Was Catholic ‘teaching’ involved in latest Ireland scandal?

If I have heard this statement once at pro-life rallies I have heard it a hundred times: There are crisis pregnancies, but there is no such thing — in the eyes of God — as an unwanted child. This statement is especially popular with doctrinally conservative Catholics.

So, try to combine that thought with the news coming out of Ireland. This is from the Associated Press:

DUBLIN – The Catholic Church in Ireland is facing fresh accusations of child neglect after a researcher found records for 796 young children believed to be 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 a former septic tank filled with bones is the final resting place for most, if not all, of the children.

Church leaders in Galway, western Ireland, said they had no idea so many children who died at the orphanage had been buried there, and said they would support local efforts to mark the spot with a plaque listing all 796 children.

County Galway death records showed that the children, mostly babies and toddlers, died often of sickness or disease in the orphanage during the 35 years it operated from 1926 to 1961. The building, which had previously been a workhouse for homeless adults, was torn down decades ago to make way for new houses.

There is no need to discuss the details of that horrific vision.

The question the story has to address, of course, is why these lost children were buried in such a fashion. Also, the story says it is essential to know that, during the era in which this orphanage was open, Ireland had “one of the worst infant mortality rates in Europe, with tuberculosis rife.”

The essential question here is whether what happened here is essentially an Irish, or cultural, practice or was it justified at the time as uniquely Catholic, in terms of doctrine. Think of this issue, perhaps, as similar to the debates about whether “honor killings” in Pakistan are uniquely cultural, tribal or somehow, for those committing the acts, rooted in what they believe are Islamic beliefs.

This leads us to the crucial paragraphs in the story:

Elderly locals recalled that the children attended a local school — but were segregated from other pupils — until they were adopted or placed, around age 7 or 8, into church-run industrial schools that featured unpaid labour and abuse. In keeping with Catholic teaching, such out-of-wedlock children were denied baptism and, if they died at such facilities, Christian burial.

It is well documented that throughout Ireland in the first half of the 20th century, church-run orphanages and workhouses often buried their dead in unmarked graves and unconsecrated ground, reflecting how unmarried mothers — derided as “fallen women” in the culture of the day — typically were ostracized by society, even their own families.

OK, there is the question: What, pray tell, is the connection between “Catholic teaching” and the various acts central to this story? I am not a Catholic and I am curious — for journalistic reasons linked to the facts of this story — to know if there is in fact a big-T Tradition in Catholicism on this matter.

I assume there must be debate on this issue, because Pope Francis has made it clear where he stands on this matter:

L’Osservatore Romano reports that the Pope mentioned the example of an unwed mother coming to Church to ask for baptism for her child to exemplify the error of allowing protocol to distance people from the Lord. The paper quotes the Pope:

A girl-mother goes to the parish to ask for Baptism for her child and hears “a Christian” say, “No, you can’t have it, you’re not married.”

“Look at this girl who had had the courage to carry her pregnancy to term” and not to have an abortion. “What does she find? A closed door,” as do so many. “This is not good pastoral zeal, it distances people from the Lord and does not open doors. So when we take this path…we are not doing good to people, the People of God.” Jesus “instituted seven sacraments, and with this approach we institute the eighth, the sacrament of the pastoral customs office.”

In one case, missed by many mainstream journalists, Pope Francis even acted personally to make sure that this kind of baptism came to pass.

However, my primary journalistic point in this post is not to raise questions about Catholic doctrine.

No, what caught my eye (after a reader sent us this URL) was the fact that the Associated Press team published this statement — “In keeping with Catholic teaching, such out-of-wedlock children were denied baptism and, if they died at such facilities, Christian burial” — but then did nothing to attribute this alleged statement of fact to any specific Catholic document or to back it up with an explanation from a church authority on this matter.

If this is a matter of Catholic teaching, in other words, what was the teaching? Is that a factual statement?

Just saying.

Print Friendly

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Tenth Justice

    I have never heard of a Catholic baptism being refused to an infant of a Catholic parent. I don’t even think the parents have to be Catholic; they just have to promise to raise it in the Catholic faith. But that might only be the case post-Vatican II.

    I imagine that if they were denied a Catholic burial, it’d likely stem from the lack of baptism, which would make them non-Catholics. Of course, this is all besides the point. Even if these children were supposed to have been denied Church burials, the next step would be to find a burial place that would accommodate them, not toss them into a mass grave.

    • Peter Williams

      This isn’t just a post-Vatican II teaching or practice. Baptism for infants of unwed mothers didn’t always happen, but not because their mother was unwed. It was typically more due to the situation in which the child would be raised.

      Homes for unwed mothers were quite common in America as well. There was certainly a greater stigma attached to pre-marital pregnancy that involved mothers going away from their home to be cared for and deliver the baby. I have a relative who was in this circumstance on two occasions (yeah) during this time. It was certainly frowned upon, but the children were both baptized as infants.

      I also know a hardcore traditionalist priest whose library and view of the Church/world ends around 1895, and has no qualms about baptizing infants of unwed mothers, provided they’ve gone to confession and intend to raise the child as a Catholic.

      • Elizabeth H Davenport

        Raise children in the Christian faith . . . here in the UK anyway.

    • PalaceGuard

      Is there any proof, btw, that these children were never baptized? They would still bear the ignorant stigma of illegitamacy, which would still preclude, in some popular belief, their being buried in hallowed ground (the same was denied to suicides, as well, until quite recently).

    • PalaceGuard

      “I have never heard of a Catholic baptism being refused to an infant of a Catholic parent.” I know of two instances, one less than 10 years ago. The first instance involved a young man raising his illegitimate child alone, the mother having taken off for parts unknown. In that case, when a second priest was told of the first priest’s refusal, he said he’d baptize the child, and called up the first priest to invite him to witness the ceremony (he didn’t show). The more recent instance involved a child of parents who are married, but one of whom is not Catholic. I am not certain how that was resolved, but suspect the child was baptized by a Protestant clergyman (my response of “Heck, bring me the kid and a Dixie cup, and I’ll do it myself!” being politely declined. Figured the priest’s denial was placing the child in imminent peril, life being unpredictable, so there.) In any case, yes, it happens, but seems to be at the discretion, or lack thereof, of the local priest. Disgraceful.

  • Iwishyouwell

    It was what passed for Catholic teaching in Ireland at that time. Perhaps you’d do better to ask the Irish who remember those days rather than spoiled, suburban American Catholics who have an agenda to protect the Catholic Church at all costs, eh?

    • Kate Cousino

      I think the point is that the journalist should have asked the question–or at least quoted a source–because that’s what good journalists do when making dramatic statements.

      Also, the word ‘tradition’ has specific meaning in Catholicism, so a reader might want to know whether we are talking about a small t tradition (that is, a custom) or big T Tradition (what Catholics belief make up the deposit of Faith held by the Church). Whether a practice is a local custom or a universal teaching is a pretty big distinction, wouldn’t you say? And a question worth asking.

      • Iwishyouwell

        The problem is that, to those people, in that time and place, the diffference beteween little “t” tradition and big “T” Tradition wouldn’t have meant much. It was what they were taught by the local powers that were in the Catholic Church (which was virtually one and the same as the Irish government at the time).

        To say, now, and from a very middle class American Catholic perspective, that this wasn’t truly Catholic teaching doesn’t help much. Of course none of this is Catholic teaching.

        But if you were living in Ireland at that time, and your parish priest told you to send your daughter to one of those homes, you did it, and you thought you had to or your very soul was in peril.

        • Kate Cousino

          Again, while it is certainly worth reporting if someone states that this is what they were told or what they believed, it is still bad journalism to make a broad sweeping statement without fact-checking.

          Notice that the statement is not even followed by a conditional–the writer doesn’t hedge by saying “at that time” or anything else to indicate that this statement about baptism isn’t in fact current teaching in the Catholic church.

