If Only The Irish Had Listened

The National Catholic Register picked up an American angle on the scandal of Irish orphanages.

According to Irish Central, our own Fr. Flanagan (who was Irish born of course) warned the Irish.

When World War II ended in 1945, President Harry S. Truman asked Fr. Flanagan to tour Asia and Europe, to see what could be done for the homeless and neglected children in those regions.

Fr. Flanagan decided to return to the land of his birth in 1946 to visit his family, and also to visit the “so-called training schools" run by the Christian Brothers to see if they were "a success or failure.”
Thanks to the success of Boys' Town, he was greeted like a celebrity.

But Fr. Flanagan was unhappy with what he found in Ireland. He was dismayed at the state of Ireland's reform schools and blasted them as “a scandal, un-Christlike, and wrong.” And he said the Christian Brothers, founded by Edmund Rice, had lost its way.

Speaking to a large audience at a public lecture in Cork’s Savoy Cinema he said, "You are the people who permit your children and the children of your communities to go into these institutions of punishment. You can do something about it." He called Ireland’s penal institutions "a disgrace to the nation," and later said "I do not believe that a child can be reformed by lock and key and bars, or that fear can ever develop a child’s character."

He was ignored and even excoriated in the press. Back in the States he wrote

What you need over there is to have someone shake you loose from your smugness and satisfaction and set an example by punishing those who are guilty of cruelty, ignorance and neglect of their duties in high places . . . I wonder what God's judgment will be with reference to those who hold the deposit of faith and who fail in their God-given stewardship of little children.

(Just for the record, not to excuse the inexcusable, but for perspective, Bill Donahue shows the reports themselves have been somewhat sensationalized: which was hardly necessary, the facts are bad enough.)