The Catholic Church’s grim history of ignoring priestly pedophilia – and silencing would-be whistleblowers
Recently, when looking for the remains of my mother, Nora Mccarthy, in the derelict ruins of the Good Shepherd Convent, Orphanage and Magdalene Laundry at Sunday's Well in Cork City, I was told of a mass grave at the far side of the ruins to which I couldn’t gain access.The two women who were with me, former inmates of Magdalene Laundries, informed me that behind the forbidding high grey stone walls, lies a no mans land with a disused mass grave pit, into which were thrown the bodies of hundreds of women and children. Razor-sharp barbed wire, to ward-off or deter anybody curious enough to climb, is used effectively along the wall that connects to the gable end of the Good Shepherd Convent, with the triangular portion of the wall between the edges of the intersecting roof and would normally b easier to climb from, without the sharp razor wire. The barbed wire has been placed because the Nuns and Cork City Council don’t want anybody to pry into their unauthorised secrets that lie only a few feet beneath the gravel burial site now covered in concrete slabs, enclosing the entire disposal site. This no man's land at the Good Shepherd Convent lies between the former Women’s Prison (known as the Cork City Gaol) and the Convent, Orphanage and Magdalene Laundry. Denoted as extra-parochial space, it is a ribbon of land hidden in unconsecrated ground between these buildings belonging to different regimes of power. It was beyond the rule of the Convent itself, beyond the rule of the City and Council, and beyond God’s rule.
The purpose of this unconsecrated ground was for the disposal of hundreds of dead slave women from the laundry, as well as children and unbaptised dead babies from the Orphanage - all of whom the nuns believed to be culpable of malevolence. The vindictive and malicious Good Shepherd Sisters believed that if you do not see someone or something frequently, you will forget about it – out of sight, out of mind. Hence the no man's land with its secrets hidden away from prying eyes.
As I walked among the ruins I felt a sinister atmosphere; a feeling of oppressive evil. It is now obvious that the malignity of the nuns’ nature was shocking. Malignity is a deep-seated and virulent disposition to injure and is more dangerous than malevolence because it is not only more successfully concealed, but it often instigates harmful acts. Shocking acts were committed by the nuns in their final act of outrage - the disposing and concealing of hundreds or thousands of bodies of their slave women and children on the convent grounds. It wasn’t only in the gravel pit at the Good Shepherd Convent that this outrage occurred however, but also in mass graves in the local cemeteries in and around Cork City and in disposal sites located on the vast grounds around Ireland owned by religious orders.
Of course the resident women and children knew how and where the dead were disposed of and of the final indignity of being dumped in mass pits. When death came for any of their slave women and children, all of whom were indoctrinated with the fundamental tenets of Catholicism, the nuns’ policy was to say, “Behold, I am going to let you know what will occur at the final period of your humiliation at our hands, for it pertains to the appointed time of your end. We are going to dispose of you into a chasm that will lead to the darkest abyss and subterranean fires of hell for all eternity. Nobody will find you.”
Any doubts about the existence of mass graves at all the Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries and Industrial Schools in Ireland are being laid to rest by the first survey of the site of a septic tank at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home in County Galway, into which approximately 800 bodies of babies were flushed. According to reliable sources, 1,800 more bodies of women and children will be found on the land surrounding this septic tank. The site is now a children’s playground.
When the Religious Orders in Ireland abandoned their Mother and Baby Home, Magdalene Laundries and Industrial Schools, they thought they had destroyed everything. They went on an orgy of destruction of paper evidence and even attempted to knock and burn down some of their abandoned buildings and level the earth around hidden disposal sites. Some Religious Orders planted trees and bushes on the sites to conceal their crimes. While they believed that they had removed all evidence of their heinous crimes, they hadn't. Forensic archaeologists are using tools that see below the ground and a vast number of bodies and bones will be found and studied.
When I was wandering around the derelict ruins of Good Shepherd Convent, Orphanage and Magdalene Laundry, in Cork City, it suddenly dawned on me that this monstrosity, built in 1870 and a hideous blot on the stunning landscape of Cork City, must have a septic tank. It is reasonable to assume that if 800 bodies are in a septic tank in Tuam’s Mother and Baby Home and the Magdalene Laundry, and at High Park Convent in Drumcondra, Co Dublin another few hundred bodies of abandoned women and children were found in secret disposal sites, then it must be reasonable to assume that the same scenario will occur at all 200 abandoned Mother and Baby Home, Magdalene Laundries and Industrial Schools in Ireland. In both the Tuam and Drumcondra cases, the nuns sold their lands claiming that there were no hidden bodies there. This has been proved to be a lie.
In the case of the Tuam, Mother and Baby Home in County Galway, forensic researchers have found a secret, subterranean passage running from the foundations of the Catholic Church and underneath the newly built children’s playground to the large Victorian septic tank at the far end a few hundred meters away. According to the forensic archaeologists, more bodies of hundreds of babies and children line the long, dank subterranean passage. Tens of thousands of bone fragments can still be seen strewn on the soggy earthen ground of the subterranean passageway. As the ground was dug into, human remains were discovered and, on the surface, local foraging dogs have uncovered numerous bones which have been identified as human. Despite all this overwhelming evidence, the Bon Secours Sisters have issued a written statement saying that there are no bodies and no mass graves.
