The very pure spirit does not bother about the regard of others or human respect, but communes inwardly with God, alone and in solitude as to all forms, and with delightful tranquility, for the knowledge of God is received in divine silence.
Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart.
"Pope changes rules for papal election, allows for earlier conclave" - this story is repeated all over the place. And on the face of it he has. But I'm not so sure. I think the text has been poorly drafted and is open to interpretation. Granted I'm relying on informal translations provided by Vatican Radio and the Vatican News Service Blog.
The amended section 37 of' "Universi Dominici Gregis" reads as follows:
37. “I furthermore decree that, from the moment when the Apostolic See is lawfully vacant, the Cardinal electors who are present must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent before beginning the Conclave; however, the College of Cardinals is also granted the faculty to anticipated [sic] the beginning of the Conclave if all the Cardinal electors are present as well as the faculty to defer, for serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few days more. But when a maximum of twenty days have elapsed from the beginning of the vacancy of the See, all the Cardinal electors present are obliged to proceed to the election.”
Well everyone is happily predicting that this means the conclave will commence around the 9th of March and it probably will. But look at that phrase "if all the Cardinal electors are present". How does one assess that all the Cardinal electors are present? What is the definition of a Cardinal elector? If Julius Cardinal Darmaatmadja of Indonesia and Keith Patrick Cardinal O'Brien are not present how do we know they aren't coming? Is it enough that they've told a journalist they aren't coming? Should they write to the Dean or camerlengo? What if a Cardinal is delayed? How do we know he's not coming?
The legal text should have been drafted a little more carefully for the avoidance of any doubt.
John Allen's been doing a daily review of random papabile. You can click on the links above for each review.
It's rather depressing, partly because of the format I fear. He does a general introduction of the cardinal, then presents the pros. Unfortunately he then follows with the cons, and there always seem to be significant cons.
I suspect these articles could be very influential. Remember, many cardinals barely know each other, and what they know is often vague, hunch-like, based on crossing paths at a few Vatican meetings. If you work in a large organisation, say a university, a Government department, you have about 120 colleagues at the same level as you. Imagine if you have to pick one to become head of the organisation. You have to do this with no applications to read, no CVs, no nominations, no long lists, no short lists, no competitions, no interviews. Now imagine that your organisation, instead of being based in one institution, one city, is spread all over the world and that in practice you know and work with between zero and 15 other colleagues. So you do what everyone else does, you start to google, you phone your mates. If you're lucky some of the colleagues may have written books which you can read. But really this is only useful if you've already read them as you won't have time now to do it.
So I suspect John Allen's articles will be read voraciously by many cardinal electors. When Charlie McCreevey became Minister for Finance he was handed a sealed, secret file of briefing. When he read it he was shocked to discover it was essentially plagiarised from The Economist.
Of the 8 he's reviewed so far, my preferences are Tagle of Manila, Scola of Milan, and Erdõ of Budapest. I have a little soft spot for Sandri as he wrote me a lovely letter after Pope Benedict was elected and I feel we have a connection. ("Dear Pope X, you will recall writing to me some time ago...").
Tagle seems like a good guy, the main thing against him being his being too young; Scola is close to Ratzinger but perhaps too Italian. Schönborn too German, hated by Sodano and a little lacking in judgement perhaps. Scherer, Brazilian but without the trimmings. Ouellet, dull - an Irish bishop - and he seems to have stymied the recommendations of the Apostolic Visitation. Turkson, African but little else. Needs to stop talking.
So back to Erdõ of Budapest. If I were a betting man I might risk a tenner on him. Paddy Power has shortened his odds to 16-1. There's quite a few things in his favour according to Allen - but I'm going for the Twilight Zone angle. You'll recall the prophecy of St Malarkey? Well Erdõ's first name is Peter. Then he's from Budapest, an imperial seat of the Holy Roman Empire. And in Budapest we find, the Fisherman's Bastion, complete with seven towers, reminiscent of Rome's seven hills. And of course Budapest itself it built on seven hills.
Along with Armagh, Edinburgh and Los Angeles - according to this list anyway.
Lord God, my Beloved, if you will still remember my sins in such a way that you do not do what I beg of you, do your will concerning them, my God, which is what I most desire, and exercise your goodness and mercy, and you will be known through them. And if you are waiting for my good works so as to hear my prayer through their means, grant them to me, and work them for me, and the sufferings you desire to accept, and let it be done. But if you are not waiting for my works, what is it that makes you wait, my most clement Lord? Why do you delay? For if, after all, I am to receive the grace and mercy that I entreat of you in your Son, take my mite, since you desire it, and grant me this blessing, since you also desire that.
Withdraw from creatures if you desire to preserve, clear and simple in your soul, the image of God. Empty your spirit and withdraw far from them and you will walk in divine lights, for God is not like creatures.
Off to see October Baby at the St Genesius Film Club this evening (7pm at the Knights of Columbanus, Ely Place, Dublin 2 - all welcome, donations only). It's about a girl who's adopted discovering she survived an abortion and her journey to find her mother. I hope it's more than pro-life propoganda. Because for propoganda to work it has to have some genuine artistic worth, well maybe that's overstating it. It doesn't have to be good, but it has to be watchable, interesting.
