A punishment poll

The Magdalene Laundries were a horrible blot on Irish history — thousands of young women and girls were basically enslaved by the Catholic church and abused and exploited. The Irish government is taking steps to make amends and be open about this unsavory taint, and one of the things proposed is to pay compensation to the surviving victims. Seems only reasonable, right? The church profited, it’s fair to extract the money criminally acquired back, with some punitive damages as well.

But no — the nuns who tortured and mistreated girls are unapologetic and claim they provided a “service”, and that €200,000 (less than €7 per victim!) was “excessive”.

There’s a poll. Apparently a majority of the respondents think the nuns are right. The horrible, awful, nasty nuns.

Should the religious orders involved pay compensation to the survivors of the Magdalene laundries?

Yes 31%
No 61%
Don’t know 7%


  1. dorfl says

    Heh. The comment section there consists pretty much entirely of people going “Yes they should! Who the hell are all these people voting no?!”

  2. says

    Well, I’m definitely in the “Who the hell are all these people voting no?!” category.

    More than 60% of the respondents to that poll think it was okay for the Catholic system to abuse, and to use as slave labor, any “wayward” young women they could get their hands on. Who the fuck are those people? How do their brains work?

    Make ’em pay I say. They were wrong ethically, morally, legally, and according their own Jesus-derived precepts.

  3. dianne says

    I’ll agree with the Catholic argument on one point: 200,000 pounds is not the right amount of compensation for them to pay. It is FAR too small. They should have to pay back pay of at least minimum wage to every victim or their heirs. Plus punitive damages.

  4. dorfl says

    @ Lynna

    It might not actually be as bad as it looks. According to the commenter Mark Downes:

    “Don’t be surprised. Votes on religion-related stories and polls are often wildly out of kilter with the opinions shown in the comments, at least for the first couple of hours. Seems like either organised block-voting or scripting. The effect is usually reversed as the day wears on.”

    Let’s hope he’s right.

  5. Jack Krebs says

    Joni Mitchell has a very good song about the Magdalene laundries on “Turbulent Indigo”

    I was an unmarried girl
    I’d just turned twenty-seven
    When they sent me to the sisters
    For the way men looked at me
    Branded as a jezebel
    I knew I was not bound for Heaven
    I’d be cast in shame
    Into the Magdalene laundries

    Most girls come here pregnant
    Some by their own fathers
    Bridget got that belly
    By her parish priest
    We’re trying to get things white as snow
    All of us woe-begotten-daughters
    In the steaming stains
    Of the Magdalene laundries

    Prostitutes and destitutes
    And temptresses like me–
    Fallen women–
    Sentenced into dreamless drudgery …
    Why do they call this heartless place
    Our Lady of Charity?
    Oh charity!

    These bloodless brides of Jesus
    If they had just once glimpsed their groom
    Then they’d know, and they’d drop the stones
    Concealed behind their rosaries
    They wilt the grass they walk upon
    They leech the light out of a room
    They’d like to drive us down the drain
    At the Magdalene laundries

    Peg O’Connell died today
    She was a cheeky girl
    A flirt
    They just stuffed her in a hole!
    Surely to God you’d think at least some bells should ring!
    One day I’m going to die here too
    And they’ll plant me in the dirt
    Like some lame bulb
    That never blooms come any spring
    Not any spring
    No, not any spring
    Not any spring

  6. says

    I like the line “They wilt the grass they walk upon” from the Joni Mitchell lyrics. Nice description of corrupt nuns … or any corrupt head honchos for that matter.

  7. says

    Enslaving women, human trafficking of stolen babies, helping rapists escape prosecution, money laundering…. sure sounds like an organised crime syndicate to me.

  8. stevem says

    Oh, but one should never pay for one’s sins with cash (that’s what hell is for), only with prayer can one atone for one’s sins. Don’t the sisters pray all the time, mustn’t they already be forgiven? Who are we to heep more punishment upon them and empty their coffers of religious donations?
    What sins did they commit? They were only
    helpingthe wayward girls brought to them for assistance. Like in Joni’s song, they were all Jezebels anyway, but saved by their labors in the Laundry.
    [off to wash my hands of this dirty keyboard]

  9. dianne says

    Just to note, it’s not as though the Catholic church’s policies have changed all that much since the days of the Magdalene laundries. The Catholic church still supports slavery for women (forcing continuation of pregnancy, regardless of health or circumstances of the pregnancy, interfering with methods to prevent pregnancy, etc). It still supports special rights for men. It still glorifies poverty and suffering-as long as the poor and suffering are not higher ups in the Vatican. The church has not changed. There is no reason not to punish it for its past misdeeds. Indeed, I don’t know of any other way to prevent future similar misdeeds.