High Park Convent in Drumcondra, Dublin, the second case alluded to above, was in fact one of the most notorious Magdalene Laundries in Ireland at the time. In 1993, when the site was sold to property developers for millions of Euros it emerged that 133 women were buried in a secret pit and then another 22 bodies were found underneath them. The good Nuns of this convent, the Sisters of Mercy, claim to know nothing about the sites. My full account can be read by clicking on the two links below.
I am now of the informed opinion that the grounds of all Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries, Industrial Schools and Orphanages in Ireland must be investigated with a range of geophysical surveying tools, including ground penetrating radar, resistance survey and electrical thermal imaging to determine where the secret burial sites are. Of equal or more importance is an examination of all Septic Tanks in these Religious-run Institutions. We clearly can’t take the word of any Religious person or Religious Order on this matter - the facts must speak for themselves.
A word of warning, however; no geophysical methods will reveal conclusively what is below the soil- they do not detect human remains for example. All the excavated matter from the ground and the septic tanks will have to be analysed in laboratories to determine its constituent parts. Considerable and credible evidence exists to suggest that there are tens of thousands of bodies of women and children in secret burial pits and septic tanks in all the Religious-run Institutions in Ireland. My work is just the beginning and further work is needed to understand the complexity of the hideous secrets hidden in all the Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries, Industrial Schools, and Orphanages of Ireland. Owen Felix O’Neill
The Cruelty Man
Every country has a long, rich tradition of invoking supernatural threats in order to keep children in line by frightening them into good behaviour. “Here comes the Bogeyman!” was, for centuries, a refrain ringing throughout rural Ireland, but this was not, as in other cultures, a common allusion to a mythical creature but instead referred not to some fantastical being but to a real man – also known as the Cruelty Man. Yes,there really were Irish Cruelty Men who freely roamed the country looking for children to take from their families and communities. Parents told their children in whispers that if they misbehaved, “The Cruelty Man will get you.”
The Cruelty Man was regarded as menacing figure in Irish society and held in fear by the local, suspicious communities. He had no set appearance in the mind of an adult or child, but was simply a non-specific and monstrous embodiment of terror. Conceptions about him varied drastically from household to household within the same community, although it was generally known that he wore a brown shirt and it was thought that over his shoulder he carried a big sack that would accommodate any size of child.
The Cruelty Man, a shadowy, elusive, diabolical entity who feasted on the fears of vulnerable children was a creature born of a strange amalgam of Christian confusion and Christian superstition. In Celtic Folklore there is a creature called a “Púca,” meaning “something frightening”. Although generally considered to be bringers of bad fortune, they could either help or hinder rural communities. The Púca could have dark or stark white fur or hair and were said to be shape-changers who could take on the appearance of horses, goats, cats, dogs or hares. They could also take a human form while retaining various animal features such as long ears or a tail.
Children who were kidnapped by the Cruelty Man would say that he was a dark, ugly, gaunt and evil-looking man and was bloodthirsty and vampire-like. Superstitious stories even reported that some were cannibals - hunting down, killing, and eating the kidnapped children. Like the cry of the Irish Banshee, hearing the Cruelty Man coming was considered an omen of enslavement and death.
In Ireland at the time, it was a prodigious undertaking to dodge the Cruelty Men who roamed freely and answered to no one, operating in dark places in order to frighten unsuspecting children. The Cruelty Man might have been the local and ‘benevolent’ priest, postman, teacher, butcher, or baker, but in most cases he was an active or retired policeman. But no matter what his regular job was, his role as the Cruelty Man, a shadowy, amorphous ghost who hid in plain sight in the community, was to snatch and imprison children found on the loose in the countryside or on the streets of any village, town or city and then deliver them to a Religious-run Institution. The monetary reward was usually half a crown per child.
This sum was paid to them by the local Industrial School or Magdalene Laundry where the hapless child was incarcerated, put to work and doomed to be a slave for the rest of their wretched childhood, and, in some cases, adulthood. Of course many died as child or adult without ever again knowing freedom. The Religious Orders were always looking for more children as these Institutions were not orphanages or even charities, but were fully developed businesses - making money for the Irish Catholic Church on the backs of slaves. The Cruelty Man might have been evil incarnate, but he also had an alliance with desperate Irish Religious-run Institutions The bounty payments he received from the Priests, Brothers and Nuns were reimbursed by the Irish Government who were in collusion with the Church to keep these hellholes well-stocked with an unending stream of fresh slaves for their workhouses, convents, parish houses, Industrial Schools, and Magdalene Laundries. For the choicest specimens there was also the very lucrative business of selling these emotionally damaged – and now officially orphaned - children, usually abroad.
The vengeful spirit of the Cruelty Man delivering destitute children to the Religious-run Institutions, broke many a child’s heart and even years later, drove many of the frightened children to commit suicide, after suffering the long period of painful child rape, brutality and neglect.
That’s why the Cruelty Men were scouring the country, preying on the poor and stealing their children. Everyone’s most-feared childhood villain was the local Irish Cruelty Man. The Cruelty Men were not a legend created by a fearful and suspicious people, but the name belonged to real people and it was used to intimidate, frighten and terrorise the local communities in which they operated.
We here in Ireland know him as the Cruelty Man, but really, it turns out that every culture has a name for this figure who goes bump in the night and is used to instil fear. The common people of Ireland, in thrall to their master, the Roman Catholic Church, learned well the lessons of its Clerics around the world -,fear is an excellent motivator. Owen Felix O'Neill