In 2003 I went to the cemetery in Tralee to celebrate a Requiem Mass for a little boy murdered by a Christian Brother in 1958.

Here is homily.

Today is the 75th anniversary of Joseph’s murder.



In 1941 an innocent little baby boy called Joseph Pike was born to an Irish couple. For whatever reason, they could not, or would not keep him and bring him up. So, Joseph ended up in Saint Philomena’s Home in Dublin for unwanted babies. He grew up with a strong Dublin accent.

When he was only seven he was sent from Dublin to Tralee, Kerry to a so called industrial school operated by the Irish Christian Brothers. From the moment Joseph arrived in Tralee he was hated by one of the Brothers = a man called Brother Conor Lane. Brother Lane took exception to Joseph’s Dublin accent. From the day he arrived in Tralee Brother Lane beat him day in and day out.

At the time, St Joseph’s, as it was called was a hotbed of abuse. The boys were abused physically, mentally and sexually every day. Three of the Christian Brothers were particular abusers – Brother Conor Lane, Brother Roberts, who are now dead, and another brother who we must call Brother X who is still alive and against whom various actions are under way.

Boys were beaten every day to within an inch of their death. They were mocked and belittled by the Brothers. They were the object of severe mental persecution. And, every day boys were sexually abused – in their beds and in secret and dark corners inside and outside the building. Brother Roberts specialised in abusing boys at his teacher’s desk in the classroom while other boys looked on in fear. The suffering of the boys in St. Joseph’s in Tralee and akin to the suffering of the inmates in Hitler’s concentration camps. But all this happened in the name of God, perpetrated by so called servants of God and in Catholic Ireland where the government, the Garda and the public simply looked on!

In 1958 Joseph Pike was 16. Brother Lane was still beating him every day as he had done for 9 years. This particular day Joseph was unwell. He had a large boil on his shoulder. He could not eat the greasy food that Brother Lane put before him. Brother Lane beat him in his chair causing the boil on his shoulder to burst internally. Poor Joseph fell to the floor where Brother Lane continued to beat him until he became unconscious. Joseph was taken to the hospital where he later died!

After his death two death certificates appeared – one saying that he had died from “senile dementia”! Imagine a 16 year old boy dying from senile dementia? A second certificate said he had died from septicaemia – blood poisoning. Blood poisoning would be consistent with Brother Lane’s beating causing Joseph’s infected boil to burst internally. After he death the Christian Brother claimed he had died of leukaemia.

Brother Lane admitted he had beaten and kicked Joseph but denied killing him.

In 1996 the Garda launched an inquiry into Joseph’s death. The accumulated dozens of statements from former pupils of Saint Joseph’s. Those men are convinced that there was sufficient evidence in those statements to bring forward public prosecutions. This has not happened.

Friends of Joseph remember him having a very hurried funeral and being buried in an unmarked grave. Brother Lane hypocritically prayed aloud for Joseph’s eternal happiness!

After Joseph’s death, whenever they were asked, the Christian Brothers released Joseph’s surname in a miss-spelt form – calling him Pyke instead of Pike. Some say this was deliberate and it certainly frustrated those trying to search for any relations he may have had

John Prior, a classmate of Joseph’s, who himself was sexually abused in St. Joseph’s, has been championing Joseph’s case for many years now. Through John’s good work, a headstone was erected here in this cemetery. Joseph’s case is still open with the Garda and the happenings are gradually coming into the light.

I am here in Kerry today celebrating this Mass because John Prior could not get any priest in Kerry to celebrate it! When he asked the Bishop of Kerry to provide a Mass he was told “No priest is available”. When he asked the Tralee clergy for a mass they refused and told him that a Mass is available at the cemetery once a year for all those interred there. In the last few days the Bishop of Kerry has claimed that John never asked him for a Mass,

Joseph Pike is not the only child that was abused and killed by the Brothers and Nuns in Ireland. Other children died in St Joseph’s Tralee and were buried in unmarked graves. We don’t even know if death certificates were sought or issued. Some months ago the nuns in Hyde Park Convent in north Dublin sold their former convent and Magdalen Laundry for millions of pounds. To facilitate this financial bonanza for the nuns the bodies of the 150 Magdalens were removed from the convent graveyard and cremated in Glasnevin Crematorium. In this way of course any possible forensic evidence is destroyed. It also emerged that there were no death certificates for many of the dead women. More victims dying in suspicious circumstances, buried in unmarked graves and no death certificates issued. What was going on? And how is it that even now that this information is publicly available the government and the Garda are letting the religious orders away with it?

Every year when we celebrate the feast of the 2000 Holy Innocents killed by Herod on December 28th, we should remember the Holy Innocents that perished in Irish Catholic Institutions at the hands of the so called servants of God. And all these goings on were known to the Irish clergy and bishops and religious superiors did absolutely nothing except to cover it up!

And today they are still covering up. Instead of reaching for their Bible and reading the words “LET THE LITTLE CHILDREN COME UNTO ME” they are hiding behind Canon law, Civil Law and Ruro 5000 a day lawyers. They are using all their resources to cover up the truth, resist victims and survivors and shelter the abusers. They have conveniently forgotten the words of Christ – “THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE”.

The purpose of this Mass is to:

Remember Joseph Pike and his sufferings and pray for his eternal happiness.

Remember all the other victims that were abused and even killed within institutions owned and run by the Irish Catholic Church.

Highlight the unjust and cynical way the Irish Catholic Church is treating victims and survivors as they hide behind a battery of lawyers and call upon the Irish Bishops and clergy to stop being Pharisees and legalists and approach the whole area of abuse with the truthfulness and compassion of Chrisyn- whose disciples they claim to be.

Call upon the Irish Government to order a full judicial enquiry into all the deaths that took place in these Church institutions and the practice of burying people in unmarked graves without birth certificates.

Call upon the Garda here in Tralee to intensify and renew their enquiries into the murder – for it was murder – of Jspeph Pike.


Throughout this tiny island,
In graves unmarked and cold;
Lie broken bones of boys and girls,
Their stories never told.
Men in black with collars white,
And Brides of Christ as well,
Sent these angels up to Heaven,
But made their short lives Hell.
No teddy bear, no lullaby.
No loving mother’s kiss;
But each night as they closed their eyes
They entered the abyss.
With eyes closed tight no sleep would come,
They listened for the sound;
The hob nailed boot out in the hall,
The handle turning round;
Oh don’t take me take someone else,
They prayed with all their might;
The leather strap the bamboo stick,
The screaming in the night.
And when they left they were not free,
Their minds were never right;
Still God can hear them as they pray,
Please let me sleep tonight.

(Leo Magee. Old Coombe. Dublin.

When I arrived in Tralee to celebrate the Mass at Joseph Pike’s headstone. We discovered the clergy had locked the graveyard gates to stop us getting in.

We got ladders and climbed the wall and had our sad Mass.

Joseph Pike’s fate shows the very evil that is at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church.

I hope God has devised a suitable punishment for all these Brothers, nuns and priests.

For in my wildest imagination I cannot think of one severe and monstrous enough.