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The Magdalene laundries were used as reformatories where girls were sent without due process. But they were not brutal: anti-Catholics have lied about them

The laundries were tough places, undoubtedly. But there was no sexual abuse and no physical punishment

By on Monday, 25 February 2013

Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny (Photo: PA)

Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny (Photo: PA)

I usually maintain a general scepticism about the BBC’s reporting of stories involving the Catholic Church, but I have to admit that I missed out on this one, maybe because it has to do with Ireland, and because there have been so many true Irish stories one really didn’t want to contemplate. The saga of the Magdalene laundries has been one I just didn’t want to think about; here we go again, I thought: now, it’s Irish nuns. And last week, the BBC reported (as did everyone else) that another enemy of the Church, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has formally apologised on behalf of the state for its role in the story.

Some 10,000 women and girls, reported the BBC, were made to do unpaid manual labour in laundries run by Catholic nuns in Ireland between 1922 and 1996. More than a quarter of those who spent time in the laundries had been sent there by the Irish state.

Mr Kenny apologised to all the women affected.

He said their experiences had cast a “long shadow” over Irish life and that it had been “humbling and inspiring” to meet them. “For 90 years Ireland subjected these women, and their experience, to a profound indifference,” he said. “By any standards it was a cruel and pitiless Ireland, distinctly lacking in mercy”.

Cruel and pitiless: that was the story; and most cruel and pitiless of all were allegedly the Irish sisters who presided over the women’s incarceration. The popular perception of the story of the Magdalen laundries has been a growing certainty which in the end led, politically, to the Taioseach’s apology (itself an implied attack on the Church) and it has been formed over the past 20 years by a series of plays and movies about what went on in the laundries. None had greater impact than the 2002 film The Magdalene Sisters, which won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. It is about four teenage girls committed to a laundry where they experience or witness routine physical and sexual abuse by nuns and a priest. It depicts the laundries as profitable, money-making rackets, and shows the women subjected to various indignities including head-shaving.

But how true was all that? According to the Irish Times, a striking feature of the government report by Senator McAleese is the number of women recorded as speaking positively about the sisters, women who absolutely rejected allegations of physical abuse. Most agreed that there was what was termed “psychological abuse”: most “described verbal abuse and being the victim of unkind or hurtful taunting and belittling comments. Even those who said that some Sisters were kind to them reported verbal cruelty as occurring during their time in the Magdalene Laundries”. The real question about these places is whether they should have existed in the first place in the way that they did, and whether the women sent there understood why. Why was their freedom taken from them? Often they were never told, and for that, the State is directly responsible (usually the sisters didn’t know either). But these were not, as is widely believed, brutal institutions.

I quote directly from the government report by Senator Martin McAleese:

“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 Magdalene 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 Magdalene 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 Magdalene Laundries.

“The following examples and quotations relate to the majority of women who shared their stories with the Committee and who indicated that they had never experienced or seen physical punishment in a Magdalene Laundry:

“One woman summarised her treatment in a Magdalene Laundry by saying ‘I might have been given out to, but I was never beaten’.

- Another woman said about the same Magdalene Laundry ‘I was never beaten and I never seen anyone beaten’.

- Another woman said ‘It has shocked me to read in papers that we were beat and our heads shaved and that we were badly treated by the nuns. As long as I was there, I was not touched myself by any nun and I never saw anyone touched and there was never a finger put on them … Now everything was not rosy in there because we were kept against our will … we worked very hard there … But in saying that we were treated good and well looked after’.”

Fr Tim Finigan described an article by Brendan O’Neill in the Telegraph, the standfirst of which was “Catholic-bashers have embellished the truth about abuse in Catholic institutions. It’s time to put the record straight” (and which pointed me to much of the above) as being “The kind of article Catholics dare not write”. Well, Brendan O’Neill wasn’t writing as a Catholic (though he may well be one); I, however, unavoidably am. So if Fr Tim is correct, I expect I’ll get it in the neck for this one. I’m not saying that the use by the Irish state of the Magdalene laundries as reformatories to which people could be sent without explanation or due process was in any way defensible. And Irish nuns could undoubtedly be tough in those days (my wife has fond memories from her convent school in Swanage, now a holiday hotel, of being called “a bold girl” and having her hand thwacked with a 12-inch ruler). But, says one woman quoted above, there was in the Magdalene laundries no physical punishment that she saw, and though things were “not rosy”, “we were treated good and well looked after”.

