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Sexual Abuse of Children was 'Endemic' and Covered Up by the Clergy in Ireland

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From Bloomberg:

May 20 (Bloomberg) — Sexual abuse of children in Irish state and church-run institutions for boys was “endemic” and covered up by the clergy, according to a commission’s report.

“The recidivist nature of sexual abuse was known to religious authorities,” the government-appointed Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse said in its report, published in Dublin today. “The risk was seen by the congregations in terms of potential for scandal and bad publicity should the abuse be disclosed. The danger to children was not taken into account.”

The five-volume, 2,500-page Commission Report was published amid angry scenes as victims demonstrated outside a press conference demanding copies. The document is the result of almost 10 years of investigation into beatings and rapes at orphanages, schools and hospitals from the 1930s until the 1990s. The inquiry heard confidential testimony from more than 1,000 people who had been in 216 institutions.

“The schools investigated revealed a substantial level of sexual abuse of boys in care that extended over a range from improper touching and fondling to rape with violence,” according to the report. Corporal punishment in girls’ schools was “pervasive, severe, arbitrary and unpredictable.”

More than 90 percent of witnesses who gave evidence to the commission’s confidential committee reported being physically abused. Around half of the witnesses reported sexual abuse.

‘Abuse and Neglect’

“These children lived under a regime of physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect,” Meave Lewis, executive director of One in Four, a victims’ lobby group, told reporters. “Even put in the context of the harsh child-rearing practices of the time, it is really shocking.”

The Catholic Church has been grappling in recent years with allegations of sexual abuse by clergy in countries including Ireland and the U.S. Priests have been jailed and defrocked while the church has faced criticism for covering up the allegations by moving pedophile priests from parish to parish.

“We are deeply sorry for the hurt caused,” the Christian Brothers in Ireland said in an e-mailed statement today. “We are ashamed and saddened that many who complained of abuse were not listened to. We acknowledge and regret that our responses to physical and sexual abuse failed to consider the long term psychological effects on children.”

Pope Benedict XVI said he was “outraged” by the sex abuse scandal on a trip to the U.S. last year. “No words of mine can describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse,” he said.

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