F Rosa Rubicondior: Catholic Abuse News - Government of Ireland Apologises for Abusive Nuns

Wednesday 13 January 2021

Catholic Abuse News - Government of Ireland Apologises for Abusive Nuns

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland
"People were frequently stigmatised, judged and rejected"
Irish government to apologise over mother-and-baby homes - BBC News

Taoiseach Mícheál Martin, head of government in the Republic of Ireland, has formally apologised for the state's part in the regimes of terror and casual abuse of mothers and babies in the homes run by Catholic nuns in the 1950s through to the 1990s in Ireland. This abuse led to the premature deaths of some 9000 babies and children and the casual disposal of their bodies in unmarked graves and even in disused septic tanks. Some bodies were even sold to Dublin medical schools for as little as 50 pence!

The Catholic Church's and the Irish states complicity in these systematic and institutionalised abuses of single mothers and their children was acknowledged in the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

These centres of systematic abuse, humiliation and casual neglect for vulnerable women and their children were set up when Ireland, under the malign and all-pervading influence of the Catholic Church, was a deeply conservative, judgemental, misogynistic country in which sex and pregnancy outside wedlock were regarded as amongst the worst of sins, with prgnancy regarded as an ofence and the girls bearing the brunt of the blame. Their babies were regarded as the product of sin and unworthy of love and care, carrying a stigma that would haunt them for life.

A couple of paragraphs from the Report's Executive Summary are particularly telling of the social attitudes and Irish society and of the nuns in particular:
  1. Many of the women did suffer emotional abuse and were often subject to denigration and derogatory remarks. It appears that there was little kindness shown to them and this was particularly the case when they were giving birth. The large institutions were regimented and they were inadequately staffed until the later decades. The atmosphere appears to have been cold and seemingly uncaring. They offered little sympathy or counselling to women who may have been rejected by their family and by the father of their child. There were no qualified social workers, or counsellors attached to these homes until at least the 1970s, and until that time, there is no evidence that women were given opportunities to discuss the circumstances of their pregnancy or future options for their child. Women were dissuaded from sharing their stories with their fellow residents, because of concerns to protect their privacy though such conversations might have offered some comfort at a traumatic time. Conditions improved in all respects in the later decades.
  2. Many of the women found childbirth to be a traumatic experience. The overwhelming majority were first-time mothers and they were probably uninformed about childbirth. First-time childbirth can be frightening for any woman; it was undoubtedly worse for women whose pregnancy had devastated their normal life and resulted in their removal from home, family and friends. The trauma of childbirth must have been especially difficult for the many women who had no prospect of keeping their child. However, the hostile comments were not restricted to mother and baby homes. Letters written in the 1970s to Cherish describe hostile comments made by neighbours to women and their families. Women who were transferred from a mother and baby home to maternity hospitals to give birth, for medical reasons, were subjected to unfriendly comments by fellow-patients and their visitors.
Institutions such as those at Tuam and Bessborough were run by nuns such as those of The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. They were cold and uncaring, where casual abuse was institutionalised and routine. There were 56,000 girls and 57,000 babies in the homes investigated by the Commission. 15% of the babies died! This was a far higher infant mortality rate than in the areas surrounding the homes and, although the deaths were recorded and the information publicly available, this high mortality rate appears to have been accepted as normal by the authorities, as was the lack of records of burials.

This discrepancy only came to light when local historian, Catherine Corless noticed the high number of deaths and the lack of graves and began to research the situation at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby home, Tuam. She found that 796 children had been buried there and in 2014 an investigation revealed that a disused septic tank had been used to dispose of many of the bodies which appeared to have been simply thrown in it without ceremony or any recognition that is was the remains of human children that were being disposed of.

Despite inititial denials by the Catholic church, including an astonishingly vitriolic, person attack on Catherine Corless by the odious, self-appointed Pope's pit-bull, Bill Donohue, President of the American Catholic League, the Church eventually admitted that the nuns who ran the home were indeed responsible for these deaths. Donohue had said, in May 2017:
Catherine Corless, Local historian who uncovered the Tuam abuse scandal
Photo: PA Media

Bill Donohue, Catholic League President
The Pope's Pit Bull
The first myth concerns her [Corless'] expertise. Contrary to what virtually all news reports have said, Corless is not a historian: she not only does not have a Ph.D. in history, she doesn’t have an undergraduate degree. She is a typist. Her part-time course on historical research may impress some, but to those who know better, a high school equivalency diploma carries more weight. It was in 2014 when Corless first received media attention about her alleged discovery of a “mass grave.” At that time she was referred to by most media outlets as a “local historian.” That’s a new one on me. I have a Ph.D. in sociology. No one has ever called me a “local sociologist.” For that matter, I have never heard of a “local biologist” or a “local mathematician.” Moreover, I have worked with many historians, and none has ever called himself a “local,” “regional,” or “national” historian. He’s just a historian, by virtue of his credentials. Corless has no credentials, yet that hasn’t stopped the media from recently inflating her status again. To wit: She went from being a “local historian” in 2014 to being a full-blown “historian” in 2017. The following media outlets now call her a “historian”: Daily Mirror, Irish Daily Mail, Irish Independent, Irish Times, Newstalk and The Journal. In the United States, Irish Central and Irish Voice have followed suit.
Sad little shrine to the dead victims of the Bon Secours sisters on the site of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.
Photo: Reuters

The site as it appears today, the grim house of torture and abuse having been demolished,
Photo: Reuters
Dionohue appears not to have known that the term 'local historian' refers to someone who studies the history of a local area, as opposed to a national or international historian, but then he had little else with which to attack and smear Corless.