Needless to say, none of that was reported by the BBC.

  • Shane

    Just to clarify: the report’s remit only stretched as far back as 1922. All the 10 laundries surveyed  were established and operated before then.

  • http://twitter.com/Schroedinger99 Mike Ward

    “At the age of eight, Kathy O’Beirne was diagnosed as a `troubled child’ and removed from her home. She then spent nearly 14 years under the Magdalen laundry regime. During the first two years, she was sexually abused and beaten.” http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Kathy_s_Story.html?id=YxguAQAACAAJ

  • http://twitter.com/Schroedinger99 Mike Ward

    Perhaps all those survivors who allege sexual and physical abuse in the Magdalen laundries are lying and there really was “no sexual abuse and no physical punishment”. If so, the  Magdalen laundries must be the only Catholic institutions where this was true.

  • Shane

     Without expressing any opinion either way, there is controversy over that. Google ‘Kathy’s Real Story’

  • DavidJT

    I bet the BBC also forgot to mention this bit:
    “Institutions known as Magdalen Laundries were not confined to Ireland, nor were
    they exclusively Catholic-established or operated. Their furthest history in Europe
    may date back to medieval times, but the first of what could be termed a ‘Magdalen
    Home’ was established in England in 1758. The first in Ireland was a Protestant
    asylum established in 1765.” (from the Summary to Chapter 3 of the Report)

     

  • http://twitter.com/Schroedinger99 Mike Ward

    OK Thanks. I can’t vouch for the veracity of anything I’ve quoted (which is why I supplied my sources) but there are many claims of sexual and physical abuse and it seems a bold claim to say that there were “no” such cases.

  • John_Seven

    “I’m not saying that the use by the Irish state of the Magdalene laundries as reformatories to which people could be sent without explanation or due process was in any way defensible.” Doesn’t that mean the Church was, at least, complicit in something indefensible?  

  • brockbabe

    This article is a disgrace to all Catholics and to the survivors of sexual and physical abuse, particularly in the laundries. To assume that those who say they weren’t treated this way are more truthful than those who say they are is unbelievably sloppy and neglectful journalism. Paedophiles and abusers ‘groom’ those they know are most vulnerable they don’t target every child. It is such a pity when you are spouting your limited and paranoid views you don’t try and do some objective evidence based research. Why do you constantly defend paedophilia and misogyny and why does the Editorial board of this paper allow it?

  • brockbabe

    I have so much respect for the courage of these people to speak out against the atrocities visited upon them.As someone who has long worked with victims of abuse I know that what silenced them for so long was the denial of others to accept what was happening. Josephine et al  will make a difference in this life, a positive one through facilitating the voices of others. It is only truth that can render real and positive change not vanity as relentlessly demonstrated by certain journalists in this paper. No doubt vain enough to think that any comment is good comment. Thank you Josephine Meade for your courage. 

  • Nat_ons

    Lethal warders in state licences charity runs reformatories were not a ‘Catholic’ thing, even in Ireland and the Magdelene Industrial Institutions. Like most schools of the day, punishment was meted out according to the prevailing regime – with cane, tawse, blackboard duster, rule or hand. Neither schools not reformatories were intended to be places of gentle, kind, affirming recourse for wayward children, no more so than asylums or orphanages; this is simply historical fact, not emotional distaste .. proper though that is is – and was even at the time.

    http://www.academia.edu/1423762/Proposal_to_include_Bethany_Home_within_the_remit_of_Senator_Martin_McAleeses_investigation_of_state_interactions_with_Magdalene_institutions

    Sadly, only the Catholic Church really seems to care (as a public body) about how these things happened – and then actively ignored or passively encouraged by it; were it not so, the public exposure would not be so traumatic for Catholics. The reality is unchanged, the facts cannot be replaced (even if they are now manipulated or reinvented) – the charity-funding basis of many Irish reformatories left them bereft of modern (aka ‘bloated’) civil service surveillance. And this was as true of Protestant institutions and state provisions (if still not properly recognised) as of the Catholic response to a mind numbing callousness that prevailed prior to Victorian era reforms; the politically driven/ state funded Boot Camp and short, sharp shock Youth Detention Centre mindset in our own times are as nothing when compared to the ‘charitable’ use of industrial scale reform systems .. yet the dramatic desire to ‘embellished the truth’ about these public responses to personal problems can and do mask the brutal reality of both misdemeanours or felonies and their punishment (note well: petty theft could once lead to capital punishment or transportation, not a period of detention for hard labour in an Industrial Reform School).

