Thursday, June 26, 2014

Footnote to Footnote to Footnote: The Story of the Home for Unwed Mothers in Tuam, Ireland Again — More on Baptismal Status of Children Buried There

A footnote to a footnote to a footnote: some days back, I noted that in the initial thread here discussing the story of the unmarked graves of children and babies at a home for unwed mothers in Tuam, Co. Galway, Ireland, readers had suggested that the children buried in unmarked graves had been denied baptism. As I also noted in that posting several days ago, I responded to this claim by noting that I hadn't ever heard of a practice of denying baptism to illegitimate children, and I doubted that this claim was true.

But then I noted that I had come across several articles that appeared to be reporting that some of the children buried at this home for unwed mothers had, indeed, been denied baptism due to the circumstances of their birth. I cited those articles, so that readers might be able to compare the conflicting claims re: the Tuam story being made in this or that article.

I subsequently added another footnote noting that Salon author Mary Elizabeth Williams was deploring what she called the "pathetic scramble" to spin the Tuam story in a way that denied the ill-treatment dished out to both mothers and children in these homes in Ireland over the course of many years. 

And now I want to direct readers' attention to another article that specifically focuses on the claim that children were denied baptism at the Tuam home, and which seeks to refute that claim: this is Kevin Clarke's recent "Galway Horror" article at America. I encourage readers of the previous threads to read this latest addition to the discussion of the baptismal status of the children buried in the unmarked graves behind the Tuam facility.

As I said in the Bilgrimage postings linked above, I anticipated that the story of the ill-treatment of women and children in homes for unwed mothers in Ireland was going to devolve into a kind of he-said, she-said slanging match about how the embattled Catholic church is being abused yet again by the godless anti-Catholic secular media. This is simply how things all too often go when stories like this break in the international media, and some of us in the American Catholic context seem to be especially adroit at dealing with stories like this in counter-productive and increasingly tired tribalistic ways.

Instead of facing what these recurring horror stories might say about some ugly penchants of our church over many years to abuse certain groups of people, we circle the wagons, beat up on the secular media, force it to alter and retract what it's reporting — and imagine that we've scored a significant victory for our side. We also treat fellow Catholics more inclined to honesty in these discussions with scorn, when we adopt this tribalistic posture; we taunt them and try to shut them up with dismissive, snippy, belittling comments.

And in the final analysis, none of these tribalistic ways of dealing with stories like the Tuam story is going to alter the verdict of history about how too many Catholic institutions in too many places for too long now have behaved abominably towards some human beings, a story told very well, vis-a-vis the Catholic church in her native Ireland, recently by Róisín Davis in this Truthdig piece.

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