Like for example (don't shoot me here), The Magdalene Sisters. It's a tremendous piece of propoganda because it's a powerful film, well acted, strong characters and a plot that really moves you along. And as we now know from the Mc Aleese Report, almost totally untrue. But it has so established itself in people's minds that we think of it when we think Magdalene laundries - the beatings, births, sexual humiliation, money grabbing etc. When we want a picture for our blogs we use one from the film.
Campaigners believe the role such movies played in highlighting the issue justified any artistic embellishment, and this view is shared by Louise Lowe, director of the award-winning play Laundry, who says The Magdalene Sisters “served an important function at the time”.
We're not talking about the standard changes to biographies that film producers take for cinematic effect, where several incidents are combined, or even several characters merged. If the only result of The Magdalene Sisters had been sympathy and concern for the women who endured harsh conditions, including being deprived of their freedoms, then perhaps it would be justified. But one of the main results of the film is hatred of the Catholic Church and in particular the religious sisters who ran the laundries. For the Irish Times that's an added bonus. You can still this in the reviews -
Film 4: "A damning indictment of the Catholic Church that lingers in the mind long after if ends. Angry, compassionate but never hysterical, this a true cinematic achievement.";
Time Out: "You may never look at a nun the same way again."
The interesting words from that quote are that the film "served an important function at the time". Funnily enough the same line used by defenders of the laundries themselves.
Former Taoiseach, John Bruton, has a very good article in today's Irish Times. Read the whole thing below. This will undoubtedly make Mr Kenny squirm a little. He writes:
The Constitution, in article 40.3.3, gives a right to life to an unborn child. It says: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
The underlying idea behind putting human rights in the Constitution is to ensure that they cannot be easily reduced just because a (possibly temporary) majority in public or parliamentary opinion wants to do that to meet a popular demand.
This constitutional right to life of a yet unborn child was inserted into the Constitution by the people in a referendum in 1983. In the X case in 1992,the Supreme Court decided, to the surprise of many, that this article could be construed as allowing for the life of an unborn to be ended if the mother was believed to be suicidal.
Following a recent European Court of Human Rights case, the Government is now contemplating introducing a law that would say the life of an unborn child may be ended when there is a threat of suicide by the mother-to-be.
It also proposes to clarify that where there are medical threats to the life of the mother, and an appropriate medical treatment may involve the ending of the life of the unborn child, this may be permitted.
Would a law including a provision allowing a suicide threat to be a basis for ending the life of an unborn child be consistent with the plain words of the Constitution, which require the State to “defend and vindicate” the unborn child’s “equal” right to be allowed to live? I believe the answer to the question is no.
The Irish Constitution belongs to the people. It uses language, ie words, to convey certain understandings of what the Irish people guarantee one another. Because the words in the Constitution may be changed only by the people, it follows that the words in the Constitution should be interpreted as the same words would be understood in daily usage.
They should not be reinterpreted in some arcane way that can be understood only by a priesthood of constitutional lawyers. If that were to be the standard of interpretation, how could the people be expected to make informed and intelligent decisions in constitutional referendums?
Look at the actual words in the Constitution: article 40.3.3 acknowledges an equal (my emphasis) right to life of a mother and of her unborn child. The sentence would have made have sense even if the word “equal” was not there. It would also have made sense if the sentence had said that “due regard” was to be had to a “superior right to life” of the mother. But that is not the wording of the Constitution.
The word “equal” is there, referring to the right to life of both mother and unborn child, and it was put there with the explicit approval of the people. It would be hypocritical to pretend that the Constitution is not framed as it is, and hypocrisy is not a solid basis for constitutional interpretation.
How ought the words “equal right to life” be interpreted? Many words we use in daily language have ambiguous or various meanings, but the word “equal” has only one meaning. Equal means equal, whether the word “equal” is used by lawyers or by mathematicians.
And, in any normal language, a risk is not equal to a certainty. A risk that someone might unilaterally end their life is not equal to a certainty of the ending of another person’s life by the actions of that person or of another. That, in simple terms, is the difficulty with legislation that says that a threat or an idea of suicide is a ground for ending the life of a constitutionally recognised third party, an unborn child.
A law that took away a right to life of that unborn child before the right in question could be exercised independently could hardly be interpreted as “defending and vindicating” the same right, as the Constitution requires.
Judge Hederman put it this way, in his minority judgment, in the Supreme Court on the X case. “The eighth amendment establishes beyond any dispute that the constitutional guarantee of the vindication and protection of life is not qualified by the condition that the life must be one which has achieved an independent existence after birth.
“The right of life is guaranteed to every life, born or unborn. One cannot make distinctions between individual phases of the unborn life before birth, or between unborn and born.”
The other judges in their X case judgments offered two reasons for not treating the right to life of the unborn child as equal, in practice, to that of its mother, notwithstanding the words of the Constitution.
One was that the mother’s life is to be preferred because she has wider responsibilities. Then chief justice Finlay said that the court must concern itself “with the position of the mother within a family group, with persons on whom she is dependent”.
Given that in every case a mother of an unborn child will already be a member of a family group, that interpretation could allow abortion in almost any case. In any event, how is it to be argued that the as yet unborn child is not also a member of a family group, consisting not only of its mother, but also of its father?