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-21541801

  • Nat_ons

    Abuse in institutions – by warders, carers or inmates – was not a ‘Magdelene laundry regime’ problem per se, it is a brutal fact of human sin and crime .. as much at work today as at any time in the past (even with our much increased scrutiny).

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0300443971330106

    When such institutions are left to fund themselves, police their own actions, or establish their own guidelines (as Reform Schools often were and modern Nursing or Handicap Homes are) – failure can become established practice, and good practice a desire to be aimed at .. if often ignored (and state run institutions are little better).

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/oct/26/winterbourne-view-care-staff-jailed

  • mortimer007

    Several comments on the article.
    1. Brendan O’Neill, who wrote the excellent article mentioned above, is in fact an atheist, not a Catholic.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100202781/catholic-bashers-have-embellished-the-truth-about-abuse-in-catholic-institutions-its-time-to-put-the-record-straight/#disqus_thread

    2. Another valuable article on the subject, also debunking some of the myths that provoked Enda Kenny’s crocodile tears, and detailing how the Magdalene laundries have been used as an anti-Catholic propaganda tool is this Mary Ellen Synon from the UK’s Daily Mail:http://synonblog.dailymail.co.uk/2013/02/magdalen-laundries-or-how-british-bred-eugenics-put-a-little-magdalen-all-around-the-world.html#comments

    3. Ref Mike Ward’s comments below, typical of the type of garbage that gets copy/pasted on the internet by the undiscerning.As has been well documented by now,
    “Kathy’s Story/Don’t Ever Tell” was an elaborate hoax, exposed by respected
    journalist Hermann Kelly (author of “Kathy’s Real Story”). The whole unsavory case
    tells us a lot about the culture of lies, deceit and false accusations
    targeting the Catholic Church since 2002. The book became a best-seller in
    Ireland and Britain. Yes, incredibly, 400,000 people were conned. In reality,
    they are but a tiny fraction of the millions who have been duped over the last
    decade by the lies of people who either seek to blame others for their own failed lives and/or are despicable extortionists and fraudsters.

     

  • Rose Brien Harrington

    You certainly do deserve to get it in the neck for that article, in fact you deserve to get it right in the jugular. My great aunt, Esther Harrington, spent 70 years in a Magdalene laundry. She was put in there at in 1918 at the age of 14 through no fault of her own. Her family, at that time, could not care for her because they were too young and their mother had died. Esther was a useful cash cow for these unscrupulous women because she could do beautiful sewing and embroidery, she showed me the altar cloths and vestments she made, she also showed me the room where she worked, an unheated garret with high barred windows. In the 1930s my grandparents were in a position to “claim” her out and tried to do so however they were threatened by a parish priest in Cobh (if I knew his name I’d happily blacken it) who told them that he would personally see to it that they lost their livelihoods (a sweetshop and a coal round) and that they would be out on the streets with their children if they attempted to remove her from the institution. They had no choice but to leave her there. She died in 1987 in a miserable green and brown painted dormitory full of holy pictures and not much else. As I was ill when she died I couldn’t get to her funeral and only recently discovered that she was flung like a dog into a mass grave and to this day the Good Shepherd sisters have not given her the courtesy of inscribing her name on the headstone. I’ve no doubt some of her embroidery work is still gracing altars around the place. She, however, is forgotten by those who enslaved her. Her head WAS shaved in that place and she WAS beaten also, I know that because she told me. One of her friends in there had boiling water thrown over her because she was talking to another girl. Inform yourself before you write any more such tripe, Mr Oddie, your words are adding to the abuse these innocent ladies have already suffered. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  • Rose Brien Harrington

     My heart goes out to you, Josephine.

