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October 17, 2011 10:33 PM   Subscribe

A new BBC Documentary titled This World: Spain's Stolen Babies alleges that up to three hundred thousand Spanish infants were stolen from their mothers at birth over a fifty year period, and then sold by the Catholic Church through illicit adoption services.
posted by FatherDagon (64 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, that's sad. So, the parents bought the babies because there was no other option after so many years of Franco's system?
posted by michaelh at 10:42 PM on October 17, 2011


Hey, they only broke two or three Commandments out of Ten, and even those were way down at the bottom of the list where anyone could have missed them. I'm sure it was just an honest mistake. Three hundred thousand times.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:49 PM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


The bit about the baby that was kept in a freezer to show to the young mothers is going to give me nightmares.

It sounds like it's hard to tell where the facsistiness ends and the churchiness takes over. If I ran the world, I'd take a lot of really good pictures of all the churches and then melt it all down for scrap. It sounds like the whole enterprise needs a fresh start.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:53 PM on October 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


The second linked article, which is at Business Insider, was originally published in Global Post. There is a missing paragraph from the BI article, from between the eighth and ninth paragraphs. It's found in the original.

Here's the missing paragraph:
Barroso said his mother told him the nun who sold him and his friend was Montserrat Vivas Llorens. Her name also appears in police reports on the case. Since then, the two men have twice traveled the 165 miles to visit Llorens. Last year, their efforts paid off: She told Barroso that another nun had asked her for "two children for the Penedès region."
The following paragraph mentions "Llorens" as if referring to someone already described, which confused me.

I have this experience not infrequently—someone being referenced in an article as if they'd already been mentioned and I don't remember that they had. I don't always go to the trouble to check. This time, there were so few preceding paragraphs, it was easy.

I'm not sure what happened in this case—it's possible that they were trying to eliminate naming names for fear of a libel lawsuit. But it also could just be an error. In other cases, I think this sort of thing happens during editing.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:55 PM on October 17, 2011


Hey, they only broke two or three Commandments out of Ten

Commandments broken:
1. No other gods.
2. Lord's name in vain. (insincere benedictions, etc.)
3. Keep the Lord's day holy. (assuming this happened every day of the week.)
4. Honor your father and mother. (making a farce of parenthood)
5. You shall not kill. (doing harm to someone)
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness.
9. You shall not covet.

More succinctly:
1. Love God.
2. Love neighbor.

To be fair, I usually break them all myself.
posted by michaelh at 10:59 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


But they had good intentions...
posted by 2N2222 at 11:02 PM on October 17, 2011


Let's see... 300000/50 = 6000. And 6000/365 = 16.4 (let's say 16).

So this frozen baby was dragged out to these poor mothers 16 times per day?

And presumably these mothers weren't giving birth a intervals of 1/16th of a day (1/16th of a day = 1.5 hours), so presumably this frozen baby was being shunted around to various mothers within the space of half an hour fairly frequently.

The mind boggles.
posted by smcameron at 11:11 PM on October 17, 2011


Who'd have thought a church that elected an actual Nazi as their leader would be up to God-awful evil on a large scale.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:18 PM on October 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


Related.
posted by telstar at 11:28 PM on October 17, 2011


"So this frozen baby was dragged out to these poor mothers 16 times per day?"

There wasn't just one dead baby. This was happening in many hospitals.

"Who'd have thought a church that elected an actual Nazi as their leader would be up to God-awful evil on a large scale."

There's no evidence that the church itself organized or was involved in this as an institution. It had no incentive to. Individuals who stood to profit monetarily from it, though, did.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:35 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


The figure of 300,000 is sourced from an adoption lawyer. A single conjecture from a person with obvious bias results in the headline 300,000 babies stolen from their parents... Come on. No matter the number, it's clear that this was a large-scale operation, but this is sensationalistic reporting. There are only 900 open cases. The numbers don't jive.

Regardless, this is a chilling example of 'we know best' religious paternalism. The Catholics gradually shifted focus from Franco's early targeting of political dissidents to "young and unmarried [women]", giving their babies to "childless couples whose devout beliefs and financial security meant that they were seen as more appropriate parents." This is what happens when religious institutions take over social services.
posted by troll at 11:35 PM on October 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


man, just when I thought I couldn't be shocked anymore!
posted by delmoi at 12:00 AM on October 18, 2011


I also am very skeptical of the 300,000 number. 16 babies a day for 50 years
is one hell of a con job. I just don't think it's possible. Too many people involved,
too many variables. one would think it would have been found out sooner.
On the other hand I don't think abortion was legal for most of this time period
and this baby business may have served as an alternative to abortion.
posted by quazichimp at 12:28 AM on October 18, 2011


The 300,000 may be from a party interested in the victims (and biased towards the cause), it also seems that the 900 number is from an active attempt to ignore this practice.

