way.

Sexual wrongdoing was consigned solely to the morality/religion category and was not seen for what it really was – a crime against the person.

Many of these institutions have their roots in 19th century Ireland where children were better seen than heard.

Authoritarianism reigned supreme and it was the values of those dim and distant days that were inherited by the fledgling state and its population at large. It provided the environment within which these abuses could secretly occur and go largely unnoticed or were simply ignored.

Publication of this report, which concentrates our minds solely on the horrors of these events, can lead us to believe this was the norm.

However, the organisation LOVE (Let Our Voices Emerge) gave a platform to other past residents of these institutions who sought to speak more favourably of their experiences in them.

It is my belief that this report on institutional abuse is but one facet of the wider issue of bullying. It has been estimated that bullying in the workplace accounts for approximately 100 suicides annually.

This report and others like it will serve a wider and most valuable purpose if it is seen in the context of this wider bullying syndrome and if it leads senior managements to confront this problem among their staff.

But my fear is that soon the shock value of the report will diminish and people will forget until perhaps some greater horror like a Columbine-style massacre occurs before the required level of commitment is made to deal with this horrible offence.

Patrick J Pyne



Co Cork

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