  • daclamat

    Let’s be reasonable. Only nine hundred girls died in the launderies. Has Oddie being taking lessons in negationism from the so-called bishop Williamson. PLeased to hear that Oddie’s wife has happy memories of being beaten. There’s a name for it.

  • Sam Plename

    So, the church excuse for the beatings with leather straps is ‘that was the prevailing treatment of the time’?  Well, for one thing, they ran most of the schools in Ireland, so the prevailing treatment was church treatment, and doing the ‘prevailing thing’ is not exactly the path to infinite and eternal wisdom which will lead others to follow good example, is it?  The Cathlolic Church continues to ignore the worst abuses, until and unless the facts are dragged into the public spotlight by others, who are then labelled ‘anti-Catholic’ for daring to seek justice for abuse. 

  • Sleepy7791
  • Paul Reynolds

    Horrible, horrible people. 

  • Cjkeeffe

    I wonder why there is no similiar outcry against the civil inistitutions when there is abuse?

  • Andrew

    Yes, and there’s a reason for that.

    But I’ll let you try and figure it out for yourself…..

  • Sam Plename

    By ‘respected journalist’ Hermann Kelly, do you mean Libertas Hermann Kelly, and fellow traveller of Dana? 
    And of course, he would be “respected” for claiming the woman is a liar, and that all these people claiming abuse are liars, and of course Mr. Oddie labels Enda Kenny and ‘enemy of the Church’. 

    This is the same Enda Kenny who has been a TD since 1975, still goes to mass, and said NOTHING about abuse until survivors groups dragged the truth, into the spotlight, against the howls and accusations of ‘mother church’.  This is the same Enda Kenny who dared not to criticise the church while it was strong, and only made a few mewling noises about ill treatment, when the winds of change were blowing strong.

    Unlike of course earlier people like Martin McGuire of Limerick, who helped to free a 14 year old boy who had been mercilessly whipped with a cat of 9 tails in Glin. McGuire didn’t keep quiet or wait until Church power faded. He acted to help that boy in 1945 & 46 and that boy was freed, and allowed back to his mother. 

    Just shows the reactionary mindset – anyone who isn’t 100% backing the church line is an ‘enemy of the church’ and a liar.    That time is past amigo. We are no longer kneeling in fear of the pulpit. Our children are not your slaves, we are not your resources.

  • Sam Plename

    If nuns and priests are no better than the rest of civil society, why were they given such positions of power then. You can’t have it both ways. Expect special status in society, and at the same time, the endless handwrining of ‘we’re only human, we make the same mistakes as you’.   Well then, drop the authoritarianism, get off the high horse and stop pretending to be living a divinely inspired life. 

  • Cestius

    Because anti-Catholics and Christian haters are not remotely interested in that, or in setting anything into perspective. You only have to look how long the abuses were going on in the BBC and ignored by all the so-called investigative reporters there that apparently didn’t notice what was going on right under their very noses, while all the time they were hammering the church because of its alleged failings.

  • Geriatric Hippy

    When we have no experience of something, what we express is an opinion; when we have lived through an experience, then what we express is our truth; The empire is crumbling and justice will prevail.

  • Eimear

    So just because some women had horrific experiences in these religious institutions, we shouldn’t support them and be appalled by their treatment?? For example, I remember there being a huge outcry about the Haut le Garenne institution in Jersey and don’t remember there being any link to a religious group

  • majorcalamity

    This is another shameful attempt at trying to portray unacceptable Church behaviour in a positive light. Using weasel words to defend the indefensible is not journalism. Brutality does not have to involve physical abuse. What happened at the Magdalene Laundries was, even using Mr Odie’s whitewashed terminology, brutal. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/emmy.johnson.39 Emmy Johnson

    Being held and forced to work in prison like conditions, is brutal enough, that is not treating anyone good or looking after them..It is forced slavery.. These women did nothing to warrant this treatment and is another reason for emptying churches in Ireland. The people the ran these Magdalene Laundries had no respect of the girls, no respect for what was right and would never have informed anybody if they physical and sexual abuse took place. 

  • Baltar

    There is. I think you need to read the news more!

