Together with the Christian Brothers, the Sisters of Mercy have been THE major target for false accusations since at least 1996. The Sisters policy of apologising to false accusers has had disasterous consequences - and not only for themselves. They appear to believe that a false accuser is a "deeply hurt" person and that an apology will lead to "healing and reconciliation". The outcome of this policy is that no distinction is made between vicious fraudsters and people who may have a genuine grievance. Not surprisingly, their apologies have been met with loathing and ridicule but other religious orders have followed suit and eventually the Bishops themselves, (even though the latter had initially defended themselves strongly to the extent of suing media that slandered them).
The Sisters have now retired into silence and depression and - according to Bishop Willie Walsh - they blame the Bishops for their plight!
(1) The first apology by the Sisters of Mercy followed the February 1996 broadcast by RTE of the documentary "Dear Daughter" regarding atrocities allegedly committed by the Sisters at Goldenbridge industrial school. These allegations included a nun Sister Xavieria beating one girl (Christine Buckley) so badly that she needed about 100 stitches in her leg.
(2) Following the documentary and apology, a family accused Sister Xavieria of being responsible for the death of their baby daughter 40 years before by burning the baby's legs. The Sisters did not admit liability but in October 1997 they paid £20,000 and expressed their "sorrow and regret" to the accusers. After receiving payment the mother gave an interview to the Daily Mirror in which she accused Sister Xavieria of using a hot poker to burn holes in her baby's legs.
(3) After Nora Wall (formerly Sister Dominic) and her co-accused Pablo McCabe were wrongly convicted of rape in June 1999 the Sisters announced that:"We are all devastated by the revolting crimes which resulted in these verdicts. Our hearts go out to this young woman who, as a child, was placed in our care. Her courage in coming forward was heroic. We beg anyone who was abused whilst in our care to go to the Gardai (police.) Even after the collapse of the case against the two accused, the Sisters made no effort to apologise to Nora Wall or to withdraw their statement of support for her accuser.
(4) In May 2004 the Sisters unexpectedly made what was called their "second" (actually fourth) apology to their accusers. There was no obvious motive for this exercise in self-degradation but the apology was greeted with delight by leaders of "victims" groups - notably Christine Buckley. Shortly afterwards these leaders resumed their attacks on the the very Merciful Sisters. It is argueable that this apology - and the appointment of Diarmuid Martin as Archbishop of Dublin, the previous month - marked the end of any serious effort by the Catholic Church to defend itself against false allegations of child abuse.
(5) In 2002, 18 religious congregations - including the Sisters of Mercy - agreed with the Governemnt to pay a voluntary contribution of €128 million towards the cost of compensating alleged victims of child abuse under a Residential Institutions Redress Scheme set up by the Government. The Redress Scheme was proposed as a way of compensating "victims" while avoiding putting them through the "trauma" of court proceedings (where evidence of wrong-doing would have been needed.) The Scheme provided for compensation for physical, sexual or emotion abuse or denial of opportunity and the validation threshold was set so low that, in effect, anyone who ever attended an industrial school would qualify for compensation.
The Redress Scheme was a Government initiative and did not require any imput from the religious congregations. However in 2001 Sister Elizabeth Maxwell, a Presentation Sister who was then head of the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI), had approached the Government with a unilateral offer that the religious would contribute. The CORI negotiating team consisted of Sister Helena O'Donoghue of the Sisters of Mercy and Christian Brother Kevin Mullan.
(6) After the publication of the Ryan Report in May 2009 the Sisters again apologised and offered to make a further significant contribution to the compensation agreement made in 2002. An article in the Irish Examiner on 4 December 2009 stated that "The Sisters of Mercy have offered to contribute cash and properties worth over €127.5m in compensation to the victims of physical and sexual abuse in former industrial schools run by the order." This almost matched the €128 million that all 18 religious congregations together had agreed to pay in 2002.
According to an Associated Press report (3 December 2009) the Sisters of Mercy statement said that it "wholeheartedly regrets the suffering experienced by the children in their care" and hoped this latest offer would show that its nuns were being "faithful to the values of reparation, reconciliation, healing and responsibility." Once again the Sisters fond hopes for reconciliation and healing were dashed. In January 2010 their application for planning permission for a prime site in Galway City was turned down by the Planning Board and, according to the Irish Times, they fear that the land will be rezoned for recreational use. Galway City Council passed a motion calling for the land to rezoned and developed into an amenity park, including a children’s memorial park. Catherine Connolly, a councillor, proposed the move, stating that the land should be handed over to the city as retribution for years of abuse of children by religious orders.
(7) Sister Marianne O'Connor, an Ursuline Sister and then head of CORI accepted an invitation from John Cooney (the journalist who claimed that Archbishop John Charles McQuaid had been a homosexual paedophile) to address his Humbert Summer School in August 2009.
In her speech Sr Marianne endorsed suggestions that there be a national day of atonement for victims of abuse, and spoke of “a service where a public ritual of reconciliation could occur between representatives of the survivors, the State, the religious and the church”. Noting that her attendance at Humbert was “the first public forum to which religious have been invited since Ryan [report]”, she continued that “I am here, first and foremost, to apologise . . . to do whatever we can to make reparation.” She continued: “We religious are asking for forgiveness . . . Without forgiveness one is stuck, unable to move forward.” Survivors “had the huge challenge, and the huge power, of forgiving . . . But forgiveness, like mercy, blesses the giver and the receiver,” she said. The congregations would “provide money for reparation. But we must do much more than provide money. We must listen and learn, to the degree survivors will permit us, to journey with them as they discover what they need”, she said.
In an article in the Irish Independent on 24 August, the same John Cooney reported on how "victims" had responded to Sister Marianne's touching invitation:
In turn, survivor Michael O'Brien, the former mayor of Clonmel who captured the nation's imagination by challenging the platitudes of Government minister Noel Dempsey on an unforgettable RTE 'Questions and Answers' programme, bowed to the good judge [Ryan] and thanked him "for the momentous work you and your team have done". But Mr O'Brien was only prepared to give conditional pardon to the religious congregations who locked up him and thousands of other children in penal institutions as serfs. He will forgive his oppressors only when he knows in his heart that "these people mean it when they say 'we are really, really sorry'." "I do not want silly apologies. I want to see repentance," he said.
This was the culmination of many years of self-degradation by female religious congregations in the face of false accusers - especially the Sisters of Mercy. They have made themselves ludicrous and thereby have made it impossible for anyone to "reconcile" with them.
Finally and In Conclusion
Bishop Willie Walsh was quoted by Patsy McGarry in the Irish Times on 14 November 2009:
He had been speaking recently to the leadership team of the Mercy congregation’s southern province, “women who have given their lives in the service of the church”, and who were “very broken, very sad”. They felt “let down by us, the bishops”.
So that explains nearly a decade and a half of self-degradation by the Sisters of Mercy - and other female religious. It was the Bishops that made them do it!