I need to talk about the Magdalene Laundries of Ireland


#1

I need to talk about the Magdalene Laundries of Ireland.

I heard of this story back in 2002 and I am hard pressed to find anyone who is willing to discuss it at length. There seems to be so little written about the tragedy.

Here is a basic outline of the Laundries.

I am sorry I can’t deliver a better link.


#2

[quote=contemplative]I need to talk about the Magdalene Laundries of Ireland.

I heard of this story back in 2002 and I am hard pressed to find anyone who is willing to discuss it at length. There seems to be so little written about the tragedy.

Here is a basic outline of the Laundries.

I am sorry I can’t deliver a better link.
[/quote]

Contemplative,

It sounds like this is going to be a very painful conversation. What about them do you want to talk about?

I read the link, and I heard an interview about the Magdalenes on National Public Radio a couple of years ago–probably about the same time you heard about the story. At the time I dismissed it as being something along the lines of “Hitler’s Pope”–National Public Radio is not known for its stirring defense of the Catholic Church–but there has always been the question in the back of my mind of “Is this true?”

This may be something like the sexual abuse scandals in the United States in that the Church simply fouled up royally and there is no excuse for it.

On the other hand, it may also be the case that while the facts as given are true, there are an awful lot more facts that are not given that would change the story entirely. This is the situation nowadays with the Crusades and the Inquisition–kind of like writing a history of American-Arab relations of the early twenty-first century without ever mentioning September 11, 2001. I am most assuredly not trying to gloss over something, but I would counsel against a rush to judgement.

  • Liberian

#3

There is a movie about this.

It seriously disturbed me. You can get it from Blockbuster, it’s called The Magdalene Sisters. If you have young children, do not let them watch it with you.

However, go to www.decentfilms.com first and search for the review. It’s a Catholic movie review site and they didn’t exactly embrace it.


#4

[quote=Liberian]Contemplative,

It sounds like this is going to be a very painful conversation. What about them do you want to talk about?

I have a number of thoughts but rather than shoot them out all at once I will go just a bit at a time.

I read the link, and I heard an interview about the Magdalenes on National Public Radio a couple of years ago–probably about the same time you heard about the story. At the time I dismissed it as being something along the lines of “Hitler’s Pope”–National Public Radio is not known for its stirring defense of the Catholic Church–but there has always been the question in the back of my mind of “Is this true?”

This is a good question. I have looked in a number of places but am always disappointed to discover that our Church has no official public reference to or statement about the Magadalene Laundries. I would rather my source be from the Church rather than NPR or National Public Television or ABC News. The only real public statement I can find about the Laundries is the Church condemnation of the movie ‘Magdalene Sisters’ which is about the Laundries.

This may be something like the sexual abuse scandals in the United States in that the Church simply fouled up royally and there is no excuse for it.

It seems that way. The only difference being that the victims are women rather than boys & children.

On the other hand, it may also be the case that while the facts as given are true, there are an awful lot more facts that are not given that would change the story entirely. This is the situation nowadays with the Crusades and the Inquisition–kind of like writing a history of American-Arab relations of the early twenty-first century without ever mentioning September 11, 2001. I am most assuredly not trying to gloss over something, but I would counsel against a rush to judgement.

[/quote]

The last of the Magdalene Laundries closed in 2001.
No rush judgement…the history is new and there must be a ring of truth to some who testify to the abuse.

Keep the conversation going…thank you.

I wonder why our Church hasn’t made some sort of statement on the Magdalene Laundries. Something…anything would be good.


#5

[quote=Princess_Abby]There is a movie about this.

It seriously disturbed me. You can get it from Blockbuster, it’s called The Magdalene Sisters. If you have young children, do not let them watch it with you.

However, go to www.decentfilms.com first and search for the review. It’s a Catholic movie review site and they didn’t exactly embrace it.
[/quote]

The movie seriously disturbed me too. It has haunted me since viewing it. This was said about the writer at www.decentfilms.com

Mullan claims that his film isn’t meant to be anti-Catholic, but is meant to expose the victimization of young women by a certain phenomenon in the Church. Nevertheless, he freely acknowledges his animosity toward his Catholic upbringing, and admits that he brought his prejudices and sympathies to this project.
Consider how bias the presentation must have been considering Peter Mullan’s animosity towards the Church.