"Despite hundreds of families of babies who disappeared in Spanish hospitals calling on the government to open an investigation into the scandal, no nationally co-ordinated probe has taken place.

As a result of amnesty laws passed after Franco’s death, crimes that took place during his regime are usually not examined. Instead, regional prosecutors across the country are investigating each story on a case-by-case basis, with 900 currently under review.

But Ms Adler says: ‘There is very little political will to get to the bottom of the situation.’

There are believed to be thousands more cases that will never come to light because the stolen children fear their adoptive parents will be seen as criminals.
"

While money may have motivated some people involved with this, the projects origins suggest other motivations for their participation; taking children away from 'unworthy' parents (political dissidents, unmarried, otherwise immoral or unchristian) and giving (/selling) them to 'worthy' parents.

This possibility is even more chilling to me than selling children for money.

As for the culpability of the Catholic church as a whole? It depends who knew what and when. Regardless of their knowledge, if a multinational corporation had a Thailand (sorry Thailand!) branch that was actively involved in underage prostitution for the last 40 years of it's existence, the shareholders would probably think the company is either incompetent and without any effective over site of it's operations, or is an organization that actively participated in/concealed a major crime.

I am truly sickened.
posted by el io at 12:51 AM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


And how does someone get 'read into' a conspiracy like this? seriously! I mean, is there a mentorship (this was decades - "okay, and this is the point where we pull this hospital's dead frozen infant out to show the mother".
posted by el io at 12:52 AM on October 18, 2011


No wonder they're against contraception, so much potential merchandise wasted.
posted by unigolyn at 1:12 AM on October 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


There were priests and nuns heavily involved in both the taking and the selling according to the the Guardian, presumably the clergy were major players from the beginning under Franco right through till the very end. There was also this 'morality' component of taking babies from undesirables like single mothers, in addition to the political dissidents. To me, that screams "the church".

I'd therefore assume this touches powerful Spanish clergy for both organizing it under Franco and ignoring it later. Did the bishops who set this up for Franco tell the Pope? I donno, but they were still the Catholic church in Spain.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:22 AM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


It sounds like it's hard to tell where the facsistiness ends and the churchiness takes over.

1975. When Generalissimo Franco was finally still dead. Very nearly right in the middle of this mess:

"Enrique Vila, a Barcelona lawyer who specializes in adoptions, estimates there might be as many as 300,000, about 15 percent of the total adoptions that took place in Spain between 1960 and 1989."
posted by three blind mice at 1:40 AM on October 18, 2011


Who'd have thought a church that elected an actual Nazi as their leader would be up to God-awful evil on a large scale.

I really don't want to go into this derail, but the "Nazi" slur re. Joseph Ratzinger, aka Benedict XVI, is really, really nasty and unfair, regardless of what one thinks of him in particular or the Catholic Church in general.

He was in the Hitler Youth, yes. As it happens, membership was mandatory for his age group. Even Hans Scholl, leader of the "White Rose" youth resistance movement, was in the Hitler Youth. To call all those who were conscripted into the Hitler Youth "Nazis" is to tarnish a whole generation of Germans who were anyway too young to choose otherwise.
posted by Skeptic at 3:21 AM on October 18, 2011 [24 favorites]


Wow, that's sad.

'Sad' is not the emotion this story arouses in me. Just what are the limits to tolerating abhorrent behavior by an organized religion? Seriously - how many widespread antisocial acts does it take before the entire organization loses its credibility and its special privileges?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:29 AM on October 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Just what are the limits to tolerating abhorrent behavior by an organized religion?

It depends on:
1)How many Believe in that organized religion (B)

multiplied by

2) Whether that particular organized religion is the Dominant one for that region (D)

divided by

3)How Long the behavior has been going on (L)

Multiplied by a factor of

4)How Abhorrent are we talking about exactly? (A)

A low A value would be "Pancakes and Bingo Night"
A high A value would be "Centuries of systematic child abuse"

in short: [B*D]/[L*A], I venture we call it the Metafilter Theocracy Abhorrence Ratio [MTAR]
posted by Renoroc at 4:42 AM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess this where the Argentina junta got the idea from...
posted by ennui.bz at 5:06 AM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


BTW, the "sold by the Catholic Church" link is a Daily Mail link. I thought that here in Metafilter there was already enough consensus about what credit to give to the Daily Fail.

This has been a subject of much soul-searching in Spain for the last few months. The truth is much more nuanced and morally complex, and at the same time more terrible, than "the Catholic Church sold 300,000 babies". Basically, until the 1980s, adoption was hardly regulated in Spain. Instead, individual hospitals had quite a free hand in their adoption practices. Certain hospitals (many of them, but not all, run by the Catholic Church) went much too far, pressuring the biological parents to put their children up for adoption, or even telling them that the baby was stillborn. This was sometimes due to greed, as they could charge significant adoption fees, and sometimes due to sincere concern for the future of both child and mother. The latter was understandable in what was at the time a horribly repressed society, in which a birth out of wedlock often led to the ostracization of both mother and child.

After the revelation of the "stolen babies of Argentina", Spanish historians started researching whether something similar had happened in Spain. While they indeed found such cases (Spanish Wikipedia link) immediately after the Spanish Civil War, they found a much wider pattern of abuse (also in Spanish, but a very complete set of stories compiled by the Spanish center-left newspaper El Pais).
posted by Skeptic at 5:16 AM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are we, at this point, really surprised by all the ridiculous things the Catholic church has done?
posted by TheBigCW at 5:23 AM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's no evidence that the church itself organized or was involved in this as an institution. It had no incentive to. Individuals who stood to profit monetarily from it, though, did.

This and similar defensive comments mounted in this post sound just like the excuses offered by other defenders of the Catholic church -- when it comes to its pedophile problems.
posted by Sparkticus at 5:38 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Were they selling these babies to pedophile priests right?
posted by DU at 5:41 AM on October 18, 2011


This was sometimes due to greed, as they could charge significant adoption fees, and sometimes due to sincere concern for the future of both child and mother. The latter was understandable in what was at the time a horribly repressed society, in which a birth out of wedlock often led to the ostracization of both mother and child.

I think we might have to agree to differ as to whether telling someone their child is dead 'for their own good' is understandable. Particularly, if you are working for the organisation which had done so much to make ostracism the norm.
posted by biffa at 5:43 AM on October 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


He was in the Hitler Youth, yes. As it happens, membership was mandatory for his age group.

Not everyone calling Ratzinger a Nazi are doing so solely because he was in the Hitler Youth.
posted by DU at 5:44 AM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


'Sad' is not the emotion this story arouses in me. Just what are the limits to tolerating abhorrent behavior by an organized religion? Seriously - how many widespread antisocial acts does it take before the entire organization loses its credibility and its special privileges?

At this point I'm thinking they'd have to be juggling dead babies on Vatican square 24/7 for anyone to take notice.

Crimes against children are about the most heinous things anyone can commit, and people are (rightly) vilified for them. Unless you're in the clergy.

This is an organization that preaches against condom use in AIDS-ridden Africa. This is an organization that actively protects and harbors child rapists. This is an organization that uses frozen stillborn infants as props to steal children from their parents, only to sell them to the highest bidder.

The fact that the vile Mother Teresa is held up as a symbol of charity and selfless championing for the poor is proof that we are willfully blind to the very worst of excesses, just as long as the perpetrators keep chanting "faith".
posted by unigolyn at 5:49 AM on October 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


This was sometimes due to greed, as they could charge significant adoption fees, and sometimes due to sincere concern for the future of both child and mother. The latter was understandable in what was at the time a horribly repressed society, in which a birth out of wedlock often led to the ostracization of both mother and child.

step 1: create society which ostracizes unwed mothers
step 2: remove said mothers' newborns "due to sincere concern for the future of both child and mother"
step 3: profit
posted by lydhre at 5:49 AM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thank you for posting this. I came across the Global Post story yesterday and didn't know what to think. All the ads and the way the story was written made me question the whole thing but if the BBC is doing a documentary I guess we will have a more reliable source.

Not only in Spain and Argentina, the church has been accused of pressuring unwed mothers to give up their babies in Ireland, which were then sold to American parents.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:54 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


step 1: create society which ostracizes unwed mothers
step 2: remove said mothers' newborns "due to sincere concern for the future of both child and mother"
step 3: profit


That would be so simple, wouldn't it? In fact, the people who created that society weren't the same who pressured or lied to the mothers, who in turn weren't necessarily the same who profited from the adoption fees.
posted by Skeptic at 6:00 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


That would be so simple, wouldn't it? In fact, the people who created that society weren't the same who pressured or lied to the mothers, who in turn weren't necessarily the same who profited from the adoption fees.

They weren't? News to me.

Maybe not specific individuals, sure, but specific systems of belief? Absolutely.
posted by lydhre at 6:07 AM on October 18, 2011


In fact, the people who created that society weren't the same who pressured or lied to the mothers, who in turn weren't necessarily the same who profited from the adoption fees.

Oh I think you will find they are.

