See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Friday, May 29, 2009

"There is no such thing as a bad boy." - Fr. Flanagan

Flanagan condemned the Irish reform schools in 1946.
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Fr. Flanagan, who founded Boy's Town had become a famous name throughout the world thanks to the successful 1938 film by the same name, starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. Flanagan became a sort of living St. John Bosco in the mid 20th century. "He was internationally renowned as 'the world’s most foremost expert on boys’ training and youth care.'”
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While touring the Irish schools he was appalled and said so:
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"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.
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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."
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However, his words fell on stony ground. He wasn't simply ignored. He was taken to pieces by the Irish establishment. The then-Minister for Justice Gerald Boland said in the Dáil that he was 'not disposed to take any notice of what Monsignor Flanagan said while he was in this country, because his statements were so exaggerated that I did not think people would attach any importance to them.'" - Source
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When I was little, after watching the film on television, I recall asking my older brother Skip if we could run away to Boy's Town because things were so bad at home. After explaining to me that mom and dad would catch up with us, he said, "Anyway, you just want to do that because they have a chapel." He was only half right.
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Quick note.
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I got to know an Irish priest who came from the old country to Minnesota. As a young priest he happened to be the assistant at a downtown church and school one of my friends attended when we were young. The priest is dead now, but I think I mentioned him once as being the one who lifted up the boys with his hands on their crotch, to see how "big they were getting". Charming little leprechaun, he was. Years later he retired to become a chaplain in a home for the elderly which I visited. I came to find out we both knew an Irish nun who had befriended me in another care facility. Father asked if I would say hello and tell Sister he would like to come by for a visit.
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Sister seemed slightly alarmed and asked, "How do you know him?"
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I explained he was now a chaplain at a nursing home I visited, and although Sister's reaction suggested to me the priest's fondness for boys may have been known to her, she never said anything about him, and I never let on as to what I knew about him.
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"Please tell him hello, but he need not visit." She told me rather sternly.
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The Irish knew.

5 comments:

  1. Thank you Fr. Flannagan. His words should be haunting people now.

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  2. Carol7:52 PM

    There were French and Belgian and Spanish and Italian leprechauns, too-- and there still are.

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  3. My daughter's grade 8 Socials Studies teacher is having a field day with the news story of the Irish priests abusing and beating those boys. So far he has called Catholics murderers and rapists. He even said the only reason we didn't kill Martin Luther when we were killing everyone else was because the Catholic Church did not want him to be a martyr.

    She defended her faith quite well.

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