Socialist Worker

The sisters of cruelty

Issue No. 1711

Shocking allegations of child abuse emerged in a Scottish court case last week. At the centre of the accusations is a religious order revered by 'pro-family' campaigners such as Cardinal Winning, head of the Catholic church in Scotland. Winning denounces gays as 'perverted' and backs the anti-gay Section 28, which he claims is needed to 'protect children'.

Yet a series of witnesses told an Aberdeen court last week that as children they had been systematically abused at the city's Poor Sisters of Nazareth Catholic children's home. Sister Alphonso, a nun at the convent home, faces a catalogue of child cruelty charges.

Helen Cuister, now 43, told the court that she was force fed by Sister Alphonso: 'A member of staff held my arms behind the chair, and Sister Alphonso held my nose and put forkfuls of food into my mouth with her other hand. She was stuffing it in and I was gagging, choking and sometimes being sick.'

Mrs Cuister said children who wet their beds were sometimes 'made to stand with the sheets soaked in urine over their heads.' Mrs Cuister also told the court that she was beaten by Sister Alphonso: 'She got me into my bedroom and absolutely beat the life out of me. She was punching, kicking and hitting me against the beds.'

Another former child resident of the home told the court she was forced to kiss the corpse of a dead nun. Magdalene Crocker, now 42, said, 'I'll never get over the stench, the stink. It was the smell and the cold face.'

Sister Alphonso denies the charges and the trial is continuing.

Dress tips

The Financial Times 'How to Spend It' supplement has a few tips readers may like to consider next time they're out shopping.

Vinnci's on London's Jermyn Street apparently has some very nice cashmere jumpers, a snip at 'a little shy of £1,000'. Or how about the 'Norfolk jacket in yellow linen (£1,250), perfect for partridge shooting in Spain'?

Not your style? Then try Cordings in nearby Piccadilly, which has a range of coats, wraps and fringed skirts 'all at accessible prices...up to £1,200'.

UP TO 1,000 extras were needed on the Hertfordshire film set of Steven Spielberg's new World War Two movie Band of Brothers.

Applicants were told that they must have 'a clean police record'. There was one exception.

The police confirmed that one of the youngsters taken on at the set for 'work experience' had been 'given a formal [police] reprimand'. His name? Euan Blair.

Plc plod

Socialist Worker has long argued that the police's key role in society is to protect property and the interests of business. Confirmation comes from Somerset, where PC Phil Hutchings has become the first business-sponsored cop.

Thomson Racal Defence is paying Avon and Somerset Police £35,000 a year to cover PC Hutchings' salary, costs and patrol car. He will patrol the Wells and Wookey Hole areas of Somerset-where Thomson Racal happens to have factories making 'defence products'.

Saint Nick or Old Nick?

The Russian Orthodox Christian church declared a new batch of saints last week. Highlight of the canonisation ceremony was the elevation to sainthood of the last emperor of Russia, Tsar Nicholas II. The faithful are supposed to pray to saints and seek to emulate their virtuous lives and good deeds.

The church praises the Tsar's 'meekness, patience and humility'. Such qualities would not have been obvious to many Russians when he was alive. The Tsar was a brutal dictator. He crushed demands for democratic change, ordering troops to shoot down people in the 1905 revolution.

He sent millions of Russians to a grisly death in the trenches of the First World War and presided over poverty, hunger and suffering. Throughout his reign Jews in Russia were subject to savage pogroms. He was finally toppled in 1917 by a new revolution, but continued to plot with counter-revolutionaries to drown the new democracy in blood.

He was finally shot in 1918. Few people in history have better deserved such a fate.

Chop off their heads?

'IT'S NOT just a law of economics but a law of nature-the rich will always be with us.' That's not from some free market nut, but the front page of last week's New Scientist magazine.

The magazine claims two French physicists have proved, through mathematical formulas, that there is nothing you can do to alter the fact that the richest 20 percent of people own 80 percent of all wealth. In fact the mathematicians' claims point in quite a different direction.

They assume a 'modern' market economy, in which 'each individual has a certain amount of money he or she can invest or use to buy the services or goods of others'. They argue that the emergence of inequality is an inevitable result of such a setup. It is not 'nature' but capitalism that creates rich and poor.

The New Scientist makes one interesting observation, however. 'If the rich will always be with us,' then, 'so will the revolutionaries who want to...chop off their heads.'

CAN YOU imagine trying to get by on £100,000 a year-that's almost £2,000 a week?

It must be quite a struggle. New Labour MP Ben Bradshaw thinks so anyway. Like all MPs he gets a pay and allowances package worth £100,000 a year.

He reckons that the enormous sum is 'pathetic' and moans that 'compared with many other professionals we are paid quite badly'.

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 26 Aug 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1711
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