Britain’s reckoning with past systemic child abuse is long overdue

Britain’s Child Abuse Reckoning

Title: Britain’s reckoning with past systemic child abuse is long overdue
Author: Caelainn Hogan
Publisher: The Guardian
Date: 26SEP2020
Ireland has started trying to rectify the wrongs of its history. The UK is lagging behind.

When the pope said mass in Ireland in 2018, a vast field in Dublin’s Phoenix Park was turned into a grid of “pilgrims’ corrals” to control the expected massive crowds, which never materialised. Out of a dozen people in my section, two nuns talked to me about a priest back home who had abused a young woman.

Another pilgrim, down from Belfast for the occasion, said her aunt had been sent to a religious-run institution as a teenager because she was pregnant. Her son was taken away. On her deathbed, her aunt was still asking the priest for forgiveness.

The pope had come for the World Meeting of Families. During the gathering of Catholic hierarchy and faithful, news broke about nuns arrested in Scotland on charges of abuse at the Smyllum Park orphanage they ran, where hundreds died. The charges resulted from the Scottish child abuse inquiry. The same order, the Daughters of Charity, ran the largest mother-and-baby home in Ireland.

“The institutions were imported from Britain,” the nuns in the corral said. While the Vatican imposed its influence through religious orders, it’s true that Britain laid the foundations for what I call the shame industrial complex, through the workhouse system imposed from the 1700s that punished vulnerable people and separated children from parents.

For the past decade, investigations in Ireland have exposed the legacy of the state-funded, religious-run institutions, from industrial schools to Magdalene laundries. Canada and Australia have confronted a similar past of institutional abuse and forced adoption. Now, as abuse inquiries in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are set to issue final reports, a reckoning is overdue in Britain.

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