Perhaps the public would have viewed the movie differently if the Church had made some kind of official statement on what happened at the Laundries.

Oh - and I would not let even older kids view this. Even adults should use their discretion.


#6

[quote=contemplative]The last of the Magdalene Laundries closed in 2001.
No rush judgement…the history is new and there must be a ring of truth to some who testify to the abuse.

Keep the conversation going…thank you.

I wonder why our Church hasn’t made some sort of statement on the Magdalene Laundries. Something…anything would be good.
[/quote]

Contemplative,

Hello again, and sorry for not replying sooner.

I read the link you posted–the CBS article–and probably need to read it again. Just from the first reading, though, it sounds to me like rather a tough regimen that may be in danger of getting blown out of proportion. Let me give a couple of specifics.

The former Magdalenes would have a vested interest in having themselves portrayed as innocent victims, as “regular folks” who somehow found themselves in this situation, and perhaps they were, and perhaps they weren’t.

It sounds like the Laundries were analogous to the military schools (where problem boys are sent to put some discipline into them) in this country. Of course there are differences; the Laundries were apparently life-long, at least from what we are reading; again, there may be a lot more information that we are not getting from the news media. A relevant question which I do not have a good answer for is what alternatives were available for these women.

Something else that was running through my mind while I read the article was a report I read about my oldest brother. He is severely retarded and is now about fifty years old. Now he lives in a group home that is very well run, but forty years ago he was living in an asylum. The report was everything the state had on how he had been treated and what had happened to him over those years; it was painful enough reading that I didn’t finish. I threw the report across the room and eventually picked it up with my fingertips and deposited it gingerly in the trash can. I am certainly not faulting the state for its treatment of my brother; this country wasn’t so rich as it is now and couldn’t afford the individualized care, and people weren’t as sensitive to the rights of the handicapped back then.

This is a start. It certainly isn’t everything.

  • Liberian

#7

I suggest reading non-Catholic (as far as I know) James Bowman’s review of the movie here: jamesbowman.net/reviewDetail.asp?pubID=1415

This movie is a clear case of taking a charge that can be legitimately brought against Church officials, and piling on a load of self-indulgent junk. For the film maker all religion is a sham (or “false conciousness” in Marxist speak). It makes a handy escape hatch for the naysayers–they can just say anyone taking a measured look at the laundry scenario is “whitewashing”.

Laundry? Whitewashing? Ouch. I didn’t mean that as a joke. :stuck_out_tongue:

Scott


#8

Thanks for the link Princess, very helpful…
This was a very sad occurrance, even if the movie blew it out of proportion. However, this is not necessarily the history or story of the whole Catholic Church, but seems to be a specific instance, so I think it is very damaging and a large over-generalization to claim it is the subjegation of the Catholic Church, as some articles and sites have claimed (for though it happened in a section of the Church, to declare it in this way makes it appear that the Church condoned/knew about this occurance and did nothing). Still, it is sad,
God bless,
k


#9

[quote=contemplative]The last of the Magdalene Laundries closed in 2001.
No rush judgement…the history is new and there must be a ring of truth to some who testify to the abuse.

Keep the conversation going…thank you.

I wonder why our Church hasn’t made some sort of statement on the Magdalene Laundries. Something…anything would be good.
[/quote]

Contemplative,

On reading the CBS report further, I hear a secular tone to it. Some of the practices that are cited are going to daily Mass and having to pray out loud for the forgiveness of their sins. In modern secular society, these are considered atrocities; if you are trying to be a faithful Catholic, they are pretty much necessities.

Another line buried in the article is this: “And for many, the laundries were the only things that stood between them and the street.” These Magdalene Laundries were not operating in a vacuum.

  • Liberian

#10

You are in the wrong section…try doing a search on “magdalene sisters” and you’ll find a few threads about the movie.

God Bless,

Robert


#11

Visit magdalenlaundries.com

[quote=Liberian]Contemplative,

On reading the CBS report further, I hear a secular tone to it. Some of the practices that are cited are going to daily Mass and having to pray out loud for the forgiveness of their sins. In modern secular society, these are considered atrocities; if you are trying to be a faithful Catholic, they are pretty much necessities.

