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Published: 14 April 2015
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas with research assistance from Kate Stowell

Child abuse by Catholic nuns examined at Australian and Northern Ireland inquiries

Children abused while living in the care of two well-known Catholic orders are having their stories recorded by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry this month.

The Royal Commission is holding public hearings in Rockhampton this week to hear accounts of abuse inflicted on children by the Sisters of Mercy at the St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol. 

One survivor, Mary Adams, told ABC Radio that in addition to the sexual abuse of children by some priests at the Orphanage, the nuns regularly held public floggings.

“They would take the clothes off the children, mainly the boys that ran away and that, and we were all called into the school and they would be publicly belted in front of us, whipped with a horse whip by men that worked in the yards,” she said. 

In a statement released this week, the Sisters of Mercy of Australia expressed their remorse over the abuse of children in their care. 

“We renew our heartfelt apology to people who have suffered child sexual abuse by Church personnel and again we extend this apology to their families and all others who have shared in their suffering”.

“During the coming weeks we offer our prayers and support for all who have bravely stepped forward to share their story.” 

“[We] remain committed to working for reconciliation with people whose lives have been impacted by child sexual abuse.”

Sisters of Nazareth abuse heard at Northern Ireland inquiry

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, public hearings of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry have focused on child abuse in homes run by the Sisters of Nazareth. 

Transcripts of the hearings, detailing abuse at Nazareth House and Nazareth Lodge in Belfast have been released on the Inquiry’s website.

After similar hearings investigating the Sisters of Nazareth homes in nearby in Derry-Londonderry last year, the congregation’s Sister Brenda McCall, told the Inquiry that some of the evidence of former residents had been “very shocking and harrowing for us”.

In 2014, the former Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly, defended the Sisters, saying their work was unappreciated during the wartime in Northern Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s.

“The sisters were out in the rain, wind, snow, begging for money. I was as guilty as everyone else of taking them for granted,” he said.

“Then in ‘68 things escalated. There was conflict on the streets every day. It was extraordinarily difficult – deaths, shooting, bombings, murders.” 

In a report in the Belfast Telegraph, Dr Daly said he only received one complaint about the Sisters of Nazareth, from a woman living in Australia who had been caught up in a child migration scheme and was separated from her brother.

The Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry has a remit to investigate child abuse which occurred in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period up to 1995. 

Ryan Carlisle Thomas lawyers has secured compensation for abuse survivors who lived in children’s homes run by the Sisters of Nazareth and Sisters of Mercy in Australia. 

Related Links 

Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse 

The Sisters of Nazareth of Australia and Papua New Guinea

Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry

 

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