22Jul Attacks on Magdalene religious orders ‘outrageous’

On behalf of the ACP I wish to express my support for the Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, The Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters. They do not deserve to be demonised or scapegoated for the past sins of the whole of society, and deserve better than the populist and cheap calls of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister of Justice, Alan Shatter when they critisised these Orders for their decision not to contribute to the compensation fund. Indeed, their comments contradict and go against, the findings of their own review findings chaired by Senator Martin McAleese.

Some of the recent comments and opinions of support group spokespeople and journalists have been utterly outrageous and ill informed, if not defamatory.

19 Responses

  1. Mark Spence

    The Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, The Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters deserve to be demonised for their past sins and their latest one: refusing to contribute to the compensation fund.

    You are following the Vatican policy of resisting, rather than offering, financial compensation. Offering only apologies and no financial compensation may have been enough 500 years ago when most people were ignorant; it is not appropriate in the 21st century.

  2. Pauline

    Enda Kenny is morally bankrupt. It would be best for everyone if he were to take himself off to a quiet, lonely place, to do penance and fast on water and stale bread for the rest of his days here on earth.

  3. Rory Connor

    Fr Egan is definitely correct when he talks about nuns (and indeed other Catholic religious) being “demonised”. The following is from an article in the UK Guardian about Peter Mullan who directed the film The Magdalene Sisters:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2003/feb/07/artsfeatures
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    …. But Mullan wonders if the lessons have been learned. And there are some awkward questions that still have not been asked in Ireland. Mullan has been told many spine-chilling stories since he made the film, but one – about the spectacular cruelty of the industrial schools – haunts him. These schools, which are often like Victorian borstals, still exist.
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    “A group of boys were driven into countryside outside Dublin in a school bus,” he recalls. “They stopped alongside another bus wherein stood several young dental students who proceeded to remove all their teeth without any anaesthetic. I’m sorry, but that is Dr Mengele stuff. Where are those young dentists now? Why didn’t they say something 20 or 30 years ago about this? Why keep silent all this time? How did they rationalise that to themselves?”

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    The article is called “In God’s Name” and the UK Guardian finds this Dr Mengele stuff very acceptable. They might have done better to refer to Julius Streicher, the Nazi pornographer who wrote about Jews in similar vein.
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    [NOTE: The introduction to the article reads: “Peter Mullan’s dramatisation of the horrific Magdalene laundries scandal outraged the Vatican. But women who were abused by the system say it does not go far enough.”]

  4. Tim

    Very easy to point the finger today at anyone from historical events

  5. Joe O'Leary

    Is it true that anyone who has been in a Magdalene institution for three months is now entitled to a minimum €11,000 compensation? If so, this is obviously a racket. People have been swayed by absurd propaganda like the Peter Mullan movie portraying the sisters as B-movie female jailors. Witch-hunt irrationality prevails to such an extent that no justice can be established at all. And it is bound to discourage people from taking anyone into their care or taking responsibility for anyone.

  6. Monica Morley

    As a past pupil of the Mercy Sisters I would like to concur with the sentiments expressed by Adrian Egan. The impression is being given that the failures of a few defines the huge contribution of the Mercy Sisters to Irish life across a number of areas: education, health and social services.
    This is inaccurate and unfair and has produced much ill-informed, biased and unbalanced comment.
    It may not be popular to say but many of us are happy to put on record, as I am, the debt we owe to the Mercy Sisters not just for the education we received but for the template of community service and social responsibility that they placed before us.

  7. Con Carroll

    Has Fr. Egan read the report by ex senator Mc Aleese. Fr. Egan talks about the deomonising of the religious congregations who ran the institutions. Has he read the Murphy Ryan report? The only people who demonised the aboved named religious congregations are the members of religious who colluded in silence into the abuse of women who were denied the right to education and employment. Were is the wealth of these congregations? Off-shore bank account, Cayman Islands, secret accounts in Zurich Switzerland? There has to be accountability and justice. What would Fr. Egan say if his mother, sister, aunt was taken from the family, denounced from the pulpit of the country-side parish as being a wayward girl, to be incarcerated in the hell holes of those institutions?