The other argument used in the Supreme Court was that the life of the mother was a life in being, whereas the life of the unborn child was “contingent”. The late judge McCarthy said: “The right of the girl here is a right to a life in being; the right of the unborn is to a life contingent; contingent on survival in the womb until successful delivery.”
Essentially he was arguing that once a right is contingent on the behaviour of another person, it does not enjoy the protection of the Constitution. That is a really radical doctrine, which, carried to its conclusion, would undermine almost all human rights law. All lives are “contingent” on the behaviour of others. The life of a baby after birth is certainly “contingent” on the care given to it by its mother and by others.
For these reasons, I would argue that the Oireachtas should interpret the words in the Constitution in their normal meaning, particularly the simple word “equal”.
In considering legislation, the members of the Oireachtas should read for themselves the words in the Constitution, and the X case judgment, and decide for themselves what they can or must do in respecting the Constitution.
The Supreme Court does not instruct the legislature on how to legislate, and participants in each branch of the State should interpret the words of the Constitution as they are actually written, rather than as some of them might retrospectively prefer them to have been written.Members of the Oireachtas, in particular, should read the words of the Constitution, in the same way their constituents, who are the authors of the Constitution, would read them.
That should leave them fully free to frame legislation to deal with the C case as decided by the European Court of Human Rights, and with the Savita Halappanavar case, that would be consistent with article 40 of the Constitution. Neither case involved a threat of suicide. They involved medical judgment of objective medical risks.
On the other hand, to introduce a law providing that an expression of a threat of suicide by one person would be sufficient ground for the taking away of the life of another, would not be in accord with the actual words in the Constitution. There would be no “equal” right to life in such a law, and an equal right to life is what the Constitution requires.
If the Oireachtas does not like the way article 40.3.3 of the Constitution is framed it could of course ask the people if they wished to amend it. Personally I would not favour such a change.
But, in the meantime, the Oireachtas should interpret plain language plainly, and forbear from legal sophistry. To do otherwise would be to leave the constitutional protection of the most profound of all human rights, the right to be allowed to live and breathe, resting on sand. It would institute a rule of convenience, at the expense of a rule of rights.
A bird caught in birdlime has a twofold task: It must free itself and cleanse itself. And by satisfying their appetites, people suffer in a twofold way: They must detach themselves and, after being detached, clean themselves of what has clung to them.
I did a post a few days ago about how liberal journalists based on one book have suddenly discovered that Pius XII might not be Jew hater after all. It was lost in the Pope Resigns chaos.
I lady, Marilyn Mallory, left a comment which I thought I would reproduce here. She has some comments about the accuracy of the book by Gordon Thomas, while also shamelessly plugging her own book, Pope Pius XII and the Jews - What's True and What's Fiction?. But sure that's what the internet is for, isn't it?
Her comment below:
Marilyn Mallory13 February 2013 03:34
While I praise Gordon Thomas' general position regarding Pope Pius XII I must correct some glaring errors in his account. He does not give any footnote or endnotes to substantiate his version of events; his book is basically a novel. He lists a lot of books in his bibliography but he fails to point to specific passages in those books which back up what he maintains. For instance, he completely excludes the actual role Pius XII had in stopping the roundup of the Jews on October 16. My book points out that Pius XII sent his nephew Carlo Pacelli to Bishop Hudal, specifically to urge him to write a letter to General Stahel, to stop the roundup. Even Bishop Hudal recorded this in his diary. Pius XII then had Father Pfeiffer take that letter to General Stahel. Stahel wanted to comply but he said that Himmler wouldn't listen to such humanistic arguments. He knew a better way to get Himmler to stop. So he phoned Himmler and argued that if those roundups were to continue there would be a popular uprising in Rome (which was not true) and that furthermore he was going to have to withdraw his troops because they were needed elsewhere. Himmler fell for that lie (for the time being), and stopped the roundup. This is very minutely documented in my book with explicit references to the sources for each detail. This proves that the Pope had a hand in getting the roundup to stop, through his intermediaries Carlo Pacelli and Fr. Pfeiffer.
The version of events which Gordon Thomas gives in this regard is highly inaccurate. There are many other inaccuracies and omissions in Thomas' book, most of which I address in my book, Pope Pius and the Jews – What's Fact and What's Fiction?
The Pope is not the only one who has to wrestle with his conscience, trying to decide what's the right thing to do. It's that time again. After midnight on Ash Wednesday and I'm trying to decide whether to have a bowl of cereal or not.
It's also that time of year when your kids come home from school with Trócaire boxes and you think to yourself, "if I wanted to give my money to Israeli hating lefties I'd still be a member of Amnesty International" before trying to decide whether to use them to keep your dried peas in or put them straight into the bin.
If you can cope with reading anything more about the Holy Father's retirement/ resignation/ renunciation/ abdication Crisis Magazine has some excellent pieces, particularly this one - go visit.
The Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism....the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and 'reputation'. Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict's 'ear of the heart'......the Vatican's reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer. This calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded.
What Enda Kenny said on Monday:
On behalf of the Government and people of Ireland, I would like to extend best wishes to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI following his declaration today that he intends to step down from his office. This is clearly a decision which the Holy Father has taken following careful consideration and deep prayer and reflection. It reflects his profound sense of duty to the Church, and also his deep appreciation of the unique pressures of spiritual leadership in the modern world. This is a historic day in the life of the Catholic Church and for the many millions of Catholics, both here in Ireland and around the world.
