Friday, June 6, 2014

The Bon Secours Scandal

 Terry Nelson wisely weighs in on the scandal in Ireland. It is a shame that the community in question made the news, because there were many excellent congregations in Ireland and elsewhere who took care of orphans and unwed mothers. In France in the eighteenth century, Marie-Antoinette supported many such homes. We will never hear on the secular news about all the good and holy religious who worked for the poor and needy. As should be obvious, whoever was running the Tuam home for unwed mothers and babies was not operating with a sound mind or well-formed conscience.

To quote Mr. Nelson:
No one believes me when I write that in the old days, some of those sisters were mean.  Mother Angelica used to tell of how mean the nuns were to her.  It doesn't mean that the Church or religious life is evil.  But bad things happened.  That said - there were many good nuns as well - we all know that so well, we can't forget it.

"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings."

I'm not making fun of the story, or mocking the nuns or the Church - but Catholics can't keep blaming media and anti-Catholic conspiracies, or anti-Catholic fabrications by the right or the left, within or outside the Church for such stories.  What am I talking about?  The Catholic League people who rail against stories and those films such as "Priest", "The Magdalene Sisters", "Philomena" and so on.  When human beings are involved, abuse takes place.  Some of the stories may be fictionalized or embellished - but they are based on facts.

I would love to see a study done on the psychology of religious institutional life.  Many of the girls who became nuns, though well intentioned and dedicated, may have entered religious life because they had nowhere else to go.  Ireland was poor, the people devout, no doubt about it.  For most women, it was either married life or religious life - or spinsterhood. (Read more.)
One of the major reforms of Vatican II was an insistence on a longer discernment period for those contemplating religious life. This is because in the past, especially in countries which were culturally Catholic, there were many people who entered religious life for the *wrong* reasons. Sometimes they were forced to enter. Sometimes they were sent there because they were emotionally or mentally troubled and there was nothing else for them to do. In poor countries like Ireland, many girls from disadvantaged backgrounds became nuns for economic reasons: food and shelter. Whoever was running the Tuam home not only did not know how to care for babies, but they did not have a clue about proper Christian burial. God have mercy. May such a scandal never happen again. Share


Unknown said...

I'm a lot less upset, maybe because I have worked too many years with the poor in Africa and the USA, my children were adopted as pre teens from a similar type institution in Colombia that trained orphans to work in a trade, and now I live in the Philippines.

Hello! Ireland was a poor third world country at the time, and single mothers could simply not raise their kids alone. The sisters did their best with a limited budget to allow the moms to get on with their lives and give the children a home. What was the alternative? Mom as a prostitute and the kids growing up on the street, as we see here in Asia, or in Eastern Europe (whose economic level today is probably a bit better than 1930 Ireland).

Frank McCourt tells how he lost two siblings to infection in Angela's Ashes. He also relates a friend dying of TB. England had work houses and Anglican laundaries for their unwed mothers up to the 1950's. Context please.

Philomena is a sob story, but she was left free to restart her life and become a nurse, and her son grew up in a loving family. But no one tries to look at the alternatives.

Finally, there is a lot of horror about the dead children's bodies being found in a septic tank. That part of the story stinks to high heaven for technical reasons.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you for your wise insights. I agree.