Two news items reveal how intransigent the Catholic church is in dealing with its abuse issues. The first follows the development of an investigative panel on the abuse of children in Ireland. The initial report was on buried children at Taum.
Church leaders in Galway, western Ireland, have said they had no idea so many children who died at the orphanage had been buried there, and have pledged to support local efforts to mark the spot with a plaque listing all 796 children.
County Galway death records showed that the children, mostly babies and toddlers, had died, often of sickness or disease, during the 35 years the home operated from 1926 to 1961, according to Corless’s research. The building, which had previously been a workhouse for homeless adults, was torn down decades ago to make way for houses.
A 1944 government inspection recorded evidence of malnutrition among some of the 271 children then living in the Tuam orphanage alongside 61 unwed mothers. The death records cited sicknesses, diseases, deformities and premature births as causes. In the first half of the 20th century Ireland had one of the worst infant mortality rates in Europe, with tuberculosis rife.
It was happening all over Ireland. The quote says apparently but it was rampant. Ireland had been destitute with high infant mortality at least since the potato famine of 1845.
The staggering mortality rate of “The Home” was apparently replicated elsewhere in Ireland.
It would seem it’s just disease. Because of long term poverty, lack of cleanliness, and a belief that it was their lot in life.
According to death records, the little ones were fragile, pot-bellied, emaciated and died as late as 1961 from malnutrition and infectious diseases such as measles and TB.
But it was not that there was just insufficient food available. No they were starved, abused, and ostracized.
Special kinds of neglect and abuse were reserved for the Home Babies, as locals call them. Many in surrounding communities remember them. They remember how they were segregated to the fringes of classrooms, and how the local nuns accentuated the differences between them and the others. They remember how, as one local told the Irish Central, they were “usually gone by school age — either adopted or dead.”
According to Irish Central, a 1944 local health board report described the children living at the Home as “emaciated,” “pot-bellied,” “fragile” and with “flesh hanging loosely on limbs.”
How would anyone not know of this happening? How is this startling? With an incredibly long history of poverty and religious wars the only news was when there was a resurgence of wealth followed by a crash, which then made it even more impossible for people to afford to live there.
Unfortunately the over 350,800 children suspected to be in Catholic child mass graves sites in three countries paled in number to Catholic Priest sex abuse victims across the globe. As of November 2013 over ten million Catholic Priest child sex abuse cases have been documented as shown here. These 10,077,574 cases represented a mere fraction of total crimes committed. Only an estimated 10% of sex abuse victims were thought to speak out about their sex abuse and just 10% of those cases saw the inside of a court room.
Having a child out of wedlock was considered evil, beyond redemptive sin.
Since there was simply no question of the birth mothers keeping their children – the shame was thought too ruinous – they lost all future claim to them. Their punishment was to work without wages for two or three years in atonement for their sins. In the homes they wore uniforms at all times, they had their names changed and they had their letters censored.
Erasure. The living dead without identity.
“When daughters became pregnant, they were ostracized completely,” Corless said. “Families would be afraid of neighbors finding out, because to get pregnant out of marriage was the worst thing on Earth. It was the worst crime a woman could commit, even though a lot of the time it had been because of a rape.”
Children were used for vaccination trials in duplicity. This may seem unimportant since diphtheria in 1930 was the third largest cause of death in children but these tests were done in secret. At the time it was not known whether vaccines were dangerous or not. Desperate measures to counter disease.
‘The fact that no record of these trials can be found in the files relating to the Department of Local Government and Public Health, the Municipal Health Reports relating to Cork and Dublin, or the Wellcome Archives in London, suggests that vaccine trials would not have been acceptable to government, municipal authorities, or the general public.
‘However, the fact that reports of these trials were published in the most prestigious medical journals suggests that this type of human experimentation was largely accepted by medical practitioners and facilitated by authorities in charge of children’s residential institutions.’
Now there is going to be an investigation.
“This was Ireland of the (19)20s to the ’60s — an Ireland that might be portrayed as a glorious and brilliant past, but in its shadows contained all of these personal cases, where people felt ashamed, felt different, were suppressed, dominated,” he said. “And obviously the question of the treatment in the mother and babies homes is a central part of that.”
The inquiry will seek to determine what occurred, rather than try to apportion blame. It will look at the high mortality rates at the homes, the burial practices at these residences, illegal adoptions and whether vaccine trials were conducted on the children.