Pope Benedict has given strong leadership and great service to the Church and her people for many decades. I know that all of their thoughts and prayers will be with the Holy Father at this time, and also with those who will shortly gather in Conclave to choose his successor.
God is more pleased by one work, however small, done secretly, without desire that it be known, than a thousand done with the desire that people know of them. Those who work for God with purest love not only care nothing about whether others see their works, but do not even seek that God himself know of them. Such persons would not cease to render God the same services, with the same joy and purity of love, even if God were never to know of these.
Hopefully the big news won't crush out this news which is that the media is finally catching up with the rest of us and realising that Venerable Pope Pius XII was not "Hitler's Pope" but instead the Jews' Pope.
Pius XII has long been vilified as "Hitler's pope", accused of failing publicly to condemn the genocide of Europe's Jews. Now a British author has unearthed extensive material that Vatican insiders believe will restore his reputation, revealing the part that he played in saving lives and opposing nazism. Gordon Thomas, a Protestant, was given access to previously unpublished Vatican documents and tracked down victims, priests and others who had not told their stories before. The Pope's Jews, which will be published next month, details how Pius gave his blessing to the establishment of safe houses in the Vatican and Europe's convents and monasteries. He oversaw a secret operation with code names and fake documents for priests who risked their lives to shelter Jews, some of whom were even made Vatican subjects. Thomas shows, for example, that priests were instructed to issue baptism certificates to hundreds of Jews hidden in Genoa, Rome and elsewhere in Italy. More than 2,000 Jews in Hungary were given fabricated Vatican documents identifying them as Catholics and a network saved German Jews by bringing them to Rome. The pope appointed a priest with extensive funds with which to provide food, clothing and medicine. More than 4,000 Jews were hidden in convents and monasteries across Italy. During and immediately after the war, the pope was considered a Jewish saviour. Jewish leaders – such as Jerusalem's chief rabbi in 1944 – said the people of Israel would never forget what he and his delegates "are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters at the most tragic hour". Jewish newspapers in Britain and America echoed that praise, and Hitler branded him "a Jew lover". However, his image turned sour in the 1960s, thanks to Soviet antagonism towards the Vatican and a German play by Rolf Hochhuth, The Deputy, which vilified the pope, accusing him of silence and inaction over the Jews. It was a trend that intensified with the publication of Hitler's Pope, a book by John Cornwell. However, as the Vatican's secretary of state before the war, the future pope contributed to the damning 1937 encyclical of Pius XI, With Burning Anxiety, and, as Pius XII he made condemnatory speeches that were widely interpreted at the time – including by Jewish leaders and newspapers – as clear condemnations of Hitler's racial policies. Due to the Vatican's traditionally diplomatic language, the accusation that Pius XII did not speak out has festered. Professor Ronald J Rychlak, the author of Hitler, the War and the Pope, said: "Gordon Thomas has found primary sources … He has tracked down family members, original documentation and established what really was a universal perception prior to the 1960s. He's shown what the people at the time – victims, rescuers and villains – all knew: that Pius XII was a great supporter of the victims of the Holocaust." Asked why the Vatican had not made the new material available until now or, where stories were known, disseminated them more widely,Thomas said: "The church thinks across centuries. If there's a dispute for 50 years, so what?" William Doino, a Vatican historian, described Thomas's research as "unique and groundbreaking". He spoke of the book's new insight, for example, into Hugh O'Flaherty, an Irish priest: "Everybody has always praised [O'Flaherty] because he helped Jews and escaped POWs. They made a movie about him, The Scarlet and the Black, with Gregory Peck. However, they always say he was acting on his own authority and that Pius was either aloof or not giving him anything. Gordon has spoken extensively with O'Flaherty's family, who gave him private correspondence and told him that O'Flaherty said that everything was with Pius XII's co-operation." The book also tells the story of Vittorio Sacerdoti, a young Jewish doctor who was able to work in a Vatican hospital, inventing a fictitious deadly disease that deterred Germans from entering. Dozens of fake patients were taught to cough convincingly. Thomas interviewed Sacerdoti's cousin, who recalled that as a child she was one of those patients – "feeling there was nothing wrong with her, yet having to cough regularly in the ward". The Vatican is so excited by The Pope's Jews that it is supporting a feature documentary film being planned by a British producer who has bought the rights to it. Allen Jewhurst, who has produced documentaries for BBC TV's Panorama, said that, with more than a billion Catholics worldwide, interest in the story is huge. After a meeting with two cardinals at the Vatican, he and Thomas now hope to get exclusive access to the archives. "This will, hopefully, be a definitive film," said Jewhurst. Thomas, who also wrote the book Voyage of the Damned, about Jewish refugees, recalled: "The Vatican people said, 'How wonderful, the truth out at last'." "The Pope's Jews: The Vatican's Secret Plan to Save Jews from the Nazis" is published by The Robson Press on 7 March
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
I can't believe it. But I do. God bless him. Loads of people will complain about this. But he's the Pope and I trust him. He said before he believed in Popes resigning if they couldn't do the job and I think he didn't want to decline the way Blessed John Paul II did.