Another line buried in the article is this: “And for many, the laundries were the only things that stood between them and the street.” These Magdalene Laundries were not operating in a vacuum.

  • Liberian
    [/quote]

#12

It is more than a start…
Not long ago (20 or so years) elderly residents of nursing homes were tied and harnessed in unnatural and inhuman ways…to their beds…chairs. Most had few or no rights. They in fact were called patients and not residents. The term ‘resident’ has more truth and dignity. Today nursing home residents have a much more dignified way of life.

So you see…I understand what your angle is here. It seems to be the only pill of truth I can swallow.

What is left? To forgive and forget? Yes and no…forgive…yes…forget the past and not learn from it?..no.


#13

[quote=contemplative]I need to talk about the Magdalene Laundries of Ireland.

I heard of this story back in 2002 and I am hard pressed to find anyone who is willing to discuss it at length. There seems to be so little written about the tragedy.

Here is a basic outline of the Laundries.

I am sorry I can’t deliver a better link.
[/quote]

I read that link. The first thing that jumped out at me was this quote which shows the author has an anti-Catholic agenda to push:

the cruel Church-driven society of the 1800’s through present day.

Then I read this:

harsh, thankless chores such as laundering prison uniforms, cooking, cleaning and caring for elderly nuns or their aging peers,

To be honest, it doesn’t sound as horrible as it’s made out to be. It actually sounds like noble work to me.

These women would most likely have been disowned by their families and would have been out on the street. Now these laundries were probably not the the ideal situation, but I willing to bet it was better to be in there than being subjected to what would be found out on the street.


#14

I read that link. The first thing that jumped out at me was this quote which shows the author has an anti-Catholic agenda to push

I belive the author was a victim of the laundries…


#15

[quote=Genesis315]I read that link. The first thing that jumped out at me was this quote which shows the author has an anti-Catholic agenda to push:

Then I read this:

To be honest, it doesn’t sound as horrible as it’s made out to be. It actually sounds like noble work to me.

These women would most likely have been disowned by their families and would have been out on the street. Now these laundries were probably not the the ideal situation, but I willing to bet it was better to be in there than being subjected to what would be found out on the street.
[/quote]

This is an interesting angle to explore. I’m sure that many of the families of these women were rather ashamed of the out-of-wedlock pregnancies and put them out. I think a lot of us have Irish ancestry so we have enough background to know that culturally the Irish have an ambivalence about sexual matters. Some of the women apparently had their names changed in the laundries. Do you think it was to protect their privacy or an effort to degrade them? I tend to think the former.


#16

[quote=Genesis315]I read that link. The first thing that jumped out at me was this quote which shows the author has an anti-Catholic agenda to push:

Then I read this:

To be honest, it doesn’t sound as horrible as it’s made out to be. It actually sounds like noble work to me.

These women would most likely have been disowned by their families and would have been out on the street. Now these laundries were probably not the the ideal situation, but I willing to bet it was better to be in there than being subjected to what would be found out on the street.
[/quote]

This was my first thought when I read it. Also, how do we know that all these women were forced into it? Maybe some of them actually chose to live this life as a penance for past sins etc. In the past people practiced physical forms of penance that we, in today’s society, would see as abuse.


#17

[quote=Alice Igeo]Visit magdalenlaundries.com
[/quote]

Alice,

Welcome to the Catholic Answers Forums! It’s good to have you here.

I followed the link you posted, but the owner seems to have allowed to domain name to expire and it is now a generic web portal. Do you have any ideas where I might find what you were wanting to show me?

  • Liberian

#18

I looked into this matter, after seeing the issue raised somewhere else.

Most of the film and accusations is hype and exaggeration. You can see my findings at this site.

p072.ezboard.com/fexaminingprotestantismfrm21.showMessage?topicID=89.topic


#19

Unfortunately a lot of the material I had posted has gone missing from that site.

I found a little on my computer so I’ll post what I can find of my response to an earlier article.