  8. Brendan Butler

    I am most surprised by the comments of Adrian Egan in relation to the Magdalen laundries. As in the clerical abuse crisis the survivors were and are our priority. Now with the Magdalen laundries again our primary concern must be with the women who have suffered and survived . As with the clerical abuse crisis we were scandalised at the cover-ups and the self protective clerical shield created by Bishops and other senior Churchmen to protect their interests. Now, I believe, it is not a time to close ranks against the so-called attacks against the sisters who managed these institutions. What we as Catholics should have learned by now is the absolute need for openness and transparency when we have to confront challenging situations such as our treatment of the survivors of the Magdalen laundries. Our Church has suffered a great loss of credibility due to its treatment of the survivors of clerical abuse and it is now undergoing a further loss of credibility due to the inadequate response of the congregations involved. Our sisters are the backbone of our Church and it hurts me to see their reputation and credibility being slowly and inexorably dragged down. The example of the courageous example of the American sisters in their attempt to live up to the charisms of their founders has been and continues to be an example of faithfulness to the Gospel. Equally here in Ireland our sisters have earned the great respect of Catholics . However from anecdotal evidence I now hear and overhear how the lack of accountability and transparency exhibited so far by the congregations involved has had a rippling effect in further eroding our much reduced credibility.
    I believe That while Gabriel may be feeling outraged it is not a time to close ranks and assert that the sisters are being scapegoated and look for villains in the piece ; it is not too late for the Congregations to get together and redress the situation without fear and allow our Church to be the light of the nations rather than a flickering light in the night

  9. Mary Cunningham

    Food for reflection: see link below

    http://www.mcgarrsolicitors.ie/2013/02/06/how-to-read-the-mcaleese-report-into-the-magdalen-laundries/

  10. Con Carroll

    Read Irish Times page 5. Wednesday 24 July. Financial total amount of cost of institutional redress board 1.47 billion. Irish government to seek another 250 000,000.

  11. cathy swift

    Having read the link suggested above, I find myself in a state of some confusion when considering Brendan Butler’s statement that “it is not a time to close ranks and assert that the sisters are being scapegoated”. Like him, I am detecting ripples of erosion in public perception and appreciation of Sisters but my experience is that these are being largely created by public commentary which highlights the role of the Sisters at the expense of all the other categories of society involved as so graphically summarized in the link. To me it sounds like the State feels an emotional performance in the Dáil and an afternoon spent in London by ministers is enough to exculpate all concerned except for the Sisters who spent their lives working in the laundries and with a whole procession of women whom society (not they) decided to incarcerate. And I find it quite extraordinary that people talk about the profits of the laundries without noticing the involvement of many of the same orders in teaching the youth of Ireland at both primary and secondary level in the same era – and usually for no pay. Where do they think any putative profits went? (And as a historian, I would also ask – and who were the people whose children went to secondary school in that era? Not the ones whose children went to the laundries in most cases I should think.)

  12. ger gleeson

    I agree with Fr Adrian when he states that the sisters who ran and managed the Magdalene laundries should not be demonised and scapegoated for their actions. They were really a small cog in a very large wheel. It was the Institutional Church and successive Governments who were responsible, and they are equally to blame.
    The years between the 30s and the 70s was a defining period in our history, particularly where the Magdalene laundries were concerned. During that period the educated/professional people could be found in religion, politics and the professions, such as the Garda, Judiciary, Doctors and Solicitors. Of course we must not forget the infamous Cruelty man. The vast majority of the people were poor, coming from poor backgrounds and bad housing. History then repeated itself, the strong crushed the weak.
    The overall plan of Government and Church was praiseworthy. Through education they would equip the poor for life. This they succeeded in doing through dedicated Priests, Sisters and Brothers. However those who “fell between the cracks” were sent to the Industrial schools for boys, and Magdalene laundries for girls, and the rest as the saying goes is history.
    Personally, I do not want the survivors of the Magdalene laundries to receive enough money to live in comfort for the rest of their days. I want them to receive enough money to live in luxury for the rest of their days. Let us acknowledge that their lives have been hell up to now. Let them enjoy their autumn years at the expense of both Church and Government. Please Institutional church or Sisters sell the family jewels and pay up. Remember the words of John 8.32, “The truth will set us free”.

  13. Brendan Cafferty

    Do people agree with the secret shabby deal with the Religious Orders done by outgoing Minister Michael Woods on his last day in office in 2002 before he left as Minister? No civil servants present, and AG not aware of it. I know that shabby deal has been revisited and increased since then, whats being sought is a 50/50 compromise. It is taxpayers in the main who will foot the bill. I agree that many members of religious orders put much into those institutions,and adequate allowance must be had for care in their declining years. But it seems to me they have many buildings which be offered to the state even though property is not as valuable as it once was.
    When the state has to pay for everything, it has to find the money somewhere-either through taxation or borrowing. State is not a bottomless well either. Are people willing to pay more tax so that the Orders can pay less ?