In October 2018, Donohue renewed his attack on Catherine Corless with:
Catherine Corless is the typist responsible for floating the “mass grave” hoax in Tuam, Ireland. She is back in the news, this time for blasting the Bon Secours sisters for not forking up enough cash to pay for an exhumation of an alleged “mass grave” of children’s remains she says exists on the grounds of the sisters’ Mother and Baby Home. Ireland’s Minister of Children, Katherine Zappone, is behind the effort to see what is buried in the grounds.


The nuns have offered to pay almost $3 million toward the digging, an amount that Corless predictably says is too “meager.” She says the sisters have “private hospitals all over the place” and should pay much more. In other words, the typist wants to drain money from the sick and dying today to pay for her wild goose chase about an incident that allegedly took place a hundred years ago.


The nuns should pay nothing. Let the activists like Corless in Ireland, and the Church-bashing activists in the United States like Irish Central, pony up first, then rip the Irish taxpayers for the remainder. For two reasons, this will never happen: the nuns are too humble, and those who hate the Church—they hate its teachings on sexuality—simply want to soak it. These people are not motivated by justice for children—they are motivated by revenge. That is a sin, though in their eyes it is a virtue.
Tuam, of course wasn't the only such home where nuns saw it as their duty to punish and humiliate these 'sinners' and their children. Another notorious home was that at Bessborough. Here, a very high infant mortality rate seems to have been accepted, even expected, even though the authorities were aware that the situation there was unsanitary and conducive to epidemics such as measles and whooping cough in the over-crowded dormitories. The Commission reports says:
18.51 In the year ending March 1934, the DLGPH [Department of Local Government and Public Health] reported that:
  • 92 women were admitted
  • 108 were discharged; eight were placed in employment in one of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts-run institutions in the UK;
  • 34 found employment in Ireland; 29 returned to their family home with their children and 10 women married
  • 30 infants died; marasmus [acute malnourishment; starvation!] and prematurity were the main causes of death.

18.52 The DLGPH commented:

Deaths of infants at these institutions are generally caused by an epidemic of some kind, measles, whopping cough, etc., which spreads quickly among the children and wipes out the weaklings. The nurseries are laid out to accommodate too many children and the provision for isolation is not adequate.

18.53 Bessborough had the highest infant mortality rate of the four mother and baby homes then in existence (Pelletstown, Tuam, Sean Ross and Bessborough). It is very clear from the reports of the DLGPH that it was fully aware of the very high rate of infant mortality in all mother and baby homes at least from 1933 but it seems to have accepted the deaths as inevitable:
Doubtless, the great proportion of deaths in these cases is due to congenital debility, congenital deformations and other ante-natal causes traceable to the conditions associated with the unfortunate lot of the unmarried mother.

18.54 The DLGPH reported that, in the year ending March 1935, 120 infants were born in or admitted to Bessborough and 39 infants had died. In the same period:
  • 131 expectant women were admitted to the maternity hospital and an additional five women were admitted to the home accompanied by a child
  • 64 women were discharged; 21 left with their child
  • 40 infants and children were discharged; 22 were informally ‘adopted’ in the nursed out system, 16 were boarded out and 2 were placed with nurse mothers through a ‘Rescue Society’
Chapter 18: Bessborough [my emphasis]
The authorities ignored the fact that many of the infant deaths were due to 'marasmus', i.e., from acute malnourishment. The nuns were starving them to death!

The Fifth Interim Report of the Commission Of Investigation On Mother And Baby Homes reported that:
Mistreated and malnourished, infant mortality was much higher than in the outside community. In one home the infant mortality rate was 68%! Deaths registered with the HSE by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart total 470 infants and 10 women between 1937 and 1953. However, the sisters lied to State inspectors, admitting to only 353 deaths. Even so, the inspectors ignored the fact that 20% of these deaths were recorded as from 'marasmus' (severe malnutrition). Children were being starved to death by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

The report also detailed how one porter made a bit on the side by selling dead babies and children for ten shillings (65c) a time. The Commission has found that almost 1,000 dead babies and children were sold to Dublin Medical Schools between 1920 and 1977. The report says:
The Combined Anatomical Register of the Dublin Medical Schools records that all but 18 of the children received as anatomical subjects were “illegitimate” children. Children used as anatomical subjects in the Dublin Medical Schools were aged between 10 minutes and 15 years at the time of death.
The report has been criticised by survivors who complain that it does not go far enough on the question of forced adoptions. Although it acknowledged that the mothers had 'little choice in the matter' it distinguishes that from 'forced adoption'. Women who were not consulted and who had no say or choice in the matter will find that distinction difficult to understand.

The inhuman and repugnant attitude of these Catholic Nuns in Ireland was little different to those in Spain who set up a lucrative market in new-born babies for adoption by wealthy childless couples, telling their (usually single) mothers who had just given birth that their baby had died but refusing to let them see the 'dead' baby that was destined to be sold.

Just another example of what can happen when people who display a public facade of piety feel this entitles them to self-licence their exemptions from the moral standards they tell others to live by; people who see their 'calling' as deciding who God wants punnished and meeting it out on his behalf, hoping it pleases him enough to grant them special favours.

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