  • awkwardcustomer

    Kathy O’Beirne has been exposed as a fake by her family, by the Magdalene Sisters who found no record of her in their files and by the 2007 Channel 4 programme ‘Lie Lab’, in which she failed to turn up for a lie detector test.  Her brother took the test, claiming that Kathy O’Beirne had never been in a Magdalene laundry, and he passed. 

    Kathy O’Beirne’s account of her childhood as described in ‘Kathy’s Story’ (Ireland) and ‘Don’t Ever Tell’ (UK), which included a detailed account of her supposed incarceration in a Magdalene laundry, has been denounced by her family.  She has also been dropped by her publishers – Mainstream.

  • http://twitter.com/Schroedinger99 Mike Ward

    There will always be some false accusations, and there will always be dodgy sources of information – which is why I gave my sources so people could check. As soon as I discovered that this particular testimony was (to say the least) suspect, I added a note to this effect. I did not try to eliminate my mistake from history by simply deleting my post.

    In other words, I have been scrupulously honest here.
    Not of this changes my basic point. There are very many first person accounts of physical and sexual abuses in the Laundries (and yes in many other religious and secular institutions). I do not believe these accounts are all fabrications and I find it inconceivable that ” there was no sexual abuse and no physical punishment”.

    Please note that the criticism of the Catholic Church has not been that abuse (in all its forms) was any more prevalent in its institutions than in other institutions, it has been that the Catholic Church has repeatedly failed to face up to what was and (all too often) still is going on.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Kathy O’Beirne has been well and truly exposed as a fake.

    See my post above.

  • Rose Brien Harrington

     I’d be hard pressed to disagree with that statement having read the article. The best I can say about it is that he appears to be in denial, like so many others. Holocaust victims had the same trouble after the war.

  • Muffin

    First of all, I am not an anti-Catholic. I am one of those righteous Traditionalists who only go to the TLM and think the Catholic Confessional State is a fantastic idea. So, I am a much better Catholic than most of you, thank you.

    How could you possibly know there was no physical or sexual abuse? These things happen in all institutions: schools, care-homes seminaries etc.. Besides, to be dependant and have all your independence taken away is to be treated like a child. These women would have been mostly poor, they would have had hard lives anyway, but at least they were their lives, and they could look after themselves. What happened was certainly an abuse, an abuse of their dignity as persons. 

    The most unjust thing about the laundries is that it was poor, working class girls who went there. Voiceless, uneducated, and with no status. 
    These women weren’t not just socially, institutionally and economically poor, like slaves of the ancient world. Some of these converted to Christianity didn’t they, often inspiring their masters to convert also (there is a Saint who had a case like this, can’t remember her name).

    Differently, with the laundries, these women were labelled by the Church and state as degenerates. And so their plight was a moral and spiritual poverty also. To be morally looked down upon is far more hideous a poverty to be looked down upon for being a smelly destitute urchin. This moral poverty would have made it less likely for them to be believed. A whore-girl is likely also to be trouble maker and a liar, no?

    You deserve all that you’re going to get, I’m afraid. Finally these women have a voice. You’re not going to take it away from them. I think you should remove this column in fact. no doubt there will be many complaints to CH.

    For the record, psychological abuse is always a component of sexual abuse. Victims have often reported that this psychological abuse was far more scaring and enduring. So the fact as you claim there was no physical and sexual abuse, just psychological, is as big of a blunder as Nick griffin saying “yes, I did have dinner with a KKK leader, but he is a former leader, and of a non-violent clan at that!”

  • Boozy-boo

    And I am quite sure there were, assuredly, top quality plantations in the Southern States, to whose merits Uncle Tom Oddie can doubtless testify.

