Magdalen-asylum

United Nations Challenges Vatican on Magdalene Asylums and Forced Adoptions

Virtual slaves at a Magdalene Asylum

As I have noted before, the Oscar nominated movie Philomena is a must see. Not only is the acting superb but the movie is based on a true story and in the end is a staggering indictment of the Roman Catholic Church. Now, the United Nations is demanding accountability and more importantly records on the Church’s Magdalene Asylums or Laundries and the manner in which young women were forced to relinquish their babies to adoption – often for a fee paid to the religious order running the horrid institutions. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the Vatican is trying to claim that it had and still has no control over these orders and institutions located outside of the Vatican. It’s the same disingenuous approach that has been taken by the Vatican in seeking to shirk blame for the worldwide sex abuse scandal. Here are highlights from Religion Dispatches:

In addition to calling Archbishop Silvano Tomasi and Bishop Charles J. Scicluna to account for a decades-long, worldwide epidemic of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee conducting this historic proceeding in Geneva last week also demanded responses to questions concerning the church’s trampling on girls’ reproductive health and rights.

Chairwoman Kirsten Sandberg and others wanted to know what the church was doing about uncovering the whereabouts of the children born to young, unmarried women who were essentially enslaved in Ireland’s Magdalene Asylums or Laundries and forced to relinquish their babies to adoption, a situation brilliantly dramatized in the film Philomena, with Oscar-nominated Judi Dench playing the real Philomena Lee.

“The position of the Holy See,” pronounced Tomasi, the Vatican’s Geneva representative to the UN, “is that the state has already taken its responsibility and is proceeding…through the courts….It is the responsibility of local institutions.” In other words, it’s not our job— the same position the Vatican officials took, repeatedly and disingenuously, on their refusal to act on local clergy sex abuse crimes.

Charging that the policy of the church institutions that ran the Laundries has not been to turn over their records, a blunt Sandberg issued a challenge: “I trust that you will ask the local churches to do that.” Neither Tomasi nor Scicluna, formerly the Vatican’s top sex abuse prosecutor, said that they would.

The chairwoman also brought up the story from Brazil of “the nine-year-old girl who had an emergency life-saving abortion after rape by her stepfather,” followed by the excommunication of mother and doctor, “with no measure taken against the father,” aka, the rapist. “Explain this,” Sandberg said. In that case, regional archbishops Jose Cardoso Sobrinho astonishingly admitted that the rapist had “committed an extremely serious crime,” but that “abortion is even more serious.”

Soon after, another committee member, Hungary’s Maria Herczog, brought up a situation from Nicaragua, where the Catholic Church vigorously supports a ban on all abortions. The situation involved “a ten-year-old girl forced to give birth after being raped, with the full support of the Catholic Church and the local community.

The church’s recent history worldwide is replete with stories of priests forcing the women they impregnated to have abortions; of nuns impregnated by priests being thrown out of their convents while the men remain priests in good standing; of mothers of priests’ children being forced to sign confidentiality agreements to get any support at all.

These issues—forcing children to bear children, forced child relinquishment, abandonment of children by Catholic priests—were not the main subjects of this hearing, but that they were mentioned is noteworthy because the church’s history of child abuse has taken many forms. And that history is tied intimately to the hierarchy’s history of secrecy, hypocrisy on the sexuality of its own clerics, misogyny which denies women’s moral authority, and gender apartheid, which relegates women to second-class status and surely enabled those all-male power brokers in clerical collars to callously dismiss the desperate mothers of molested children who came to them for action.

There is more to the piece that deserves a full read. The bottom line is that as an institution the Roman Catholic Church – and most certainly its hierarchy from the Pope on down – is morally bankrupt and unworthy of any respect, at least by decent moral people. Those who continue to attend mass and contribute to the Church monetarily are complicit in the horrors done by the hierarchy and the predators that it protects. Catholics need to open their eyes to the truth and walk away. The Vatican and the hierarchy will only change if and when the Church’s survival is seriously threatened by a mass exodus of members and a shutting off of the money spigot
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