          • Iwishyouwell

            But perhaps it’s just locally “understood”, so to speak. None of my older Irish relatives would be surprised that these practices were presented as correct Catholic practices.

            If the story is coming out of Ireland, perhaps the writers are speaking from a local understanding of the matter.

          • Kate Cousino

            Again, the point is that a journalist should not accept such a statement without checking it–or at least attributing it to a source, even if that source is “according to locals.”

          • Iwishyouwell

            Well, let’s dicker over that. God forbid we focus on the women and children involved. So much more important to nitpick the story.

            Whatever. LIfe sure is cheap to you Catholics.

          • Kate Cousino

            This isn’t a Catholic blog. It’s a blog about religion journalism. Of course it’s going to approach this from the context of a critique of poor religious reporting. Sheesh.

          • Kate Cousino

            And poor journalism does a disservice to the subjects of the story by casting doubt on the journalist’s ability to report other aspects accurately.

          • Iwishyouwell

            Yeah. Anything to deflect attention away to what actually happened. Sure.

          • Kate Cousino

            You know, I’ve read four other stories about this on Catholic blogs today. Every single one was about the tragedy and the human lives involved. Every one. Some come close to sackcloth and ashes. This happens to be a blog about journalism. What on earth do you want?

          • Iwishyouwell

            You know what I want? Someone in the Catholic Church to grow a pair of balls, admit they screwed up in heinously evil ways, and stop dickering and deflecting and denying and excusing and start fixing what they broke.

            If this blog is all about journalistic practices, they’d do better to choose stories that don’t involve hideously evil practices that destroyed REAL people and continue to shatter REAL people today.

            But, hey, just use those women and children for blog fodder or…whatever the hell it is that matters most to you.

            I really don’t care anymore.

            Anyone who thinks the Catholic Church is anything other than pure, unadulterated evil is brain-damaged. Frankly, you all deserve each other. It’s the exclusive, hateful Church you wanted, and now you’re stuck with it.

          • robert chacon

            No one even knows the facts of this story and youre foaming at the mouth with hate. The only evil brain damaged perspective is yours! Yes, there have been atrocities in Ireland as well as other places but NOT in the name of Catholicism! It was done against the true teachings of the Church. Your anger and vitriol is nothing but exclusive hate of your own making. Youre nothing but a self righteous bigot just trolling such such sites to spew your venom. Get a life!

          • Iwishyouwell

            I know what I am talking about based on first hand experience. You know nothing at all. But thank you for showing me what the Church teaches once again.

          • Jane Dunn

            The practices went on, in public, for decades. If it were against the “true” teaching of the Catholic Church, where were the Vatican officials to stop it? Where were the Vatican officials trying to correct the misunderstood teaching? The article could have done more to make the point that this not the current teaching of the Catholic Church, but I don’t think you can just dismiss the idea that I think the article was making that it **was** the teaching of the Catholic Church in Ireland during that time.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            How do you know this? What is your evidence?

          • Jane Dunn

            I’m not really sure what you’re asking me, but let me try an answer.

            I don’t think there is much question that lots of babies and kids died. Remains have been found in the institution’s septic tank. Robert, to whose comment I was responding, seemed to acknowledge that the evil abuses did occur, but he disputed that they were a result of Catholic teaching. I was just questioning his assertion, asking him how he could dismiss what I thought the article was reporting.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            I’m asking how you knew that the Vatican knew what was going on, if indeed anything untoward happened (which is still in question). This was in the 1940s — there was no Internet or CPS. The Vatican didn’t have the manpower to regularly inspect every single Catholic institution in the world, that’s why they delegate so much to the local bishops. Do you have evidence that the local bishop turned a blind eye to any abuse in that institution?

          • Jane Dunn

            Because the pre-internet, pre-CNN Vatican was able to discover and put a stop to all sorts of false teaching all over the world. I don’t know if they knew or not but assuming the locals are telling the truth, I think the onus is on the side claiming it was not Catholic teaching to explain how it could continue publicly for so long.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            Only because the bishops were able to report this false teaching back to them. Again, what is your evidence tha the Vatican knew about it at all?

          • Jane Dunn

            What’s your evidence that they didn’t know?

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            Are you asking me to prove a negative? I don’t know if they knew or not. I haven’t seen any evidence either way.

          • Jane Dunn

            The only evidence I’ve seen is that the problems were public for decades. When so many other people knew, the burden is on you to give some reason for believing that Catholic officials never knew.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            You didn’t say “Catholic officials.” You said “the Vatican.” You do realize that the Vatican is in Rome, Italy, right? If the bishop overseeing that institution at the time was corrupt or ignored the institution, then it’s plausible that the Vatican did not know.

            I would also quibble that the “problems were public for decades.” If that’s the case why is this article such a surprise to everyone?

          • Jane Dunn

            You do realize that things that are widely known at the time they are occurring can become obscured over time?

            The Catholic Church is a hierarchy. The Vatican knows a lot more than what Vatican officials see with their own eyes (although it didn’t seem that way at the height of the pedophilic priest scandals). Since the orphanage was run by nuns, there had to be priests locally to say mass and decide on who to baptize or not. If the priests thought the nuns were so far off of true Catholic teaching, they would have alerted their superiors. Surely over the several decades that the orphanage was operating, a bishop became aware of the situation. If the bishop didn’t think the nuns were following Catholic teaching, he would have shut them down. How far up the chain of command must one go before one has to concede that Vatican officials likely knew and allowed the practices to go on?

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            “If the bishop didn’t think the nuns were following Catholic teaching, he would have shut them down.”

            what if the nuns were hiding things from the priests? What if it was a conspiracy on the part of the priests and nuns to hide things from the bishop? Etc., etc. Way too much speculation, not enough hard facts. Once again, what evidence do you have that this was an open secret that the Vatican knew about?

          • Jane Dunn

            Right. A conspiracy theory is always the best explanation.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            The best explanation is to know the facts involved, which we don’t — not by a long shot. (I hope you appreciate the irony of this comment, though, because your explanation is essentially a conspiracy theory — “the Vatican KNEW this was happening and engaged in an elaborate cover up, booga booga!”).

          • Jane Dunn

            Please read more carefully. I didn’t say the Vatican knew or that the Vatican covered up anything. I said it was more likely that the Vatican knew if, as has been reported, this was widely known for decades. And if they knew and didn’t do anything, it was more likely that whatever teaching it was based on was not so unacceptable to the Vatican as some here would have you believe.

            That’s not a conspiracy theory. That’s just a little common sense.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            The Catholic Church has no teaching that out-of-wedlock babies can’t be baptized, and never has had such a teaching, so, yeah, that theory doesn’t work.

          • Jane Dunn

            Were you there to hear what was being taught by the Catholic Church in Ireland at the time? No, I didn’t think so.

            The AP article, IMO, seems to report (although it could be clearer) that the “elderly locals” with whom they talked said that the practices were in keeping with what was taught there.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            I can go to Vatican.va and see what the Catholic Church has always taught for the past 2,000 years. If individual Catholics in Ireland were deviating from that, then they were REJECTING Church teaching, not following it.

          • Jane Dunn

            Well, that’s nice for you but that wasn’t available to the nuns and priests in Ireland when the orphanage was running.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            And yet you claim the Vatican was completely up-to-date, by the minute, on the happenings there? Can’t have it both ways.

          • Jane Dunn

            Again, not what I said. I said that when something is widely known for several decades (which isn’t anything close to “completely up-to-date by the minute), it is more likely that the Vatican was aware of what was going on.

            Isn’t there some Catholic teaching about telling falsehoods? You might want to review.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            Okay, so, once again… what is your evidence that the Vatican knew what was going on? Still haven’t seen any.