The soul that carries within itself the least appetite for worldly things bears more unseemliness and impurity in its journey to God than if it were troubled by all the hideous and annoying temptations and darknesses describable; for, so long as it does not consent to these temptations, a soul thus tried can approach God confidently, by doing the will of His Majesty, who proclaims: Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you [Mt. 11:28]
The Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries has been published and politicians have been strangely inept in dealing with it. I wonder were they distracted by knowing what was going on in the background over Anglo-Irish. Enda Kenny, in a masterless performance, couldn't get out the necessary "I apologise on behalf of the State..." out. Perhaps he'll understand a little better what it's like to be a bishop. The religious orders issued statements but otherwise kept the heads down and I think are emerging from this fairly well.
This link will take you to the full McAleese Report on the Magdalene Laundries. It's worth taking the time to read it. If you don't have the time, do read the Senator's introduction which I've put below in full. [I wonder what's next for the McAleese's now that he's resigned. Presumably the wife has a job lined up or maybe they'll do the American talks circuit.]
There is some entirely mistaken journaleeze doing the rounds, including completely misleading numbers (30,000 on the BBC) and when all else fears start talking about previous reports.
I've no personal knowledge of Magdalene Laundries, but I do know something about the context of the times. For reasons of economic necessity, the vast majority of children left school at the age of fourteen and went to work in factories. They did a full week's work, and handed their wages to their parents. Should we call them slaves? Should we complain that they were deprived of an education? Remember Donogh O'Malley's free second level education only began in 1969!
I also had a great uncle who, when my great aunt died, remarried and put his two sons into a home, keeping his two daughters. That was the society we had.
Anyway, read the text below and the report if you've time.
Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries
Introduction by the Independent Chair Senator Martin McAleese
1. There is no single or simple story of the Magdalen Laundries.
2. This Report has established that approximately 10,000 women are known to have entered a Magdalen Laundry from the foundation of the State in 1922 until the closure of the last Laundry in 1996. Of the cases in which routes of entry are known, 26.5% were referrals made or facilitated by the State.
3. Many of the women who met with the Committee - and particularly those who entered the Magdalen Laundries as young girls - experienced the Laundries as lonely and frightening places. For too long, they have been and have felt forgotten. Indeed for many of them, an inability to share their story in the years after their time in a Magdalen Laundry has only added to the confusion and pain they feel about that period in their lives.
4. The mandate of the Inter-Departmental Committee was to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries. These facts are set out in this Report as the Committee has found them. During this fact-finding process, the Committee also gained a deeper and broader understanding of the Magdalen Laundries and the context in which they operated. The Committee has, in this Report, drawn on all available information and sought to record as comprehensive a picture as possible of the operation of the Magdalen Laundries.
5. In doing so, the Committee was conscious that the operation of the Magdalen Laundries since the foundation of the State has, prior to this process, not been fully understood, as many State records were neither readily available nor easily accessible and the records of the Religious Congregations were not
available for inspection or analysis.
6. It is understandable that – fuelled by this absence of information – stories grew to fill these gaps. Indeed, the answers to questions as basic as how to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries many women and girls passed through the Magdalen Laundries or how long they remained there have, until the release of this Report, not been known. Otherwise, the chronicle of the Magdalen Laundries was for many years characterised primarily by secrecy, silence and shame.
7. The picture that the Committee has been able to put together tells the following story. The women who were admitted to and worked in the Magdalen Laundries, whether for short or long periods of time since the foundation of the State, have for too long felt the social stigma of what was sometimes cruelly called the ‘fallen woman’. This is a wholly inaccurate characterisation, hurtful to them and their families, that is not borne out by the facts. The Committee found no evidence to support the perception that unmarried girls had babies there, or that many of the women of the Magdalen Laundries since 1922 were prostitutes. The reality is much more complex. As set out in detail in this Report, the women who entered the Magdalen Laundries were from many backgrounds and the circumstances which led to their admission were varied:
- Some women were referred to the Magdalen Laundries by Courts on remand, on probation or otherwise on foot of criminal convictions ranging from vagrancy and larceny to manslaughter and murder.
- Some were children, released on licence from Industrial or Reformatory Schools to the Magdalen Laundries before they reached 16 years of age.
- Some were former Industrial School children referred onwards either directly from these Schools or during the period of their post-discharge supervision.
- Some were young girls who had been boarded-out and were rejected by their foster parents when maintenance payments from the authorities ceased.
- Some were young women over 16 years of age, who had been orphaned or who were in abusive or neglectful homes (in many of these cases, their younger siblings would have been committed to Industrial Schools).
- Some were women with either mental or physical disabilities which rendered them unable to live independently, at a time when supported living facilities did not exist. Some had psychiatric illnesses and were referred from psychiatric hospitals.
- Some were referred by social services at a time when appropriate accommodation for teenagers was not available.
- Some were simply poor and homeless and either voluntarily sought shelter in or were referred to the Magdalen Laundries by County Homes or, later, by social services.
- Many girls and women were placed in the Magdalen Laundries by their own families, for reasons that we may never know or fully understand, but which included the socio-moral attitudes of the time as well as familial abuse.
These and a myriad other stories make up the background of the women who spent some period of time in a Magdalen Laundry between 1922 and the closure of the last such institution in the State in 1996.
