Spain’s Stolen Babies

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Up to 300,000 Spanish newborn babies were stolen from their parents and sold for adoption over a five decade period. The mothers, often young and unmarried, were told their babies had died and were not allowed to see the body or attend the funeral. A secret network of doctors, nurses, priests, and nuns trafficked the babies beginning during the reign of General Franco and continuing into the early 1990’s.

The Catholic Church is closely linked to the scandal, which, under Franco, played a powerful role in Spain’s social services including hospitals, schools, and children’s homes. The system of baby theft continued even after the dictator’s death in 1975.

Lists of would-be adoptive parents were compiled by nuns and priests. The adoptive parents, in many cases, were unaware that the babies had been stolen, they were told that the mothers had given the babies up.

Countless faux burials for the “dead” babies were performed with casket filled with animal bones and rocks. Some hospitals kept frozen baby cadavers to show to mothers as proof their baby had died.

The Catholic Church saw this as a moral crusade, removing babies from sinful unmarried mothers and placing them with those who were more worthy, in the eyes of God. If the Church also turned a profit, so much the better.

It is often argued that without God there are no objective moral values. If stealing and selling babies can be justified as an objective moral action, then there are no objective moral values.

H/T: Pharyngula, Daily Mail, The Guardian, BBC News.

47 thoughts on “Spain’s Stolen Babies

  1. Thanks, Nal, for an illuminating article. And to think before reading this, I wondered why the Church has such an uncompromising policy against abortions. Can’t cut down on the supply of adoptable babies now can they?

  2. While all churches are con games, none have reached the heights of despicable graft and soulless immorality of the Catholic Church. They still want to pretend these events are aberrations, the work of a few misguided or over-zealous locals but eventually these obscenities lead back to headquarters. These people better hope there is no just & moral God to cast judgment upon them in the here after.

  3. Mespo, I’m not Catholic but I was brought up (50s) in a small town where everybody ELSE was. In the basement of the school the nuns held Catechism every day and kids were terrified of the nuns and there were reports of all sorts of physical “punishments” that really were kiddie tortures. I was horrified and also frightened by the medieval clothing, the black flowing robes, the stern glares (and I had been fingered by the roughest of the Catholic kids for having killed Christ!). Later, by accidental study, I learned that Catholic girls who were “wayward” were sent to convents far from their homes; I learned that nuns were in charge of orphanages; I learned that priests were supposed to be celibate; I learned this and that and then one day the flashbulb went off. OH! So THAT explains it. But still, I can’t reach the conclusion of “Frankly” because once you find out enough about any of the organized religions, which are, of course, extraterritorial organized “governments,” especially of women, you find the very same stuff, just in different jargon, different ritual, different “god” — to me it doesn’t seem all that outlandish. It’s just what any really insecure “ruler of the universe” does within his own life and his own home, adjusted for the fact that he [they] must control more than his own “brood” by the myth he is using. Therefore it has to be a more awe- and fear-inspiring myth.

  4. Nal the messenger,

    A secret network of doctors, nurses, priests, and nuns trafficked the babies beginning during the reign of General Franco and continuing into the early 1990′s

    The messenger of bad tidings is usually associated with those bad tidings, but the appropriate response is to thank you for bringing this information forth into the light of day.

    We have that abuse of trust problem in the USA too, so naturally I wonder if the toxins of power have no boundaries?

  5. nal, a great article…..Not only was Spain involved…but the English had a hand in it as well…..If I recall there was a segment on 60 minutes about 11 or 12 years ago…..

    The Lost Children

    (CBS) It’s a mind-boggling story, one that sounds more like a bad movie than reality. But it happened. In the two decades after World War II, 10,000 English children were sent to Australia, reports 60 Minutes II Correspondent Bob Simon. Many were mistreated and abused. All were lied to.

    British Child Migration to Australia: History, Senate Inquiry and Responsibilities

    I have included a link to murdoch university journal of law which summarizes it fairly well:

  6. Saw this earlier this week at Pharyngula. ( )

    In the comments section, readers provide links that show that this policy was followed all around the globe.