The way the Irish baby scandal worked is, the church ran Unwed Mother Homes where unwed mothers could find shelter and receive medical care. The mothers-to-be would move in and work for the nuns. Then the mothers would give birth. They would continue working for the nuns and raise their babies for as long as 3 years. At some point (when the children were healthy and strong enough to travel to America) the nuns would start working on the mothers, telling them how much better the babies would be if they had families, how the unwed mothers would continue to shame themselves and their kin if they kept the babies.

Living with the constant pressure from the nuns, the unwed mothers would finally crack. The babies were sold. The church kept the money.

Now what if the nuns had told the mothers that God had given them this precious gift to be cherished? What if the church had set the women up with jobs outside, provided them with a supportive network, helped the mothers to raise their own children? No profit. Only the glow of satisfaction from helping the unfortunate.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:16 AM on October 18, 2011 [19 favorites]


Maybe not specific individuals, sure, but specific systems of belief? Absolutely.

It's very easy to blame "specific systems of belief" in the abstract, rather than specific persons. Nonetheless, you will not find much actual support in the Catholic "system of belief" for ostracising "sinners" (there's a reason why Magdalene is quite a common given name throughout the Catholic world). This nevertheless happened and was often justified by religion, even by men (and women) "of the Church", but it had much more to do with the not-particularly-religious notion of "family honour", which in the Mediterranean basin, and Indo-European societies in generaln goes much farther back than the Catholic Church.

The involvement of the Catholic Church in these adoptions came through the fact that it ran a large proportion of the hospitals, shelters and social assistance in Spain at the time, in the absence of much involvement by the state or other organisations (of course, to a great extent, the Church, like many other great bureaucracies, actively discouraged and even sabotaged such "competition"). As a rule, the nuns involved didn't choose to dedicate their lives to such services because they hated or otherwise despised the people that came to them (and they certainly didn't get much material profit for themselves either). While they could be (often were) ignorant and/or prejudiced, many of them genuinely thought they were doing good when they pressured mothers to give up their children for abortion, and probably even when they took part in downright deception.
posted by Skeptic at 6:34 AM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Secret Life of Gravy, I'm guessing that those nuns genuinely believed that the babies would be better off with families. The fact that you disagree with someone else's belief doesn't make it cynical.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:36 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


...when they pressured mothers to give up their children for abortion,...

I think you used the wrong 'A' word there.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:50 AM on October 18, 2011


I think you used the wrong 'A' word there.

Yeah, I noticed that too late. Didn't intend to open that can of worms.
posted by Skeptic at 6:52 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


At some point (when the children were healthy and strong enough to travel to America) the nuns would start working on the mothers, telling them how much better the babies would be if they had families, how the unwed mothers would continue to shame themselves and their kin if they kept the babies.

I read a heart-rendingly painful book on this a couple of years ago, from a nurse who worked in one of these homes in the 1950s. In the home where she worked, it seemed to be understood from the time the mothers arrived that there was no way, no way at all, they were getting to leave with their child.

Mothers whose families could afford to pay the not-inconsiderable sum (I think £50?) to have their babies adopted locally could leave when the baby was young; the rest would have to stay and raise the baby for three full years, at which point the child would be adopted and they'd be free to leave. The mothers didn't get to decide who the child went to, or when the child was given up, although they sometimes would have to hand the child over themselves. Horrific.
posted by Catseye at 6:56 AM on October 18, 2011


In the home where she worked, it seemed to be understood from the time the mothers arrived that there was no way, no way at all, they were getting to leave with their child

I also read a book about this but from the mother's point of view. She didn't know it was a done deal.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:59 AM on October 18, 2011


unigolyn: "The fact that the vile Mother Teresa is held up as a symbol of charity and selfless championing for the poor is proof that we are willfully blind to the very worst of excesses, just as long as the perpetrators keep chanting "faith".

Wait, what? I don't know that much about Mother Teresa; why do you describe her as vile?
posted by workerant at 7:32 AM on October 18, 2011


I ask this question sincerely, if there were a medical procedure that would cause unwed mothers excruciating horrible pain and 50% of mothers would deal with lifelong grief, for a large percent grief that increases over time, and would face increased mental and physical health problems: what percent increase in her child's life would be worth causing that to her?

A ten percent increase in positive outcome? A fifty percent increase?

And why would an ethical society not attempt to find a better way of increasing her child's well being that didn't cause the mother such suffering?
posted by xarnop at 7:45 AM on October 18, 2011


Wait, what? I don't know that much about Mother Teresa; why do you describe her as vile?


She felt that suffering was a virtue, and there are more than a few firsthand accounts of the "Homes for the Dying" being full of pain and screaming because she opposed the use of painkillers. She focused on keeping people alive, rather than mitigating their suffering or doing anything at all to actually end the poverty that caused that suffering in the first place, even though she certainly had the prominence and fundraising capability to at least start making some inroads there.

