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Magdalene laundries

(64 Posts)
hogsback Wed 08-Jun-11 16:24:45

UNCAT (UN Committee Against Torture) has released a damning statement on the Irish government's investigation (or complete lack thereof) the laundries.

More information here.


"Mary Norris ended up in a Magdalene laundry for disobeying an order. A teenage servant in Kerry, she took a forbidden night off, and was taken away to a convent where the nuns had her examined to see was she still a virgin (which she was). From there she was dispatched to the Magdalene laundry in Cork. Immediately on arrival, the nuns changed her name ? standard practice in all the Magdalene laundries. "When I went in there," recalls Mary, "my dignity, who I was, my name, everything was taken. I was a nonentity, nothing, nobody."


Greenstocking Wed 08-Jun-11 16:28:38

Ah, the good ole cafflic church.

I mean, really, what do we expect from institutionalised, organised religious hatred and fear of women?

TheCrackFox Wed 08-Jun-11 16:37:54

They changed her name? shock

The Catholic Church (I was brought up a Catholic) actively hates women and is one of the biggest reasons that I am a Feminist.

SybilBeddows Wed 08-Jun-11 16:40:32

was it about keeping all the other women in line, by having the Magdalene laundries to threaten them with if they misbehaved?

the whole thing is quite appalling. Those poor women.

Greenstocking Wed 08-Jun-11 16:41:30

And children crackfox, they hate children too.

I find the catholic church one of the most repulsive institutions ever formed.

Suncottage Wed 08-Jun-11 16:52:15

My Mum was a Magdalene girl - yep it is all true. Her name was changed to a 'Catholic' one, she was told she was an orphan with no family. Every year at Christmas she was shown the presents that 'kind people' had sent to the 'orphans' and then the nuns kept them.

As an adult she found out she had a father and four brothers - the presents from the 'kind people' were from her aunts, they had written to her many, many times over the years and tried to see her. The nuns blocked all communication.

The girls were beaten, abused and humiliated as a matter of routine. Her life reads like a Catherine Cookson novel.

This was in the 1930's and 1940's. Her mother died when she was a baby and the church stepped in and 'decided' her father could not care for a family and took them.

She refused point blank to have her children baptised into the Catholic faith.

Suncottage Wed 08-Jun-11 16:56:59

She never knew why her aunt's couldn't have taken her or helped her father. It seems the church was very, very persuasive.

hogsback Wed 08-Jun-11 17:07:37

Personally I think the Catholic Church as an organisation should face criminal charges for systematic, institutionally-sanctioned abuse of women and children. It may seem far-fetched, but the history of the church demonstrates a consistent approach to those perceived as a threat, whether they be native people unwilling to convert, heretics or women.

The piecemeal approach of prosecuting individual priests is simply not working; the whole organisation needs to be treated as an organised crime syndicate and needs cross-agency and international co-operation to take it apart.

It will never happen of course, instead we'll just let them carry on running our schools and serving on government committees on sexual health.

BooyHoo Wed 08-Jun-11 17:11:07

two very good films i have watched on this. both quite accurate. one was a BBC production (i think) called 'sinners' and the other is 'the magdalene sisters' which i think was a cinema release. i have heard from women of my motehr's generation taht what is shown in the films is mild. sad

claig Wed 08-Jun-11 17:19:36

It was terrible what was done. The Church was to blame, however, everybody fails to point the finger at the others responsible. It couldn't have been a secret, it must have been widely known by those in authority - by mayors, charities, politicians etc. Why did nobody step up to stop it?

SybilBeddows Wed 08-Jun-11 17:20:27

what a sad story SunCottage.
and angry for her

BooyHoo Wed 08-Jun-11 17:24:17

doctors aswell claig. doctors and medical staff would have had the most access to the women in the launderies.