            And again, it’s also possible that nothing untoward was going on: http://carolinefarrow.com/2014/06/04/tuam-childrens-home-salting-the-earth/

          • Jane Dunn

            I’m done repeating myself to those intent on distorting what I’ve said.

          • Elizabeth K.

            And Joanna wins the argument. Well done, Joanna!

          • fredx2

            I guess the corollary to a conspiracy theory is the “Vatican knows everything theory”

          • Jane Dunn

            Again, I’m not contending that the Vatican knew, just that when things are widely known over decades, it’s more likely that they knew. And if they knew and didn’t stop it, then the teaching upon which it was based may not have been so far afield from “true” Catholic teaching.

            I’m also not suggesting that the Vatican was covering up anything as it’s virtually impossible to “cover up” something that went on for decades and was common knowledge to many people, not least of whom were the kids who survived it.

          • PalaceGuard

            George Bush did it.

          • wlinden

            Yes, the omniscient “Thevatican” must know and approve everything that goes on. Just like “Thewhitehouse” knows and and is directly responsible for everything done by anyone in any federal government office everywhere. Oh, that’s DIFFERENT?

          • fredx2

            I don’t think the Vatican would have been aware of what was happening at one orphanage in Ireland. Even if you assume the facts as allleded in the story as true, the townspeople don’t appear to have known about it either. Nor was the orphanage under the supervision of the local diocese.
            I think common sense tells us that human beings are not as unkind as the story would have us believe.

          • Jane Dunn

            The AP article reported that elderly local people recalled what happened. Lots of the kids survived to tell their stories. Neither the AP article nor the Daily Mail article make it sound like it was much of a secret at the time. And even if the orphanage wasn’t under the direct supervision of the local diocese, surely there had to be priests to come say mass and do other things the nuns were not permitted to do.

          • fredx2

            You have to understand that the media constantly issues a lot of anti-Catholic stories that we later find out were complete nonsense. For example, they told us that Pius XII either cooperated with the Nazis or was their boy. Yet now we find out that the Nazis hated his guts and that by all accounts, he acted to save 860,000 Jews. They told us about the Magdalene laundries and now we find out (via the McAlesse report) that almost none of what was alleged actually happened.
            They told us that a woman had died in Ireland because a Catholic hospital would not giver her an abortion. And then we find out that in fact, the woman died because they did not treat her underlying disease properly.
            I suggest that you seek out balanced accounts of things from both sides,then make up your mind.
            And use your common sense. Is it likely that any human being would merely toss babies into a sewer tank? There seems to be an attempt to sensationalize the real set of facts. Let’s wait and see. Anything is possible, but the media’s desire to tout this story and ignore the Kermit Gosnell story is, shall we say, curious.

            Here is what the McAleese report said – the Magdalene Laundries were actually much better than the state run schools. Yet no investigations against the state run schools.
            “i. Physical abuse
            33. A large majority of the women who shared their stories with the Committee said that they had neither experienced nor seen other girls or women suffer physical abuse in the Magdalen Laundries.
            34. In this regard, women who had in their earlier lives been in an industrial or reformatory school drew a clear distinction between their experiences there and in the Magdalen Laundries, stating clearly that the widespread brutality which they had witnessed and been subjected to in industrial and reformatory schools was not a feature of the Magdalen Laundries.”

          • robert chacon

            Nice to expose yourself as a bigot!

          • Iwishyouwell

            Nice to prove my point that Catholics are dehumanizing, hypocritical haters.

          • boinkie

            So why is this a Catholic problem, when similar problems were found in other countries, and indeed are still found today.

            There are millions of street children in third world cities today, whose single moms can’t support them.

            Excuse my cynicism, but these places gave the kids an education and the moms a chance for a new life. True, not emotionally satisfying to today’s yuppified world, but those of us who worked in poor countries see them as the least bad solution among a lot of very bad choices.

          • Iwishyouwell

            You’re disgusting and you know nothing of the situation in Ireland at the time.

            You defend evil to protect your sad fake church and cheap little plastic idol.

            Shame on you, you filthy excuse for a human being. Shame on you.

          • fredx2

            Just to reiterate what the McAleese report found on the Magdalen laundres:

            “i. Physical abuse

            33. A large majority of the women who shared their stories with the Committee said that they had neither experienced nor seen other girls or women suffer physical abuse in the Magdalen Laundries.

            34. In this regard, women who had in their earlier lives been in an industrial or reformatory school drew a clear distinction between their experiences there and in the Magdalen Laundries, stating clearly that the widespread brutality which they had witnessed and been subjected to in industrial and reformatory schools was not a feature of the Magdalen Laundries.”

          • tmatt

            Please stop reading this site if you are not actually interested in its purpose. Discuss the journalism issues.

          • Kate Cousino

            If you reread, you’ll notice that absolutely no one is questioning whether people in Ireland at the time believed this was Church teaching, or whether it was in fact customary. We’re asking whether a journalist should make broad statements about religious doctrine or practice without attribution or research. It’s a journalism question, not a question of advocacy in any direction at all.

      • Jane Dunn

        Reading the 2-sentence paragraph that includes the statement about Catholic teaching as a whole, it seemed fairly clear to me (though it could have been clearer) that the statement about Catholic teaching was part of what the “elderly locals” recalled. It may not have been official policy from the Vatican, but I took it to mean that it was widely understood to be the teaching of Catholic priests in Ireland at the time.

        And, yes, I think it’s critically important to know that Catholic teaching, even if only a local and temporary variant of it, caused this Catholic institute to do the horrific things reported. I’d want to know the same thing if it were Mormons, Muslims, or evangelical Christians.

    • tmatt

      You missed the journalistic point, of course. Please read the closing paragraphs again.

      • Iwishyouwell

        But it was “Catholic teaching” in that place and at that time. Who was going to question it?

        • Kate Cousino

          Would you encourage people–journalists, no less–to accept, without questioning, such statements now? What purpose would that serve?

          • Iwishyouwell

            I wouldn’t, but I wouldn’t encourage readers to, either. I’d expect readers to try to understand who is telling the story and why they’re choosing the words they’re choosing.

            You could go to Ireland today and say this wasn’t official Church teaching ’til the cows come home, and people would think you’re nuts.

            For them, and in their history, this was Church teaching. And, in the context of the story, dickering over “official” this or that, or little or big “t” or “T” tradition doesn’t mean much.

            In the context of the story, people were operating under the understanding that that was Church teaching. Practice equalled teaching, so to speak.

          • Kate Cousino

            If the statement was a quote attributed to a specific somebody, maybe I could buy that. But it is a statement inserted by the journalist, without attribution. The assumption SHOULD be that journalists are to do due diligence in reporting matters of fact.

          • Jane Dunn

            I think the journalist was trying to attribute the statement to the “elderly locals.” It could have been clearer, but that’s a writing skills problem, not a journalism practice problem.

        • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

          It wasn’t “Catholic teaching” if it was never taught as doctrine by the Catholic Church — and it has never been taught by the Catholic Church in any place, in any time period, that children born out of wedlock cannot be baptized.

    • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund
  • Kate Cousino

    I don’t think it was ever Catholic teaching. We have bastard saints, and in the eyes of the Church, bastardy is kind of irrelevant–it’s the sin of the parents, not the child.

    That said, this may have been the custom in the Church in Ireland, which was rather strongly influenced by Jansenism.

    • Kate Cousino

      Actually, two saints who were born out of wedlock were canonized during the very time period in question– St. Louise de Marillac and St. Martin de Porres.

  • PalaceGuard

    ” In keeping with Catholic teaching, such out-of-wedlock children were denied baptism and, if they died at such facilities, Christian burial.” Cultural, not Catholic. As anyone who ever read “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”, (scarcely a classic of Catholic literature), would know. (Whether Marguerite’s drowning of Faust’s bastard child is a continental echo of this practice, or non-practice, I am not certain.)