Her goal was saving souls, according to the dictates of her faith; it was not, as so many seem to think, alleviating their Earthly suffering at all.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:01 AM on October 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


The Church was stealing babies from Jewish parents up into the early 20th century.

It went like this:

Jewish parents hire a Catholic nanny/maid because they keep to the Sabbath and won't/can't do any work on Saturday. Catholic nanny/maid baptizes the baby, often because the baby falls ill and the nanny/maid fears that it will die and go to hell unless it is baptized.

Where the baby stealing comes in is that the Church defined anyone who has been baptized as Catholic, no matter who did the baptism, as Catholic. And it was considered horrible for a Catholic baby to be raised by Jewish parents. So in areas where it had the legal clout to get away with it when the Church found out that the baby had been baptized by the Catholic nanny/maid they'd send some thugs around to steal the baby and raise it in a Catholic orphanage [1]. The Jewish parents were aware of the risk, but considered violating the Sabbath to be worse. Yay "moderate" religion.

My point?

I'm not really surprised that the Church was stealing babies more recently in Spain. The Church has a long and ugly history of baby stealing. Once you get started with that sort of thing it's hard to give up.

[1] Where, given what we've learned from Ireland, it may be assumed that the poor child was almost inevitably beaten and quite likely raped.
posted by sotonohito at 8:01 AM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm inclined to believe (even tough I'd rather fact check) that when one believes to be doing "good" and that that understanding of "good" is believed to be backed by "divine inspiration" or "sacred scripture", and there is some profit to be made from doing "good" as well , then all the hell can break loose.
posted by elpapacito at 8:24 AM on October 18, 2011


Well as someone who born at St. Elizabeths Home for unwed mothers and whose subsequent adoption was brokered by the same catholic organization, I have until now been comfortable with the narrative as told to me of my adoption.
This has planted a seed in my head that I believe will fuck with me for awhile.
posted by pianomover at 8:56 AM on October 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


If I ran the world, I'd take a lot of really good pictures of all the churches and then melt it all down for scrap. It sounds like the whole enterprise needs a fresh start.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:53 AM on October 18 [5 favorites +] [!]


When you run the world, PLEASE keep facebook around for this particular day. I don't know that there's enough popcorn in the world for the fun in my fb feed on Catholic Church Melting Day.
posted by artychoke at 9:14 AM on October 18, 2011


Infant adoption still happens today and it still as painful and horrific. Only now they make sure the women believe they deserve it and will walk away saying, "this is the most horribly painful and WONDERFUL experience of my life! I love adoption! Why do I cry so much? Oh that's part of the beautiful process. It's all for the greater good. This is beautiful. I certainly never deserved help to raise my child in healthy way. That would be socialism and wouldn't be beautiful like this painful excruciating wonderful infant adoption experience which is much much better. I hope ALL women go through this for their children! Can I help advertise with the adoption agencies?!!! Please please?!!"

I am both adopted in infancy from a maternity home and also pressured into giving up a child by catholics. I'm kind of tired of being in pain over it, but you know there's my biological brothers wedding to go to so I'll go hang out with the biological family I could have had but they were poor so definately bad, good thing I was raised with the middle class catholics who hated my existance. That was really great for me. And then there's my biological daughter who I get to visit and answer her questions about why she can't come live with me as if I agree with this set up in any way because it is my place.

"You are so lucky and better off. You deserve a two parent home and parents who are not stressed and can be attentive and cook you wonderful food, and a father and house rather than an apartment and parents with financial stability and wealth"
To quote my daughter when she was five, "I know why you placed me for adoption. Because you were poor and you didn't have a husband and you lived in an apartment."

My daughter then living in an apartment with divorced adoptive parents neither of whom bothers to cook food but rather eats only take out and fast food, the adoptive father having behaved violently, the adoptive mother on foodstamps and WIC.

She then says, "But I wish I could have stayed with you because you don't need a husband or a house or money to be a good mom."

Oh curse you all who convinced me to let you take my daughter. Curse you.
posted by xarnop at 9:24 AM on October 18, 2011 [18 favorites]


sotonohito The Church was stealing babies from Jewish parents up into the early 20th century.

Sources? I have heard that story a few times before, but always as something that occasionally happened in the Middle Ages or Early Modern Age, which was usually done by local zealots, and which most Catholic authorities, even at their most anti-Semitic, definitely did not want to encourage (the idea of servants kidnapping their masters' children was not one the establishment liked, even when the masters were Jewish).

Certainly, in your narrative, the "hiring a Gentile nanny so as not to violate the Sabbath" thing sounds definitely fishy: AFAIK, even amongst the most observant, orthodox Jews, childcare is perfectly compatible with the Sabbath, and I don't see how Judaism would have survived otherwise.

