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Say Sorry by Ann Thompson 30/06/2009


Ann Free Spirit's very personal tale of abuse and her long quest to find out the truth.

Publishers' Overview: Conceived out of wedlock in 1941, Ann was just two months old when she was placed in the care of a Catholic orphanage in Christchurch, New Zealand. From the beginning, she was taught her mother was sinful and that she would be too unless the devil was beaten from her soul. She was physically and sexually abused by religious and lay staff at the orphanage from an early age and was forced to work long hours on the orphanage farm and later in the laundries. In 1997, when Ann watched a Prime Television documentary exposing the decades of abuse by the Good Shepherd nuns at the Christchurch orphanage, she realised hers wasn't the only lost childhood. Ann's battle to get authorities within the Catholic Church to accept responsibility for the past institutionalised abuse of children and young people in its care is entering its eleventh year. She is committed to communicating truthfully and openly about the abuse inflicted on her, and its ongoing consequences, until the church acknowledges culpability and admits – unconditionally – that there was wrongdoing.

From Fr Tom Doyle's Appendix which explores the wider implications of the abuse scandals and why they occurred: "Sexual abuse of the young and vulnerable is, without question, evidence of the darkest side of society. Ironically, it is also protected by an inexplicable degree of social and individual denial. Child sexual abuse is most horrific when it is perpetrated by people whom the victim has been taught to trust and even to love. ... Ann's experiences I believe they are amongst the most horrendous I have seen, the others being similar experiences by girls or boys who have been in Irish orphanages. The countries may have been different but many of the other aspects are identical. The pathology of the sisters and brothers does not change by country ... it's equally horrific wherever you go.

Comment by Brian Coyne, editor of Catholica: Ann first came to my attention when she started contributing to the CathNews discussion board which I helped administer. Her story, and the ways in which she told it upset some people to the point where there was a steady flow of complaints from a minority wanting to have Ann barred from contributing to the discussion board.

Privately I sought the feelings of the community at large, and also the management of CathNews, as to how we might handle the situation. After much consultation we decided to give Ann as much freedom as possible in order to relate her story. The CathNews Discussion Board eventually spawned Catholica ( and in this community we have endeavoured to continue our encouragement of Ann.

From the at times barely articulate woman we first encountered six or seven years ago, Ann has blossomed into an articulate and strong advocate for the victims of child sexual abuse. It is almost as great a thrill for many of us in the Catholica community who have followed Ann's story from the beginning of her appearance on the internet to see her story now picked up by a major publisher in Penguin New Zealand.

Ann's story is tragic not only for the abuse but for the fact that she was deprived of any significant education. It is testimony to her personal growth that despite many educational and social handicaps she has sought out the people who could help her tell her story. While, in so many ways, her story is tragic and harrowing, it is also a story of great hope and poignancy. Ann has emerged as a person of great strength in personal character and is fearless today in standing up for the victims of sexual and other forms of abuse.

I commend Fiona Craig for her editing of Ann's story and also thank Fr Tom Doyle for the powerful appendix he provides to Ann's story.

Brian Coyne
editor & publisher


Ann's book, "Say Sorry"

by Debb Saturday, July 04, 2009,

I have just finished reading Ann's book (borrowed from local library - check to make sure your local library buys a copy).

It has left lots swirling around, many questions and great admiration for Ann and also for Fr Doyle, who has written a hard-hitting summary of what the problem is. He covers all the possible factors, but, in the final analysis it is all due to clericalism, he concludes. Reckon we will get that changed in the Year for the Priest?

Several things I want to say to Ann:
First, you
have an angel on your shoulder. Nothing else can explain how you survived such treatment. Ann, despite all that they did to you, and your own feelings of low self-worth, you come across as a very alive person, who somehow refused to give up on yourself or life. You are a beautiful soul and they failed when they tried to break you (although I know that at times you feel very broken and still suffer a lot).

I cheered when you went to the police to complain about your abuse, but was not surprised when they did nothing. Nobody did anything back in those days, whether the abuse happened in the church's institutions, in state institutions or in private homes.

I have been thinking about the punishment they gave you, what to call it.
Abuse? Yes, they abused you, physically and mentally and spiritually. Bullying? Yes, especially the older girls in the institution. But there is another word, that covers the use of repeated cruel treatment with a clear purpose, in your case to get the "devil" out of you - torture. There is more I could say, but most I want to say I admire your courage and your refusal to give up.

By desi, Australia, Thursday, July 23, 2009,

I have just finished reading 'Say Sorry' and found it to be a very, very moving experience (also very disturbing, at times difficult to continue the reading).I must agree with Debb's words to Ann....'I admire your courage and your refusal to give up'.

Also in Tom Doyle's most excellent Epilogue he says...
'She (Ann) has become an adult Catholic because thfough the agony she has been subjected to, first from the nuns and then from the institutional leadership, she has shed the chains of control and challenged the system to be as Christ would have it be.

Ann, I would make the book compulsory reading for EVERY Bishop.


by Bill Dowsley  'Wombeyan, NSW', Saturday, July 04, 2009,

I shall be more blunt, Debb.

The 'torturers' were all gutless, as are all of their contemptible kind.

Anne is a woman of great courage.

by Francis  Saturday, July 04, 2009,

Ann, I profoundly join in what Debb and Bill have written. The life we have as one is so powerful and does wonders through the very oneness it is.

Francis, I'm happy.

Your holiness blesses me as mine blesses you.

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