The anniversary of Ann Lovett’s death has just passed. Lest we forget
There was no easy way out of
the trap of unmarried motherhood in Ireland. There was infanticide, of course.
Mothers or other relatives ‘distraught’ by the birth outside marriage and grieving lost ‘respectability’, undoubtedly killed babies and infants.
Between 1922 and 1950, 183 women stood trial for the murder of a newborn.
Breaking the Fifth Commandment – ‘Thou shalt not kill’ –
was preferable to incurring Church hatred of babies born outside marriage.
Despite assertions regarding the sanctity of motherhood, the reality was that children were only welcomed when born within “wedlock‟.
Comment: Which one?
was the most effective means to ensure the vast majority of marriageable people had a Church wedding.Furthermore, under the control of the Catholic Church Ireland had long viewed sex as a sin.
Women were allowed sexual freedom only within marriage and even then only with a view to conceiving.
“ Churching” (blessing after childbirth)
A purification ritual. Imposed to cleanse the wife of the “sin” of having had the sex which resulted in the baby being conceived.
She undermined the sanctity of the family and even though it takes two to tango men largely escaped notice or sanction.
She had to be “punished” by society for her “deviant” ways.
Since an abnormally high value was placed on chastity and self-restraint, Irish attitudes and prejudices demanded social exclusion, ostracism and intense disapproval.
These women who were “damaged goods“, shameful female sinners according to the moral standards of a thou-shalt-not Catholic society.
She had to live
The old eugenic attitude saw single mothers and their children as inherently inferior. Illegitimacy was an unacceptable stigma. It created shame and controversy for families and society and stayed with children into adult life.
Sometimes such babies were called
Since the women shamed themselves and their families, keeping the pregnancy secret and having the baby adopted was a priority . Many frightened young girls preferred suicide and/or infanticide to the dreadful status of
Dealing with ” the problem“
The Catholic Church created the problem.
They created the rules that led to abuse of women and children born out of wedlock
Then they created a solution that was not abortion but a product.
These are very basic rules of business.
Step 1 – Takeover
When a girl became pregnant outside marriage, she lost control of her life. She was sent to a mother-and-baby home (orphanage) run by religious orders.
Some women made the choice themselves to go to institutions and have their babies secretly – but if they had not made that choice, then the choice would have been made for them and the outcome would have been exactly the same.
some fathers of their children would have nothing to do with them.
Others were frightened by the taboo on pregnancy before marriage.
The women’s chances of proving paternity in court were almost non-existent.
Step 3 – Hide the truth
SECRECY was the name of the game –
The neighbours were told “She’s gone away to work“.
While she was in the institution she wore a uniform and had her name changed.
Letters and contact with the outside world were vigorously censored.
The baby was given up for adoption
This unbroken web was never challenged.
Alone, frightened, a young unmarried woman–a sinner—
stands before stern nuns, a priest, lawyers and a notary at a Dublin orphanage and is coerced to sign away her baby.
“I certify that I have handed over my daughter to custody. I surrender her completely to charge,” .
“I solemnly promise that I shall never interfere with her in any way in future.”
She was given no role whatsoever in the adoption process. She signs, then vanishes.
The child trafficking trade was administered by nuns and covered up by the Irish Government.
Conventional wisdom saw the export of babies as good for Ireland–an embarrassment removed–and good for the babies.
This is a political story involving a sovereign state and its inactions to protect its citizens and a global church that professes Christianity love, truth and respect, but is engaged, in this instance, in joint venture acts of appalling inhumanity and cruelty.
Nobody so far has been held to account for this practice; no Garda or Interpol investigations; nobody from the Aer Lingus or Pan Am airlines that actually trafficked the children out of Ireland has been confronted.
Philomena Lee was forced to give her three-year-old son up for adoption in rural Ireland in 1952.Her story has been made into a film – Philomena – starring Dame Judi Dench.Mrs Lee has now launched a campaign calling for the release of more than 60,000 adoption files held by the Irish state, churches and private agencies.
Step 4 – Return to society
She returned to her own family with everybody’s reputation intact.
Never tell anyone about your shame
so “wrong-doing” was silenced.
“Many of these mothers have howled inside with the pain of it for the rest of their lives,“
Others were grateful for anonymity and a second chance with the opportunity to work, marry and raise families in the normal way by ensuring that nobody knew their secret.
The Unexpected Step 5 – Reuniting mother and child.
Women in their 60s are lying to their husbands, inventing excuses to sneak away to rendezvous with secret children whose existence they cannot publicly acknowledge decades later.
‘I’ve been married to him for 30 years; I can’t tell him now,‘
Many don’t have the courage or ability to look at it again in their declining years.
“How can they come forward now to publicly embrace a child no one ever knew they had?“
The least fortunate of all unwed mothers found themselves working as virtual prisoners in the Magdalene laundries run by orders of nuns – a system which Irish Government departments asked the religious orders to introduce in the 1930s, according to one reliable account.
Some remained in these institutions for years, some for decades and some for life.
Lest we forget – The Magdalene sisters