They’re still debating the undebatable at Tuam

A horrific crime was committed by the Catholic Church at Tuam, Ireland. Single mothers and their babies were neglected and died at the hands of a “pro-life” religious cult, ignored, and the deaths hidden away, until the remains of about 800 dead were unearthed. They’d been dumped in a septic tank. That is apparently what Catholics consider death with dignity.

So, you’ve found a mass grave…what do you do next? In the case of Irish authorities, you convene a public meeting and ask the locals if it’s OK if they just ignore all those corpses, maybe put up a nice little plaque or a stone over them, and just move on. It turns out the public wasn’t too happy about the idea of sweeping dead bodies under a discreet rug.

The meeting was supposed to gauge opinion on what to do with the site: (a) leave everything as it is but erect a memorial to tell the world how much we care; or (b) fully excavate the mass grave, exhume and identify the remains, and return the lost loved ones to their grieving families and enable them to rest in peace after a formal and appropriate burial.

Spoiler alert — I was rooting for option (b).

Let’s cut to the chase. What we are dealing with here is a mass grave, one containing the remains of abused persons, people discarded as second-class citizens, coercively separated from their families, born in captivity, and denigrated with the zeal that only religious sanctimony and god-fearing hubris can muster.

It seems simply unconscionable that any humane society would respond to the revelation that nearly 800 babies have been interred in an unmarked grave — a septic tank, no less — and say, ‘Well…let’s just leave them there.’

And yet that is what was being proposed for Tuam.

I agree with option (b), with the addition that a good forensic team be commissioned to identify as many of the dead as possible, along with tracing the paper trail to determine the details of who was responsible and who was lost at Tuam, and the bill, no matter what the cost, should be paid by the Catholic Church. And then they can do (a) and put up a memorial that not only acknowledges the victims but clearly assigns all blame to the Catholic Church for the atrocity.


  1. Rich Woods says

    but clearly assigns all blame to the Catholic Church

    Unfortunately the church has had centuries of practice in both inculcating guilt and magically assuaging it. No cleric in a position of power will feel a damn thing except 20 minutes of initial embarrassment and a nostalgic desire for the good old days when the church ruled Ireland and they could get away with murder.

  2. says

    Well, at least the babies weren’t aborted, so it’s a good thing. As far as the Catholic church is concerned, human life begins at conception and ends at birth. Then it starts again when you’re in a vegetative state.

  3. unclefrogy says

    a good forensic team be commissioned to identify as many of the dead as possible, along with tracing the paper trail to determine the details of who was responsible and who was lost at Tuam, and the bill, no matter what the cost, should be paid by the Catholic Church.

    that sounds very reasonable “The Church” should be willing to do that it is the least they can do, who knows I could be surprised but I won’t hold my breath.
    uncle frogy

  4. blf says

    The head of the raping children cult is invading Ireland in about a month’s time (August 25–26). As far as I am aware, his only public bellowing for more children to rape, women to imprison, and males to enslave is at Phoenix Park, Dublin. That event should be moved to the septic tank in Tuam.

  5. whywhywhy says

    Folks might look at this as a tragedy but that is not the correct and moral perspective. If one takes a Catholic view based on the glory of suffering and how pain in this world brings one closer to GOD, then things like child abuse and mass graves for infants is simply a demonstration of the piety of the Catholic faithful and should be celebrated.

    A humanist perspective starts with shock followed by waves of sadness and anger and the realization that the idea of divine justice is simply a myth used to keep the flock in line.

  6. Artor says

    Getting the Catholic Church to voluntarily pay out cash to have themselves investigated by civil authorities will be about like squeezing blood from a turnip. Fortunately, the Church still has lots of very expensive real estate all over Ireland. Shame if something were to happen to the titles.

  7. says

    Jesus fucking Christ, that’s awful!

    100% behind getting a good forensic team together and matching up remains with living family members if at all possible. Those babies deserve a proper burial.

  8. alixmo says

    @PZ Myers, many thanks for bringing the topic up. (I wish there were more comments here.)
    @cervantes, good one!: “As far as the Catholic church is concerned, human life begins at conception and ends at birth. Then it starts again when you’re in a vegetative state.” The Vatican in a nutshell.

    One of the greatest mysteries in this world is how many nasty and atrocious things the Catholic Church does and gets away with. After a long shameful history, they promised to become better with the Second Vatican Council. But no, that was a tempest in a tea cup. Nevertheless, Catholics are still touting how great that Council was! And how warm and fuzzy and caring their “organisation” is!

    Even liberal and leftists recently fell in love with Pope Francis because he sometimes find one or two (rather banal) words about Climate Change and economic inequality. Yes, no doubt those are the greatest challenges we face.

    BUT what about the Catholic Churches` nasty stance (that by the way rather make both Climate Change and economic inequality worse) about CONTRACEPTIVES, the role of the woman in society, gays etc???? Those are very real issues with dire and very real consequences for very real people.

    Quote* Launching a report, Humanae Vitae and the Damage Done, Jon O’Brien of the US-based Catholics for Choice said: “Many Catholics choose to ignore the Vatican’s ban on birth control, but the world’s poorest people do not have that luxury. For half a century, the Catholic hierarchy has blocked funding and access to contraception for family planning and HIV/Aids prevention, with deadly impacts for the most vulnerable globally.”* End of quote
    Read the whole article: and go to:

    Yes, the encyclical Humanae Vitae had its 50th anniversary on Thursday – not much fuzz about that in the media, was there?

    Quote: (…) the encyclical was used to justify anti-contraceptive policies in the developing world which must have led to the avoidable deaths of tens of thousands from HIV/Aids. While Catholic women in rich countries can, and do, ignore the encyclical entirely, the church’s pressure on politicians in donor nations, and its position as a major supplier of healthcare in Africa, mean that women in the developing world have no such choice. The victims of this encyclical are not the westerners who so loudly and publicly rejected it. They are the women of the global south whom the church claims in other contexts to champion. There are nearly 100m unplanned pregnancies in the world every year, the overwhelming majority in places where women have no access to contraception. Around 56m of them end with abortions, something that in Catholic teaching is very close to murder, and that is a statistic for which Pope Paul VI must bear a large share of the blame. End of quote

    The last article is still much, much to “charitable” with the Catholic Church, because they assume that the encyclical was done in “good faith” (not “malevolently intended”) and with “respect for women in mind”. Ugh!

    I wish atheism would have the same glorified image as the Catholic Church! No scandal and no horrible dogma seems to stick longer than five minutes on the “Papacy”. Everyone is willing to see “the good in them” – because they are religious.

    What is it with religion? Why is it still synonymous with “good and caring” whilst atheists are much loathed and mistrusted?

  9. bassmanpete says

    WMDKitty. A decent burial may mean something to any relatives who can be found but would mean nothing to the babies. Would you care where your remains ended up? I certainly wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t want any unnecessary expense paid out to give me a “decent” burial. Expenses to possibly identify the perpetrator(s) is another matter altogether.

  10. weylguy says

    “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
    — Steven Weinberg, Nobel Physicist