The article will offer an historical perspective on the origins of institutionalised care for children in Ireland during 1914 to 2000; the relevant period of inquiry for the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) (2009a), commonly known in Ireland as the Ryan Report. This includes an account of the concerns and extent of the abuse of children and the responses to a number of these concerns. The article presents a socio-cultural analysis of how and why the Irish Roman Catholic Church (IRCC) during the 20th century perpetuated the abuse of children in the care of its institutions. The rise of Ireland's new state of independence, following release from British rule, saw the emergence of a new power for the IRCC, in addition to a reinforced sexual morality for the people. The culture of honour towards the Church and its agents, together with the collusion of state agents themselves, permeates testimonies of victims and survivors in the CICA (2009c) inquiry. The article considers the power and control of this ecclesiastical authority, its relation to state affairs, governance over family life and particularly its impact on children. Abstract published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons.