A young boy was beaten black and blue after catching two nuns in an embrace, an inquiry has heard. A witness said he was six or seven when one of the nuns went “mental” and lashed out at him in a boiler-room at a care institution in the 1960s.
He told Scotland’s child abuse inquiry the “vicious” assault left him bruised and with blood coming out of his ear and nose. The witness, who cannot be identified, was speaking of his experiences at Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark, which closed in the 1980s. He said he moved to the orphanage, run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, in the mid-1960s and was never given any love, affection or praise from the nuns and staff.
Physical abuse in the form of slaps and kicks was routine “for trivial stuff”, he told the hearing in Edinburgh. Read entire report by clicking here
Reading some of the horrendous allegations from former orphans at Smyllum Park is earth-shattering. If even some of these allegations are true then nobody in their right mind would seek to justify such abuse in any way whatsoever.
However, it would be mindless to presume guilt, not least because, if such apparently unbridled brutality were the norm at that institution, all sorts of grave questions arise, beginning with what sort of women were choosing to enter the Religious Life and why?
Anyone who has taken even a cursory glance at the Rule of any of the great Religious Orders knows that prior to the “reforms” of Vatican II which followed the Council at its close in 1965, they were renowned for their strictness. Not only the enclosed, contemplative Orders, but the active Orders, such as the Daughters of Charity, were bound by detailed rules throughout their daily lives. Permissions were required from Superiors for every little thing, and the idea that two Sisters could find a corner to engage in physical or sexual activity in a boiler room or anywhere else, just beggars belief. That’s not to say it didn’t happen. Obviously, I don’t know, and these allegations do date from the 1960’s when laxity in the Religious Orders as elsewhere, had taken a foothold.
That still leaves the question of the sort of women choosing Religious Life, and their motivation. Were our Religious Houses jam-packed with evil women who detested children and enjoyed inflicting pain and suffering such as that described by former orphans at Smyllum – or, again, assuming the truth of the allegations, is there another explanation, beyond the obvious diabolical activity at work in the souls of the guilty? And were there no postulants or novices who left before final vows in disgust to report this scandal to the Bishop, let alone the police? Surely not every nun was immersed in such evil and brutality. Those are the first questions that came to my mind on reading about the Smyllum scandal. What are the questions you’d want answered?