Though the Commission's remit encompassed all forms of child abuse outside the family, the majority of allegations it investigated related to the system of residential "Reformatory and Industrial Schools" operated by Catholic Church orders, funded and supervised by the Irish Department of Education.
The Commission's report said testimony had demonstrated beyond a doubt that the entire system treated children more like prison inmates and slaves than people with legal rights and human potential, that church officials encouraged ritual beatings and consistently shielded their orders' paedophiles from arrest amid a "culture of self-serving secrecy", and that government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.
Those abused were, amongst other things, stripped, beaten and raped by nuns, subjected to naked beatings in public, forced into oral sex and even subjected to beatings after failed rape attempts by brothers. One person described how they attempted to tell nuns they had been molested by an ambulance driver only to be "stripped naked and whipped by four nuns to 'get the devil out of you'". Another described how they were removed from their bed and "made to walk around naked with other boys whilst brothers used their canes and flicked at their penis". Yet another was "tied to a cross and raped whilst others masturbated at the side".