  • Martina Coyle

    Shame on you

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1035056673 Mari Tatlow Steed

    First, you assume the McAleese report is 100% correct and factual. What you fail to mention is that the report only covers details from 8 of the 10 identified laundries. Two of the largest, Galway and Dun Laoighaire (run by the Sisters of Mercy), were omitted from the report owing to ‘missing or shoddy records’. Of the nearly 800 pages of testimony submitted by Justice for Magdalenes to Dr. McAleese (and from two separate meetings conducted with survivors and other workers/witnesses), only a tiny fraction of that testimony is evident in the report, and certainly not of the firsthand accounts of physical abuse, including being force-marched wearing wet bedsheets, lying prone on the floor for hours kissing it, heads shaven as punishment, food withheld as punishment and other forms of degrading and tortuous abuse. And let’s be clear: physical abuse includes being locked in a facility and forced to perform commercial labour for no pay. That’s also slavery. So to suggest that these women did not suffer abuse is ludicrous. Essentially calling them liars diminishes any credibility on the part of the writer and the Church, but it is their usual defence when it comes to those it has victimised. I would suggest to this writer, along with Mr. O’Neill and other ‘deniers’: stop besmirching your Church by assigning this cruel denier label to it. Many good Catholics, priests and religious orders (the US Sisters of Mercy, for example) have come forward and issued heartfelt apologies for crimes for which their Irish counterparts were guilty. Because that’s the Christian way. You don’t stand up and call a group of elderly women who suffered irreparable harm as young girls and women liars. That does no one any good.

  • Mrs Eens

    There is such dirty linen in the Vatican that I was wondering – could not the ‘good’ sisters relocate to Rome and give employ to one or two superannuated Cardinals?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1035056673 Mari Tatlow Steed

    These are excellent, thorough critiques of the McAleese report…and more will come. The report went far wide of its intended remit and in doing so, failed utterly.

  • AlwaysOnAHill

    Your wife has fond memories of having her hand thwacked with a 12-inch ruler…….

    Even if we resist the Freudian undertones of a “12-inch ruler” this casual comment speaks volume for the author’s worldview.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1035056673 Mari Tatlow Steed

    Justice for Magdalenes also has experience with Kathy’s story, as she first came to us to try to bear out the details behind her case. We could find no evidence to support her claims and this was after very extensive research. While we empathise with whatever she did suffer, she was not a Magdalene survivor nor did she bear a child out of wedlock as described. JFM has never been in the ‘business’ of carrying fantasies into our work. It is about scrupulously researched and documented evidence, and the thousands of pages of documentation and testimonies submitted to Dr. McAleese bear witness to that (and are also publicly available on our website). Unfortunately, the report was just as selective in what it chose to use to back up its own assertions, that it ended up being as flawed as this and Mr. O’Neill’s article. At least we at JFM can say with certainty we do not suffer from lazy journalism or research skills.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1035056673 Mari Tatlow Steed

    A good example of this was the Stanford Prison Experiment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1035056673 Mari Tatlow Steed

    See official Justice for Magdalenes reply above on Kathy O’Beirne. Please stop trotting this out. She is just one untruth among thousands of truths, and she was debunked early on, so certainly not part of the McAleese report or any testimonies submitted by us. I’m sure I could find one good priest out of a barrel of bad ones, too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1035056673 Mari Tatlow Steed

    Ah, but you see, the good nuns and priests were held up as ‘better’ and ‘holier than’ by themselves, their hierarchy  and all of Irish society. And so they naturally thought themselves better than the charges in their ‘care’. From there, it becomes all to easy to convince yourself that the human being standing before you is less than human, certainly less than you, and therefore easy to abuse.

  • Seguidora

    This must be one of the most disgraceful, revisionist blogs I have read in a long time. Shame on you, Oddie!

  • Visitor

    In these comments by Catholics, has there been any mention of the most Holy Spirit or the actions of the enemy spirit, working through all concerned (including the parents and families of the adolescents).
    What would a day in a law court be like when these things (so many of us know to be real) are spoken about?
    And, it has to be said, the Day of Judgement for ‘Satan and its fallen angels’ seems too, too far away.

  • Elaine Hickey

    You’ve achieved more of a backlash towards the Catholic church and Catholic faith than any anti-Catholic could. Congratulations on exposing your ignorance and trying to paper over some massive fissures in Ireland’s recent history – no mean feat. There were many laundries and many, many women incarcerated in same. Of course not all were abused or treated badly ( or at least perceived themselves to be treated badly- having their freedom and children taken away would be bad enough for most). How you can possibly assert that there was no abuse is beyond me. Even now in modern institutions of any size there are instances of neglect and abuse. Why would we have any reason to think it did not occur in the laundries ? If you were trying to provide some balance and show that the instiutions and the religious orders themselves were not rotten but just a few bad eggs well you’ve failed miserably. You even acknowledge the reports of psychological abuse and cruelty, so is the problem that you just can’t stomach the thought of physical or sexual abuse beng
    meted out by religious people?

