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How much have we really learned from the suffering of the children?

LIKE many Irish people of my generation who received often excellent and generally compassionate educations courtesy of the Catholic religious orders, I was perplexed, saddened and horrified by the recent disclosures of systematic abuse in religious-run institutions -- abuse which occurred with the fawning acquiescence of the State.

While there is a world of difference between the life experiences of the day pupil like me, who returned home from school every evening to the comforts of hearth and kin, and those of the family-less resident of a bleak orphanage or industrial school, it is hard for many of us to understand how the same organisation which gave so many of us successful launches in life could behave so badly to other less-fortunate children who were entrusted to their care.

While saddened and horrified, I must admit, however, that I was not shocked, nor even particularly surprised. While this was partly due to the constant drip-feed of revelations of abuse over the last decade, it also stemmed from two lessons of history.

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