Abuse scandal in the Sisters of Mercy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search

Allegations of abuse under the Sisters of Mercy, in Ireland, is one of a series of cases and allegations discovered among Catholic clergy and related religious institutes in several countries in the late 20th century.



In Ireland, the Sisters of Mercy operated as a series of isolated convents under the auspices of local Bishops until 1983.[1] They provided child care services and schooling through institutions worldwide, including at least 26 Industrial schools in Ireland where the institute was founded.[2]

In 1996 Dear Daughter, a documentary looking at abuse allegations at St. Vincent's Industrial School, Goldenbridge, Ireland, which was run by the Sisters of Mercy, was screened on RTÉ Television. The documentary focused on allegations against a nun at the school by a former resident. Although serious concerns were raised about the validity of a key aspect of the testimony, and the allegations were denied by the nun concerned, the documentary led to further accounts of abuse at the school.[3][4] A second documentary series, States of Fear, screened in 1999. States of Fear looked at allegations of abuse in the Irish industrial school system, prompting a strong public response, and this led to the formation of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse which examined abuse allegations against a number of Roman Catholic organisations in Ireland, including the Sisters of Mercy.[4]

Investigations and allegations

Nora Wall, 1999

Nora Wall, a member of the Sisters of Mercy, was wrongfully convicted of rape in 1999. Paul Pablo McCabe, a homeless schizophrenic man, was alleged to have twice raped a child at a group home managed by Wall. In relation to one of the two rape allegations, the Defence was able to prove that McCabe could not possibly have been there on the date in question - which was the 12th birthday of the accuser Regina Walsh. The jury acquitted him on that count and convicted him (and Nora Wall) on the second rape charge which did not specify an exact date.[5]

On 17 June 1999, a week after the rape convictions, Regina Walsh gave an interview to journalist Barry O'Keefe of The Star newspaper claiming that she had also been raped by a "black man in Leicester Square" in London. This was news to Wall's defence team. Moreover The Star published the names of Walsh and her "witness" Patricia Phelan for the first time. A Kilkenny businessman read the newspaper and recognised Phelan as the woman who had made a false rape allegation against himself, and the defence came into possession of this evidence. This rapidly led to the collapse of the convictions of the two accused and they were released from prison. Eventually on 1 December 2005 the Court of Criminal Appeal in Ireland certified that Wall had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.[6] McCabe had died in December 2002.

The Ryan Report, 2009

On 20 May 2009, the Irish government report released its report from the "The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse", known as the Ryan Report. The report noted that nuns, such as Sisters of Mercy, saw "much less" sexual abuse of children than that which was identified in other Roman Catholic facilities, but that other forms of abuse occurred.[7] The report raised concerns in regard to abuse at a number of schools: specifically Goldenbridge Industrial School, St Michael's Industrial School, St Joseph's Industrial School, Our Lady of Succour Industrial School and St Joseph's Industrial School, all of which were closed down between 1969 and 1999. Alleged abuse at the schools ranged from overuse of corporal punishment and emotional abuse through to accusations of sexual abuse by lay members of the institutions.[2]

Other abuse allegations

A 1998 Australian documentary described allegations of abuse from Sisters of Mercy orphanages in the 1950s and 1960s.[8] Earlier allegations in regard to the Neerkol orphanage in Rockhampton had led to two people being charged, and complaints in regard to the orphanage resulted in moves by the Sisters of Mercy and the Church to negotiate a settlement with "more than 60 former residents".[9] In South Australia, a similar move to settle resulted from complaints in regard to care at the Goodwood orphanage, which was also run by the Sisters of Mercy.[10]


The Sisters of Mercy in Ireland formally apologised for any abuse suffered by children in their care in May, 2004. In doing so they accepted that children had suffered, and they made the apology unconditional.[11] In December 2009, the Sisters announced that they would contribute an additional 128 million euros to the fund to compensate victims. This was in addition to the previously agreed 127.5 million euro offer that the Irish government had formed with the Catholic Orders as a whole.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (2001). "Chapter 6: The Sisters of Mercy". http://www.childabusecommission.com/rpt/02-06.php. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  2. ^ a b Healy, Alison (21 May 2009). "Most complaints concerned physical abuse". The Irish Times.
  3. ^ Sheehan, Maeve (April 30, 1996). "Medical view 'inconsistent' with Goldenbridge abuse". The Sunday Times (London, England): p. 4.
  4. ^ a b Webster, Richard (2005). "States of Fear, the redress board and Ireland’s folly". RichardWebster.net. http://www.richardwebster.net/brynestynireland.html. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  5. ^ http://www.studiesirishreview.ie/j/page102
  6. ^ http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IECCA/2005/C140.html
  7. ^ "Irish Catholic Schools Child Abuse Claims", The Guardian, 20 May 2009
  8. ^ McCluskey, Una (2000). "Abuse in Religious Institutions". In McCluskey, Una; Hooper, Carol-Ann. Psychodynamic perspectives on abuse: the cost of fear. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-85302-685-0.
  9. ^ Parnell, S (16 July 1998). "Justice for orphanage victims". The Courier Mail (Brisbane, Australia): p. 1.
  10. ^ Hunt, Nigel (12 November 2006). "Orphanage compo vow Church moves on abuse claims". The Sunday Mail (Adelaide, Australia): p. 21.
  11. ^ "Abuse victims welcome apology by nuns - Sisters of Mercy say sorry for the suffering". Irish Times (Dublin, Ireland). 6 May 2004.
  12. ^ Pogatchnik, Shawn (4 December 2009). "Irish nuns offer €128 million for permitting child abuse". 3 News. http://www.3news.co.nz/Irish-nuns-offer-128-million-for-permitting-child-abuse/tabid/417/articleID/132653/Default.aspx. Retrieved 3 January 2011.