    David, when you said:

    “It is often argued that without God there are no objective moral values. If stealing and selling babies can be justified as an objective moral action, then there are no objective moral values.”,

    You nailed it.

  7. Hmpf,
    Does the Tea Party operate any orphanages? Sounds like the situation in Texas. Get rid of the health care for low income women. What? No clinics; no abortions?
    Who you gonna call?

    RICK PERRY! “Now, Darlin’, we’re gonna take real good care of your unwanted baby that you were curiously unable to abort. I sure am glad you didn’t fall for that birth control rubbish. Now tell me Darli’; Does this rag smell like Chloroform?

  8. No doubt some of these adopted children were later abused by RCC clergy.

    Earlier I wrote about how our laws create incentives to steal children in the thread Baby Trafficking: Police Arrest Doctors and Nurses in Baby Selling Syndicate

    Governments routinely force the compensation given to biological parents for “giving up” their children to zero. This intervention by government has serious consequences that are rarely debated.

    This government policy stops a mother from receiving compensation even if she believes it is in both the interest of herself, her child, and the adoptive parents to relinquish her custody of the child.

    As a result there will always be a shortage of children to adopt. Biological parents who would otherwise be incentivized to give up children they may not want have this incentive stripped away by government.

    It is this government policy that has created a vicious and growing black market for children, and draconian and absurd tests (like tests on sexual orientation) on prospective adoptive parents.

    Government policy limiting compensation in adoptions risks the lives of children, harms mothers, and denies children to willing, qualified parents.

  9. angrymanspeaks, The Edna Gladney Center in Ft Worth houses poor pregnant girls and adopts their babies to affluent families. I guess their business will increase.

  10. All organized religion eventually must either become a racket to sustain itself, or eventually go extinct as did the Shakers. The reason is that
    Like a Ponzi new blood must replace those aging and dying. How you attract new members is where the racketeering comes in. This is accomplished by using fear, intimidation or as in this case theft of children. The RCC because of its long history of centralized authority leads the pack, but certainly others such as the Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans and the Byzantine Muslims also were shall we say aggressive in acquiring and retaining membership.

    This is a very interesting discussion that Nal has engendered because it highlights how the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Originally, I assume that the idea was to find homes for children born out of wedlock to very young and poor mothers. Once down that path it was a short jump to considering those mothers sinners undeserving of parenthood, etc. The profits to be gained from brokering the deal were readily apparent and so it goes.

    To believe that any bureaucracy/organization can be morally pure without oversight over a period of time is naive. God save us from the “morally pure” of humanity for they will always screw us over time.

  11. angryman, that is not all that stinks in Texas. Due to budget shortfalls, prisoners in the Texas prison system will only get two meals a day on weekends. If the crunch continues, which it probably will, that will no doubt extend to full time. This is a false economy, since any correctional expert will tell you that keeping the inmates well fed is, quite literally, a safety issue. When inmates are hungry, there will be security problems for the officers and other inmates.

  12. Mike S.,

    Well said…and if I may clarify the Eastern Orthodox Catholics’ which still follow many Byzantine customs and the Roman Catholic Church used to be one in the same until who got to control the money…..

  13. The selling of babies still goes on. It is an extremely profitable business. It is a class based business thriving on racism and the desperation of the poor. Most religious institutions will readily help their wealthy patrons take advantage of the poor.

    If you look at adoption in the US there is the selling of white or closer to white babies from poor mothers in the US and nations like China, Guatemala etc. to wealthy white couples. There is also surrogacy predicated on the rights of wealthy people to buy the bodies of poor women. Egg donation, an arduous and dangerous procedure, is also done primarily by the poor for the rich. It is extremely profitable for the medical clinics who engage in it.

    I see this as one other form of the spiritual sickness afflicting every culture who believes in hierarchy–in this case the value of rich people’s lives and desires are taken as a reason to cruelly abuse the poor.

    A good movie to tie in with David’s post is: “Pan’s Labyrinth” Another that deals with selling the babies stolen from the disappeared of Argentina is: “The Official Story”.