  • boinkie

    As a doc who knows third world conditions (and Ireland up to 1960 was a third world country) I could tell you that the number of dead children from an orphanage is not excess
    . link. So what is their alternative? Letting the unwed moms become prostitutes and the kids become street kids, as we see in third world countries today? The kids in the orphanages were the lucky ones…By not putting the problem into perspective, I read it as a hit piece.

    But my question is the septic tank part. That doesn’t pass the smell test for technical reasons, excuse my language.

    • Iwishyouwell

      You are a vile excuse for a human being.

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    What I couldn’t get over was this headline in The WashingtonTimes: “Catholic Church tossed 800 Irish orphans into septic tank grave.” http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/3/mass-grave-800-children-found-near-irish-home-unwe/ Talk about over the top.

    As for your question, tmatt, I can’t answer it. I would have to check the old Code and that will take a bit of time.

  • Julia B

    Since you asked – Some comments from a 70 yr old Catholic:

    1) A women in my choir was born in Germany, married a GI and came to the US. She grew up in a Catholic boarding school where she learned to do house work with the goal of placing her as a maid in a wealthy home after she turned 18. She has not said, and I have not asked, why she was there – I think it’s pretty obvious. She has lots of amusing stories to tell about her time there and sneaking out to meet friends. She continues Christmas cards with the sisters there.

    2) My hairdresser’s mother was born to a very, very poor Catholic family in Spain who also married a GI and came to the US At an age when kids in this country are in grade school, she was shipped off to France to do housework in a wealthy family home. Her pay was sent to the parents in Spain to keep the rest of the family fed. Underline that – FED.

    3) A woman of my acquaintance is the grandchild of one of those illegitimate children, mainly from NYC, who were sent in “orphan trains” across the country and adopted by farmers along the route.

    4) Hasn’t anybody seen Downton Abbey’s storyline about the maid who had the child with an officer billeted at Lord Grantham’s home during WWI? Very dramatic issues about what would become of the child and the mother who were rejected by the baby’s father. Negotiations ensued involving the dead officer’s parents regarding the care of the child. Lots of cultural baggage going on there – none of the people involved were Catholic.

    5) That said, a very close male friend of mine was the child of the second marriage of a Catholic woman who was divorced and re-married without having an annulment. Parents were at Mass every morning, but could not go to Communion. In the 8th grade the son spent a summer at a minor seminary to discern whether he had a vocation to the priesthood. Turned out that he was considered “illegitimate” and couldn’t be accepted as a priesthood candidate. Don’t know if that is still the case or if it was just a local custom.

    6) To see what the culture in our Protestant-majority country was like until recently – check out the movies for attitudes toward unwed pregnancies. Society has changed so much, so quickly, that people don’t even remember recent history. Easy access to “the pill” since the late 60s has changed the world irrevocably. Try “Love With a Proper Stranger” with Steve McQueen and Natalie Wood from 1963. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_with_the_Proper_Stranger OR an earlier one in 1959 – “Blue Denim”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Denim

    7) FWIW Can’t find the link, but I have read that the burials were not in a septic tank, but was in an abandoned cistern. My European friends tell me that in many places a burial in an individual grave is not forever. After X number of years, the bodies are removed to a mass grave to make room for new burials of individuals.

    • Marc M

      On #5, this was the case in canon law from the middle ages until 1983. Today illegitimacy has no impact on one’s canonical status.

      From the old Catholic Encyclopedia explaining the prior practice: “This law is not established and laid down as a punishment for the person to whom it is applied. It safeguards the honour and dignity of Holy orders. The clerical state which has the dispensing of the mysteries of God must be beyond reproach. No stain should be upon it, no blame possible. Therefore the Church raises the barrier of illegitimacy before the entrance to the priesthood.” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02579b.htm

      It was also the case that, under the previous law, dispensation could be granted, in some cases by the local bishop, in any case by appeal to the Pope, or under most circumstances by profession of religious vows (joining a religious Order before the priesthood, as opposed to being a “secular” or diocesan priest).

      • Julia B

        Thank you, Marc.

  • AuthenticBioethics

    The Code of Canon Law in force at the time, as far as I can tell, does not prohibit baptism for the reasons given, provided that the child’s chance of being taught the Catholic faith was assured and if there were any parents or guardians, baptism was requested by them.

    Claims otherwise are definitely something that requires verification in being reported as fact. Of course, what reporter would know about Canon Law, the fact that the one in force at the time has since changed, and how to find an English version?

    As an aside, baptism, being the foundation of all the Sacraments and the entry into the earthly phase of eternal salvation, has generally been very liberally regulated by the Church. In cases of necessity (i.e., impending death), not even the parents’ consent is needed for a licit infant baptism. A church is not needed. The one baptizing need not be even a Christian let alone a Catholic, provided water and the right words are used.

    • Spudnik3

      Yes. In fact I have heard stories from the same period in which newborn babies were baptized in hospitals by nuns without non-Catholic parents’ knowledge or consent. But it’s harder to rebut accusations when the people involved are dead.

      • Julia B

        There’s a famous one where a non-Catholic child was baptized in a Catholic hospital and Pope Pius IX insisted on raising the child in a Catholic household. Don’t know much else about it. I think the child might have even been Jewish.

        • ocschwar

          Eduardo Mortara was his name.

  • Unanimous Consent

    I have struggled with this issue, and the only way I can see the action of burying in a septic tank as legitimate is the following:

    1. The tank was not ever used as a septic tank.

    2. The tank was a way where one could bury TB / other infectious diseased bodies, throw lime in and recover.

    I do suspect that at that time, it was uncommon to actually encase the coffin of anyone in a cement box the way it is done today. That is done, of course, to protect the water table, etc. A septic tank would prevent the spread of any disease or seepage into the water table. It was well known by the 17th century that diseased bodies must be handled differently.

    3. When it comes to the issue of consecrated ground, that was reserved for Catholics under the old Code of Canon Law.

    4. This did not mean that a non-Catholic body could be shown disrespect as it was still a vessel that was created by the Lord.

    • fredx2

      And apparently, the sewage tank may have been in fact a cistern.
      Cisterns were tanks in the ground for collection of water.

      • Unanimous Consent

        Yep, and the more it comes to the fore, the more sense the whole thing makes. Just the press trying to have fund with a story once again.

  • Spudnik3

    The reporting on this story has a lot of innuendo that capitalizes on people judging another era by the standards of today’s welfare state. It was a poor Church in a poor country doing what it could. And yes, I’m sure there were some rotten apples among the caregivers. But it was not the Holocaust. And I’m sure there is a good reason why no Catholic source was cited in support of the alleged teaching. But as usual the secular press is more interested in the possibility of Catholic misdeeds several decades ago than the rampant abuse of kids and bad medical outcomes in secular institutions today.

    • fredx2

      The fascinating thing about todays AP report is that it apparently ignores many facts that have come out recently. Apparently, the story broke in Ireland about a week ago, and people have had time to do some more digging.

      A blogger has what seems to be a fair summary of the whole set of facts – many of which were left out by the AP reporter. The question then is why did the AP reporter seem to be unable to find these additional facts?

      http://carolinefarrow.com/2014/06/04/tuam-childrens-home-salting-the-earth/

      For example:

      “In direct contravention of allegations of ‘dying rooms’ and deliberate starvation, a Tuam Herald report in 1949 on the Inspection of the home, says that “they found everything in very good order and congratulated the sisters on the excellent conditions in their Institution”. An earlier Board of Health report in 1935, says that “Tuam is one of the best managed institutions in the country”. In 1944, the Matron requested that all occupants were immunised against Diphtheria.It was also recommended that vaccines for whooping cough were supplied. Is this indicative of an uncaring attitude?”