What we have with the Magdalen Asylums is a situation where women who were ex-prostitutes, or “at risk of” prostitution, were admitted (some possibly under some state coercion and having few other options open) to strictly-run institutions, and allegedly often treated with what would NOW (but not necessarily at the time) be regarded as undue harshness.

Conditions where vulnerable people were subject to strict discipline and rigid institutional routines were the NORM in SECULAR institutions in the US, UK, Australia, Ireland and elsewhere until very recently. In fact those unlucky enough to find themselves in ‘’‘secular’’’ mental institutions (and that was a considerable number) were also subject to the maiming torture of drug “treatment”, and Electro-convulsive-therapy. And some of that still goes on today - with no catholic nuns involved! So attempts to present this as some “evil catholic scandal” as the article has done, are utterly misplaced.

Talk of people being kept in “prison”, and being used as “slaves”, is emotive nonsense, bordering on hysteria, and certainly not the stuff of any sort of encyclopaedia. There are many, many institutions in the UK, US and Ireland, where the inmates work, or have worked, both as part of their integration into normal society, and to contribute towards their own upkeep. To call such systems “prisons” and “slavery” is crass nonsense. Not ten miles from where I live there is a community where mentally handicapped people live and work in hostels, under supervision, farming and producing craft goods.

I call the article anti-catholic, because that is how it has been presented. The impression given was of catholic nuns imprisoning and brutalizing people. It is based on one sensationalist book - and yes, there ARE sensationalist books - and books written to an agenda. That is why I quoted a contrary opinion based on reputable research.

Maria Luddy of Warwick University, who wrote the review you pooh poohed, is one of the foremost experts on the subject in Ireland. A paper of hers here: triangle.co.uk/pdf/viewpdf.asp?j=whr&vol=6&issue=4&year=1997&article=Luddy&id=80.225.3.92 states:

‘‘The majority of women who entered these refuges did so voluntarily. Approximately 7110, or just over 66%, and a number of women re-entered, some as often as ten times. From the available evidence it seems that entering a refuge was, for the majority of women, a matter of choice. While it is true that many destitute women ad only the workhouse or the magdalene assylum to turn to in times of utter distress, it would appear that the second was the favoured option of many. The length of stay in the asylums varied from one day for some women, to an entire lifetime of thirty or forty years. It was generally women who entered in their teens or were in their thirties or older, who remained in the homes. ‘’‘The decision to stay was made by the women themselves’’’, and although the nuns certainly did not encourage women to leave, ‘’‘they had little choice in the matter if the woman was determined to go.’’’ It would seem from the number of re-entries that some women may have used the asylums as a temporary shelter, and once they were able to return to the outside world they did so. For others, the stability of life within a refuge, the order and discipline involved may have bought a sense of security, and ‘’‘made it an attractive option to remain’’’.’’

No mention of “crimes”, let alone “slavery” and “imprisonment”.

The article still contains blatant pieces of unsupported OPINION, such as: “Because of their background as prostitutes, inmates were regarded as vile creatures of sin:”

Another extremely dodgy paragraph that has been put back in is: "

‘‘They disappeared as they ceased to be profitable. “Possibly the advent of the washing machine has been as instrumental in closing these laundries as have changing attitudes,” according to Frances Finnegan.’’

This is just opinion “supported” by opinion. An examination of the ‘’‘facts’’’ shows that nearly all such large-scale residential institutions for the non-violent, (secular and religious), disapppeared at the same time, between the 70s and the 90s, as attitudes changed and community-based solutions dominated. The idea that they were closed because the washing machine was invented is risible. And actually, the washing machine appeared around 1920, the automatic following in 1950.

More risible still is the notion that the Catholic church had a wish to run chains of laundries based on slave labour.


#20

A couple of other points.

From a letter to a website:

I would like to object strongly to the Editorial review for the book Do Penance or Perish: Magdalen Asylums in Ireland. It is offensive, inaccurate and potentially libellous. It seems to be taken word-for-word from the book’s website, but with stronger, more offensively opinionated language added.

The review says that “many (were) forcibly prevented-from leaving and sometimes were detained for life.” This is misleading and inaccurate. The nuns had no power to prevent adults from leaving, so they could not “detain people for life”. Minors were detained, but only if committed by the authority of a civil court. Very different to what you are alleging.


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