  10. dianne says

    stevem: I know you’re being sarcastic, but I don’t see how one can be said to have repented ones sins if one continues to commit the same or similar sins. If the church is sorry about its mistreatment of women, then it needs to stop that mistreatment and compensate the victims as best it can.

  11. says

    @ michaeld

    It gets worse. I was reading an article today about Mussolini’s daughter, Edda, and her husband, Count Galeazzo Ciano. Fascist Italy pumped vast amounts into the Catholic Church’s expansion into China. This was run by Edda and the Count, who happened to be the Italian consul in Shanghai. These two brokered all manner of deals in Hong Kong (I always wondered why the cat licks had so much property here) and elsewhere in China, so that they are awash with assets here too. (The Italians also got all manner of arms deals with the right-wing Nationalist government of the time… all one big happy clusterfuck of iniquity.)

    In conclusion: Lets not let those fuckers get away with their shit. They own billions in property in this part of the world. Time for them to sell up and pay their dues.

    Aside: Mussolini went on to murder his son-in-law. His grandson later wrote the memoir: Quando il nonno fece fucilare papà (“When Grandpa had Daddy Shot”)

  12. stevem says

    no sarcasm here: One should view the 2002 movie “The Magdalene Sisters” to get a vivid insight into the situation there. (sad, very sad, movie)

  13. anuran says

    Slavery has been illegal in the UK since the 1830s.
    It’s been illegal in the Republic since 1916.
    Make the fuckers pay back wages at compound interest.
    Make them pay punitive damages that break the orders of black-clad thugs.

    Then send them to the Hague to stand trial for crimes against humanity. Because if mass slavery doesn’t qualify nothing does. And hang them so high the crows get fucking nosebleeds trying to peck out their eyes. Slavers deserve nothing better.

  14. kevinalexander says

    But they were saving the slutz souls!!
    A central tenet of catholicism is that suffering is redemptive. It’s why they make rules whose only purpose is to maximize human suffering. Note for instance that the birth control rule only came along after Thomas Malthus pointed out the inevitable catastrophe that must result from unchecked population growth so the only Vatican blessed methods of population control are war, famine, pestilence and disease.

    But they mean it in a good way…somehow…god being mysterious and everything.

  15. dorfl says


    Looks like it. And of course, we don’t know if there’s actually 1568 of them, or if there’s just a few people voting several times. We had a sort of nice surprise in Sweden a few years ago when it turned out that the hordes of racist commenters that kept swarming any Swedish YouTube video showing non-white characters in any context, where actually like twenty people with lots of free time and hundreds of puppet accounts.

  16. unbound says

    The system isn’t updating the tallies of votes (either broken or halted or just plain fake). Another poll on the site is working fine, so hard to tell the reason why. May have simply missed the opportunity to participate.

  17. David Marjanović says

    No 1568 60%
    Yes 830 32%
    Don’t know/not sure 191 7%

    Come on!!!

    200,000 pounds

    Less than that! €!

    Then send them to the Hague to stand trial for crimes against humanity. Because if mass slavery doesn’t qualify nothing does. And hang them so high the crows get fucking nosebleeds trying to peck out their eyes. Slavers deserve nothing better.

    Did you have to ruin it all by crying for the death penalty? Isn’t it fucking obvious that the ICC isn’t – and shouldn’t be – allowed to take an eye for an eye till the whole world is blind? Isn’t it fucking obvious that figuring out what exactly they deserve, let alone applying it, is impossible? If someone commits two murders, do you kill them twice?

    *angry sigh*

    The important thing is to confiscate their ill-gotten gains, all of them (200,000 € is orders of magnitude below that number), and distribute them to their victims. If there’s danger that they might try again, lock them up for a decade or two to take them out of circulation, but I don’t think that danger exists anymore…

  18. raven says

    Enslaving women, human trafficking of stolen babies, helping rapists escape prosecution, money laundering…. sure sounds like an organised crime syndicate to me.

    Don’t forget killing women with faulty medical care. A practice that continues in Catholic countries and hospitals. The latest one was Sativa, in Ireland, denied treatment for a septic failing pregnancy.

    It’s not organized crime which at least has an understandable goal. It’s primitive superstition at best.

  19. stevem says

    […just a sidenote…] I always wondered about the name of the place (at least since 2002 when I saw the movie). Is Magdelene referring to (the infamous) Mary Magdelene, and as such implying that the laundry is being done by former prostitutes (“jezebels”) to atone for that sin (or, as thanks for being forgiven for that sin(i.e. “saved”))?

    ummm, !that’s it! They were saved, doing laundry was how they were giving thanks for being saved. Really, they owe the laundry money for the “charity” of “saving” those nasty “sluts”.{cough, cough, vomit, excuse me for channeling that}

  20. dianne says

    The latest one was Sativa, in Ireland,

    The latest one who made international news. Probably not the most recent woman to die of poor obstetric care due to the Catholic church’s philosophical opposition to providing good ob care.

