A mass grave, reporting to contain 800 dead babies, has been located near Tuam, Co. Galway. The bodies were buried in a septic tank on the grounds of a “mother and baby home”, a Catholic institution run by nuns which housed unmarried women and their children.
The home was unfortunately only one of many dotted around Ireland, many of which had a high child mortality rate, sometimes as much as four times the national average. Bessborough Mother and Baby Home, Co Cork, had 44.6% mortality rate, Sean Ross, 33.7%, and Castlepolland, 9.1%.
In the Tuam home alone, 800 babies died between 1925-1961, a 36 year period. Meaning, in this sole home, a child died and its anonymous corpse chucked into a septic tank every two weeks for 36 years. How could Irish society establish and maintain a system which churned out dead babies for so long?
The answer is simple. We turned our backs on these women and children, and turned a blind eye to the cruel and inhumane treatment they received in these institutions. What’s worse is there is a segment of Irish society that is still doing just that: the religious right.
Since the breaking of the story the religious right has failed to report on it. In fact, they have outright ignored it, even after being quizzed about on social media. In one sense this is surprising as the religious right are alleged to be pro-life, so the death of 800 babies should be a concern. But in another sense their abject silence isn’t all that surprising as the deaths occurred in a Catholic run institution.
There is recurring motif among the religious right not to publicly criticise the actions of the Church. Including,
- Refusal to hand over individuals who were complicit in the cover-up of child abuse
- Religious orders refusing to pay abuse victims compensation
- Church’s refusal to open its archives so the abuse scandal can be investigated fully
- Sheltering priests and nuns who partook in the Rwandan genocide
And now we have them turning a blind eye to a mass grave containing 800 dead babies. Contrast this to their reaction to the Gosnell trial. Kermit Gosnell was convicted of murdering three infants (he may have murdered more) who were born alive during late-term abortion procedures. It was reported by almost all major religious news sources including both the Irish Catholic and the Iona Institute. David Quinn of the Iona Institute even criticised mainstream media for not reporting the trial. Yet now they are all quiet when it is the Catholic Church which may have caused the deaths of 800 children.
No doubt they will regurgitate the same pathetic and tired apologetics, “it was a different time”, “nobody knew”, “a few bad eggs”, “the government and society had a role too”. But none of these are even remotely acceptable.
“It was a different time” – Even the Romans would blush at the cruelty meted out in these institutions. Some of the mortality rates were higher than those in hunter-gatherer societies.
“Nobody knew” – Everybody knew.
“A few bad eggs” – It was institutional and systematic. If it was just one home then this excuse might have merit, but it was several and it was over a long period of time.
“The government and society had a role too” – To a certain extent. The government had a role as the lines between Church and state were non-existent back then and the government relied on Church run institutions. As for society, it shunned these women and ignored their plight. But who generated and propagated the poisonous idea that these women were immoral? The Church. And this is what disturbs the religious right the most. The actions taken by the Church were dictated by canon law, canon law which stills exists.
As it still states in the catechism of the Catholic Church, women who had children out of wedlock were said to be immoral and their children to be illegitimate:
2353. “Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.”
2396. “Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices.”
1137. “The children conceived or born of a valid putative marriage are legitimate.”
These Catholic doctrines created social conditions which stigmatised these women and led to familial and community rejection. This is why society turned a blind eye; we were told they violated god’s law. They were deemed sinful and immoral and needed to be punished. The sexual mores of the Church was strictly enforced and any women who went against the Catholic Church’s view of marriage and parenting was to be removed from society and punished for their transgressions.
And this is why the religious right refuse to report on this. The 800 dead babies is a direct result of Catholic doctrine. These “immoral” women and “illegitimate” children were treated as sub-human.
To the religious right, the reputation of the Church comes before any and all other considerations. It is this poisonous mentality which led to the abuse scandal. Paedophile priests were moved from parish to parish and victims forced into secrecy to protect the name of the Church.
It is a mentality which is evidently still extant among the Church and its supporters. Women and children come second to the reputation of the Church. It is quite clear that if given the chance the religious right would bury this story in the same septic tank right beside 800 anonymous dead children.