Irish Girls Seized by Catholic Church Speak Out After Escape
I read an article this morning about how ISIS is selling Yazidi girls. The title was Yazidi Girls Seized by ISIS Speak Out After Escape. It’s horrific. People are shocked. As they should be. It reminded me that we have yet to talk about the third horror of the Magdalene Laundries. I wondered how people would react to the title above now. Change Yazidi to Irish and ISIS to Catholic Church. Could people cope with that? Would people be able to see how awful the Church was and is to women? Or would they think it overboard? And is it? This was all dealt with by the movie Philomena, after all. Isn’t that the end of it?
Irish Catholic Church’s ‘Slave Market Day.’
We have films that deal with the enslavement of girls The Magdalene Sisters and the selling of babies Philomena. But a third element is missing. Local men were brought into Magdalenes to pick a wife from the women who were now broken after the Church had stolen and sold their babies. I have an account of this happening at Castlepollard. They were free to leave the institution if they married. So they were not free and had no choice. They were told they would be someone’s wife and the men got to choose. There is no film of this one element that has not been dealt with yet in the diabolical story of the Magdalenes.
This was the second Irish ‘Slave Day.’ The first enslavement was not a one day for all event but that unfortunate day for each woman when it was discovered she was ‘in trouble’ and she was sent to be imprisoned in a Magdalene Laundry. Some never got out of those hellholes. That was dealt with well in the film The Madgalene Sisters. The second Slave Day was when they actually thought that they would be freed. They had ‘done their time’ for no crime but as a result of an oppressive, ignorant misogynistic regime that put them there. They thought they were finally going to be let out, to be free. Their children had been ripped from them and they had been told they were fit for no man. Then, local men were brought in.
The nuns paraded the young women into a room so local men with little chance of getting a wife could gawk at them and examine them like choosing an animal at a market. It was sex-trafficking in a way. Of course many of the women had been raped in the institutions before by priests. It wasn’t that new of a horror for them to be passed around. Still. They can’t have been expecting it. Just when they thought they were free. How cruel. Spoils of war? What war? The war on women? This market where men got to choose a fallen woman was no doubt justified by the idea that it was making these fallen women decent through marriage. Díolta ar an mbealach amach an doras.
This is the third part of the Magdalene story and I hope someone has the guts to speak out about it. How much did the Church make off that one? This is not ancient history. I was pregnant and single when the Magdalenes were still open. Did my Dad have to pay something to arrange a quick wedding for me? I was lucky. I chose my husband and love him. I never saw the inside of a Magdalene Home.
On that fist enslavement day how many women, some still children, crying and terrified, realized the scale of their fate when they were treated as slaves by the nuns? Months later, how many refused to release her grip on their babies? How many hearts were forever shattered when the babies were stolen from them? How enormous the crime of taking a child from a mother when the bond between them is strongest and both are most vulnerable! I escaped that.
Crimes piled on top of crimes, and bones piled on top of bones as some children were not good enough to be sold. Their deaths did not merit a grave. A nail was the only mark for some. I have no doubt that some were starved. And still there is no real investigation by the police of the Tuam Babies. That makes them guilty too.
Whatever you say, say nothing, wrote Seamus Heaney. Whenever you know, know nothing was the way the Catholic Church educated us. We knew nothing of contraception except that it was a sin. We knew nothing of sex. We knew nothing of our rights. Religious education beat human rights because knowledge of human rights would have told us that what the Church was doing is wrong. We chanted that we believed in one God and one institution and had no choice but to chant along or be ostracized. Women in Ireland still have no choice. Schools still do not teach sex education that breaks the Catholic ‘ethos.’ Ethos keeps us ignorant in Ireland. Tell your sins to a man in a frock. Why? In 2014, why?
I heard the patients at the Nursing Home chant at the mass when I was home and wondered what sins each had committed in their time there. They all looked kind to me. They have no time or opportunity for sin there, no more than most people in institutions. The sin… No, the crimes. The crimes were committed by the Catholic Church and the government and police that let them away with murder, rape, child-trafficking, slavery, and sex-trafficking. And yet I watched the vulnerable people in the Nursing Home with their heads bowed and praying for forgiveness and hoping for less time in purgatory. I heard the Angelus ring in the Nursing Home that supposedly has no ties with the Church and I realize that this is purgatory. Preying on fears and letting them think they must fear purgatory is a form of hell in itself. Excused and happening daily in a school, hospital, church or Nursing Home near you.
The old woman who demanded Where’s my sweets? You said I could have sweets when the priest came by with communion made me smile. A rebel breaking the code. I was on her side. Then it made me wonder. Could she have been a victim? Was she still as she was wheeled into mass? Listening to the same Church saying the same things and not capable of saying NO. In a room as big as that with so many women the chances are that at least one person was.
I do not deny anyone a faith. I challenge any faith that does not respect human rights. How many thousands suffered in ‘a coldly systemized industry of slavery’ in Ireland? How many of the clergy went to prison for this? It’s time to shake off the chains of our Theocracy in Ireland. Which party has the guts to do the right thing? The Rising in 1916 did not bring us freedom. Can we stop calling it the Easter Rising? We’ve enough baggage with the damage from the Church. We are still waiting for our freedom.
Some prefer to look the other way and pretend none of this ever happened. Whatever you say, say nothing. They are guilty of not caring. They enable the abusers to continue abusing our young people and our old people. They enable ignorance to reign in schools and state-sponsored proselytism to thrive. The Church that believes in demonic possession and exorcism as a cure is in charge of education in a country where mental illness needs to be taken seriously. How do we let them have this damaging power? The vulnerable, young and old, have no choice but to do what they are told by criminals with a very long list of heinous crimes.
I ask victims to be brave and consent to speak publicly on the third crime of the Magdalenes realizing that this may be the hardest of all as they may be married to the person who picked them from a Magdalene Home or have children who will not know this about their fathers. I ask those who witnessed the men who were brought in to choose wives to speak out about it.
May this side of the story see some more light. May the criminals be prosecuted no matter what title they give themselves or what clothes they wear. May the country be free from its Theocratic reign and may human rights, not dogma and misogynistic ignorance, determine the future of Ireland. May we fight for all our human rights as hard as we fight for clean air to breathe and water to drink. May we fight for our freedom. Or will we, one hundred years after 1916 still be enslaved by ignorance?
‘Try to do good,’ a dúirt mo Dhaid liom le déanaí mar chomhairle ón seanduine don duine óg. Seo iarracht. Scaoil amach an fhírinne agus roghnaigh bealach níos fearr.