How the Church enslaved children

John Lloyd implies that the Catholic Church's repressiveness in mid 20th- century Ireland was confined to banning Ulysses and condoms ("A cosmic gaffe, but do we secretly agree?", 8 October). Its power was far more malign. In church-run schools, nuns and Christian Brothers battered the pupils with impunity. Girls who transgressed the narrow moral code were sentenced to penal servitude in Magdalen laundries. Serious abuse was rife in the vast network of state-funded, church-managed industrial schools, where the children of the poor were forcibly detained. Used as slave labour, many industrial school inmates never received any schooling. They can't read the un-banned Ulysses.

Vera Lustig
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

This article first appeared in the 15 October 2001 issue of the New Statesman, A nation in panic