  14. Great article David. I am continually amazed on how brazen and corrupt the Catholic Church has been and continues to be. There should be a special place in Hell for these people who destoyed children’s lives and the lives of their biological parents.
    Swarthmore Mom, Great movie.

  15. And all of this was taking place during the period when droves of pedophile priests were also entering the marketplace of Church leadership and ended at about the same time as those prosecutions began gaining momentum. Coincidental? I think not.

    I would suggest, based on their actions, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is certain that the afterlife, as they portray it, doesn’t exist.

    It has always been, from the selling of Indulgences to the ongoing practice of speeding up the purging process of purgatory by purchasing “special masses” to gain an early release for the departed one’s soul, a money making venture with no fear of punishment … for none exists.

    The punishment of the Catholic Church is for the living to decide which is why they try to hide their wrong doing from us.

  16. Angryman, If Santorum and his ilk among the prez. candidates get their way it wont be a mater of some woman falling for birth control propaganda- they simply wont be able to get it:

    The candidate later went on to explain that sex between a man and a woman is “special,” and even birth control is “not OK.”

    “We’ll repeal Obamacare and get rid any idea that you have to have abortion coverage or contraceptive coverage,” he said. “One of the things that I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the sexual liberty idea and many in the Christian faith have said, you know contraception is OK. It’s not OK because it’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

  17. Well said Blouise. The Catholic Church continues to hide its abusers from authorities and that is why the Bishop being indicted in Missouri was a big deal.

  18. Blouise1, October 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm
    I don’t know……I don’t know. Seems to me the Church is doing what the State is doing what the Church is doing what the State is doing and everybody just keeps talking about what the other guy was doing and there sure is an awfu lot of doing going on.

  19. Woosty: who’s doin’ who? You’re either one of the ‘do-ers’ or one that ‘gets done’. Unlike many on the right I’ve never had any illusions to which class I belong to. Those ‘do-ers’ are a minority but damn, they stick together and cover each other’s back.

  20. Woosty’s,

    Only difference, as I see it, is that the state, at least in this country, doesn’t have the protection of religion … it is secular by law.

    As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to criminal behavior, any church is subject to the demands of the secular law of the country within which it operates. It’s status as a religious institution grants no special consideration when criminality is suspected.

    From a theological viewpoint, my ruminations on the Catholic Church’s purported view of the afterlife simply, given their centuries of fearless, on-going, and repetitious abuses, fails the test of common sense. They can’t possibly believe what they preach for they have continually failed to practice what they preach … for centuries.

  21. LK,

    You are welcome….I was really interested in Australia at one time….long before the Internet was readily available….

  22. Woosty’s,

    When I speak of the Catholic Church as “they”, I am specifically referring to Popes, Cardinals, Bishops … the leadership down through the centuries who know full well that the “afterlife” they have presented to their followers is not as they have claimed it to be. Their “afterlife” exists only as a means of making money.

    Now, that does not mean that I agree with others on this blog that no afterlife exists. That’s another topic for a different time. :)

  23. steal babies, f*** babies, f*** children, move,hide, protect pedophiles – it’s not just the catholic church, all the religions are ridiculous, I don’t know why anyone believes any of their dogma/preaching/moralizing/etc. anymore.

    We need something to replace the churches and their role in connecting people within a community. Something where real human morals and values are shared and that are not influenced by special business interests and selfish perverted sexual interests in children who can’t defend themselves.

    Hopefully OWS is a sign of this and more is to come… let these institutions die on the vine, leave them and look to create something different, something that nurtures happy human development. As a society, we have to get to work on exercising our cooperation muscle…

  24. puzzling:

    so you are saying the people should be allowed to sell their babies if that is what they wish to do? That is a great idea, I would imagine the pro-choice people would object to it as it would cut into their business.

    More freedom, what you propose is a good idea on very many levels.

    We should also be allowed to sell our organs as well, it would eliminate the shortage of available organs. Many people would be spared suffering and loss of life.

    Choice, that is what is best for human beings, and the more the better.

  25. I’ve always “preached” that organized religions is just another business enterprise, a way to make a living for it’s priests, clerics, ministers et al, by taking advantage of people’s insecurities, fears, and the like. This article is just further proof.

