FRESH revelations about the Catholic Church’s involvement in a host of human rights abuses in Spain under Franco’s dictatorship and even laterÂ have surfaced in the last week, causing outrage in a country fast distancing itself from its Catholic past.
The latest scandal centres on baby-trafficking by Church, government officials and clinics over several decades. As many as 300,000 babies may have been the victims of a practise that saw infants taken from “morally or economically deficit” parents and sold to couples deemed more acceptable.
The scandal was the subject three days ago of a BBC report by Katya Adler, who gained access to a right-wing Catholic doctor, Eduardo Vella, said to have been complicit in the money-spinning business. Dr Vella stands accused of telling women that their babies had died when they hadn’t, and handing over the infants to other couples for cash. The elderly doctor genially welcomed Adler to his home in Madrid, thinking that she was a patient, but when she revealed she was a BBC correspondent, he turned hostile. Adler reported:
According to this report, no one really knows for sure how many of these cases exist. Enrique Vila, a Barcelona lawyer who specializes in adoptions, estimates there might be as many as 300,000, about 15 percent of the total adoptions that took place in Spain between 1960 and 1989. At the moment, more than 900 cases are being investigated by regional prosecutors across the country. That amount is increasing every month.
Dr Vella grabbed a metal crucifix standing on his desk. He moved towards me, branding it in my face. â€˜Do you know what this is?’ he said, brandishing it in my face. ‘I have always acted in his name, always for the good of the children and to protect the mothers. Enough!’
Despite the staggering numbers and the fact that these cases are spread across Spain, prosecutors say they don’t believe it was a “baby mafia,” but a macabre business involving public and private hospitals, doctors, nurses, midwives and even nuns who wanted to make money.
Typically, doctors and nuns would tell mothers their babies had been born dead, or that they had died shortly after birth. Then they would sell the newborns to adoptive parents and forge all official documents. After being told their newborns died, mothers would usually request to see their children, but doctors and midwives would deter them.
The Guardian reported that a Madrid clinic that closed in the 1980s after being investigated for its role in illegal adoptions, the Clinica San RamÃ³n, is at the centre of the allegations. Journalists found a baby’s corpse in a fridge, leading to rumours that bodies were kept to show parents who doubted their own child had died. AÂ former clinic employee recently confirmed that babies were illegally given up for adoption.