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Morning Update: An Explosive Investigation Into Orphanage Abuse In The US

Remembering John McCain, a shooting in Jacksonville, and Serena's catsuit. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, August 27.

Posted on August 27, 2018, at 8:02 a.m. ET

Nuns killed children, say former residents of St. Joseph's Catholic Orphanage

Good morning,

Take a deep breath, because this is an explosive and difficult story. Millions of American children were placed in orphanages. Some didn’t make it out alive.

After hearing whispers that seemed almost too awful to believe, BuzzFeed News investigative reporter Christine Kenneally embarked on a four-year-long journey to find out what really went on in these institutions. Today, BuzzFeed News publishes her special investigation, with a powerful video, revealing the systematic abuse and even the alleged murder of children by nuns.

Her searing report — part true crime drama, part ghost story — cracks open a secret history of American life, and adds a vast new dimension to the Catholic church’s mistreatment of children.

From a world shrouded in secrecy, she tells the story of Sally Dale, Joseph Barquin, Dale Greene, and other former residents of St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Burlington, Vermont, who somehow found the courage to come forward and tell the world what they had witnessed, begging to be heard and believed. The local Catholic diocese put up the fight of a lifetime.

The legal battle upended every assumption that the people of Burlington had. Could memory be trusted? Could forgetting be forgotten? Could a thriving community turn a blind eye to evil? And could nuns, the very women charged with protecting the most vulnerable members of society, have tortured and even killed them?

The Catholic Church abuse scandals — including this month’s Pennsylvania grand jury report on how the church hid the crimes of hundreds of priests — shattered the silence that for so long had protected the church’s secrets. But the truth about what went on inside its American orphanages somehow remained unspoken.

Across thousands of miles, across decades, the abuse in orphanages took eerily similar forms. People who grew up in orphanages said they were made to kneel or stand for hours, sometimes with their arms straight out. Children were forced to eat their own vomit. Children were dangled upside-down out windows, over wells, or in laundry chutes. They were locked in cabinets, in closets, in attics, sometimes for days.

While other countries have opened national inquiries, in the US, there has been no national reckoning. The few times that people who went through the orphanages have sought justice, the courts have tended to be largely indifferent.

So the dark secrets, like the children who haunt survivors’ dreams, lay buried.

Until now.

SNAPSHOTS

Sen. John McCain has died at age 81. The former presidential nominee, senator from Arizona, and war hero served in Congress for more than three decades. Here is our obituary for McCain. Since his death, powerful tributes have poured in from the likes of Lindsey Graham, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush. Veterans are sharing moving stories about meeting McCain.

Two people were shot and killed when a gunman opened fire at a Madden tournament. At least 11 others were injured during the shooting at a popular gaming tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. Authorities say the sole suspect, 24-year-old David Katz, killed himself at the scene. Here’s everything we know about the suspect. Those injured in the shooting were taken to local hospitals, and all were in stable condition as of Sunday evening. The gaming community is mourning the loss of its own.

Police say a Texas man has been shooting female drivers because he thinks they are “incompetent.” Authorities arrested Nicholas D'Agostino for the second time in connection with two recent shootings in Katy, Texas. Two women told police they were each shot in the arm while driving near his home. In total, D'Agostino admitted to five separate road rage incidents over the past few months, according to court filings. Investigators say in court documents that D’Agostino’s Facebook posts show that he has been “randomly” targeting women drivers on purpose because he “held a very dim view of women.” Authorities described posts where he “rants and rambles on about female motorists and how incompetent they are and that their sole purpose is to give birth to male children.”

A stage invader stopped Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s show in Atlanta — but don’t worry, they’re OK. Footage posted to social media by fans shows the final moments of the show, as the couple exit the stage. Then someone in a white T-shirt and black shorts is seen emerging from the audience and apparently following them offstage. Dancers then break into a run and follow after the intruder. Fans can be heard saying, “It's a fight!” On Instagram, the couple’s publicist thanked fans for their concern and reassured the public that Bey and Jay are fine.

Serena Williams won’t be allowed to wear her Black Panther catsuit at the French Open. Williams wears the skintight black suit to promote blood circulation and prevent blood clots, an ongoing medical issue that nearly killed her after she gave birth to a daughter last September. Williams said, “I had a lot of problems with my blood clots. God, I don’t know how many I’ve had in the last 12 months.” French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli said the bodysuit went “too far,” and it won’t be allowed at future French Opens. The top tennis official said the French Open would be instituting a dress code.

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