How Many Children Died to Protect the Honor of the Catholic Church?


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

It is an agonizing story, and a book has been written about it and a movie was also recently made about it.  The story I am referring to is the story of Philomena Lee who at the age of 19 gave birth to a baby boy, out-of-wedlock, at the Sean Ross Abbey in County Tipperary, in Ireland.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, Philomena became pregnant out-of-wedlock after being raised in a convent after her mother died at the age of 6.  Her father kept 3 boys at home and put Philomena and her two sisters in the convent because he was unable to care of all of them.

After she left the convent at age 18, she became pregnant and was sent to the Sean Ross Abbey where her son was born and three years later, was adopted and moved to America.  If you have seen the movie or read the book you know what happened to her son, who she never saw alive again.  But the story of Philomena is not the main focus of this article.  Philomena was one of thousands of Irish women who were forced by religious beliefs and societal pressures to hide their “sin”.  However, what happened to some of the children who did not get adopted? 

If the idea of watching your 3-year-old son being driven away from you is not horrifying enough, a recent disclosure out of Ireland exemplifies what happened to many of the children born out-of-wedlock and forced to live in these religious orders homes.  “The Catholic Church in Ireland is facing fresh accusations of child abuse after a researcher found records for 796 young children allegedly buried in a mass grave beside a former orphanage for the children of unwed mothers.

The researcher, Catherine Corless, says her discovery of child death records at the Catholic nun-run home in Tuam, County Galway, suggests that the former septic tank filled with bones is the final resting place for most, if not all, of the children” Reader Supported News  Evidence indicates that the septic tank was renovated to be used as a burial crypt.

We have to remember that this sad find was uncovered by a researcher and not disclosed by the Irish Catholic Church or officials from the religious order that ran the home.  It is also important to note that this is just one of the many church run mother-child homes run in Ireland.

The Church or the religious orders that ran these institutions were considered the place of last resort for these women who, in most cases, were too poor to go elsewhere or to buy themselves out of the arrangement.  Unfortunately, the homes were not maintained just for charitable reasons.  It seems that the homes were paid by the government for each mother and each child being taken care of and then there were the adoption “fees”.

“Such was the power of the church, and of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, that the state bowed before its demands, ceding responsibility for the mothers and babies to the nuns. For them it was not only a matter of sin and morality, but one of pounds, shillings and pence. At the time young Anthony Lee was born, I discovered that the Irish government was paying the Catholic church a pound a week for every woman in its care, and two shillings and sixpence for every baby. And that was not all.

After giving birth, the girls were allowed to leave the convent only if they or their family could pay the nuns £100. It was a substantial sum, and those who couldn’t afford it – the vast majority – were kept in the convent for three years, working in kitchens, greenhouses and laundries or making rosary beads and religious artefacts, while the church kept the profits from their labour. ” The Guardian

The women and their children were money makers for the religious orders and the Church.  The adoption fees at the time were reported to be in the range of $2000-$3000 dollars which during those days was a large amount of money. I wish I could say that this was the end of a horrible story.  However, if the above abuses were not enough, it has now been reported that at various mother child homes, secret and illegal drug testing was done on the children in residence there!

“Michael Dwyer, of Cork University’s School of History, found the child vaccination data by trawling through tens of thousands of medical journal articles and archive files.  He discovered that the trials were carried out before the vaccine was made available for commercial use in the UK.

Homes where children were secretly tested included Bessborough, in Co. Cork and Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, both of which are at the centre of the mass baby graves scandal.  Other institutions where children may also have been vaccinated include Cork orphanages St Joseph’s Industrial School for Boys, run by the Presentation Brothers, and St Finbarr’s Industrial School for Girls, run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

In Dublin, it is believed that children for the trials came from St Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge, St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, Cabra, and St Saviours’s Dominican Orphanage.  But Mr Dwyer said: ‘What I have found is just the tip of a very large and submerged iceberg.

‘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.'” Reader Supported News

I realize that when all of these alleged travesties occurred the world was a different place for women and their babies born out-of-wedlock.  However, why did it take researchers, through countless hours of research and the living victims of these mother child homes going public to uncover the truth?

I would assume that one of the questions the current Irish government will be asking is if these secret vaccination tests resulted in payments to these very same religious orders and the Irish Catholic Church.

I would think the Catholic Church of Ireland would have been doing its own research to try to get to the bottom of its seamy and relatively recent history.  I wonder why not?

When Philomena Lee’s son returned to Sean Ross Abbey in the late 1990’s and suffering from an illness that would soon take his life, he pleaded with the Sisters at Sean Ross Abbey to tell him who his birth mother was and to help him find her, they rejected his plea.  Maybe he didn’t offer enough money?

Philomena Lee has been able to forgive all of those who hid the truth from her and her son.  I admire her ability to forgive, but at the same time, I don’t know how anyone could forgive these transgressions that went on for decades.  And how many other mothers like Philomena and their sons and daughters are still searching?  Shameful.


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212 thoughts on “How Many Children Died to Protect the Honor of the Catholic Church?”

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