There is a different, and again much more complex and painful subject related to this, and it is that of Jewish children who found shelter in Catholic schools, convents and orphanages during WWII. In some cases of children who had lost their entire families to the Holocaust, the Catholic Church resisted turning baptized children over to Jewish organisations (not families) claiming them back after the war.
posted by Skeptic at 9:29 AM on October 18, 2011


The Church was stealing babies from Jewish parents up into the early 20th century.

You're apparently talking about the case of Edgardo Mortara, but you might want to check the dates.

[1] Where, given what we've learned from Ireland, it may be assumed that the poor child was almost inevitably beaten and quite likely raped.

Your assumption is nothing like the actual sworn testimony of Fr. Morta.
posted by Jahaza at 11:00 AM on October 18, 2011


@Skeptic "even amongst the most observant, orthodox Jews, childcare is perfectly compatible with the Sabbath, and I don't see how Judaism would have survived otherwise."

Sorry, I was unclear there, that's why I wrote "nanny/maid". Certainly orthodox Jews can do childcare related work on the Sabbath, but it's vastly simpler if someone is around who can do other work, especially if you need a maid or nanny anyway.

Sources? I have heard that story a few times before, but always as something that occasionally happened in the Middle Ages or Early Modern Age, which was usually done by local zealots, and which most Catholic authorities, even at their most anti-Semitic, definitely did not want to encourage (the idea of servants kidnapping their masters' children was not one the establishment liked, even when the masters were Jewish).

Jahaza linked to Edgardo Mortara, and he's the most (in)famous of the recent cases but hardly the only one.

And at the time, in America, Catholic editorials in newspapers praised the Pope for allowing Edgardo the "freedom" to be Christian by taking him away from his depraved Jewish parents who would have "forced" him to become a Jew.
posted by sotonohito at 12:18 PM on October 18, 2011


The "pope as Nazi" trope is a distortion on both sides. Because yes, membership in the HJ was obligatory, so I don't count that as a mark against this pope. But. The other point is that huge - HUGE - numbers of German youth managed to avoid membership in the HJ, often by dint of great personal bravery, and the pope notably was not one of those. So it was possible - eminently possible - to avoid being in the HJ, it just would have required a bit of effort to do the right thing morally... and it's utterly unsurprising to me that this pope has made the choices that he has even back then. It's a much demagogued issue by both sides, and I've addressed this on the blue before...

'It's hard to have exact statistics, but anywhere between 10%-20% of German youth managed to avoid signing up for the HJ. And it's a flat out lie, if anyone were to claim that there was no resistance from the youth - HJ was opposed, and very bravely by young people - Edelweiss Pirates Hitler Youth:

"Thousands of young people declined to take part in the activities of the Hitler Youth and instead formed groups and gangs hostile to the Nazis. [1.3]

From 1938, until the destruction of the Nazi state, the authorities (especially the Hitler Youth, the police and the Gestapo) became increasingly concerned about the attitudes and activities of 'gangs of working class youths who were collectively known as ' Edelweiss Pirates. [1.4]

The activities of these groups encompassed a whole range of resistance to the regime (absenteeism from work and school, graffiti, illegal leaflets, arguing with authority figures, industrial sabotage and physical violence). [1.5] One Edelweiss slogan was 'Eternal war on the Hitler Youth'. [1.6]

Attacking Hitler Youth hiking and camping groups in the countryside end Hitler Youth patrols and Nazi dignitaries in the towns and cities was a favored activity of Edelweiss Pirate groups. [1.7]

The activities of many young people were so problematic for the Nazis that the Reich youth leadership were driven to declare 'The formation of cliques, i.e. groupings of young people outside the Hitler Youth, was on the increase a few years before the war, and has particularly increased during the war, to such a degree that a serious risk of the political, moral and criminal breakdown of youth must be said to exist. [1.8]

Although most Pirates had no explicit political doctrine, their everyday experience of encounters with National Socialist authority and regimented work and leisure led them into conflict with the Nazis and into anti-Nazi activity. [1.9] The Pirates relied on informal structures of communication for support and 'developed a remarkable knack for rewriting the hit songs inserting new lines. [1.10]

In the working class districts such as Leipzig, youth gangs emerged in the former red strongholds that, while broadly similar to the Edelweiss Pirates, had a more politicized class identity and drew on the communist and socialist traditions of their neighborhoods. [1.11]

As the Allies destroyed more and more sports and youth facilities, and as additional youth were conscripted into the German Army, groups sprang up like the Edelweiss Pirates, Swing Youth, White Rose, and Jazz Youth. [1.12] The Edelweiss Pirates and White Rose damaged Nazi property, destroyed supply trains destined to soldiers, and sometimes fought pitched battles with the Hitler Youth. [1.13]

