Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 1 — Institute of Charity

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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.


All of the Resident Managers appointed were ordained members of the Institute of Charity. Fr O’Reilly told the Investigation Committee that the post was not one ‘regarded as a reward for long service’. He stated most of the priests who were appointed managers ‘would have worked at some stage on the ground as a Prefect in either St. Patrick’s Upton, or St. Joseph’s’.


Fr O’Reilly spoke about the calibre of the Resident Managers in Ferryhouse: ... certainly most of the Managers that I know about and have come to know about would seem to have been people who were quite suited to it and who were keen for the position and keen to do something with the work that was there and they were people, I would say, who had a degree of vision at the time, for the most part.

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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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