The terrible way that the nuns in the Catholic church treated unwed mothers and their children in Ireland has been documented over and over again, but new horrors keep emerging. The latest is the report in the Washington Post about the discovery of the remains of nearly 800 children found in a massive septic tank at the back of a home run by nuns. These children are supposed to have died between 1925 and 1961.
According to documents [local historian Catherine] Corless provided the Irish Mail on Sunday, malnutrition and neglect killed many of the children, while others died of measles, convulsions, TB, gastroenteritis and pneumonia. Infant mortality at the Home was staggeringly high.
“If you look at the records, babies were dying two a week, but I’m still trying to figure out how they could [put the bodies in a septic tank],” Corless said. “Couldn’t they have afforded baby coffins?”
Special kinds of neglect and abuse were reserved for the Home Babies, as locals call them. Many in surrounding communities remember them. They remember how they were segregated to the fringes of classrooms, and how the local nuns accentuated the differences between them and the others. They remember how, as one local told the Irish Central, they were “usually gone by school age — either adopted or dead.”
According to Irish Central, a 1944 local health board report described the children living at the Home as “emaciated,” “pot-bellied,” “fragile” and with “flesh hanging loosely on limbs.”
How could anyone be so cruel to children? This kind of atrocity can only be committed by people who think of themselves as so righteous that they do not have any self-doubt and I have to believe that it was religion that gave them such assurance. When you think that god is on your side, nothing is off-limits. The nuns probably thought that the women were terrible sinners and their children inherited the sin and that no fate was too bad for them. Jealousy that the young women had experienced sex that they had denied themselves may also have played a role.
Whatever the reasons, the church has a lot to answer for.