You would think a nun walking in on a priest sexually abusing an eight-year-old girl would jump at the chance to protect the child, but that’s not what happened here. Instead, the woman of God allegedly called the victim a “whore” and broke her arm.
Theresa Tolmie-McGrane told child abuse investigators in Scotland that she was assaulted at an orphanage in 1970, and that she had hoped the nun would help her after witnessing the attack first-hand. Instead the nun added insult to injury by verbally abusing the victim and throwing her into a wall.
Tolmie-McGrane, testifying to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, said she was beaten, humiliated, tortured, and sexually abused throughout her 11 years at the Christian orphanage.
One particular priest would arrive early and ask her to sit on his lap, before progressing to making her to perform a sex act on him or watch as he did so, the inquiry heard.
“He said ‘I need you to be a soldier of God, a good little soldier’,” she told the inquiry, adding the abuse went on for several months.
One particular story stands out, because a nun was given the chance to help the suffering child. She walked into the room as the priest was abusing her.
She told the hearing: “I thought ‘praise the Lord, she’s seeing this, she’s going to be angry with him and protect me’.
“Her whole face became distorted. I thought ‘she’s angry with him’, but she was angry with me.”
The victim goes on to say that she was later scolded by a different nun, who noticed her arm was broken. The second nun had a chance to help the girl as well, but instead she threatened her and said lying was permitted to “protect a man of God.”
She told the inquiry how the second nun took her to hospital but warned her: “Don’t you dare tell anybody what happened, young lady, or I’ll break your other arm” and assured her she would be “lying to protect a man of God, so it’s ok to lie”.
Tolmie-McGrane, who now works as a psychologist, told a story that goes much deeper than these few incidents. Still, it points to how this type of abuse is able to continue over so much time. Religious orders often protect their own regardless of what crimes are committed, and that has further enabled an already pervasive problem with sexual abuse.
We see this at churches and orphanages. We also see it in the current Senate race in Alabama. It wasn’t acceptable then and it shouldn’t be acceptable now.
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