Fifis25StottieCakes Wed 08-Jun-11 17:26:36

Ive read a few of the books and watched some documentries. Very disturbing sad

claig Wed 08-Jun-11 17:27:38

yes, very good point. Doctors from the top to the bottom. Hospital chiefs as well as local village doctors. The whole society knew about it and allowed it to continue.

claig Wed 08-Jun-11 17:28:42

It's like some sort of science fiction story, where the whole society was to blame.

Tyr Wed 08-Jun-11 17:30:56

Hitchins and Dawkins, amongst others had planned to have the pope arrested for crimes against humanity when he visited but, sadly, it didn't happen.
The Magdalene Laundries were run by nuns-women and they were responsible for the cruelty. The fact that the male priesthood could have spoken up and done something, does not absolve them one bit. If i remember correctly, the last one closed down in the mid 90's; not because of humanitarian concerns, but because the universal availability of washing machines meant they were no longer financially viable.
Of the women featured in the film, how many turned their backs on the church?
I'd like to see some figures on attendance but, in my experience, it is women who attend mass, insist on having children baptised etc. I don't believe the institution would survive without the mindless compliance of the female faithful. Watch the congregation exit from a RC church and note which gender predominates- with the children in tow.
I agree that it is a contemptible and criminal institution. Setting aside the M.Laundries, imagine any other institution responsible for endemic physical and sexual abuse of children being allowed to exist. It is unthinkable.

Al0uiseG Wed 08-Jun-11 17:32:34

How anybody can stay loyal to the Catholic church knowing what they were responsible for is beyond me. As an institution it should be banned from this and any other country.

BooyHoo Wed 08-Jun-11 17:32:52

i think it must have been down to the catholic church's influence over society. particularly ireland 50/60/70 years ago. the church was basically law. doctors, mayors, charities etc must have felt they had nowhere to go. what would the 'real' law have done anway? especially considering that there definitely weren't any women in charge then.

claig Wed 08-Jun-11 17:33:29

Remember the child migrant scandal in Britain. It went on for about 50 years. Lots of officials must have known about it.

Makes you wonder if similar things are still going on, and in another 50 years time, we find out about it.

BooyHoo Wed 08-Jun-11 17:36:22

"Watch the congregation exit from a RC church and note which gender predominates- with the children in tow."

the members of society who had most to fear, were more vulnerable, easier to control. this mindset has carried on and been instilled into newer generations so it doesn't surprise me in teh slightest that teh majority of RC church goers are female and/or children.

Greenstocking Wed 08-Jun-11 17:39:27

I see quite a lot of women claiming to be catholics and talking about how they feel guilt . Some of them wear it like a badge. At least until they've got their kids into the school they want, anyway.

I never know whether to laugh or cry when posters talk about getting their kids into a catholic school and how great it is. Yep, fucking fantastic to instill fear, sexual repression and guilt into your kids, nice one.

Al0uiseG Wed 08-Jun-11 18:57:33

I'd love to have half an hour with a bunch of Catholic hand wringers. Especially the professional victims who chose to convert to such a vile regime.

Yes Cherie "human rights" Blair, I'm looking at you!

Tyr Wed 08-Jun-11 19:04:45


And what about her husband who converted. What was that all about?

Somewhere on the internet, there is a debate between Blair and atheist Christopher Hitchins which makes for good viewing. Blair doesn't fare so well.

Al0uiseG Wed 08-Jun-11 19:08:24

Blair has a lot to feel guilty about, no wonder Catholicism suits him. I'll try and unearth the Hitchens debate, thanks for telling me about it.

ninah Wed 08-Jun-11 19:14:27

my grandmother was orphaned young enough to be brought up my nuns. She was supposed to stay with them until age 21 at which time they put pressure on her to find a vocation; she had an offer of work as an au pair which she wanted to take up. Eventually she did so; some time afterwards when she needed a passport she found out she was actually a couple of years older than she had believed herself to be, because they'd lied about her age to keep her there as long as possible.

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