8. The girls and women referred to the Magdalen Laundries by officials in the criminal justice system, social services, or even from psychiatric hospitals and County Homes would have been made aware why they were there and – in the case of court referrals - how long they were required to stay.
9. However, this would not have been the experience of the young girls referred to the Magdalen Laundries from industrial schools or by non-state agents, including girls referred by their own families. None of us can begin to imagine the confusion and fear experienced by these young girls, in many cases little more than children, on entering the Laundries - not knowing why they were there, feeling abandoned, wondering whether they had done something wrong, and not knowing when - if ever - they would get out and see their families again. It must have been particularly distressing for those girls who may have been the victims of abuse in the family, wondering why they were the ones who were excluded or penalised by being consigned to an institution.
10. To add to this confusion, most found themselves quite alone in what was, by today’s standards, a harsh and physically demanding work environment. The psychological impact on these girls was undoubtedly traumatic and lasting. In meeting some of them, and listening to their stories, the Committee was impressed by their quiet determination to find answers to the many questions concerning their lives both before and after entering a Magdalen Laundry.
11. The Committee is aware that there are other women who find it difficult or even impossible to share their stories of the Magdalen Laundries. Some may not have even told their husbands or children of that period in their lives, but instead are carrying those experiences silently in their hearts. Many of these women will choose never to reveal their “secret”, because of the impact they fear it might have on their lives. It is the absolute right of every woman to make this choice for herself and the Committee wants to reassure these women that their right to privacy is utterly respected throughout this Report. The Committee nonetheless hopes that the contents of the Report, insofar as it is able to present the facts and set the record straight, may in some small way be of help to them.
12. It is also true to say that many of the Sisters of the four Religious Congregations which operated these institutions – whether they worked in them or not – have experienced a profound hurt in recent years as the debate on the Magdalen Laundries gained increasing public prominence. Their position is that they responded in practical ways as best they could, in keeping with the charism of their Congregations, to the fraught situations of the sometimes marginalised girls and women sent to them, by providing them with shelter, board and work. They state clearly that they did not recruit women for these institutions. The Committee found no evidence to contradict this position.
13. In addition to their legal obligation not to disclose the personal data they hold, the Sisters also continue to feel a strong moral responsibility to protect the privacy of the women who passed through their doors. The Committee believes that it is for this reason, and not for secrecy or self-interest, that their archives, which were so willingly opened to this Committee, have not been opened more broadly to researchers or the general public. The Sisters have, however, consistently made available all the personal records they hold directly to the women concerned or, in the case of deceased women, to their next of kin, when requested, and have confirmed to the Committee their intention to continue to do so in the future.
14. The Congregations informed the Committee that this commitment to ensure anonymity and to protect privacy was also the reason why, in some but not all of the Magdalen Laundries, women were given a “House” or “Class” name which was used instead of their birth name. Many of the women who met the Committee, however, found this practice deeply upsetting and at the time, felt as though their identity was being erased. The Congregations have expressed to the Committee their regret that women who were in their care hold this or other painful memories.
15. This Report examines five main areas in which there was possible State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries. In each case, the Report sets out both the policy and practice as the Committee has found them, as well as the legislative basis for State action (where applicable). The five main areas are:
- Routes by which girls and women entered the Laundries;
- State inspections of the Laundries;
- State funding of and financial assistance to the Laundries;
- Routes by which girls and women left the Laundries;
- Death registration, burials and exhumations.
In each of these areas, the Committee found evidence of direct State involvement.
16. The Committee’s findings regarding each of these areas are outlined in the Executive Summary and detailed in the Report, as are a number of other miscellaneous areas of State involvement including issues relating to electoral registration, insurability of employment, provision in relation to rationing during the Emergency, and industrial surveys under the Census of Distribution and Services.
17. In the course of the Committee’s work, material was also uncovered that is central to answering many frequently arising questions concerning the Magdalen Laundries. The Committee is aware that some of this material is, strictly speaking, outside its core remit. However, while mindful of its Terms of Reference, the Committee considered these issues to be consequential on its principal findings and decided, in the public interest, to include these additional findings in a separate section of the Report (Part IV), with relevant statistics contained in the body of the Report at Part II.
18. The material in these sections of the Report and in particular the statistical analysis may also contribute to future historical study and research, without in any way breaching the trust or privacy of the women referred to. It is also likely to be of considerable interest to the women, their families and the wider public. These findings, summarised below, may challenge some common perceptions.
Background of the women who entered the Magdalen Laundries:
Without identifying any person, the profiles of the women who entered the Magdalen Laundries (including those who were not referred by the State or State agents) are set out in some detail in the Report. These profiles include details on the geographical origin of these women (those who came from rural or urban backgrounds); parental background (whether one or both parents were deceased) and those who had been previously institutionalised. There is a perception that the vast majority of women who entered the Laundries spent the rest of their lives there - in fact, as set out in this Report, the majority (61%) spent less than one year there. This and other information is contained in these profiles, including information on the average age on entry, average duration of stay, as well as the minority of women who remained in the Magdalen Laundries until their deaths.
Conditions in the Laundries:
The Report also addresses the question of the conditions experienced by and the treatment of women in the Laundries, including the questions of sexual abuse, physical abuse and verbal or psychological abuse. This is a particularly sensitive and difficult issue to deal with, made more difficult by the very small sample of women available and in a position to share their experiences with the Committee.
