The Church Likes The Dark

Pope Ratzi threw Australian Catholics a bone by canonizing the first Australian saint, Mary MacKillop.  Oddly enough, MacKillop was once excommunicated because of her involvement in a coverup of church-sanctioned pedophilia:

As a young nun, MacKillop – who will be canonized as Australia’s first saint Sunday at the Vatican – was briefly dismissed from the Roman Catholic Church in a clash with high clergy in 1871.

One of the catalysts for the censure strikes a note familiar to the present-day church: her order of nuns had exposed a pedophile priest.

The scandal, downplayed in church history, came to the forefront last week in a documentary about her by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. MacKillop was not the one who reported the abuse, but as a co-founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, she was the scapegoat, the Rev. Paul Gardiner told the country’s public broadcaster.

Priests were “annoyed that somebody had uncovered it … and being so angry, the destruction of the Josephites was decided on,” said Gardiner, the chaplain of the Mary MacKillop Penola Center, a state-run historic site.

The exposure of the priest was just one of many factors – including bitter rivalries among priests – that led to MacKillop’s excommunication, the Sisters of St. Joseph said in a statement.

She and 47 other nuns were thrown onto the streets of Adelaide, relying on the charity of friends to survive.

Some things never change, do they?  What makes this story even more interesting is this account, which molly brought to my attention, of a single mother-to-be dealing with the sweet embrace of Holy Mother Church:

All the media in Oz about the canonisation of Australia’s first saint, Mary Mackillop, a josephite nun is really triggering for me.

In 1974 when I was twenty, single and  9 months pregnant I told a social worker at the royal women’s hospital in Carlton I needed a safe place to stay until my baby was delivered.  She directed me to the St Josephs Recieving home across the road from the hospital.  How lucky was I was my thought as I got a parking spot right out the front.

As a little nun in full habit directed me into the front office I noticed two young pregnant women scrubbing the spotless floors. She asked me about my plans and in complete honesty (she was a nun afterall and I was brought up to be respectful to my elders) told her I had money saved and a few choices of a place to stay and felt I was well prepared and looking foreward to becoming a mother.  When I mentioned I had a car parked out the front and asked where I might park,  I noticed her demeanor altered.  She insisted on getting some help for me.  Despite my protestations to the contrary she asked/ordered me to remain seated while she got some help for me.  When she shut the door I heard her stand there and rattle some keys before I heard her footsteps fade.  I looked around me at the catholic paraphernalia and felt a surge of gratitude that my mother whom had relinquished me to adoption had said “don’t put her in a catholic family”  My instinct surged within me and urged me to run.  Thankfully I acted quickly and as I opened the door, sighing with relief that it wasn’t locked I looked down a long corridor past the stairs I saw her coming around the corner with two big burly men dressed in white heading my way quickly.  I bolted and just made it in time to the lock the doors of my car and as I was pulling away they were pounding on the windows and one of them was in front of my car trying to prevent me from driving away.  Sobbing and shaking I just pulled out into the traffic.

I know now if I hadn’t obeyed my instincts I would have been one of the quarter of a million single mothers who had their children stolen from them for adoption during the BABY SCOOP ERA.

My daughter is a fine and succesfull woman today and the mother of my two grandaughters.

I believe one of the luckiest things that happened to me in my life was missing the catholic experience. Sadly my siblings, not adopted weren’t so lucky and on reconnection I listened to their heart breaking stories of their  childhoods and the terrible abuse they recieved at the hands of  the catholics.

