Note to Self: Never Again Accept Uncritically News…

Note to Self: Never Again Accept Uncritically News… June 9, 2014

about the preconciliar Irish Church. Atheist Brendan O’Neill on the Incredible Shrinking Moral Panic ginned up by the Anglosphere media over Tuam. I foolishly forgot my two cardinal rules: 1) the function of media is to sell beer and shampoo and 2) always take of 50 IQ points when the media covers the Church. Make that 100 when the Irish and English media cover it, since they are motivated by active malice.

I still think the treatment of unwed mums and illegitimate children was pretty bad in the culture of the time. It’s just that I don’t think there was anything especially Irish or Catholic about it and the highly selective dudgeon is not turning out to be… highly selective dudgeon. Classic media moral panic.

Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea, the Brits are incinerating babies for heat.

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  • captcrisis

    One child died every two weeks in that place. Imagine the psychological atmosphere there.

    • cmfe

      Indeed. Dumped in a tank or unmarked graves, still sounds horrible.

      • Gail Finke

        Ireland is full of unmarked mass graves for children. It was very poor and people did not have money for cemeteries.

        • HornOrSilk

          Right. And often the British were involved in creating mass graves

          • Catholic Fast Food Worker

            And we know how the British/English treated the Irish, starting with Queen Elizabeth I. The British media has the audacity to report, distort & exaggerate instances of misdeeds done by a handful of Irish nuns from the past, & yet they don’t go out reporting the many more countless instances of British involvement in Ireland that has caused misery, famine, violent conflict, division, hatred & deaths. How selective

        • MarylandBill

          Better an unmarked grave than a dumpster labeled medical waste.

        • Cypressclimber

          So is this country. And with unmarked graves for adults. My great-grandfather, buried circa 1930 — no headstone. May never have been one. My grandmother, buried 1966 — only a stone for the family, not one for her. Never was one. Cemetery office has records; except that they can be lost. Thus I know where my great-great-grandparents are buried, but the exact location of graves? Nope; records lost.

          Right or wrong, people did not always think it was important to mark a particular grave. They did think that a person ought to be buried, and prayed for. These babies were buried. Were they prayed for? What do you think?

    • Gail Finke

      No they didn’t. The statistical average (17 – 22 per week, depending on who you ask) is just that. An average. There were numerous epidemics over those decades; so sometimes there would be many deaths all at once and sometimes none. That was the reality in homes for the very poorest in a very poor country, and is the reality in homes for the very poorest in very poor countries now. The infant mortality rate at Tuam was less than anywhere else in Ireland but Dublin, where it was the same. The problem here was treatmet of the poor by the govenrment (the home was funded by the government) and the fact that Ireland was then a poor country with harsh conditions for nearly everyone.

    • Diane Kamer

      Good grief. During one summer in college I worked in a chronic-care hospital where one person died every two weeks. Do you have any idea what the mortality statistics are in high-risk situations, even today? Please get a clue. People get sick, and sometimes they die.

      • captcrisis

        Was Tuam a chronic care place? No. Was it a Palliative Care place? No. These were supposed to be normal healthy children.

        • Diane Kamer

          In an era of rampant infectious diseases associated with grinding poverty? Have you read no history?

        • Diane Kamer

          BTW…this excellent article contains some eye-opening statistics re infant mortality rates during the time the Tuam home was in operation:

        • Alma Peregrina

          “These were supposed to be normal healthy children.”

          No, these were supposed to be poor, needy, malnourished, institutionalized children in an era without antibiotics, modern medicines, and the hygiene sensitivity we take for granted.

          Oh, never mind. Church bad. Scandal good. Combox warrior smash.

    • Alma Peregrina

      And I worked at a Palliative Care unit, where almost everyday a person died (Heck, I’ve been there when three people died in a single day).

      Imagine the psychological atmosphere there.

      Oh wait, it was one of the most peacefull atmospheres I’ve ever been to. In fact, it made me choose oncology as my career.

      Oh, never mind. Church bad. Scandal good. Combox warrior smash.

  • Pete the Greek

    Amazing. Try reading the comments over on that article. It’s FILLED with Dan Rather-esque “Ok, they were fake, BUT ACCURATE!!!!!”

    Pathetic bigots.

    • Dave G.

      Yeah, one of the two things that cost Rather his job has become a standard response to evidence that such things might not be true.

  • cmfe
    • Andy, Bad Person

      Ooh, let’s jump at that one before all the facts are in! Didn’t learn our lesson the last time…

  • Guest

    “It’s just that I don’t think there was anything especially Irish or Catholic about it.” – Isn’t the church supposed to hold the moral high ground? Shouldn’t they have been better than everyone else? Would seem to me that the argument “they weren’t any different than anyone else at the time” washes away any chance that religion somehow promotes a more civil and moral society.

    • chezami

      Yep. That why I say the Irish Church is not blameless here. But let’s face it, the UK press wouldn’t sell much beer and shampoo with a headline reading, “Irish Catholics conform to cultural norms of their time and place” now, would they? The moral panic tried to paint them as monsters when in fact they were, well, just ordinary people.

