Radical Papers Reported Church Abuses

A regular refrain from apologists for the activities of the Catholic Church in Ireland is that people were largely unaware of its gross abuse of marginalised members of the working class or at least unsure of the illegality of its behaviour.

However, a review of the radical press in Ireland throughout the 20th century makes it clear that progressive journalists did highlight the criminal activity of the Catholic Church and associated organisations which ran State-sponsored oppressive institutions.

The front-page of the The Irish People Christmas Special of 1973 ran an extensive article headlined the “In schools, hospitals, laundries, workers are…Exploited For Christ”.

The investigative article by Denis Foley began, “Widespread exploitation of labour takes place in the hundreds of religious institutions controlled by the Catholic Church throughout Ireland.

“While the Church authorities appear unwilling even to discuss the issue of clerical employment policy in detail the Government has no intention of intervening.

“These startling facts emerge from a special investigation conducted by the Irish People into the background of a court case involving a 17-year old widow’s daughter and the principals of the Dominican College, Newbridge, Co. Kildare.

“To the unknown number in clerical employment in schools, hospitals, laundries and other institutions being exploited for Christ we dedicate this special Christmas Report.”

Further in the past it was left up to radical papers such as the Irish Worker’s Voice to report on the deaths of children in the Catholic Order run institutions. The 4th May 1935 edition of that paper reported on the killing of a 15-year-old school boy, John Byrne, by Cornelius Lynch, ‘a school master’ in Artane Industrial School in Dublin.

“The report states that a violent incident followed the young boy accidently hitting Lynch with a ball. The boy’s father tells the Irish Worker’s Voice that when he saw his son’s body “his ribs and whole side were black and blue and his jaw discoloured.”

The father also informed the paper that the hospital authorities at the Catholic Order run Mater Hospital did not allow an undertaker to prepare his son’s body for burial but did it themselves.

The report ends, “Every worker will agree with the sorrow stricken parent. Unless this tragedy is properly investigated workers will have no option but to believe that conditions in Artane are being deliberately covered up by responsible people. This is not the first death there in suspicious circumstances; there have been others in recent years. In the name of the whole working class we demand:

Put Lynch into the dock and hold a public inquiry into the conduct of Artane!

Proper working class representation on the inquiry!

No whitewashing, but a free and full inquiry to reveal all the facts!”

These demands concerning Catholic Religious Orders treatment of working class children from more than 80 years ago are yet to be met.

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