  14. cathy swift

    Without trying to defend shabbiness or secrecy, there are other elements in that deal which are worrying as a prototype. In the era that was in it and given the mindsets of the people running it, there seemed to be very little control exercised over the ultimate costs of the entire scheme. I know people working professionally in England in that era who would routinely ask sufferers where were they brought up? because the solutions which could be offered for Irish people were not available for people who went to industrial schools in Britain (and their equivalents) at the same time. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the costs mushroomed out of all initial estimates in that type of scenario and it seemed, from an outsider’s perspective to pan out, in the end, in a manner very similar to that involving the deafness cases in the army which was also apparently organised in a similarly flathúlach manner. It is of course a different context now and it is clear there is now a more cautious approach being adopted which takes account of the financial dangers of such open-ended redress schemes. It does seem, listening to public commentary,as if some of the dialogue is being driven by people who, not unnaturally, feel hard done by (both themselves and on behalf of others) that the unrestrained generosity of a previous time is not being offered to the people who worked in the laundries. I’d feel exactly the same in their shoes.

  15. Rory Connor

    I pointed out in comment 3 above that much of the hysteria directed at the nuns is based on Peter Mullan’s film “The Madalene Sisters”. Some of the criticism is also based on historical research but the neutrality of that research is open to question.
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    The following is from an article in the Evening Herald on 1st April 1998. It concerns Dr Frances Finnegan who was the historical consultant for the Channel 4 documentary “Sex in a Cold Climate” about the the Magdalene laundries. The article is entitled “Nuns ‘unsuited for streets’ Claim Rejected“.
    http://www.irishsalem.com/irish-controversies/the-magdalene-laundries/index.php
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    Furious Dublin prostitutes today rejected a suggestion that because nuns are celibate, they have no place working with women on the streets. Their anger was sparked off after comments from author and social history lecturer Dr Frances Finnegan. Dr Finnegan said it was “disturbing and distasteful” that celibate women were still allowed concern themselves in areas like prostitution and women’s refuges.
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    Allegations
    Dr Finnegan, the historical consultant for the TV documentary on Magdalen laundries, was speaking in the context of a need for a sworn enquiry into abuse allegations.
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    But Tina, who works in prostitution in Dublin retorted: “The only ones who care about us at the moment are the nuns. They are with us on the street at 4am or 5am. If there is a woman raped they go to the hospital with her. What help do we get from any other women’s organisations?”
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    Tina said she had been contacted by friends about Dr. Finnegan’s comments. “Good Shepherd sisters and Sisters of Charity in Dublin are providing the only help women on the streets are getting”, she said. “We can talk openly about our work to them. They have also opened up educational courses for women, “she said. “I was a victim of the nuns when I was a child and I have the scars. But I do not blame the nuns of today”.

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    I would like to repeat “Tina’s” question. What help do these women get from the people who demonise nuns?

  16. Bob Hayes

    Of course the ‘demonisation’ of the nuns will continue. After all, if it ceases, some might begin to ask awkward questions about what the State, politicians, teachers, doctors, dentists, civil servants, gardaí and other professionals were doing when they should have been ‘cherishing all the children of the nation’. Is it perhaps time to consider the extent of a collective guilt for ‘what I have done and what I have failed to do’?

  17. Nuala O'Driscoll

    I loved my Presentation nuns, in Georges’ Hill, an inner city school for inner city girls. I loved Mother Columba, a tall willowy nun who wore her habit like it was fashioned for her. She had an understanding and mischievous smile, she taught us the facts of life, all about personal hygiene, how to sing High Mass in Latin, and she read and explained the Humanae Vitae encyclical to us at the end of which she said, ‘at the end of the day girls you must inform your own conscience and live a good life’. Sr Regina taught us shorthand and typing which enabled me to get a decent job. There are bullet holes in some of the windows inside the convent, souvenirs from 1922. Georges’ Hill is not a school anymore, it is a refuge for homeless women.

  18. Mark Spence

    Nuns do not deserve respect when they try hard to avoid responsibility for their part in the Magdalene issues. The nuns should reject the Vatican policy of resisting, rather than offering, financial compensations to victims.

  19. Joe O'Leary

    “As in the clerical abuse crisis the survivors were and are our priority. Now with the Magdalen laundries again our primary concern must be with the women who have suffered and survived .”

    Two wrongs do not make a right.