SYDNEY Hundreds of orphaned children, many from Britain, suffered public floggings, sadistic torture and sexual abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic nuns, an Australian academic said.
The brutality took place over 90 years at the Sisters of Mercy orphanage in Neerkol, northern Queensland, ending only in 1976. The order, under investigation by the Queensland state government, has apologised for the cruelty, described as some of the worst atrocities that Australia has known. But a representative, Di-Anne Rowan, conceded yesterday that little had been done to ease the pain and suffering of victims. Among them were 48 children who were part of a British government orphan migration programme now under investigation by a House of Commons committee.
The report by Professor Bruce Grundy describes a catalogue of terror. One woman told her that the nuns once thrust a red-hot poker down her back "to exorcise the Devil". Another child almost lost her legs, which became infected after a nun pulled out troublesome ingrown toenails with pliers while other children were forced to hold her down. Yet another was severely scalded and permanently injured after a leg was thrust into a bucket of boiling water by a nun who thought that the water she had been washing in was not hot enough.
Boys and girls were routinely violated and sexually abused by priests or men working at the orphanage, the professor said. Some girls had miscarriages and foetuses were flushed down lavatories. To hide injuries from visitors, children were locked away in the "black hole" an underground cell without bedding, ventilation or light. "Madness, ruthless and sadistic madness, on the part of at least some of the nuns, and a depthless depravity on the part of some of the men who inhabited the place, are the defining characteristics of some of those who ran the orphanage," Professor Grundy claimed. "There was no limit to the sexual deviance that could be engaged in with those unlucky enough to find themselves singled out as 'the chosen ones'."
The professor began his inquiries after police found no evidence to substantiate reports that stillborn babies and children killed by disease had been buried in unmarked graves. Many boys in Australian orphanages and schools run by Catholic orders have won damages in the past few years, but few allegations had surfaced about institutions run by nuns. The professor said of Neerkol: "Many of the children went on to alcoholism and suicide, but some, remarkably, made something of their lives. I would like to see them get justice and I would like to see those responsible prosecuted particularly the bureaucrats and police who knew what was going on but who did nothing to stop it." (3/30)
VIENNA Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, one of the highest-ranking clergymen in Austria, announced that he will resign because of charges that he molested young boys and monks. In a statement released by church officials, the cardinal said he was resigning at the urging of Pope John Paul II, who plans to visit Austria in June. The pontiff had ordered an inquiry into the charges against Groer. Church officials, anxious to end a scandal that has lingered for more than three years, said Groer has also agreed to leave Austria.
He said that monks and ex-monks have told investigators that Groer not only molested them sexually but created a state of "spiritual dependency" that required young men to worship him and grant him sexual favors or face exclusion from the church hierarchy. The cardinal took advantage of his position as father-confessor to intimidate the young people, the spokesman said. (4/15)