Irish Nuns Apologize for Abusing Children

By Shawn Pogatchnik
Associated Press, carried in Toledo Blade [Ireland]
Downloaded May 6, 2004

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) -- An order of Catholic nuns apologized Wednesday for the physical abuse of children in its care in Ireland. The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, which has run homes for orphans and other disadvantaged youths since the 1830s, unveiled a statement that sought to quell criticism of its earlier efforts to say sorry.

"We have in the past publicly apologized to you," the order said in a letter addressed to its victims. "We know that you heard our apology then as conditional and less than complete. Now, without reservation, we apologize unconditionally to each one of you for the suffering we have caused."

Sister Breege O'Neill, spokeswoman for the order, told a Dublin press conference that the order began coming to terms with the problem in 1996, with the broadcast of a documentary titled "Dear Daughter."

The film detailed the regime of abuse that prevailed at one Sisters of Mercy-run orphanage in Dublin in the 1950s and 1960s. Former residents of the since-closed Goldenbridge orphanage recalled how they were beaten with chair legs and rosary beads, among other forms of corporal punishment.

Religious commentators called Wednesday's statement unprecedented in Ireland, where church authorities were long unwilling to report cases of abuse to civil authorities and, once admitting responsibility, have sought to spread blame to state agencies.

The order also announced Wednesday it would establish a toll-free help line for victims of abuse in institutions they ran.


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