      So it appears the instution was constantly being inspected, so how could the inspectors have missed the amount of malfeasance that the AP story implies?

      She asks some common sense questions along the lines of “You mean they kept reopening a septic tank full of dead bodies? Does that make any sense?”

      She notes:
      “The death rates from neglect, malnutrition and preventable diseases easily treated with antibiotics are undoubtedly shocking. No-one seeks to excuse them. With that in mind, the death rates in Tuam seem to be consistent with the death rates of illegitimate children throughout Ireland as a whole, which were 3 or 4 times that of legitimate children and double the death rates of illegitimate children in England and Wales.

      Ireland was in the grip of poverty, as Anglo-Irish Catholic tweep @dillydillys has pointed out, rural Irish society was ruthless compared with our comfortable armchair perspective. Life was tough during the lean years of the economic wars between Britain and the Free State.”

      One commenter on another site says that a vote on gay marriage is coming up in Ireland, and since this is such a sensational story, it was alleged that the story has a political motive.

      Make a note of the reporter’s name on this one. Shawn Pogatchnik. Someone might have to ask him some questions

      • Jane Dunn

        Farrow also says this:

        “The bodies which were found by two boys playing in the 1970s were interred in a concrete tank. The septic tank referred to had been attached to the building when it was a former workhouse, and was decommissioned by the time the sisters took over the building to run as a home in 1926.”

        So, apparently there **was** a decommissioned septic tank on the grounds, but the details of the burials are still unclear.

        It’s also important to read the link she included at the end of her piece, which gives more gruesome details of what went on despite the glowing inspection and press reports. The woman who wrote the linked piece talked to some of the survivors.

  • fredx2

    I think we can reliably say the AP report is garbage.

    The Daily Mail is reporting that there was no sewer tank involved at all.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2645870/Mass-grave-contains-bodies-800-babies-site-Irish-home-unmarried-mothers.html

    They appear to have been buried in a cistern, probably made of concrete, which would have kept the bodies from contaminating ground water. They were not tossed in, they were laid in shrouds.

    “The babies were usually buried in a plain shroud without a coffin in a plot that had housed a water tank attached to the workhouse that preceded the mother and child home.”

    Get that? Formerly used as a water tank

    Even in the Daily Mail piece we get a bit of anti-Catholicism: a picture with the story shows a classroom full of kids and a nun. You really can’t see the nuns face. The caption: “Dark secrets: Children at the tea room at Sean Ross Abbey in Tipperary eat under the stern gaze of a nun” The kids look well fed and cared for, with the little girls with bows in their hair etc.

    Now it is sad that they did not get individual graves but was that due to circumstances or neglect, or what? We just don’t know. Especially since this took place in the depression and World War II years, when things were tight.

    We would still assume that every child deserves his own grave. So lets see what the government report says.

    But in fact, this place took in women that their families rejected.

    • fondatorey

      This is a good example of a trend I have seen in internet journalism where the headlines are shocking and attention grabbing but the facts in the story do not support the assertions the headlines suggest.

      People kind of assume that Ireland had British or American levels of wealth in the mid-20th century when actually it was more along the lines of a third world country.

      • gregoryvii

        Too there are not libel lawsuits for non-factual headlines.

      • Elizabeth H Davenport

        Britain too had its share of problems induced by lack of money, and all that entails, in mid 20th century. Even into the sixties Ireland, as a fledgling state, was lurching along. Its people did their best with very few resources at their disposal. They accepted their lot because they HAD to. The way out and up for their children came along with the availability of an extended education, up to the age of 17/18. It had to be paid for but nuns and possibly Christian Brothers, on recognising potential, waived the fees and, in some cases, entire families enjoyed the benefits of this generous and compassionate gesture.

    • Jane Dunn

      I don’t think that Daily Mail piece, which refers to burials in a “septic tank” in the headline, makes the situation out to have been much better than the AP article did. (Yes, I realize that reporters almost never have anything to do with a headline.) The body of the article reports on malnourished and unhealthy kids and even tracked down one of the surviving kids.

      • ThirstforTruth

        Children through out Ireland during those difficult decades of world wars and famine, were malnourished, whether in an orphanage or not. These nuns took in children that had no families to take care of them and if you look closely at those pictures, the faces of the little ones appear happy and well taken care of, even down to ribbons in
        the hair of the little girls. Many childen in the homes of the poor were
        not as well taken care of as food ad shelter were come by with only great difficulty. Many children worked as hard as their parents to keep famiiies together. These journalist are reporting from the comforts most possess in these times and are not appreciative of the status quo experienced by most of the poor in Ireland, a poverty stricken nation, mostly because of British repression which was cruel and inhumane. If there is to be a story reported upon, this should be the one.

    • Elizabeth K.

      And actually, that photo isn’t actually of Tuam–it’s from a different story about a different children’s home–the Kelly home?–in fact, several of the pictures are not of the Tuam home at all. Additionally, the Gardai have said that there’s no corroboration right now that *any* bodies are in the area of the *old* sewer tank–none. Not 800, not 8. None. Next, this isn’t “Catholic custom.” I’d be very surprised if these children weren’t baptised, because this would mean they were excluded from Mass and other Catholic traditions. At a Catholic school. Run by nuns. In Ireland. Does this really make any sense? Perhaps someone could check the names on Corless’s list–which is where this all started-against baptismal records? The nuns took the time to make sure all of these deaths were recorded, I’m sure there are other records of these children available as well. Otherwise it’s just rumor. Finally, it simply isn’t true that *all* unwed mothers were sent away. In fact, more usually, children were born and then taken in by the family as a sibling of the mother, with a quiet understanding of who the mother really was.

  • Michael Newhouse

    The AP article definitely gives the impression that the babies were ‘dumped’ into a septic tank. However, all the children had death certificates filed with their name and cause of death. Hardly matches the feel the AP is trying to pass off.

    • Jane Dunn

      That the orphanage filed death certificates does not in any way diminish the horror of how their dead bodies were handled.

      • Michael Newhouse

        You don’t know how their bodies were handled. This was 100 years ago Ireland, truly a 3rd world country. You want them to put them in little bronze coffins inside little concrete mausoleums? Only the super rich were buried like that back then. They were wrapped in shrouds and placed in a concrete cistern…much better than most Irish were buried in Galway at the time.

        • Jane Dunn

          It wasn’t a hundred years ago. It was within the recollection of some people who still live there.

          And you can call it a “concrete cistern” if you’d like, but that doesn’t make it any less filthy than calling a toilet a “porcelain bowl.”

          How do you know they were “wrapped in shrouds”? And even if they were, it still doesn’t lessen the horror of where their bodies were disposed.

          • Michael Newhouse

            Sorry: from 80 to 55 years ago. As the doctor said, at the time Ireland was a 3rd world country and high death rates among children was common.
            You are hanging a lot on the “cistern” word. You really have no idea how appropriate a burial it was or how it compared to the norms at the time. Yet you don’t hesitate to condemn in the most absolute of terms.
            It’s good to know actual facts before rushing to judge.

          • Jane Dunn

            You are hanging much on the “cistern” word without having all the facts. It’s also good to know actual facts before rushing to absolve, particularly when it’s an institution that has admittedly covered up so much abuse in the not too distant past.

          • Michael Newhouse

            First of all, this isn’t an institutional thing, but you’re prejudice is showing. This was run by an order of nuns and later turned over to the government.
            I’m not absolving anything. I believe in “innocent until proven guilty”. And not assuming facts from an obviously slanted and sensationalized and superficial news article.

          • Jane Dunn

            Of course, you have no idea whether anything in the reports is true or not, but you’re jumping to the conclusion that the reports are “slanted and sensationalized and superficial.” I think it’s **your** prejudice that’s showing.

          • Elizabeth H Davenport

            Unfortunately, much store is set by the sensationalism employed by Tabloid ‘newspapers’ and, of course, their accounts MUST be true!