They also distributed anti-war leaflets, desecrated the Nazi flag, and under the cover of darkness scrawled political graffiti on public buildings mocking Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. [1.14] In the morning when German citizens went to work, they would on occasion see the popular slogan 'One People, One State, One Leader' changed to 'One People, One Heap of Rubble. [1.15]"


Many young people lost their lives fighting the HJ, f.ex.:

"In one incident, the Gestapo arrested and publicly hung thirteen Edelweiss Pirates for writing such anti-imperial slogans and for destroying Nazi property. [1.16] They had been educated by the Nazis in Nazi schools, their free time had been regimented by Hitler Youth listening to Nazi propaganda and taking part in officially approved activities and sports. [1.17]

In Essen they were called the Travelling Dudes, in Oberhausen and Dusseldorf the Kittelbach Pirates and in Cologne they were the Navajos. [1.18] On weekends, they would take themselves off into the countryside on hikes and camping trips in a perverse way mirroring the activities initially provided by Hitler Youth. [1.19]

The activities of the Edelweiss Pirates grew bolder as the war progressed. [1.20]

A 1943 Dusseldorf-Grafenberg Nazi Party report to the Gestapo stated There is a suspicion that it is these youths who have been inscribing the walls of the pedestrian subway on the Altebbergstrasse with the slogans "Down with Hitler", "The OKW (Military High Command) is lying", "Medals for Murder", "Down with Nazi Brutality" etc. [1.21] They raided army camps to obtain arms and explosives, made attacks on Nazi figures other than Hitler Youth and took part in partisan activities. [1.22]"


If you read more on this topic you find truly heroic young people, often younger than 14.

I don't hold the HJ episode against the pope, but on the other hand, trying to paint it as just "business as usual" devalues the sacrifice and real moral backbone of thousands upon thousands of young Germans who actually resisted the HJ through direct action, sometimes paying with their lives for it.

And I certainly don't hold that pig to the high standards of Edelweiss Pirates - he's only "god's representative on earth", so we can hardly expect much from that swine - for real heroism, we have to turn to ordinary young Germans, often of working class origin, but actually from all spheres of life. The piglet need not apply, we have no expectation of him - after all, in all his adult life he's merely managed to keep one step ahead of the law as an apparatchik and now head of the biggest pedophile ring in history - the Roman Catholic Church.'
posted by VikingSword at 12:31 PM on October 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


The Church was stealing babies from Jewish parents up into the early 20th century.

Sources? I have heard that story a few times before, but always as something that occasionally happened in the Middle Ages or Early Modern Age, which was usually done by local zealots, and which most Catholic authorities, even at their most anti-Semitic, definitely did not want to encourage


Stolen by the Pope, no less. Who's been moved for elevation to sainthood, incidentally.
posted by rodgerd at 12:48 PM on October 18, 2011


So which is worse? Stealing babies to sell them? Or raping children? And why do we tolerate an organization that conspired to enable both?
posted by Nelson at 1:20 PM on October 18, 2011


Rodgerd and sotonhito, Edgardo Mortara was 50 when the 20th century started, so he definitely wasn't taken from his parents as a baby during the "the early 20th century".

The Mortara case happened as a result of the Church's civil power in the Papal States, which ceased to exist in 1870, following the capture of Rome by the Italian Army.

So yes, it's not established that "The Church was stealing babies from Jewish parents up into the early 20th century."

And it's a flat out lie, if anyone were to claim that there was no resistance from the youth

Good thing no one's claimed that then!
posted by Jahaza at 1:43 PM on October 18, 2011


@Jahaza You think Mortara was unique? Interesting.

Also, what of the Jewish orphans the Church refused to return to families or Jewish organizations following WWII if they'd been baptized and were thus "Catholic" rather than Jewish?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_orphans_controversy

I'd say that looks like the Church stealing Jewish babies well into the 20th century.
posted by sotonohito at 2:48 PM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, now that we've established that the Church has a long and ugly history of stealing babies, we come back to the subject of the FPP: the Church stealing babies in modern era Spain.

While undeniably evil, I think it's altogether in keeping with the established character of the Church. The Church stole babies in the 1700's, it stole babies in the 1800's, it stole babies in the 1900's.

One wonders how many babies the Church has stolen so far this century, I'd bet more than one...
posted by sotonohito at 2:50 PM on October 18, 2011


Sotonohito, you used the details of a specific case and suggested that cases like it had happened in the 20th century, when it hadn't. You were wrong. Just admit it.

