In short order, I heard from three separate tenants of an apartment complex I own about a puppy that had been abandoned on my property.
One woman wanted me to know the puppy was there so I could help it. By the time I got out there at 11 this morning, a second woman already had taken the little brown dog into her apartment to feed it and keep it away from traffic. Before I left an hour later, a third renter had found the puppy a permanent home with her sister.
I like to think such compassion for orphaned, abandoned creatures is natural. It’s what we humans do–we look out for the weak and defenseless.
Or do we?
I came home from my apartments and discovered on the Internet breaking news of a 2,600-page report issued by Ireland’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
The massive report documents systemic physical and sexual child abuse by priests, nuns and lay workers in 216 Roman Catholic orphanages, reform schools and hospitals over a 60-year period. Investigators interviewed more than 1,000 former students at the institutions.
The New York Times quotes the report as saying “a climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys.” In boys’ institutions, sexual abuse was “endemic.” (Many girls also were sexually abused.) Neglect, intentional humiliation and hunger were the norm rather than the exception.
The report took nine years to prepare.
The children victimized were from among the most vulnerable elements in Irish society. The vast majority weren’t violent delinquents. As the Times reports, “Some poor families placed their children there because they were overwhelmed. Other children were sent to the homes after they were caught stealing or missing school, or if they became pregnant–even as a result of incest or abuse.”
A quick glance at the report itself proves sickening: Adults now 50 to 80 years old tell of being stripped for floggings with canes and whips, doused with scalding or freezing water, worked to exhaustion as if they were slaves, locked in closets and coal bins, and, if they wet the bed, made to wear their wet bed sheets over their heads. That’s just a sampling. I couldn’t read very long. I started tearing up.
As I said, I encountered this story immediately after having come from my apartment complex, where three different tenants had gone out of their way to help and protect a stray puppy.
A mere puppy.
How is it that any adults, much less those who had vowed to devote their lives to serving Jesus Christ, could in his name act so cruelly to orphaned, abandoned and troubled children? Some 800 church workers have been implicated in the abuse. Many others in the church and in Irish government knew what was going on, but did nothing to stop it; often they covered it up. It’s horrible, beyond imagination, beyond fathoming.
Yet it happened. It was just such a stark contrast today–watching people upset over an orphaned puppy, then reading of other people terrorizing lonely, abandoned, helpless children.