  26. lottakatz1, October 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm
    I think we are all do-ers and we are all in need, at some point in our lives, of getting done. Hopefully we will do and be done to each other the way we would like to have done to us… both ends of the spectrum!

  27. Baby-selling in Spain. Child abuse worldwide. Complicity in genocide in Rwanda.

    At what point do we stop treating the Catholic Church like a religious body and start treating it like a multinational criminal organization?

  28. donkensler1, October 22, 2011 at 8:23 pm ,

    no, we cannot.
    why would a rational civil society that believed and supported the separation of church and state do something that ridiculous?
    now, if you had said ;
    Can we please have the Catholic Church be held to accountability for thier past wicked deeds so they could rebuild the faith that people have placed in them over the years? Well Yes! We did! then I could add, Thanks to those who tirelessly assisted those to bring thier stories to light (even if they couldn’t afford lawyers and courts….) and because of the elevated discourse and enlightenment to the problem, children and other living things are not as likely to be abused by the clergy or to have it ‘poo pooed’ if a complaint is made. But do lets not become like these guys about it:
    Third Reich 1933–1945

    During the Nazi era, false cases of sexual abuse were fabricated to malign the Catholic Church. The “immorality trials” (Sittlichkeitsprozesse) of Catholic priests in April and May 1937 are the prime examples of this phenomenon.[40] In these trials, innocent priests and members of religious orders became the target of accusations of luring children and youth into sexual acts. Staged trials of Franciscan friars held in 1936 did not receive the media attention the National Socialist regime hoped for; and this was not the only problem. In a case that would eventually be dismissed as baseless the alleged victim, when asked at trial if the offender was in the courtroom, pointed to the president of the court.[41

  29. Bron, regarding what?
    I responded to donkenslers remark. I think he’s painting with a very big brush to declare the entire Catholic Church a terrorist organization. I’m not Catholic, I don’t believe that they are without blemish in many things….but the topic was about an ongoing event that happened over the course of 5 decades under Franco rule. The Church has some higher standing in the community but does also exist under the laws of State….and I don’t think it was wise to say no to the Franco regime. Someone mentioned Pan’s Labyrinth…watch it! The babies were apparently taken from dissidents according to the article I read..sound more like a barbarous attempt at controlling that populace and keeping them repressed..a gross, overbearing, unbelievably anti-social breach of state if you ask me. But it wasn’t a plot formed by the church for profit (like say, Babies, Inc. mayt be….). I know people who were hidden by the Catholic church during Nazi occupation in Europe….the Church is very far from being a terrorist organization.

  30. Blouise1, October 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm


    Only difference, as I see it, is that the state, at least in this country, doesn’t have the protection of religion … it is secular by law.
    Blouise, yes! except they don’t seem to be remembering that secularity of late…and since the Church already does operate under the laws of State, they are not above the law and are subject to it but also, historically, in a position to attempt to protect people from an overbearing and abusive State, like a fascist regime might be….

  31. “if I may clarify the Eastern Orthodox Catholics’ which still follow many Byzantine customs and the Roman Catholic Church used to be one in the same until who got to control the money…..”


    Well put. Also the Byzantines were conquered by Islam and they brought a whole new set of “holy men” in search of wealth and power.

  32. woosty

    there are some priests who are pedophiles and some who joined the priesthood because they genuinely want to help their fellow man.

    i don’t know the ratio of good to bad and don’t think i would trust the numbers of someone who claimed to know. ninety five percent of all statistics are made up on the spot. (or was it fifty nine percent)?

    reality just doesn’t seem to fit on bumper stickers.

  33. Woosty’s

    “but also, historically, in a position to attempt to protect people from an overbearing and abusive State, like a fascist regime might be ..”

    That brings to mind people like the Baptist, The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. here in the United States or the Anglican, The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu (Archbishop Emeritus since he is retired) in South Africa, and even the Buddhist, His Holiness The Dalai Lama in Tibet.

    Certainly all these men, when they found themselves in position to lead others, did so without totally compromising the tenets of the religions they followed to the degree that the leadership of the Catholic Church has done.

