Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries join Canadian residential schools in epitomizing my disdain for the Catholic church. Namesake of supposed prostitute Mary Magdalene, laundries imprisoned “fallen women” for guidance and reeducation – or so it began in 1765 Dublin when pious missionaries filled the first asylum by offering street prostitutes a “safe warm place”. Not even close – it seems the nuns had stumbled upon a system of diabolical perfection.
Very quickly, the church realized unpaid labour was key to sustainable wealth – what better source of slave labour than fallen women. Morality, an easy sell in predominantly Catholic Ireland, thought nothing of “fallen” evolving to include unwed mothers, pregnant victims of rape, bastard children, women deemed mentally incompetent and orphans. Practically overnight, institutions sought “permanent” inmates to sustain lucrative laundry contracts from the state and military.
Any woman could find herself incarcerated at Catholic institutions. Prisoners without charge or trial, inmates without sentence, recourse or representation. Persons deemed morally inconsequential, thrown to the whim of repugnant moralists without explanation or hope. At birth infants became property of the church,forcibly removed for adoption. As if moral incarceration, disregard for legal and civil rights, forced labour and physical abuse weren’t enough – relinquishing infants didn’t release inmates from moral condemnation, unpaid labour was far too valuable.
Magdalene institutions evolved into perfectly acceptable social norms. So much a reality of Irish life, government awarded lucrative laundry contracts and diligently returned escapees to the nuns. Between 1765 and 1996, roughly 30,000 “morally wayward” women and children became prisoners of Catholic nuns. Laundry contracts fizzled in the early 60’s with modernization responsible for mechanized washing. Unfazed by implications, Catholic nuns courted a fresh source of income. MB Games, subsidiary of toy maker Hasbro was setting up shop in Ireland, someone had to assemble their games.
Anyone over 40 recalls Mousetrap, Trouble and Kerplunk – board games rivaling Monopoly for space on rumpus room shelves. How could we know Catholic nuns met unmarked Hasbro trucks at Magdalene gates, or that “fun for the whole family” were packaged by prisoners of Catholic morality. ( To this day Hasbro refuses comment ).
In 1993 a mass grave containing 155 corpses was unearthed at one on the laundries. ( It seems the nuns lost a considerable sum of money on the stock market, forcing the sale of a piece of land – did they forget about the bodies, pray new owner wouldn’t dig during construction? By 2001 media attention forced the Irish government to admit abuse, while remaining steadfast on their assertion laundries were private institutions, absolving themselves of knowledge or collusion. A 2009 inquiry heard testimony from 1,500 survivors, resulting in 2,000 pages of unsatisfactory findings. In 2011 the United Nations Committee Against Torture “urged” further investigation. February 5, 2013 the UN committee published evidence of state “collusion” in atrocities. February 19, 2013 Prime Minister Enda Kenny formally apologized for “the nation’s shame”
“Therefore, I, as Taoiseach, on behalf of the State, the government and our citizens deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them, and for any stigma they suffered, as a result of the time they spent in a Magdalene Laundry.”
The Taoiseach also outlined part of the compensation package to be offered to victims of the Magdalene Laundries. He stated:
“That’s why the Government has today asked the President of the Law Reform Commission Judge John Quirke to undertake a three month review and to make recommendations as to the criteria that should be applied in assessing the help that the government can provide in the areas of payments and other supports, including medical card, psychological and counseling services and other welfare needs.”
The Catholic church has no intention of apologizing, nor will they contribute to a compensation fund for survivors. A jaw dropping article (linked below) published July 2013 in Catholic League describes “lies” in “Myths Of The Magdalene Laundries”. Yikes!