The Committee does not make findings on this issue. Rather, the Report records the stories shared with the Committee by these women, as well as the medical reports and recollections of General Medical Practitioners who served the Laundries in more recent times and others who were closely associated with the operation of the Laundries.
No woman referred to a Magdalen Laundry on foot of a criminal conviction made contact with the Committee. Instead, the majority of the small number of women who engaged with the Committee had been admitted to the Laundries either by a non-state route of referral or, most common of all, following time in an Industrial School. Many of these women drew a clear distinction between their treatment in Industrial Schools and their experience in the Magdalen Laundries.
They made no allegations of sexual abuse against any of the Sisters, but one allegation was made against another woman. The vast majority also told the Committee that the ill-treatment, physical punishment and abuse that was prevalent in the Industrial School system was not something they experienced in the Magdalen Laundries. However, the majority of women described the atmosphere in the Laundries as cold, with a rigid and uncompromising regime of physically demanding work and prayer, with many instances of verbal censure, scoldings or even humiliating put-downs. In that regard, some women and others associated with the operation of the Magdalen Laundries told the Committee that the atmosphere “softened” in more recent decades and particularly after the second
Vatican Council (1962-1965).
Some of the women the Committee met stated clearly that the Laundries were their only refuge in times of great personal difficulty. Others spoke of their real sense of being exploited. But the large majority of women who engaged with the Committee and especially those who had previously been in Industrial Schools spoke of the deep hurt they felt due to their loss of freedom, the fact that they were not informed why they were there, lack of information on when they would be allowed to leave, and denial of contact with the outside world, particularly family and friends.
Financial viability of the Magdalen Laundries:
The issue of the financial viability of the Magdalen Laundries is also addressed. There have been suggestions that the Laundries were highly profitable institutions. The evidence identified by the Committee and analysis of the financial records of the Magdalen Laundries during various periods of their operation indicate that this was not the case. The Laundries operated for the most part on a subsistence or close to break-even basis rather than on a commercial or highly profitable basis. The financial accounts tend to support the fact that, what came to be known as the Magdalen Laundries, were historically established as refuges, homes or asylums for marginalised women and girls. The subsequent establishment of the Laundries was for the purposes of financially supporting and maintaining them.
19. The members of the Committee approached their work in a committed and professional manner and both they and their Departmental colleagues are due thanks and credit for their considerable efforts. Searching for official records and materials relating to the Magdalen Laundries presented many problems.
Information relevant to the Committee’s work was contained in a very wide variety of records across many bodies, agencies and individuals. Much of the material held by the State was not archived or catalogued. In this age of instant online searches, it is easy to forget that access to digitised historic material is the exception rather than the rule. Accordingly and to complete their work, members of the Committee and their Departmental colleagues hand-searched paper archives in their Departments, National Archives, the National Library; explored boxes of uncatalogued materials and indeed physically searched Departmental basements in an attempt to discover any misplaced files and folders. Similar detailed searches were conducted in State agencies and bodies. Given the significant efforts made to gather these scattered files and records, the Committee decided to recommend that copies of all official records identified should be preserved as a distinct archive in the Department of An Taoiseach.
20. The Committee wishes to acknowledge with gratitude the tremendous contribution to its work and to the preparation and drafting of this Report by Nuala Ní Mhuircheartaigh. Her work ethic and commitment were outstanding.
21. A large variety of private archives were voluntarily made available to the Committee and it is important to acknowledge that without them the work of the Committee would have proved very difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. In particular and of critical importance to the progress of the Committee’s work is the fact that the four Religious Congregations – the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Religious Sisters of Charity, and the Sisters of Mercy – voluntarily opened all their records to inspection and analysis and made themselves available at all times to provide the Committee with the fullest information they could.
22. In conducting its work, the Committee also relied heavily on the voluntary cooperation and goodwill of many individuals and organisations. The help and support offered by the Central Statistics Office was invaluable to the process and the assistance offered by private archives, in particular by the Dublin
Diocesan Archive and organisations such as the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, was significant.
23. A number of former residents of the Magdalen Laundries shared their experiences with the Committee as members of representative and advocacy groups (53), while others did so directly in their own right as individuals (7). Some of these women shared their stories on a strictly confidential basis. A valuable contribution was also made by women (58) who are currently resident in nursing homes under the care of the Religious Congregations.
24. The stories shared with the Committee by these women provided invaluable insights into the operation of the Laundries and helped the Committee greatly in preparing this Report. The majority of them expressed the fact that they had, for many years, felt forgotten and not believed. This took great courage and the Committee acknowledges its indebtedness to them for their contributions and for the dignified way in which they were presented.
25. The representative groups Irish Women’s Survivors Network UK and Magdalen Survivors Together and the advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes also made a significant contribution to the work of the Committee. From the outset, they cooperated fully with the Committee, sharing their research, analysis and views.
26. The work of the Committee commenced in July 2011 and took eighteen months in total to complete. The initial preparatory work was carried out within six months, while the substantive research, investigation and drafting of the Final Report was concluded in a further twelve months. No member of the Committee received a salary or stipend in relation to its work. The only direct costs arose from travelling expenses and room hire for meetings. These costs amounted to € 11,146.06.
