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Scapegoating the Sisters for the Deaths of 800 Babies

Public Domain/Image Courtesy of Brian Lockier

Susan E. Wills - published on 06/10/14 - updated on 06/07/17




Money could be found in 1929, in the midst of dire poverty, to add a “special maternity ward” to the buildings, but this was done mainly because married women (who were paying customers) were refusing to give birth at the public hospital in Connacht as long as unmarried women from the Home were giving birth there. Isolating the Home women in a ward that lacked the hospital’s level of trained staff and equipment, assuredly contributed to higher maternal and infant mortality rates.

In 1951, the “sisters were begging the board for a grant, saying the building “desperately needed renovations, the children were sleeping in attics in terrible conditions and the building [was] considered a fire risk.” Nine years later, £90,000 was appropriated for the Home, but the Council reneged, closed the “dilapidated” Home in 1961 and put the cash toward improvements to a nursing home run by the Sisters of Bon Secours.

Curiously, an article on the closure of St. Mary’s, explaining that the home “falls under the economy axe,” also noted that

the nuns have set the highest standards in the running of the institution and the care of their charges.

In those years, too, the supply of food, clothing and other necessities has been a valuable trade for local business houses, who will feel the loss when the institution is closed.

All of society failed these children. Those who would scapegoat the sisters should perhaps examine themselves first. How generous am I with my money and time in seeing to the needs of those on the margins of our society? Am I outraged by the number of children intentionally killed before birth and the barbaric manner in which their bodies are disposed of? What am I doing about it? Does it bother me that over 40% of births are now to single moms and that so many biological fathers casually escape responsibility for their children? Do I lift a finger for any of these single moms or volunteer for programs that help boys become responsible adults?

Susan E. WillsJD, LLM left the practice of law to join the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, where she served for 20 years as Asst. Director for Education and Outreach until her retirement in 2013. She now serves as Aleteia’s English edition Sprituality Editor. 

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