    • Catholic Fast Food Worker

      And in that time period of history, the Catholic charity groups (not just in Ireland but also here in USA & literally everywhere) were doing so much more for the down-trodden & lowly ones (even if in some tragic occasions, they might have messed up like we imperfect humans tend to do) than any other group. Religious sisters & brothers, priests (think St. Father Damien of Hawaiian lepers), missionaries, supporters & lay faithful did (& continue to do) so much. More than the Freemason groups, more than the Protestant groups (which until today & recent time periods of modernity tended to NOT to want to do much outreach to foreign lands, unlike countless Catholic counterparts such as St. Francis Xavier & other groups who went to evangelize & do charity to foreigners in places as far away as Japan & such from a much much earlier time period), More than “Humanists” groups, More than Militaries. Yet these countless good deeds & works (mercy acts, hospitals, clinics, schools, orphan homes, universities, homes for poor, soup kitchens, outreach, etc.) by countless Catholic groups & individuals from past eras are hardly ever reported in the press. I guess they shall continue to go largely unreported because (1) we are not of this world, (2) these good Catholics before us probably knew their reward is in Heaven, & (3) the media largely cares more about the negative stories than the positive good news & stories, they’re overwhelmed by darkness.

    • Alma Peregrina

      “Isn’t the church supposed to hold the moral high ground?”

      No, the Church is supposed to be the moral guide, the keeper of doctrine.

      But even so, the Church holds the moral high ground. When science brought forth evidence that children thrive in humanized orphanages, the Church rapidly developed in that sense. Today, the only orphanages that treat children as the Church did at that time are atheist orphanages, like those in China.

  • Cypressclimber



  • Fred of Rick

    Mark something smelled about this story the first time I saw it. Being a student of modern European military history told me that this story was just too pat. It had a hated subgroup. It had an institution that is looked at as weak and it had babies. The only thing lacking was sex. I was a nice propaganda play and even though it is not true we will be hearing about this one for a long time.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    Wonder if Jem will show up on this thread since s/he was throwing accusations of mass murder around the day after this ‘story’ broke. It would demonstrate some integrity if s/he did.

    • chezami

      I got tired of her rush to condemn and her delectation over evil. She’s gone.

      • Fr. Denis Lemieux

        Ah. Good call.

      • Diane Kamer

        What about Dreher’s rabid rush to judgment? (See recent Chronicles Mag article on this subject.)

        The man has turned into an anti-Catholic hack. And yes, his slander is doing damage. He has duped a lot of credulous Catholics. Who will call him out for this?

        • Dreher has always been thus. He is intelligent, articulate, and half crazy with fear (or something). I’ve gone through periods when I read him consistently and enjoyed him and the commentors on his blog, but in the end, his hysteria drove me away.

  • Alma Peregrina

    “Note to Self: Never Again Accept Uncritically News… about the preconciliar irish church”

    To be fair… you were forced into that position by a histrionic challenge by a commenter that already condemned the Church for Her “crimes” (the crimes were secondary, the condemnation was already there before any crimes were known) and that wouldn’t have any common sense or reasoning to put out those charges (that would be “justifying crimes”).

    You took the honorable position: You admited that the Church is composed of sinners and you attributed any evil to the sinfulness of church people. That’s what everyone should be doing about themselves. No pride, just contrition.

    And Jem was immediately emptied out of his/her arguments, right away. Not that s/he would mind of being proven wrong (it didn’t matter if it was true or false).

    Then, History and the facts vindicated you. It was better that way. No dishonor was brought on you… in fact, just like in Christ’s parable, by sitting farther away in the table you will be honored when you’re invited to come closer.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    I understand the place had been a government workhouse during the poverty, famine, and plague before the nuns took it over and refurbished it. Not surprised if there are bodies on the grounds.

    During the 1970s (iirc) an extension was built to the Easton Public Library and the excavator broke through an unexpected vault, causing skulls and bones to tumble about. A total of 88 bodies were identified. They were reburied in a new vault under what is now the back driveway. (There is a slight dip in the pavement above the place.)

    So far as I know, no one ever decided that depraved librarians had slain borrowers with excessively overdue books and dumped them in a “septic tank” behind the library. But there is a decided similarity in the results. The main difference being that in the 70s or 80s (whenever it was) no one was mounting a campaign against librarians and there was no twitter to magnify madness. Back in those days, people were not as superstitious about corpses, skeletons, and re-burials as we are today.

    (BTW. Research showed that when the library was built in the early 1900s, the site was occupied by an old graveyard.
    Efforts were made to locate descendents who could claim and re-bury the
    bodies, but in the end 88 were unclaimed. These were reburied unmarked
    in a concrete vault to the side of the library. This was then largely
    forgotten until the extension was built with the aforesaid results, except by residents along Fifth St. who, in typical German
    fashion would often claim to see schpooken about the

    • Catholic Fast Food Worker

      Like the “government workhouses” mentioned in Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”?