27. The Committee has produced a substantive and detailed Report, identifying hitherto unknown facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries and clarifying ancillary matters more broadly in the public interest. It is possible that some more detail could be added with more time, but the Committee is of the view that such additional time or probing would, at best, add only marginally to the facts already clearly and unambiguously established in this Report.
28. In light of the Committee’s mandate, there is an understandable focus in this Report on the cases of State referral to the Magdalen Laundries, in particular Criminal Justice System and Industrial and Reformatory Schools referrals. The Committee urges a strong word of caution against generalisations in this respect. An unforgivable injustice would be done to the facts and complexity of the story – and more importantly to the women concerned - if public discourse was to simply replace one label with another, by shifting the terminology from that of the ‘fallen’ to the ‘criminal’ woman. Respect for the complexity and sensitivity of this story means that any new caricatures of the women who spent time in Magdalen Laundries, or indeed of the Religious Congregations who operated them, must be avoided.
29. The Committee found significant State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries. Its findings in many cases may also encourage a review of some perceptions about these institutions and the women who were admitted to and worked in them. The Committee hopes that the facts established for the first time by its work, and set out in this Report, will contribute to a more complete, accurate and rounded understanding of these issues. Most important of all, the Committee hopes that this Report will be a real step in bringing healing and peace of mind to all concerned, most especially the women whose lived experience of the Magdalen Laundries had a profound and enduring negative effect on their lives.
Irish papers and media are all over the story of a German cardinal sanctioning the use of the so-called "morning after pill" for rape victims. They see it as a chink in the armour and of course have no understanding of any of the issues in any meaningful way.
Let's be clear, if a woman has been raped it is entirely legitimate that she take steps to prevent conception occuring. What Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne is saying is that he has been advised that there are certain pills which prevent conception but do not interfere with implantation of an already fertilized egg. If that is the case then there is no moral difficulty in using them in the case of rape.
Of course the central issue is the words "if that is the case". When in doubt we get into a more complex area of moral theology.
There are some who will maintain that if there is any doubt at all as to the possibility of a pill preventing implantation of an already fertilized egg, then it is morally illicit. Such a view would seem to be a form of tutiorism or rigorism.
The priniciples of probabalism would seem to apply in this case so I think we should give the Cardinal and his episcopal colleagues some space to present their case. Catholic encyclopedia article here.
By way of update to my recent post on Fr Z and the contempt shown for the Ordinary Form of the Mass. I see that he has removed my second comment.
Remember all those who used to attack the cult of Fr Corapi, many of whom were part of the cult of Fr Z? It's always a problem when you can't accept critical comments (which aren't defamatory or abusive). People will start to question your openness to the truth.
And before you know it they'll be asking exactly how an American gets to be an unassigned priest of the Diocese of Velletri-Segni and has the time to spend blogging, publishing recipes and photos of his dinner and his bird houses near his Wisconsin home.
A dear friend sent me this link to an online Ignatian Prayer Adventure. A very supportive way to do the Spiritual Exercises - if you can give the time and space required.
For those who question why a Carmelite would be promoting Ignatian prayer, I would say there is only one type of prayer. And the more spiritual books I read the more common the approaches seem to be. Root out sin, proceed with humility, know yourself and you will be in a position to talk to God and hear Him in return. God can drag you along and come to you when you don't deserve it but you can't make your own short-cuts.
The website has tabs for each day of the first week. Can't see an easy way to get to week 2, but if you go into the URL you can change the number after "week-" to whichever week you want.
Well I know I shouldn't be encouraging bad behaviour but if you've a spare moment pop along over to Fr Z's site for a spot of commenting. My first comments below and Fr Z's reactive reply in red.
Folks when you talk about “binning the Novus Ordo” you’re talking about putting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in a bin! [No. That is NOT what is being said. They desire that the Novus Ordo not be used and that the Usus Antiquior be used instead.] It’s hardly the language or sentiment one would expect of Catholics. It’s called the Ordinary Form for a reason. It’s the main form in ordinary use and the sooner you accept that it isn’t going away the better for you. As for calling protestants heretics and schismatics, it’s time to grow up! [And it is time to curb your hysteria and revive your critical thinking skills.]
My second comment below:
Well pardon my hysteria and lack of critical thought process in understanding “bin” to mean “a receptacle in which to deposit rubbish” as per the Oxford English Dictionary and therefore not an appropriate term to employ in connection with the rite commonly used for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If a bishop or a Catholic newspaper said it was time to bin the Extraordinary Form this blog would be all over them like a rash. Lobbing around words like schismatic and heretic, well it’s not Catholic. Go read Unitatis Redintegratio and if you don’t like what it says run off and frolic with your friends in the SSPX.
I know some people (women) think Keira Knightley is not a great actress (jealousy) but I consider her an excellent Elizabeth Bennet.
I think it's time to read some Austen again. It's been quite a while. I've just finished The Kill Order and feel the need for something a little more life affirming. Why are so many books for teenagers and young adults apocalyptic? There's the Hunger Games, the Dead (Charlie Higson), the Gone series and loads more really. I suppose when we were younger we read lots of comics that were about the War, and then later 2000A.D.
Bingley's just proposed to Jane and poor Lizzy is being happy for her and not realising her chance will come in the morning.