What was the “Baby Scoop Era,” you’re probably wondering, as I did?  Pretty much what it sounds like – mothers who had given birth to illegitimate children had those children forcibly removed from them, as the women were considered to have “psychological defects” and were unfit to raise their own offspring.  This was not limited to Australia, but was pretty much a world-wide phenomenon.  Interestingly, though, in the U.S. it was limited to white women:

“Black single mothers were expected to keep their babies as most unwed mothers, black and white, had done throughout American history. Unmarried white mothers, for the first time in American history, were expected to put their babies up for adoption…”

“For white girls and women illegitimately pregnant in the pre-Roe era, the main chance for attaining home and marriage… rested on the aspect of their rehabilitation that required relinquishment… More than 80 percent of white unwed mothers in maternity homes came to this decision… acting in effect as breeders for white, adoptive parents, for whom they supplied up to nearly 90 percent of all nonrelative infants by the mid-1960s… Unwed mothers were defined by psychological theory as not-mothers… As long as these females had no control over their reproductive lives, they were subject to the will and the ideology of those who watched over them. And the will, veiled though it often was, called for unwed mothers to acknowledge their shame and guilt, repent, and rededicate themselves…”

From 1960-70, 27 percent of all births to married women between the ages of 15 and 29 were conceived premaritally. Yet the etiology of single, white, middle-class women’s conceptions had shifted again and were now perceived as symptoms of female neurosis … the majority (85-95 percent) of single, white, middle-class women, who either could not or would not procure an illegal or therapeutic abortion, were encouraged, and at times coerced, to adopt-away their child.

It’s not surprising that organizations like the Catholic Church were instrumental in this type of activity; as this blogger notes, “The Central theme in the BSE, is the use of shame, lies, and outright fraud used by most religious or charitable maternity homes of Post War America.”  Catholic Charities, which has gotten out of the adoption business in many areas, due to the fact that they just can’t bear to let gay people adopt, had no problem rushing into Haiti after the earthquake hit to get their hands on as many “orphans” as quickly as possible, even before the dust had settled.  It’s a lucrative business, what with all the infertile couples desperate to pay any price to have a baby they can call their own.

It’s no surprise that Catholic Charities and other adoption agencies oppose the opening of adoption records:

Heather Kmetz of Catholic Charities, a Portland adoption agency, says adoption agencies would be likely to support the initiative if it affected only today’s adoptions. But this proposed law is retroactive, meaning it would reveal the names of women who relinquished their children when the state law promised confidentiality. According to Kmetz, the women who came to her agency signed a contract guaranteeing their privacy. If the initiative becomes law, Kmetz predicts, agencies like hers will use their collective powers to fight it in court.

Gotta keep the deep, dark secrets of those sinful women buried, along with the names and current whereabouts of child-diddling priests.  It’s all of a piece, and as with the sacred mysteries of the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, and the transformation of Christ’s body and blood into stale crackers and Manischevitz, the less light shed, the better.

UPDATE:  More on Mary MacKillop’s contretemps with the Church here.  “Patron Saint of Whisteblowers?”  Not as far as the boy’s club is concerned:

Some are already calling MacKillop the church’s “Patron Saint of Whistleblowers,” but it doesn’t seem that church authorities are eager to make her an icon of the era of abuse.

Portraying MacKillop as the protector of abuse victims would “reduce the extraordinary richness of her work to a very marginal episode in her life,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told RNS.

“The merits of Mother Mary MacKillop, her commitment to children, to the poor, to indigenous peoples, to the dignity of all human persons, were much more extensive than the fact that she denounced an abuser,” Lombardi said.

And Father Gardiner, the champion of her cause for sainthood, preferred to characterize the episode as “a nasty footnote to a heroic story, and I don’t think media people should take it as though it’s the main story, particularly since they’ve got a lot of closer, modern scandals occurring in the Catholic Church to concentrate on.”

“Why tarnish the occasion of Mary’s canonization with this miserable bit of scandal?” he said.

Just a marginal episode, a nasty footnote, a bit of scandal.  Nothing to see here.

This entry was posted in Adoption: The Last Great Civil Rights Issue, Why Religion Sucks. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Church Likes The Dark

  1. Miss Cast says:

    Modern day canonization smacks of PR to me – giving attention to a particular country to perk up the faithful. “Hey, we’re losing Australia. Let’s give them a saint!”

    • You have to love the irony in that the PR move managed to conjure up the specter of priestly pedophilia. Maybe that was part of the calculation – “see, we actually do care about this issue that we’ve been trying our damndest to cover up, like, forever!” – but more likely it was an unintended consequence.

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