  21. raven says

    The latest one who made international news. Probably not the most recent woman to die of poor obstetric care due to the Catholic church’s philosophical opposition to providing good ob care.


    The Flying Spaghetti Monster knows what atrocities are happening in Catholic hospitals in third world countries like Nicaragua or the Catholic hospitals in the USA.

  22. dianne says

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster knows what atrocities are happening in Catholic hospitals in third world countries like Nicaragua or the Catholic hospitals in the USA.

    The FSM and us too. It’s not like they’re trying to hide it: Women are being murdered by intentional neglect in Catholic hospitals in third world countries such as the US and Nicaragua and the church is bragging about it and buying up more hospitals so that they can kill more women. This is not hyperbole or anti-Catholic propaganda, it’s their own stated policy.

  23. anuran says

    #20 – I’m not ruining it. The death penalty is perfectly appropriate for massive, organized, long-term crimes against humanity. I’m normally against it, but not in the case of slavery, genocide and some war crimes. If you believe, with the Catholic Church, that every life is sacred and precious you are free to do so. I believe that some things are so horrible that you lose your right to breathe the free air.

  24. says

    Following the links PZ kindly provided led me to this bit of delicious cowardice:

    The nuns making the comments in defense of the laundries are

    1.) They are former screws Nuns who “were involved in running the laundries”


    2.) They remain anonymous, called only “Sister A” and “Sister B”

    If you’re so proud of the “service” you provided why hide? If the accusations are unfounded then present evidence to that effect. Nothing says “proud of my accomplishments” quite like making nasty anonymous accusations against the people you enslaved.

    Sadistic monsters are the first to cry “oppression.”

  25. w00dview says

    Those nuns have some gall to whine about excessive reparations. I can understand why they are anonymous, they have to be aware that they were engaging in slavery. I long for the day my country sheds itself of this parasitic organisation for good. It has done nothing but bring misery upon innocent people.

  26. janiceintoronto says

    I know it’s not very erudite, but the only thing that comes to mind about the nun is:


  27. says

    Should people be made to pay for their crimes? Hmm…that’s a tough one.

    Seriously though, if anything is excessive it’s what they did to the girls. In my opinion the money they are being made to pay is too low.

  28. sundiver says

    Words fail. All I can say is the loathing I’ve felt for the Catholic Church is now squared and cubed.

  29. Erp says

    One should remember that the Irish government of the time was fully complicit (and profited as bits of it such as the army had their laundry done cheaply) so reparation should come from it also (and it has been promised, finally).

    Other governments should probably look at their own systems of incarceration for they will come back to haunt us (think of a certain county in Arizona).

  30. says

    I don’t even… As of just now, 58% of the respondents (that’s over 1500 people) have voted ‘No’. Who the fucking hell are these people? Assuming these are Christians, this is such a blessed example of Christian Compassion and Charity™.

    My faith in humanity, R.I.P.

  31. says

    In a religion, praying for forgiveness may suffice, but in a secular society compensation for damages is needed.

    They’re right, that really isn’t a fair amount: how about €1,00,000 for each victim?

  32. says

    I just finished watching a 60 Minutes report on the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona. What a magnificent, awe-inspiring building. Truly a monument to the genius of the 19th century architect whose mind jumped at least a century ahead to conceive of it.


    Then I think about the Magdaline Laundries and I am overwhelmed with despair. The architect, his grand vision, in humble service to empire and evil. A fantastic waste and insult to humanity.

  33. says

    As many have noted, the vast majority (90+%?) of comments on the story support compensation from the nuns yet the poll shows 60% against. I have visions of banks of computers set up in churches across Ireland manned by the Catholic faithful who click away on No, No No….

  34. skaduskitai says

    Why does it still surprise me to find the Vatican with it’s dirty fingers in the pie yet again?

  35. Ichthyic says

    Who the fucking hell are these people?



    It’s an INTERNET POLL. I also noticed in the comments there that evidently many people have STILL not learned just how easy it is to game those things. They typically have no security, no oversight, and no way to stop anyone (including the person who set up the poll) from deliberately skewing the results.

    come on folks, catch up already.

  36. Ichthyic says

    really, try to understand:

    The ENTIRE POINT of why this meme of pharyngulating polls started, was BECAUSE it was tremendously obvious that no media-run internet poll was anything BUT gamed, and that nobody should be taking these polls seriously to begin with.

    so, don’t get all upset because the data doesn’t appear to agree with what you thought it should be based on say, actual opinion polls conducted correctly.

    …because that isn’t why the media put up these internet polls to begin with.

    instead, focus your anger towards the media that keep trying to pass off the idea that we should be thinking these flash internet polls have any meaning to begin with.