Sunday 13 October 2019

No moving on without reparation and punishment

Neither age nor infirmity saved the monsters of Nazi Germany from justice. Emer O'Kelly wants our child-abusers to face the courts too

Emer O'Kelly

IN Nazi Germany, the guards assigned to the concentration camps were almost all volunteers, or on punishment duty. The authorities recognised that no halfway decent human being would willingly starve other people to death, use them as slave labour, beat them, torture them, humiliate them, and rape them. This was done to the majority of them because they were Jewish, and therefore regarded as the "scum of the earth". It was also done to them if they were mentally handicapped, and therefore seen as less than human. The vast majority of them were also adult. It needed a perverted, sadistic and inherently cruel psyche to carry out such acts.

And when the Second World War ended, those guards were not excused as failing to understand what was required of them; they were put on trial as war criminals, and charged with crimes against humanity. They were judged to be the representatives of the vilest philosophy ever invented by an insane mind. Many of them were executed. Almost all the rest served long prison terms.

No Roman Catholic priest, nun, or bishop dared to utter a word of excuse or pity for them.

In Ireland at that time, and for another half a century, people were also thrust into grim, unforgiving institutions, to be held there indefinitely. They were fed starvation rations. They were used as slave labour to make the owners of the institutions rich. They were denied education in the pursuit of making them labour. They were beaten, often to the point of unconsciousness. They were raped. They were deliberately and viciously humiliated in every possible way. They were the scum of the earth, less than human. They were little children, there to rot, or survive by a miracle. They were also part of the Body of Christ because that was what their torturers were supposed to think. Their torturers wore the garb of the defenders of Christ, the Good Shepherd who suffered the little children to come unto Him.

On Wednesday evening, a man called Kevin Mullan was interviewed on the news. A report into the rapings, beatings, humiliations and enslavement that had been 10 years in the gathering had just been published. The man called Mullan said it made "appalling reading". He "apologised unreservedly" on behalf of the men he represented, and said the "apology must continue". He was, and is, the Head of the Christian Brothers in Ireland, the order which had been in charge of most of the torture institutions where 35,000 children lived their hellish lives. The order still controls and owns a huge swathe of the state education system in Ireland. Mullan said he and his people would continue to co-operate "with those seeking to explore" what had happened to the children. However, the exploration would not include the naming of the torturers, many of whom are still alive and living under his organisation's protection. That protection and anonymity has been guaranteed to the torturers by the State. Mullan justified it by saying "balance needed to be kept".

A man called Brady said he was "profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed of" what had happened to the children. Two years ago, his fellow clerics were trying to prevent access to the material which could offer the proof of the systematic torture. A woman called Laffoy had been charged by the State with finding out. The man called Brady is a Cardinal. The woman called Laffoy is a High Court judge with all the determination and authority that implies. She was forced to abandon her task because she was denied co-operation by the State, as represented by the Department of Education.

The morning after the publication of the torture report, a man called Batt O'Keeffe refused a request to be interviewed on the State's main current affairs radio programme. He sent no representative. He is the Minister for Education.

In England, where there was a seismic eruption of horror at what had been happening on their neighbouring island, another man said nobody must forget the good the torturers had done otherwise. He is the head of the Roman Catholic Church in that country.

Back in Ireland a woman called McCarthy, asked about apologising for what her "sisters" did to the little girls in their care, said that they had "apologised back in 1996, and in 2002". Her first name is Coirle, and she is a nun, the Head of the Sisters of Mercy.

A man called Ryan talked quietly and unemotionally about the contents of the report. He said many things, including the fact that the State authorities had been systematically and continuously "submissive and deferential" to the torturers. He is a High Court judge, and he headed the team who produced the torture report after the woman called Laffoy was thwarted.

And if somebody interviews people going into Catholic churches this early summer Sunday, there will be many who say "it was a long time ago" and "it's time to move on". After the fall of Nazi Germany all those years ago, the people who had fought its evil knew that there could be no moving on until there had been reparation and punishment. A woman called Buckley didn't say that. Her first name is Christine, and she was one of the first torture victims to speak out and fight back in adulthood. Speaking on Wednesday, she just called the words of the man called Mullan "glib". Neither she nor anybody else said these perpetrators were vile, and either innately evil or feeding and indulging their perverted natures. Their victims are too weary to say it, and it would seem that the rest of us are too uncaring to say it.

Neither age nor infirmity protects the perpetrators of evil in Nazi Germany, even now. Why are we protecting torturers? If they are mentally sick, let them be arraigned in open court and their psychiatric records shown for all to see. If they are what the world calls "normal", let them pay the price. Then we who were lucky enough not to be their victims can move on. Their victims can never move on.

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