I do think Mortara's situation was rare, that's why it's so famous.

You also suggested that "it may be assumed that the poor child was almost inevitably beaten and quite likely raped." This did not, as far as we know happen to Mortara.

Not to mention the way you slandered Mortara's parents, suggesting that they somehow cared more about not breaking the Sabbath than about their child being at risk for being abducted.
posted by Jahaza at 3:04 PM on October 18, 2011


Also, what of the Jewish orphans the Church refused to return to families or Jewish organizations following WWII if they'd been baptized and were thus "Catholic" rather than Jewish?

What of them?

The "return to families" part is not supported by the evidence. As pointed out by the article linked by Skeptic above. The most famous case is one in which Pius XII personally intervened to ensure that a Jewish child was returned to his father.

As for It's not immediately obvious to me that orphans should be sent from one institution to another another based on their parents' religion or ethnicity.
posted by Jahaza at 3:15 PM on October 18, 2011


@Jahaza I misremembered the date for Mortara, yes.

As for the abuse of orphans unfortunate enough to be put into Catholic orphanages, I think the evidence is pretty clear that physical abuse was near universal and sexual abuse was more common than we really want to think. The evidence from Ireland is pretty conclusive there. Church run organizations were very big on using pain as a tool for coercing obedience from children.

As for It's not immediately obvious to me that orphans should be sent from one institution to another another based on their parents' religion or ethnicity.

In an ideal world I'd agree.

However one of the tools of genocide and general abuse of a margianlized people has been stealing children and raising them away from their families and culture. See the use of that exact technique against American Indian children and Australian native children by those respective governments.

And immediately in the aftermath of a well organized attempt to completely eradicate the Jews I'd say continuing the genocidal effort by trying to turn Jewish children into Catholic children is not really advisable.
posted by sotonohito at 3:24 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


However one of the tools of genocide and general abuse of a margianlized people has been stealing children and raising them away from their families and culture.

Wow, so you are putting the people who actually put their own lives at risk to save those children in the same genocidal basket as the Nazis who had wiped out their entire families? Those children were not "stolen" from their parents, but usually entrusted by them to the only Gentiles courageous and principled enough to risk torture and death for the kids' sake. People who, after the war, were understandably reluctant to "return" those orphans they had raised to people who they did not know, and who were not in any way related to the children.

I wonder who's being heartless, dogmatic and sectarian in this debate. I wish I had half the guts and heart of the people you are accusing of child abuse and genocide there.
posted by Skeptic at 3:00 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


She felt that suffering was a virtue, and there are more than a few firsthand accounts of the "Homes for the Dying" being full of pain and screaming because she opposed the use of painkillers. She focused on keeping people alive, rather than mitigating their suffering or doing anything at all to actually end the poverty that caused that suffering in the first place, even though she certainly had the prominence and fundraising capability to at least start making some inroads there.

Her goal was saving souls, according to the dictates of her faith; it was not, as so many seem to think, alleviating their Earthly suffering at all.


There's that, and also spending a great deal of the donations she received on building convents instead of alleviating suffering, and also the forced conversion of dying Hindus, taking money from genocidal dictators, and being an all-round hypocritical cunt.

Christopher Hitchens's documentary on her from 1994:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WQ0i3nCx60
posted by unigolyn at 4:01 AM on October 19, 2011


Sotonohito, you used the details of a specific case and suggested that cases like it had happened in the 20th century, when it hadn't.

Meanwhile, you claim that the fact that it was famous somehow proves that there were no other, non-famous cases. That's really not convincing, especially when you then cite one famous case of the pope returning a child to his father as though that proves that there were no instances where that did not happen. Applying your logic in the first case to the second one would argue that the notoriety of the Pope's returning the child means that there were no other cases where the Church did return children to their parents..
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:02 AM on October 19, 2011


@Skeptic I must have phrased myself poorly. The individual Catholics who rescued Jewish children were heroic, no doubt.

However, the later policy of the Church of refusing to turn over Jewish children who had been baptized to Jewish aid organizations does seem to fit the general pattern of genocide via child theft that we've seen several times from other sources. I have no doubt that the various churchmen who designed that policy thought they were doing what was best, and I'd hesitate to say they were motivated by a desire to continue the genocide Hitler started.

But intent is different from outcome, and the policy they advocated was one that matched perfectly with patterns of oppression and genocide we've seen in other contexts.

As I said, in a perfect world I'd argue it doesn't matter what religion/ethnicity/whatever an aid organization is as long as it does well by the children in its care. But in the immediate aftermath of an actual genocidal attack refusing to repatriate orphans of the genocide with people of their religion/ethnicity doesn't seem like a good policy.
posted by sotonohito at 6:12 AM on October 19, 2011


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