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Chapter 1 — Institute of Charity

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Unlike other Orders, the Rosminians did not seek solace in the contents of the Inspection Reports of the Department of Education. These reports found the schools to be more or less satisfactory, but identified continuously a need for improvement. Fr O’Reilly stated that the approach to industrial schools ‘was just making do’. He added: Unfortunately, some things can’t be done on a just enough basis, you have just enough of this or you have just enough of that, some things need more than just enough. But I think that we had just enough of this, that and the other and we made do.


The stance adopted by the Rosminians on the very nature of the industrial schools system was unusual. They were also unusual, if not unique, in that they had begun looking back critically, as long ago as 1990, on the operation of these schools. On 11th May 1990, at the opening of a new development at Ferryhouse Industrial School, the then Provincial, Fr James Flynn, apologised for the abuse that children had suffered in the past in the Institution and then said: Like any human institution, old Ferryhouse had its bad points as well as its good points, its weaknesses as well as its strengths. It damaged some boys and those have looked back in bitterness and anger to their time here. For many of them, this was the only home that they ever knew and sadly they did not find it a good one. Let me say that a lot of that anger is justified ... The greatest guilt has to be borne by those of us who utilised or condoned or ignored the extreme severity, even brutality which characterised at times the regime at old Ferryhouse. An occasion like this is an opportunity for me on behalf of the Rosminians to publicly acknowledge this fact and to ask forgiveness of those who were ill-treated or hurt. We have sinned against justice and against the dignity of the person in the past and we always need to be on our guard that we do not do the same today in more subtle or equally hideous ways.


Fr O’Reilly at the public hearing referred to this apology: When we opened the new Ferryhouse we started off by drawing attention to the fact that many of the children who went through the school over the previous hundred years or so suffered, suffered greatly, suffered from fear and suffered ... he spoke about brutality. He spoke about people who condoned or ignored extreme severity, even brutality that characterised the old regime.


The Rosminians sought to understand abuse, in contrast to other Orders who sought to explain it. They accepted that abuse had occurred in their institutions, and that the institutions in themselves were abusive.


The biggest contrast between the Rosminians’ position and other Orders was in its acceptance of responsibility for what happened in their industrial schools. Even when factors such as inadequate resources were involved, they took responsibility for tolerating them and doing nothing about it. Sources of information: the Rome archive


The Investigation Committee had at its disposal discovery documentation furnished by the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Justice, Garda Discovery, Bishop’s Discovery and the Rosminians.


The Rosminian Order originally believed that the only documentary material it was able to produce on the use of physical punishment consisted of two punishment books for Upton, one dating from the nineteenth century and the other dealing with part of the relevant period, from 1952 to 1963. The latter is incomplete and deficient in some other respects, but is nevertheless a valuable source of information about punishment in Upton.


There also appeared to be a dearth of written information on sexual abuse in their schools before 1979, when the issue first came to the notice of the management of the Institute at that time. This belief, that no documentation existed, was reflected in a General Statement submitted by Fr Matthew Gaffney to the Investigation Committee on 3rd May 2002.


The position changed with the discovery of an archive of correspondence in Rome, containing letters between the Irish Province and the Superior General about members of the Irish Province. The documents concerned Brothers who had been suspected of, or who had admitted to, or who were found to have engaged in, the sexual abuse of children. The Institute discovered this material to the Investigation Committee in May 2004.


The Rome archive consisted of 68 letters written between 20th October 1936 and 11th January 1980. They reveal how the Rosminians dealt with cases of sexual abuse and also reveal the career details of those who had committed such abuse in Upton and Ferryhouse, and these are dealt with in the appropriate sections of this chapter.


Sexual abuse was a recurring problem for the managers of Upton and Ferryhouse and for their Provincial. On the basis of these records and the other confirmed cases, it is apparent that there was a sexual abuser present in each of the institutions for much of the period being inquired into, and there were multiple abusers present for significant periods of time.


These documents showed how the Rosminians handled cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by staff, and they are also relevant in attempting to establish how much more sexual abuse took place in Upton and Ferryhouse than has been alleged by complainants.


The Rome archive also revealed how other members of the Irish Province were dealt with when it was discovered that they had perpetrated child sexual abuse. The Provincial, who for most of the period of our inquiry resided at Upton, was the head of the Irish-American Province, with the two countries operating as a unit. The English Province was separate, and reported separately to Headquarters in Rome. The correspondence discloses that two members of the Institute who served in the USA were found to have abused children in that branch of the Irish-American Province. Neither of the offenders served in Upton or Ferryhouse, but their histories are relevant in considering the attitude of the Institute and of the Irish Province to the matter of sexual abuse and its management.


The Provincialate of the Irish Province of Rosminians was located at Upton, and the Provincial had his residence there in St Patrick’s. Each of the schools, Ferryhouse and Upton, was under the control of a Resident Manager, who was appointed by the Provincial.


The Religious Community in Ferryhouse comprised between 10 and 12 members, made up of both priests and Brothers, each with a separate area of responsibility. The Rector of the Community also held the post of Resident Manager and was responsible for the day-to-day management of the School.

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  4. Law Commission of Canada: + Institutional Child Abuse – Restoring Dignity Pt II Responses ‘Guiding Principles’at p 7.
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