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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Reason to Hate the Catholic Church? Or Our Excuse for Inaction? The Horrors of Tuam Orphanage

Romanian Orphanage. Source: BBC
Kayla V. McKean, American child beaten to death by her stepfather
Repeated contacts with child protective services did not help her. 
"People wonder why I have a particular dislike of Catholicism ... This is why."

So a Facebook friend began a thread discussing recently discovered child abuse in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland.

There was an institution there called "The Home." It housed unwed mothers and their babies. Conditions were so harsh that a child died every two weeks. The children were dumped in a septic tank. Reports estimate that eight hundred bodies have been discovered in this septic tank. The Home operated between 1926 and 1961.

The children were mistreated in life as well. Catherine Corless, Tuam historian, confessed that she participated in this mistreatment. She said that when she was a child, she teased the "Home Babies" sadistically. She is an adult now and she feels guilty.

Corless blames the Catholic Church for her own sadistic behavior. "I do blame the Catholic Church…people were afraid of the parish priest…they were brainwashed." Well, isn't that convenient. Everyone participated in this child abuse, but only the parish priest and the nuns are to blame.

People knew what was happening at The Home. Excerpt from a news account.

"A local health board inspection report from April 1944 recorded 271 children and 61 single mothers in residence, a total of 333 in a building that had a capacity for 243.

The report described the children as 'emaciated,' 'pot-bellied,' 'fragile' with 'flesh hanging loosely on limbs.' The report noted that 31 children in the 'sun room and balcony' were 'poor, emaciated and not thriving.' The effects of long term neglect and malnutrition were observed repeatedly."

News of Tuam's "The Home" is horrific. Nightmarish. One can only feel compassion for these faceless victims of coldness and hate.

What's troubling to me is the insistence that the abuse that occurred at The Home is "Catholic" abuse. It also troubles me greatly that people are using hatred of Catholicism as an excuse for those who saw these starving, neglected children and did nothing to intervene. This easy scapegoating of Catholicism removes everyone's responsibility and any need to make change for children suffering today.

There is no rational reason for identifying this as "Catholic" abuse. 

I am Catholic. I was a poor kid from an immigrant family. I went to a Catholic school in a low income town where most kids were from relatively recent immigrant families. Yes, nuns were tough on us and yes I did see and experience that myself. But I gained much more from Catholic school than I suffered.

My father's father was a Polish immigrant coal miner. His mother was a bootlegger. Neither spoke English.

My father committed a petty theft and was sentenced by an American court to St. Michael the Protector. He was there for a year, and he could not leave. Overall he said it was "beautiful" and that the nuns took care of him and that being there was a positive experience in his childhood. He reported that if students were academically promising the nuns arranged to send them to college. He went to school and he swam in a pool for the first time. 

My father didn't romanticize his time at St. Michael the Protector. He said that one nun punched him in the nose. He fought back. But he and my mother sacrificed greatly to send six children to Catholic school. My mother cleaned houses and my father did blue collar work and their sacrifice is powerful testimony to their dedication to the church, a dedication that would not have existed if Tuam were the rule.

Mistreating children is directly contrary to Catholic teaching and example. Jesus said "Suffer the children to come unto me … unless you become like a child you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." Rodney Stark, an historian of early Christianity, reports that one reason Christianity was able to overcome Paganism was that Christians condemned infanticide – they out-populated Pagans.

Everyone in Tuam saw those children. Doctors and county clerks recorded the staggering death statistics. Children like the young Catherine Corless tormented those doomed orphans before they succumbed to early deaths. Everyone who had any idea of what was transpiring at the The Home in Tuam has blood on his or her hands.

Everyone who knew of this should be examining his or her own conscience, resolving to change, and doing something NOW, TODAY to help children.

Bashing Catholicism is the easy way out, the coward's way out.

Rather, we must confront how we treat the least of God's children – that is exactly what Christianity tells us to do.

If you think that what happened at The Home in Tuam is a Catholic thing, please learn about a socialist child abuse scandal from Portugal, the Casa Pia scandal. 

Please learn about what Communists did to children in Romanian orphanages.

Please learn about American children like Kayla V. McKean who was beaten to death by her stepfather, Richard Lee Adams, after repeated encounters with official American child protective surfaces who did nothing to help her. There are hundreds of victims like Kayla in America.

If you care about abused children PLEASE DO SOMETHING FOR ABUSED CHILDREN.

Bashing the Catholic Church on the internet does nothing to help abused children. 


If you like my blog, please check out my book "Save Send Delete" available at Amazon here.


Response to Andrew Sullivan here There is another post on Tuam here.


  1. This is fantastic and so true. HELP PEOPLE.

  2. You've probably already seen this Catholic's response to your post:

  3. Oh yeah, and fuck you and your hateful religion.