It just never stops, does it? The lies, the sexual abuse, the physical abuse, the intimidation, the shallow and halfhearted apologies. Just when we think we’re out, we’re being pulled back in.
back to a world where those in power viewed children as sex toys to be used and discarded at the whim of the predator.
At a time when many of us thought we had escaped ‘old Ireland’ and entered more enlightened times, a scathing and absolutely heartbreaking documentary on RTÉ Radio 1 this week reminded us that ghosts of the past still haunt many Irish people people to this day.
In this case, the documentary focused on the rampant sexual abuse that took place at Blackrock College. He who has not been seized with angry anger and revenge has no soul.
Two brothers spoke bravely about the plunder they had suffered at the hands of the same priest, and it came straight out of the robber’s playbook.
They were both so ashamed that neither of them even knew that they had both fallen victim to the same pervert who had committed the worst sin in the world – defiling a child.
The Spiritan community, better known to most of us as the Order of the Holy Spirit, has admitted that 233 men have made allegations of abuse against 77 priests of this order, which has paid out millions of euros in recent years.
Not surprisingly, they also admit they anticipate more claims. At this point it looks like many famous rugby schools will have to start selling some of their pristine pitches to fund the compensation claims they are facing.
And not only from former students, but from victims from overseas who were subjected to unspeakable torture by the members of this so-called missionary order.
I wish I could say I was surprised. I wish that with all my heart. But the truth is, I’m just surprised it’s taken this long for these heinous crimes to become public knowledge.
That Irish Independent revealed that nine of the schools controlled by the former Holy Ghost Order are now the focus of investigations.
Eight of these are in the greener parts of Dublin – Blackrock College, neighboring Willow Park First Year School and Junior School, St Mary’s Senior College and St Mary’s College Junior School in Rathmines, St Michael’s Senior College and St Michael’s College Junior School on Ailesbury Road and Templeogue College.
And why my lack of surprise at these disgusting revelations? Well, I’m a former student of Templeogue College, and while I’ve never been abused myself, I’ve known a few kids who have been.
They never recovered from their ordeal. Alcohol and drugs seemed to be her only coping mechanisms, while suicide was not uncommon.
This is not a groundless dig at the decent men who served in the Order of the Holy Ghost – and there were, I suppose, many decent men. The only time I’ve been exposed to what used to be euphemistically referred to as “inappropriate touching” was actually from a coach at another elementary school.
But some of the priests we students dealt with at Templeogue should never have been allowed within a mile of children. Some of them were crazy. Some of them were bad. A few of them were pretty decent guys, but it was often these who ended up facing abuse allegations.
I thought I’d put my memories of Templeogue behind me, but they keep reappearing, and oddly enough, the older I get, the stronger the memories become.
As a scholarship student, I remember with genuine hatred a certain priest who began the first grade of each semester by loudly announcing in front of the class that my parents had not paid that year’s tuition.
Every year I burned with resentment at this public, almost ritual, humiliation, having to remind him I had a scholarship while he and some of the posh boys giggled at my discomfort.
When I started third year and had to go through the same public shaming, I decided I’d had enough and ran down the corridor, ready to take matters into my own hands.
Thankfully, a brilliant amateur teacher saw the look on my face and stopped me by putting both hands on my shoulders and saying, “I know what you want to do and I don’t blame you, but we have a game on Wednesday.”
If, like me, you have been fortunate enough not to have suffered sexual or physical abuse, it is certain that you know someone who has not been as fortunate.
A friend of mine went to nearby Terenure College and was subjected to abominable treatment by recently convicted pedophile rugby coach John McClean. While that’s his story to tell and not mine, it’s safe to say that my friend never really recovered from the experience.
Victims of abuse rarely recover, as we know all too well in this country, where a culture of silence and fear of authority or simply deference to those in power allowed such disgusting behavior to go unchallenged.
But there is something else that has always burned in me. Some teachers have warned us never to be alone with a particular priest. They knew what was going on but found it easier to look the other way.
That’s the crux of the matter – the vast majority of teachers, whether lay or priests, were decent people, but they contributed to the culture of silence that allowed so many children to be abused. In many ways I have more disdain for them than for the actual predators, which is undoubtedly unfair but inevitable.
These latest revelations are heartbreaking and angry in equal measure, but thanks to the bravery of those who came forward to tell their story, we’ve hopefully moved beyond the days when abuse was almost considered an occupational hazard in attending school.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/latest-abuse-revelations-remind-us-ghosts-of-the-past-are-still-haunting-our-present-42129607.html Recent abuse revelations remind us that ghosts of the past still haunt our present