  34. To follow up on Woosty’s earier statement regarding Pan’s Labyrinth etc: Stealing babies is not limited to the church but a political tool and expedient also:

    Argentina ‘stolen baby’ cases legacy of Dirty War

    “The fate of Argentina’s “stolen babies” has been back in the headlines this past week, with the start of the trial of key members of the former military junta on charges of operating a systematic plan to take babies from pregnant detainees.

    Eight people are on trial, including former leaders Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone.

    The accusation against them relates to 34 children who were allegedly stolen. But it is estimated that hundreds of children were given away to members of the security forces, and in some cases to the same captors of the jailed activists. …”

    “It is something difficult to explain. It’s like I always knew something was not right,” Mr Madariaga says.

    Mr Madariaga says he was regularly beaten by his adoptive father, abuse that reinforced his doubts.

    “I think I was like a prize of war,” Mr Madariaga says …”

  35. And they wonder why attendance is down.
    I wonder what the average Catholic feels when confronted with this kind of activity by his/her church.
    Doesn’t even this kind of thing shake their faith in the Papal authority. Can they really believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ when he condones and probably participates in these kinds of things that Christ would never have approved of.
    I think just about all religions would give me that. They may not believe in Christ as the son of God but most at least respect his character and teachings of love and kindness. I don’t think one could say that of the Catholic church.
    (my appologies if I have offended any catholic readers. I don’t intend insult to you. Just the organization.)

  36. It isn’t just the Catholic church that it is the baby stealing and selling business. Have a good look at the practices of Lutheran “Social Services” that operates a kidnapping and baby-selling agency in Wisconsin and other locales.

    Here is my family’s horrible story, that involves a murder and an attempted murder by an adoptive woman vetted by LSS.

    In 1969, my uncle became a biological father. He’d been engaged to the baby’s mother, but she broke off the engagement & gave the baby up for adoption thru Lutheran Social Services. My uncle had a university degree, & was licensed to teach both social studies & history. In fact, at the time his son was born, he was employed full time as a teacher– although he was considered, by educational authorities, to be perfectly fit to indoctrinate and, indeed, raise, children belonging to other persons for 7+ hours per day, the fact that he wasn’t married made him unfit as a matter of law to raise his own child for purposes of the children’s code.

    Since the biological mother (not some immature teenager but an adult hairdresser) unilaterally decided to give the baby up for adoption & get on her merry way partying & doing whatever it was that she wanted to do (fortunately she never had any more children) & my uncle had no right whatsoever to nay-say it or take the baby himself, social workers with a sick, religious-based moral agenda swooped in & legally stole the baby, giving him to a couple whose only qualifications, so far as I have been able to tell, were the fact that they were married, believed in a deity, & wasted time each week going to a building with a steeple & worshiping said imaginary being.

    Uncle went to an attorney for the purpose of trying to get custody of the baby, and was told that it wasn’t allowed under Wisconsin law. I’ve reviewed the statutes from 1969 (they are available in scanned format on Wisconsin’s legislative reference bureau’s website) and confirmed that an unmarried biological father in 1969 had no rights whatsoever to his child, no matter how educated, wealthy, kind, or otherwise “fit” he may be.

    So the child was adopted out.

    Last year I learned that in 1972, a few days before his third birthday, the adoptive “mother” threw my cousin off a bridge in a drowning attempt (he was found unconscious with various injuries, floating face-up, but recovered in hospital), & at the same time did drown his younger sister (not a biological sister; he was the only child either of his biological parents ever had). Although the adoptive “mother” was locked up for a number of years, my cousin was not the subject of dependency proceedings. Rather, he was left in the “care” of his adoptive “father” who was seriously depressed & had difficulty functioning, and in the “care” of his adoptive “grandparents” who beat him when he in his toddler innocence asked where his sister had gone. So this was how he grew up, in a small town, where he was ostracized & mistreated by other kids who, of course, knew the story.