          • Julia B

            Do you know what cistern means?

          • Jane Dunn

            Yes.

          • Julia B

            What’s filthy about a cistern?

          • Jane Dunn

            Newhouse was trying to call a septic tank a cistern. Even the Daily Mail headline reported it as a septic tank. It may be both a septic tank and a cistern, but if it’s both, then using the clean descriptor isn’t accurate.

          • Julia B

            They are very different. I lived in the country for some time where everybody had one. Septic tanks slowly leak the contents out into the ground where the ground supposedly filters the sewage before the purified fluid enters the ground water. They need to be spaced a fair distance from each other or the well water will be contaminated. Cisterns are water tight – they capture rain water and don’t involve a filtering process in the ground. The object in this news account can’t be both a septic tank and a cistern.

          • Jane Dunn

            Well, I grew up in a house with a septic tank and every few years it had to pumped out when it got full. The AP said the tank had to be specially adapted to allow it to take the bodies. That doesn’t sound like a simple container in the ground.

            Both the AP and the Daily Mail headline writers used the term “septic tank.” Whatever that means, it’s something that deals with sewage. Maybe the reports both used the wrong term, but I don’t think one can just take the DM’s use of “cistern” in the body of the article to be the last word.

          • Julia B

            You may have pumped it out every few years, but that’s not because it was water tight. Check out how septic tanks work:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septic_tank

          • Jane Dunn

            I’m not sure, but sometimes underground things work differently in coastal Florida where we were at sea level and across the street from a salt water canal. In any event, they’re still a recepticle for raw sewage. I’m not saying sewage tanks are the same thing as a cistern. My only point was that to switch from a term for a tank that deals with raw sewage to a term for a tank that deals with clean water doesn’t seem accurate.

          • Julia B

            Why not? It seems the early description might have been erroneous. The article says the nuns took over a workhouse in the 1920s. Why not use the de-commissioned cistern in a time when there were scant funds? Especially if the intent was to segregate the bodies of unfortunate children who died of TB and other infectious diseases in an era when people were not usually buried in concrete encasings as they are today in the US.
            It might seems strange to you, but two of my grade school classmates in middle class US in the 1950s died of TB and I was found to test positive from exposure. Seems really rational to me to bury these unfortunate children in a concrete cistern to prevent contamination of wells in the area. I’ll accept proof of a septic tank if that is really was was involved. Even then, perhaps there was a really pressing necessity to segregate the bodies.
            I recall a mass burial discovered recently somewhere in the Southern US – a workhouse or reformatory for kids.

          • Jane Dunn

            Yes, the early reports may have been erroneous, although the Caroline Farrow piece some have linked to refers to a decommissioned septic tank on the property when the nuns took it over. To be clear, though, she says the idea that the babies were tossed into the septic tank for burial is likely to prove untrue.

            Whatever ends up being true, it seems likely to me at least that there are going to be some horrific details. Saying that, though, doesn’t mean I think the Catholic Church is the only one that has had problems like this.

          • Elizabeth H Davenport

            Ladies, it would be a good idea if you both listened to the interviews given by Catherine Corless. She is the lady who spent a very long time on the study and is better placed than AP to enlighten us.

          • Jane Dunn

            I did. I even referred to it in some of my comments. What she talks about is pretty grim.

          • Elizabeth H Davenport

            Thank you, Jane. Link to the synopsis of Catherine Corless’ ‘Mother/Baby Home Research for Julia B:

            https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1382568855335119&id=1381096678815670

            You may be able to track her live interview by typing in RTÉ INTERVIEW WITH CATHERINE CORLESS, or some mention of The Home Tuam.

          • Julia B

            Where are those to be found?

          • PalaceGuard

            I happen to be the proud owner of a septic tank. Believe me, you do *NOT* want to open that thing up any more often than you absolutely have to, and it would have to be one heck of a septic system to have any chamber large enough to hold 700 or so bodies, even small bodies. A large water cistern, however, would be of a size to use as a burial crypt.

          • Dennis Mahon

            Except “septic tank” never appeared in the original article run on May 25 by the Irish Mail ( http://www.pressreader.com/ireland/the-irish-mail-on-sunday/20140525/textview ). The House used a cesspool system (septic tank systems weren’t introduced to Ireland until the 1950′s) as late as 1938.

          • Elizabeth K.

            Because the same person who’s claiming she thinks they must be in the cistern (Corless) also says they were wrapped in shrouds. At least take the dubious reporting wholecloth if you’re going to swallow it.

          • Jane Dunn

            First, I think you mean “wholesale” and not “whole cloth.” Second, I’m not taking anything wholesale either. The details are still unclear, but all the reports agree that the big picture is pretty grim.

          • Elizabeth K.

            Nope, just a little fun with words, dear. Sorry you missed it! Of course it’s grim: what happens to children in third world countries is always grim. But let’s all try for a little more reason and a little less hysteria.

          • Jane Dunn

            Thanks for admitting you were making a joke. I considered that you might have been trying to make a bad pun, but I wasn’t sure anyone could be so heartless as to make a joke about dead babies. Caught you out!

            The archbishop has called for an inquiry into the deaths and burials at the Tuam home. Is he being hysterical too? I’m pretty sure that when an archbishop and the ACLU are calling for the same investigation there’s a good chance there is something more serious to investigate than just standard third world conditions.

            Also, please see the new report from RNS by an extremely well-regarded religion writer. Is she hysterical too?

          • Jane Dunn
          • Elizabeth K.

            To answer your question–she sounds a little hysterical. Also, uniformed, and in need of fact-checker. yes. All of those things. Thanks for asking me.

          • Jane Dunn

            That’s funny because she’s been lauded by this very blog as being one of the best religion journalists in the business. She’s human so she can make a mistake, but I think it’s more likely that you’re just way out in right field on this one.

          • Elizabeth K.

            Sure, of course you’re right. Because the sign of an excellent journalist is repeating non-facts and hearsay from the WaPo and AP. Sorry, but she loses any credibility in the first paragraph, since, as has been pointed out *numerous* times in less sensationalistic places, no babies have actually been found, much less has there been “the discovery of nearly 800 babies and children buried in a septic tank” (see spetic tank discussion above, which you actually took part in.) Repeating a claim doesn’t make it true, it just makes her late to the game and now, kinda stupid. Then there’s this: “If they died, as so many did, they were not allowed a Christian burial.” LOL, really?? At least she doesn’t try to base that one on “Church tradition,” she just tosses it out there based on. . .nothing, I guess. Not to mention the numerous non sequiters, the bizarre but telling reference to Philomena–if this is a laudable religious journalist, then I understand why the whole field is in the state that it is.

          • Jane Dunn

            Actually, bodies of kids and babies **have** been found.

          • Elizabeth K.

            How interesting–could you provide the link where it says that? Do you know of any pictures or statements that describe an excavation of these bodies? Please don’t repeat the forty year old claim by the two 12 year olds, as this may or may not be true. The article you posted makes it sound, in the first paragraph, as though 800 bodies were found–not “thought to be buried,” *found*. That implies “physically.” Could you, perhaps, get me an image of that? Maybe you’ve seen something I haven’t.

          • Jane Dunn

            The historian Corless paid for and received from the local authorities the death certificates of 796 children who died at the home and for whom there are no burial records. It’s certainly possible that not all of them are buried in whatever the tank is. But right now there is no rational basis to think that all those kids got buried other than right on the property where they were treated like property.

            It’s the “Bodies? What bodies?” and “Abuse victims? What abuse victims?” mentality that protects and enables pedophile and other abusers in the Catholic Church **and** in my own church. Innocent until proven guilty is good, but wearing blinders because a church or leader is too sacred to question is not.

