CHURCH'S HIDDEN ADOPTION FILES

 

SUSAN LOHAN

Sir, - It was fortuitous that in the same week that one of Ireland's most senior bishops took the courageous step of resigning from office over the Church's handling of its sex abuse victims, TV viewers on both sides of the Irish Sea had a chance to see the drama Sinners, based on the notorious Magdalen Laundries.

Based on actual events, the programme highlighted the almost sadistic humiliation and abuse which Ireland's unmarried mothers experienced at the hands of the Catholic Church's mother and baby homes, which in turn went on to profit greatly from their traffic in "healthy white babies".

A follow-up to Sinners would surely deal with the bald profiteering in which the Church indulged up to the 1970s by continuing to export Irish babies to the US in blatant breach of both domestic and international adoption laws.

Many of the American adoptive parents were grateful enough to make donations to the adoption agencies which facilitated their acquisition of a child. Records show that even in the 1960s, sums as large as £10,000 were paid to cover "legal fees". These sums helped to stuff the Church's coffers, which also benefited from the free labour provided by the women and more importantly from the government stipends for every mother and child (under two) in their care. It doesn't come as a surprise, then, that most of the several thousand children who ended up in the US did so around their second birthdays.

The majority of these Adoption Agencies were and continue to be church sponsored, and they persist in treating the survivors of the mother and baby home regime and their relinquished (now adult) children with practised contempt. They refuse them access to their adoption and medical files even when their natural mothers are dead or untraceable and, astoundingly, even when their mothers raise no objections to the release of these files.

All of this is done under the watchful eyes of the Church Hierarchy, the Department of Health and a largely impotent Adoption Board.

If the Hierarchy in Ireland is sincere about examining past errors and making amends, may I suggest that it ends the cover-up by handing over the personal histories of the 40,000-plus adopted adults who may request them, before it is too late. By doing this, and also by opening up its own adoption archives to detailed scrutiny, it would allow many Irish-born adults and children to have the same rights which their peers in the UK have enjoyed since the mid-1970s. - Yours, etc.,

SUSAN LOHAN

(née Elizabeth MacGinley),

Clapham,

London SW8.