  • Des Farrell

    A very interesting response by the editor that you linked to. If one can be objective, it’s fascinating to see how many commentators around the world are willing to work themselves into an absolute fury, a white rage. Yet anybody with an knowledge of the 20th century knows about TB, polio, menengitus and how these diseases killed millions of children. I’m not surprised by the ignorance of anonymous posters but some of the comments made by paid writers for newspapers such as, in this case, The Guardian, really are beyond anti Catholic bigotry at this stage. It reminds me of this story that RTE produced a couple of years ago.

    By the way, the most vicious anti Catholic bigotry I’ve read online has easily come from fellow Irish people, young people, who have enflamed themselves in mob fury far exceeding the writers of the Guardian.

    • MarylandBill

      I think this is a classic example of scape goating. Both of my parents were from Ireland, and my Dad use to tell me about a girl in his village that got pregnant before she was married. The entire family moved away from the shame of it. Many in Ireland, I think, don’t want to face the fact that the reason these homes were so bad was not because of the Church, but because the rest of society wanted to pretend they didn’t exist. While I am sure some priests and nuns did abuse children or single mothers, the fact of the matter is that conditions were so harsh because society neglected them at every level. The same would have been true in England or the United States at that time.

  • Michaelus

    People if you are horrified by unmarked graves please take the ferry to Hart Island in NYC and start marking the 1,000,000+ graves there. Bring your shovel to the Bodyworlds show and bury those poor people rather then gawk at them. Go to you local abortuary and take their “medical waste” and sing “In Paradisum” while you inter them etc. etc. Who cared about unmarked graves until this story?

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      I think it was the implication that the bodies had been discarded disrespectfully rather than that their graves were unmarked–but I could be wrong.

      • Iwishyouwell

        And why they were unmarked, too, I suspect. If they were unmarked because those children were deemed less-than because of the circumstances of their birth, then that’s a decidedly unChristian decision, regardless of what the rest of society was doing.

  • orual’s kindred

    Since I first came across this story (on Buzzfeed I think?) it has increasingly looked like some anti-Catholic nightmare fantasy of a lurid Enlightenment/post-Enlightenment sort.

    And yes, the Church does not escape blame from this. From what I’ve read so far, the treatment of unwed mothers and illegitimate children seems unfortunately familiar. There’s the shame of social stigma that carries quite a lot of weight. While the Church teaches that sex should be between a married man and woman, far too often the emphasis is on “You’re pregnant out of wedlock?! Oh noes! This is a catastrophe! What will people say?!!!” Then there’s also the gossiping and derision (on both the mother and child), which is not what the Church teaches either. And of course there’s “You’re pregnant out of wedlock?! Unclean sinner!!!” leaving out the details about confession and forgiveness.

    The failure to live out the Catholic faith involves Catholics, which of course includes both lay and religious people. (I understand this is a difficult matter for many people to deal with.) And I fail to see how this makes “Dump illegitimate babies in a septic tank! Abuse unwed mothers!” as Church doctrine.

    • orual’s kindred

      Also, I haven’t seen much attention directed to the poverty, widespread illnesses, and related socioeconomic troubles affecting Ireland during that time.

  • S Atone

    We have to understand the context of the times. Those of us around in 1984 will remember that thirty years ago no one was sure if child abuse was even a crime. Stupid media and their not knowing that. They are so dumb. Back then, we were all raping or killing children, dumping the bodies, conducting secret medical experiments on them and lying to the police about it. It was just how things were, thanks to Leftists and Hugh Hefner. As moral values are always shifting, we should do what’s trendy. Why do the media report on atrocities that come to light every day, from every country the Church operates in, conforming to the same patterns? They must hate the Church. There is no other possible reason why they would report the tens of thousands of one off isolated incidents. Why don’t they report the good work the Church does, like Exorcisms, political campaigning against healthcare and sponsoring groups in Africa who beat gay men to death?

    But don’t take my word for it, here’s a serving Archbishop, under oath:

    • Benjamin2.0

      I’m sorry, which of those cherry-picked facts ripped from their context is supposed to convince me that villains don’t cherry-pick facts and rip them from their context in order to prop up a ridiculous narrative? After looking into one of those things in order to refute you, I found it to not be all you cooked it up to be. “Of course it isn’t,” I thought, eyes rolling uncontrollably. “It never is; it’s just a matter of finding the slight of hand.” I have no doubt that the rest follow suit, and I’ve lost interest in looking. I simply can’t take these things seriously, anymore. It’s moot. Even if every priest were an axe-murder, I’d still be a Catholic. By extension, I’m simply invincible to stupid equivocations like “campaigning against healthcare”. Therefore (we’re getting into some very strained hypotheticals, now (even more so than an axe-murdering priesthood)), even if you managed to say something which isn’t an elaborate lie, I’d just shrug. “Then prosecute the priest,” I’d say. I should probably thank your ilk for numbing me to emotionally manipulative nonsense.

    • Alma Peregrina

      Yeah… the fact that you don’t even know the dates (the Tuam incident wasn’t in 1984) just shows how you don’t care for what really happened. Those children are just useful ammo for you to throw to the target of your bigotry and for you to lull yourself to sleep at the sound of your pet ideologies/sins. You really must love them so much to use those children in such a dignified way.

      Oh, and welcome back, Jem!