Religion has convinced people that all kinds of kooky ideas are true – some funny, and some gruesome. I plan on writing a series about some of the more ludicrous religious ideas that have been dreamt up by people over the course of our history.
However, yesterday I read a news story that made me feel sick to my stomach.
In Ireland, in a home run by nuns for unmarried mothers, the remains of nearly 800 baby skeletons were discovered. The deaths occurred between 1925 and 1961, which was the year this horror-fest of a home was finally shut down. Some documentation was found in which the causes of death were typically listed as, “malnutrition, measles, convulsions, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis and pneumonia.”
Catherine Corless, a local historian and genealogist had this to say about how these unfortunate children were treated:
She recalled as a child herself being segregated from the young children from The Home.
“They were always segregated to the side of regular classrooms,” Corless told IrishCentral. “By doing this the nuns telegraphed the message that they were different and that we should keep away from them.
“They didn’t suggest we be nice to them. In fact if you acted up in class some nuns would threaten to seat you next to the Home Babies. That was the message we got in our young years.”
And why did some of these senseless deaths occur?
Corless believes that nothing was said or done to expose the truth because people believed illegitimate children didn’t matter.
“That’s what really hurts and moved me to do something,” she said.
The death rate at The Home is likely to be twice the national average at the time.
And why was it thought that these children didn’t matter?
Religious teaching, of course. Christianity has a long history of vilifying sexuality, punishing women who have children out of wedlock, and subsequently punishing the children in homes like the one mentioned in the original article, for something they had no say over in the first place.
The article goes on to say:
“These were state-funded homes. Anybody who suggests the nuns were doing their best … they were not doing their best. They tendered for this business (and) wanted this business.
“They got a headage payment for every mother and child in their so-called care, which was greater at the time than the average industrial wage.”
The Home was closed in the 1960 and two boys playing discovered partially broken concrete slabs covering a hollow — a disused septic tank — “filled to the brim with bones”.
Of course they were paid. The religious corporation must make money, after all.
It’s shameful that the state helped pay for this senseless brutality and ultimate stupidity. It’s only recently that these atrocities, and similar ones, are coming to light.
For example, the Magdalene Laundries, where women were cruelly exploited:
Until well into the twentieth century, girls deemed to be “difficult” – because they were sexually active, or sexually abused, or simply poor – were sent to laundries by their families or the state. Despite having committed no crime, they were not allowed to leave the institutions and were forced to work for no pay, making them literally slaves. Many women spent their entire lives there, remaining long after the actual laundries closed down. They had nowhere else to go.
Or the religious boarding schools that tried to wipe out aboriginal culture:
Residential schools were established with the assumption that aboriginal culture was unable to adapt to a rapidly modernizing society. It was believed that native children could be successful if they assimilated into mainstream Canadian society by adopting Christianity and speaking English or French. Students were discouraged from speaking their first language or practising native traditions. If they were caught, they would experience severe punishment.
Throughout the years, students lived in substandard conditions and endured physical and emotional abuse. There have also been convictions of sexual abuse. Students at residential schools rarely had opportunities to see examples of normal family life. Most were in school 10 months a year, away from their parents; some stayed all year round. All correspondence from the children was written in English, which many parents couldn’t read. Brothers and sisters at the same school rarely saw each other, as all activities were segregated by gender.
According to documents obtained by the CBC, some schools carried out nutritional experiments on malnourished students in the 1940s and ’50s with the federal government’s knowledge.
And yet many religious people will still try to push their religious agenda on society and pronounce that their religion is needed for our species to act ethically and/or morally. It fills me with sadness to think about these helpless children dying; their bodies being thrown in a septic tank. It’s outrageous that these women were living in misery because they were deemed by religion and society as ‘lesser than’ because they dared to have children outside of marriage.