          • Jane Dunn

            Here’s the Get Religion blog post lauding Ruthie Gledhill. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2014/05/on-st-ruth-and-the-state-of-fleet-street-religion-news/

            You owe her an apology.

          • Elizabeth K.

            Um yeah, that’s what I was doing. I see now why the hysteria of the WaPo appeals to you. Read much?

          • Jane Dunn

            Speaking of reading comprehension, I haven’t said anything about the WaPo. Try again, honey.

            I guess you aren’t able to read any of the two articles that might interfere with your preconceived notions.

          • Elizabeth K.

            No, you’re just reading and posting rehashes of the WaPo article, without even realizing it. That’s even sadder, I think, don’t you? I’m not the one with preconceived notions: I’m all for an investigation, digging up the field (which, interestingly, Corless doesn’t want–she wants her word accepted as fact and a memorial plaque with 800 names on it) to see if these are famine victims as the Gardai says they are, or something else. I just enjoy facts and reason in my religious reporting, and waiting to make judgements until the facts are in.

          • Jane Dunn

            Oh good grief. You’re the one who doesn’t realize what she’s reading.

            The article to which I linked, written by Ruthie Gledhill, the well-regarded religion journalist, was published by and posted at RNS. It is **not** a “WaPo article.” You’re simply mistaken.

            On the page on the RNS site where the RNS article is posted, there is also an embedded video from the WaPo on the same subject, which you can tell by reading the attribution that says “Video from the Washington Post.” That the video is from the WaPo does not make the article, or any part of it, also from the WaPo.

            BTW, if you watch the video, the two men who found the bodies some decades ago describe moving a concrete slab and finding a pile of skulls and bones several feet deep so bodies **have** already been found.

          • Elizabeth K.

            I said it was a rehash. It is. Do you understand what “rehash” means? If not, I’d be happy to offer a definition. The attribution of the video simply makes it more obvious that it’s a rehash. And yes, I understand that bodies are buried there. That’s why it has been known as a graveyard for thirty years, with folks tending to it. The question is whether the *other* bodies are where the men said they were (forty years ago), and whether those famine victims as had previously been thought and still contended to be by officials, or something else. Your article (and the WaPo one it poaches) clearly imply that 800 bodies were recently found in a septic tank. It’s simply untrue at this point, and obviously sensationalistic.

          • Jane Dunn

            Since you haven’t provided a link to the WaPo article that’s got you in a tizzy, and I don’t think anyone else has mentioned it or linked to it, I did a quick google search to try to find it.

            Turns out you have it exactly backwards. The article on the WaPo site was a re-publication of the RNS article, with proper attribution to RNS, which after all is a news **service,** and to the author Ruthie Gledhill.

            I don’t expect any apology to me but you owe RNS and Gledhill an apology for accusing her of “poach[ing]” her article from the WaPo.

          • Jane Dunn
          • Elizabeth K.

            Erm, no, sorrt, not so much:

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/06/03/bodies-of-800-babies-long-dead-found-in-septic-tank-at-former-irish-home-for-unwed-mothers/?tid=pm_pop

            By Terence Moody. June 3. Recognize the phrasing?

            “what happened to nearly 800 of those abandoned children has now emerged: Their bodies were piled into a
            massive septic tank sitting in the back of the structure and forgotten, with neither gravestones nor coffins.”

            The RNS report is from June 6.

            Poaching is as poaching does!

          • Jane Dunn

            Sorry, honey, that phrasing is not in the RNS article. Plus the RNS article is about subsequent calls for an investigation. Besides, why would the WaPo pick up a piece from a news service if the news service article actually “poached” from one of its own reporters?

            Reading comprehension is as reading comprehension does.

          • Mme_Chantal

            Cisterns are built to hold clean water, and should never be confused with septic tanks, which are built to treat sewage.

        • Michael Newhouse

          If “innocent til proven guilty” and wanting actual facts is “prejudice” to you, then, yes, I’m prejudiced.
          A septic tank is for human waste. A cistern is for drinking water. I lived in Ireland a year – I don’t think they use septic systems over there at all.
          If the babies were buried in an actual underground cistern, then it had to be a dry, no longer used one…which would make it a very appropriate place to bury bodies. “Instead of building a new concrete burial vault, let’s use the old unused cistern.”
          We’re arguing over words without even knowing if they accurately describe the reality. Again, we need facts, not sensationalism.

          • Jane Dunn

            If all you had said was “innocent until proven guilty,” we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Innocent until proven guilty is appropriate. Too sacred to question until proven guilty, not so much.

          • Julia B

            Nobody has claimed “too sacred to question”.

          • Jane Dunn

            IMO, that’s the tenor of the comments that Michael Newhouse and others have made.

    • Elizabeth H Davenport

      Well done to all of you who take time to READ relevant information.

  • andy

    Evil, vile, etc. that’s not the point. This is a blog on religious journalism. You can go find articles on the subject of what actually happened in numerous other places. The point of this GetReligion article is to critique the journalistic merits of this particular AP article.

    “You could go to Ireland today and say this wasn’t official Church teaching ’til the cows come home, and people would think you’re nuts.”

    That’s the whole point. Maybe that is true, but this story does nothing to support such an assertion and random internet person Iwishyouwell57329 asserting that it is true and you’re a sick, vile human being if you don’t believe it isn’t going to add any more credibility to the article.

  • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

    And what is your PROOF for your assertions? You have yet to provide any. The same problem exists with the article itself. Assertions, but no evidence.

  • ElizD

    Quoted story claims “such out-of-wedlock children were denied baptism.” Another story mentions that the children went to a school until they received their First Communion, after which they were often adopted to families. The fact that the children born and fostered at the Bon Secours homes all received First Communion makes it very obvious that of course they were baptized, since no one can receive the Eucharist who is not baptized. The only circumstance where a child would not be immediately baptized is when there is no reasonable hope that the parent or guardian will raise the child Catholic, so they would grow up actually able to fulfill the responsibilities and obligations of being a baptized Catholic. But in this situation, it was obviously a serious priority to give them a Catholic upbringing. The Catholic Church declining to baptize an infant comes up in situations such as, the parents are living together with no intention of getting married or otherwise growing in their relationship with God and in their Faith, and they do not go to Mass, and cannot be discerned to have any plausible intention of raising the child as a believing and practicing Catholic but are seeking to have the baby baptized out of custom or to please family members.

    • Jane Dunn

      Both stories can be true at the same time: The babies weren’t baptized as infants but if, later, a Catholic family was found to adopt them, the child could be baptized before their First Communion.

      • Julia B

        So why the hysteria about baptizing or not?

        • Jane Dunn

          I have no idea. I was just responding to ElizD’s comment that I understood to be saying that the two articles she mentioned seemed contradictory.

      • ElizD

        Actually no, the reporter who assumed the babies would be refused baptism was simply wrong (and seemed to fundamentally misunderstand the basis on which babies of unmarried parents in some other instances are refused baptism as infants, it is no prejudice against babies from irregular circumstances but has to do with Catholic upbringing). The nuns knew they themselves would be raising the children in the Catholic Faith to the point of receiving their First Holy Communion so there was no conceivable obstacle to the children being baptized. Being raised by nuns is a very high standard of sureness that the children would be raised in the Faith. If they subsequently went to families where their Catholic formation was not good or was absent, still the children are definitely Catholic, aware of being Catholic, and have a basic foundation for that.

      • Elizabeth K.

        That’s highly doubtful.

    • Elizabeth H Davenport

      The Catholic Church here in England do not refuse to baptise anyone. To do so would be standing in judgement of those persons. I would expect it to be the same in Ireland.

  • Mack

    Babies are baptized.

