Sunday 25 February 2018

Let the guilty among them rot in hell

It is time the Christian Brothers faced up to their wicked past, writes Ronan Fanning

AS I WATCHED Mary Raftery's Betrayal: the Christian Brothers and Child Sex Abuse across Three Continents on Prime Time last week I remembered episodes from my own days at the Christian Brothers' College in Monkstown in the 1950s. Although my middle-class background protected me from the physical abuse visited upon less fortunate classmates (most typically the sons of widows) and although I personally saw nothing comparable to the horrific abuse inflicted by the Brothers upon orphans, my days in Monkstown were stormy and I despised the many Brothers for whom thuggery and bullying were a way of life. I knew exactly what one Australian orphan meant when he spoke of the madness in the eyes of the Brother beating him I had it in the eyes of Brothers beating my classmates.

There were, of course, honourable exceptions, most notably a Brother Houlihane who taught me Mathematics and English for the Leaving Cert. He was a sensitive man, pale and thin with chronic illness; I'd sometimes notice his trying not to wince with pain and I still think of him whenever I read Yeats's poem The Fisherman. He died soon afterwards, and I went to his funeral. After they slid his coffin into a narrow hole in the Brothers' burial ground in Baldoyle, my former Brother Superior at Monkstown came across and shook my hand. There were only a handful of past pupils there and he was obviously surprised at my presence which, he rashly suggested, was proof of the high regard in which, despite all our past differences, I held my teachers in the old school. No, I replied, I'm here because I liked and respected Brother Houlihane; as for many of the rest of you, I hope you rot in hell. And with that I walked away.

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