    Last year, thanks to the internet, my cousin managed to find our family. Although I’d known for quite a few years about the legalized kidnapping that had been perpetrated upon my uncle, when I first heard the story of what had gone on in the home of the adoptive “family” it seemed so far-fetched that I had difficulty believing it. However, I was able to locate newspaper articles & confirm that this murder & attempted murder did, indeed, occur.

    Had my cousin been left in the care of his *real* father (yes, I consider my uncle who really wanted to keep the kid his “real” father; as far as I am concerned the adoptive father abdicated his role as father when my cousin was a toddler) he would not have been abused, injured, almost drowned, etc. My cousin would not have been a “parentified” child who was forced to look after the so-called adults in his adoptive family. As a demonstration of the parentification– my cousin is currently the legal guardian of one of his adoptive aunts. He was considered the fittest of the entire family. None of her several adult siblings were considered appropriate guardians for her. Basically, this is a judicial determination that he is the most functional adult in the entire extended “family” (the adoptive family, I mean). Had my cousin been raised by his *real* father, he most likely would have a university degree now (his adoptive “family” didn’t value education). Had my cousin been raised by his *real* father he would not now be a religious fundamentalist who believes in the literal truth of each word of the Old Testament. Had my cousin been raised by his *real* father he would not have spent significant portions of his life cleaning up after the adoptive parents’ compulsive hoarding disorder when government agencies got involved and ordered clean-up. His adoptive “parents” ruined his life. My cousin has spent years on antidepressants & seeing counselors.

    And my uncle? Unfortunately uncle’s dead now and I can’t confirm this, but it appears that some social worker did break the law & let him know where his son was; I’d heard that back when the baby was a toddler uncle had given a county social worker a sob story and she felt so sorry that she went into a closed file after the hours and given him the kid’s address, and he had gone to visit him, and also that the baby was with a religious farm family (true). I also heard that uncle had visited the child at age 3. Age 3 necessarily would have been after the drowning attempt. Way back when all this was going on, uncle had a breakdown & was hospitalized with severe depression.

    It affected my gran, too. After developing Alzheimers, she walked around in the late 70’s & early 80’s crying & muttering to herself over & over “she killed the baby; she threw it in the river.” For years she was in her own private hell, & only now do I know the cause. Obviously my uncle must have told her (my mother recently confessed to me that both my uncle and my grandmother knew about my cousin being thrown off the bridge by the adoptive “mother.”). And both uncle and gran were powerless to retrieve/rescue the legally stolen baby.

    So it isn’t just the Catholic Church.

    Oh, yeah. My dad’s older brother married an Ojibwe woman. Her mother (born about 1910 or so) was stolen from her family and raised in a religious boarding school, though I don’t know the denomination. But think of all of the Native American kids stolen and raised in all different denomination schools (including, for example, Baptist) over the years.

    Interestingly enough, Islam prohibits adoption. Judaism doesn’t, but I haven’t heard of any organized Jewish child theft rings along the lines of Catholic Charities or Lutheran Social Services.

  37. To Anarchistbookshop: OK, here’s unconfirmed UNOFFICIAL information regarding your speculating about the “organized Jewish child theft rings.” It does not involve any NON-JEWS, EVER. WHat has happened, as recently as a few years ago in New York, is that an Orthodox Jewish social services agency has taken a child away from her mother because the mother supported the child’s allegations that the father was sexually molesting her. The father then decided that rather than have all this reach the civil authorities, it would be better to have an agency he had some control over take the child, keep her in foster care, and arrange her hasty adoption so that the new family could remove the “stigma.” The agency told the mother that she should give up her parental rights and allow the child to be adopted. The religious authorities supported it because a girl with a “stain” would not find a good husband in the arranged marriage circles. The mother refused to give up her child. The full corruption of courts and agencies swung into action; the amount of unlawful and outrageously shameful actions defies belief. Former GOvernor David Paterson, when he was still a state senator in NY, held hearings on it. You could not imagine the amount of corruption that was uncovered; yet nothing was done. And then it came to light that this agency had already established a modus operandi Any children who alleged abuse were swept up into the agency by its “therapists” and “social workers” and then the children were put up for adoption. New name, new parents, no public shame about abuse, no information, records shredded, everything fixed.

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