    I attended convent schools in both primary and secondary schools and witnessed both physical and mental abuse served up by some of the nuns.This was between 1980-1993 so corporal punishment was banned but I still saw isolated occurances of children being roughed up and tormented.
    I was terrified of one of the nuns who taught us, she put a child across her knee one day- word got back to the parents and at the end of that school year she was transferred.

    Like all other humans they are capable of wrongdoing but what hurts the most are the deniers and
    the lack of appropriate action. As in my example above the problem was transferred rather than dealt with. What I described above is extremely lightweight by comparison to what went on before but at least I feel more appropriate than your comparison with a rap on the knuckles

  • Elaine

    If you can cite an example I can assure you I will be suitably outraged. Wrongdoing is wrongdoing no matter the perpetrator

  • Livia

    Oh but it WAS brutal in so many ways. Slavery, enforced silence, brain washing. I know, I was there

  • vuvuzela

    I, too, read that article in The Irish Times. My guess is that many of those who have posted their comments to William Oddie’s blog have battered their keyboards indignantly, have an axe to grind about the Roman Catholic Church anyway (bar one posting, which echoes the typical way much of Irish society was, when the priest was more to be feared than be a pastor to his people no matter what position they were in society).

    I had the immense and thought-provoking privilege of talking to the son of a Magdalene survivor some years ago. Both he and his natural mother went through a great deal of pain in their lives. His mother was raped by an employee and her son was the baby she bore.

    Here are the FACTS.

    These laundries were first established by Protestants back in the 18th century. Their purpose was to help rehabilitate mostly women of the street – teaching them skills to ensure they need never go back on the streets again. Roman Catholic religious orders did the same for the same reasons. Women had the freedom to come and go.

    However, somewhere along the lines which have become blurred, they turned into what could be termed as places for penal servitude but shoved down the throats of these women that they were there to wash away their sins – how bloody thick, heretical and stupid!

    Actually, one of the sins crying to God for vengeance is a worker deprived of their just wages.

    The directors of the 2002 film, The Magdalene Sisters, admit that there was a lot in that film which were put there for ‘dramatic purposes’ and they said that the film was not a documentary.

    There was a song written in the 1980′s called The Jewel of the Village. The chorus has the line: For every fallen woman, there are a hundred fallen men.

    Of course, when it comes to Roman Catholics, the usual suspects like to shout us down regardless.

    They want to think the worst of us and will do, no matter what the facts are and the truth is.

    I notice that there was no mention in similar terms (to those aimed at the Roman Catholic Church by the anti-Catholic media) of the Irish Governmental departments, posh Dublin hotels and Guinness who used the services of the Magdalene Laundries.

    What was that? I can’t hear you secular establishments saying your collective ‘mea culpas’! You also have enough money – plus years and years of interest - to cough up for the survivors of your exploitation of these poor women!

    Enda Kenny took his time about it to choke out his apologies for the part successive Irish governments have played since 1922 (the founding of the State) in the heretical pseudo-Catholic institutions such as these.

    I say heretical, pseudo-Catholic institutions because Christ died on the cross for our sins. The vast percentage of these women did nothing wrong whatsoever – they were more sinned against.

    What about those in the small town, curtain-twitching, idle gossiping, holier-than-thous in Irish society who, through vanity, inadequacy and unhealthy parenting, threw these poor women into these laundries? How did they explain away to their neighbours the absence of their daughters/nieces/cousins who have disappeared off the face of the earth? Tell lies? Of course they did! They weren’t going to say ‘Oh, I sent my wayward daughter to a laundry to drill some manners into her!’

    A lot were lied to – heinously lied to – one poor woman thought she was going to school but ended up in a place where she shouldn’t have been put in the first place.

    Now, THAT is a sin!

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    Even if all that was true, which is questionable, it makes no difference at all. You cannot excuse one sin by pointing at another. There was, and probably still is, a deep, dark core at the centre of Catholicism. It needs to be admitted and faced. Constant denial is merely making the hole deeper.