  • ThirstforTruth

    From personal experience I know at one time in this country, in the diocese of Syracuse, NY, unbaptized babies that died were not allowed Christian burial.
    In my case, a still-born sibling, born to my devoutly Catholic parents, were denied
    Christian burial for their child. Surely had the baby lived for even a short time, she
    would have been baptized. A funeral mass was held but no burial plot in
    the Catholic cemetery. Instead, these babies had to be buried in unmarked graves
    on the perimeter of the cemetery. In subsequent years, that land was sold to a developer and those graves and their remains lost forever. I would assume this
    was a practice followed in other dioceses as well.
    Whatever happened in Ireland, and in particular in that orphanage, belongs in the
    chronicles of less than charitable sanctioned actions found scattered throughout the history of the Church. Only God in his inestimable Mercy can rectify these wrongs.

    • Julia B

      Typically, unless things get really, really notoriously out of hand, bishops determine what goes on in their diocese. My diocese has had a couple of unfortunate bishops. People really do not like the current bishop. Rome does not have spies watching what is going on everywhere. It is only recently that people believe and expect that the Pope knows what is going on everywhere all the time.
      It’s like expecting Obama to be responsible for the practices and policies of the state’s attorney’s office in my county. Obama is President of the US, but the Pope is head of the Catholic church in the entire world.

    • Elizabeth H Davenport

      I believe that situation may have arisen because still born babies would immediately go to LIMBO, simply because they were not baptised members of The Church. This was instigated by man. It was arrogant of them, to say the least. It’s not a practice that exists today and Limbo has long disappeared from the teachings of the church.

      • ThirstforTruth

        Yes, Limbo was the “explanation” at the time, I agree. However, it
        is not true that the church has jettisoned limbo. (check your catechism) but it is nuanced differently today. Benedict XVI, our Pope Emeritus, explained that we really do not know about the unbaptized souls of still-born or new-borns that die but rather the emphasis is placed upon a merciful and all loving God. These babies today are buried with full rites of the church. The Truth never changes even if it is not fully understood.

        • Elizabeth H Davenport

          Well, I didn’t make it up! Definitely heard something about this but, right now, I can’t recall who, how, where or when. Must have this conversation with my Parish Priest next time I have an opportunity to converse with him.

          • ThirstforTruth

            It is a good decision to consult the parish priest when questions arise. Hopefully, your priest is one who adheres to the church’s teaching.
            Meanwhile, see # 1261 in the Catechism ( 1992) where limbo is not addressed by name any longer but answers what the church teaches about the matter. You can also google this and find a Vatican document that addresses the issue at Vatican.va
            Peace be with you.

  • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund
  • Lifeboat

    No. That is not a Catholic teaching. But the misrepresenting of Catholic teaching in the mainstream media is typical and consistent.

  • Elizabeth H Davenport

    I’ve never heard of this before. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is completely untrue. My belief is that some uninformed poster stated it as fact and it was instantly taken on board and the word was spread! Never ceases to amaze me how ‘knowledgeable’ people are about a religious denomination of which they know zilch. Their point of reference is anecdotal evidence! Same applies to nominal Catholics – they happily lambaste The Church although very many of them have little awareness of the teachings of Catholicism since they do not darken the doors of their Parish and maybe never have since their Baptism, as infants, all those years ago. Sensationalism is the name of the game and certain Tabloids rely on the gullibility of people reading their headlines to entice them into purchasing the RAG(s). This, sadly, is where and how most acquire their ‘education’ on matters of the Catholic Church and its teachings.

  • Jared Clark

    Baptism is only denied if the child won’t be raised Catholic (except for cases of emergency, of course). Children being raised by nuns were certainly raised Catholic, so I seriously doubt they were unbaptized

  • Jane Dunn

    Here’s a new report from the Religion News Service, which refers to the burials in septic tanks and to the non-baptism and non-Christian burials for out-of-wedlock babies. RNS gets religion. http://www.religionnews.com/2014/06/06/irish-archbishop-adds-voice-calling-investigation-septic-tank-burials/

  • Cha5678

    Having read a fair bit of the history of Catholic ministry, there are many cases of priests, religious and lay members baptizing the children, whether born out of wedlock or not. In fact, part of the growth of such orphanages in the U.S.A. were to provide Catholic immigrant-turned-orphaned children with the sacraments and religious education.

  • Brett

    According to the list, as I type this post has 146 comments. And maybe a couple of dozen are on point or demonstrating any kind of respect for other posters. A good time to find the “off” button.

  • Elizabeth K.

    An interesting follow-up from the Irish Times, courtesy of Pia de Solleni’s site here on Patheos: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/tuam-mother-and-baby-home-the-trouble-with-the-septic-tank-story-1.1823393?page=1

    From Catherine Corless: “What has upset, confused and dismayed her in recent days is the
    speculative nature of much of the reporting around the story,
    particularly about what happened to the children after they died. “I
    never used that word ‘dumped’,” she says again, with distress. “I just
    wanted those children to be remembered and for their names to go up on a
    plaque. That was why I did this project, and now it has taken [on] a
    life of its own.”

    It’s a great piece of journalism; shame on the journalists who’ve twisted her work for their own ends. They owe Corless, who has done this research with her own time and her own money, a huge apology.

  • Manfred Arcane

    Now that the real facts are coming out, there are a whole lot of journalists and commentators who should apologize. As Spiked called it, the hysterical worldwide reaction, which had very little to do with the truth, was a “mishmash of anti-Catholic prejudice, Irish self-hatred, and the modern thirst for horror stories involving children combined to make one of the worst reported news stories of 2014.”
    Hopefully “Get Religion” will re-visit the reaction and the largely tendentious coverage.

  • Bob Farrell

    The comments below by understanding people speak for themselves. That the secular press has engaged in a major calumny against Catholicism should surprise no one.
    For me, the most disturbing part were the words of Pope Francis which seem to indicate that he is aware that some priests, presumably in South America where he is from, did refuse baptism to children born out of wedlock. God help them on Judgment Day. Such an abuse, I hold, is as evil as almost all the scandalous actions of some bad priests. But my guess is that all, or almost all, of those infants were baptized, if by no one else, by the nuns who were doing their best in a very poor land to give the children a chance in life.
    The government of Ireland is now run by the Labour Party, with considerable sympathy for the secularist agenda of our times. Nevertheless, I think they will do an honest job of investigating the facts, which should prove an embarrassment to the AP and others.

  • Ian Michaels

    A very confused, convoluted article adds nothing to the discussion, doesn’t look like he knows what he wants to say.
    A couple of things.

    Does the Mattingly realise there’s a huge difference between what were church practices in the 1920′s/1930′s and what it teaches today. Does he realise the stupidity of discussing Pope Francis today as evidence of the beliefs practices of the 20′s/30′s.

    Of course Religion and culture are bound up together as in all countries, the Church/culture had a great stigma about unmarried mothers at the time to ensure children did not perish without a provider in times prior to the social net.

    Try rereading your own article before you publish it please.

  • Guest

    There is such an emergency baptism which is a Catholic teaching that is practiced when a baby to be born is deem to die after being delivered so the medical staff or a midwife is trained to administer the act of emergency baptism.

    It is quite bothering to learn about denying a child a baptism due to being born out of wedlock for in the eyes of God, children would always be a precious.

    We need to pray and intercede for these little children in Ireland.

    God keep us all as the apple of His eyes!

    Sole Gage
    Say ItWith God’s Word

  • Sole Gage

    There is such a sacramental emergency baptism which is a Catholic teaching that is usually practiced when a baby to be born is deem to die instead after being delivered so the medical staff in a hospital or a midwife if the mother is delivering from home, is trained to administer the act of emergency baptism when called for.

    It is quite bothering to learn about denying a child the sacrament of baptism in Ireland due to being born out of wedlock for in the eyes of God, children would always be precious ones.

    We need to pray and intercede for these little children in Ireland.

    God keep us all as the apple of His eyes!

    Sole Gage
    Say ItWith God’s Word


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X