While this is a good thing I don’t see how it is a surprise to anyone. It’s a bit like wondering if there was slavery in the states and just how much by whom. These “ruinous” events were common. I come from an Irish background on my maternal side. When my great aunt had a child out of wedlock she was forced to live on the farm in shame and never married or had other children. When my aunt had a child out of wedlock, she too was shamed and marriage was forced and she never had another child. When my mother had a child out of wedlock she was told by her parents she could either go back to the farm and stay there forever or leave the country. She left for Switzerland and would have stayed there permanently if she could have but came back 12 years later. Though I was not a bastard child I was always considered different because my mother later married a Jew who left because his family would not tolerate his marrying a gentile.
Religion has been destroying families since its inception. Anyone of age or who has been paying the slightest attention knows how horrible women were treated generally and worse when they had children our of wedlock. The joke “shotgun” marriage is so common as to be a caricature of the disgrace and shame wrought to women who were at first told they couldn’t use birth control and then when they had children were shamed for life.
It’s easy to blame this on the harsh conditions of the world where they were born, somehow traveling like a defect, along genetic lines but it is cultural. The mideast has long had issues with climate and resource shortages. But in Ireland that was not the case. St Patrick’s day is celebrated because he brought Catholicism to England. Did these genes just pass along through the existing population? Was it really the Roman’s fault and then capitalized on by missionaries?
A patriarchal culture invested in misogyny exacerbated the geoeconomic conditions that left men unemployed, depressed, and drunk with women picking up the pieces. Rather than celebrating St Patrick either as veneration or an excuse to party he should be an example of the horrors wrought by missionaries. It would have been far better for the people of Ireland to never have seen a missionary with his platitudes of big families, women are servants, and god saves.
The potato famine wouldn’t have been such an issue if the land wasn’t already so overpopulated they desperately planted potatoes everywhere, abandoning grass farming with its lessor output. The land is best suited to grow grass not carbohydrate heavy crops. It was an ideology of breeding that set them up for failure..
The second case is the statement by bishop Robert Carlson, previously of St Paul, that he wasn’t aware that it was illegal to sexually abuse children.
In a video released by the St. Paul law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, the Catholic archbishop is asked whether he had known it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a child.
“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Carlson responded. “I understand today it’s a crime.”
When asked when he first realized it was a crime for an adult — including priests — to have sex with a child, Carlson, 69, shook his head.
“I don’t remember,” he testified.
But he did know.
Yet according to documents released Monday by the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates in St. Paul, Carlson showed clear knowledge that sexual abuse was a crime when discussing incidents with church officials during his time in Minnesota.
In a 1984 document, for example, Carlson wrote to the then archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, John R. Roach, about one victim of sexual abuse and mentioned that the statute of limitations for filing a claim would not expire for more than two years. He also wrote that the parents of the victim were considering reporting the incident to the police.
Today still they cover their pernicious evils. Over and over again the church fights court orders to provide information and names showing they knew of abuse, they kept the abusers employed and their crimes hidden.
What the news of these investigation across the world does reveal is the Catholic church’s success in hiding their abuse of so many for so long that even after so many cases of pedophilia and abuse have been revealed people are sill surprised to learn more. It has never been just the priests and the boys, women have been treated much worse for much longer.
Catholicism wishes to bury the past so they do not continue to lose its members. Progressive Catholicism is praised but the church still silences those who disagree within the church.
But a recent incident illustrates that the institutional church doesn’t extend that same freedom of religious expression to the many of its followers who dissent from its official position on abortion. The National Catholic Reporter, which is by far the most liberal of the semi-official Catholic publications, refused an ad for my book, Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church, which charts the clashes between pro-choice Catholics and the Catholic hierarchy over whether “good Catholics” can support abortion rights or vote for pro-choice politicians. A spokesperson said the publication couldn’t “respect arguments that try to say that abortion can be a good thing” and likened giving space to abortion dissenters to promoting polygamy.
I’m not sure the person delivering that message grasped the irony of censoring an ad about a book that’s largely about attempts to suppress abortion dissent. The episode is emblematic of how any discussion of abortion has been completely suppressed within the church — even to the point of trying to deny history. Legitimate questions about how to comport Catholic doctrine with competing demands for women’s autonomy and access to health care and the rights of others in pluralistic society have been reduced to aspersions that pro-choice Catholics think abortion is “a good thing.”
If the Catholic church provides moral direction they need a new compass.
Jim Newman, bright and well www.frontiersofreason.com