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Laundries survivor: We were slaves


Laundries survivor: We were slaves

From the link: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21334882

A report published today is expected to detail Irish government knowledge of what went on in Magdalene Laundries.

The laundries were Catholic-run workhouses that operated in Ireland from the 1920s to the mid-1990s.

Girls considered “troubled” or what were then called “fallen women” were sent there by families or the courts.

Ellen Murphy, a survivor of the Magdalene Laundries, told the Today programme’s John Humphrys that she was put to work using large washing machines.

“You had to do that or die with starvation,” she explained.

Speaking of her restrictive ordeal at the Laundries, Ms Murphy said: “You never went out, you were locked in all the time… you never saw the world.”

“We were slaves from one end of the day to the other,” she added.

Their Deeds Shame the Devils in Hell


Their Deeds Shame the Devils in HellhellIf you’ve got the stomach to read the news from Ireland these days, you can click here and do so:Opinion: Mass grave ‘filled to the brim with tiny bones and skulls’ shows how we cherish children.Their deeds shame the devils of hell. Twisted Catholicism. When religion is spread by the power of laying guilt on others so some remain in total control. And the nuns TODAY, NOW, RIGHT NOW, see no reason to compensate survivors or families… “Hey! If you survived that’s your compensation!” There are no words for the lack of any sense of shame on the part of these religious orders and zero sense of accountability. This is going on in Ireland in a very dramatic show down between those harmed and their families vs the nuns who couldn’t care less. They are beyond all that. Much the same as the LCWR is toward victims of abuse by its member communities’ sisters. They are beyond responding to this. To do so would sully their pious reputation among their blind supporters, and would cast a bit of mud on their ridicule of hierarchy. What creates this kind of compartmentalization of conscience? It’s got to have some survival benefit to be so strong in the religious and clergy. How does hypocrisy rationalize itself when cloaked in religious life that preaches to others about social justice and how to live by some Catholic moral code? It has got to have some benefit or the Church would not be in the kind of state it is in right now, and we would not be finding tanks of dead babies in Irish convent gardens. What is the price of power? At what cost did one emerge from the bog to clerical heights, or from a poor neighborhood or family in the States to teach our young in Catholic schools? Was the cost integrity? Was it mental illness with a religious uniform? Was it the cost of one’s soul? What kind of families, what kind of parents sent their kids off to religious life and priesthood without a conscience, and what kind of superiors never noticed the lack of conscience in their predatory, and cruel novices and professed members? What is the price of twisted Catholicism and its perks? The price of trusting them is innocence, and sometimes mental stability, and all too often, at the end of the day, one’s Faith, and even one’s life if healing is not found. When is the price too high? When is it high enough for the Vatican to crack down on their sickos, both priests and nuns, and force them to step up to the plate and do right by their victims? I honestly have never believed that pedophiles should be in civil jails with general population. I think an island with an electric fence is fine, just because they are sick and we have hospitals for sick criminals. But the superiors of these religious orders need to be jailed. Just my opinion, as the stomach turns over these dead babies, and the many more to be discovered, and all those who’ve died with their wounds never healed. Jail is fine for those superiors.Hell is empty

via Their Deeds Shame the Devils in Hell.

Column: The Catholic Church owes the women of the Magdalene Laundries


Column: The Catholic Church owes the women of the Magdalene Laundries

The Catholic Church and the Irish State were both responsible for incarcerating women in the Magdalene Laundries – and so both must pay, writes Anne Ferris TD.

From the link: http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/column-the-catholic-church-owes-the-women-of-the-magdalene-laundries-975017-Jul2013/

IN APRIL 1955, a Scottish writer researching a book about Ireland talked his way into the Magdalene Laundry in Galway. First he had to obtain the permission of the Bishop of Galway, Dr Michael John Browne, the same man who a decade later would refer to the RTE broadcaster Gay Byrne as “a purveyor of filth” for the sin of discussing the colour of a lady’s nightgown on the Late Late Show.

True to form, Bishop Browne warned the Scotsman “if you write anything wrong it will come back on you” adding as a condition of entry to the laundry that anything intended to be published about the visit would have to be approved in advance by the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Mercy.

The Scotsman, Dr Halliday Sutherland, agreed to abide by the bishop’s stipulation and was granted rare access to a Magdalene laundry.  His subsequent account is worked into a single chapter in his 1956 book ‘Irish Journey’. To what extent it was censored by the Mother Superior, we will never know.

An ‘agreed’ year of unpaid domestic service

The day before he visited the laundry in Galway, Dr Sutherland visited the Mother and Baby home in Tuam. He noted that the accepted practice was that unmarried mothers in the Tuam home ‘agreed’ to provide a year of unpaid domestic service to the nuns, and that in addition to this servitude, the home received State support, via Galway County Council, to the tune of £1 per child or mother per week.

Sutherland was told that any child not adopted by the age of seven was sent to work in one of Ireland’s notorious Industrial Schools, no doubt a factor in the decisions of the thousands of Irish women who ‘agreed’ to the export of their children for Catholic adoptions abroad. Women who were re-admitted to the Tuam Mother and Baby Home on a second occasion were automatically sent to work at the Magdalene Home Laundry in Galway.  By directing the women to the laundry and the children to the industrial schools the State saved money and the Church made money.

Church and State incarcerated women: both must pay

Today, thanks to the Magdalene survivors groups we know what the women suffered and that the Mother and Baby homes were only one of many routes by which the Church and State incarcerated women in the Magdalene laundries and similarly operated religious institutions.  This is why in February of this year, after successive governments failed to engage meaningfully with the Magdalene survivors, the current Taoiseach made a formal apology to the women on behalf of the State.

This week the Government announced a redress fund for the survivors. It remains to be seen if the amount and means of payment will prove sufficient to compensate for the State’s role in this tragedy. No sum of money can take away the pain that these women have endured.  In my capacity of Vice Chair of the Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality I personally undertake to closely monitor the progress of any necessary legislation designed to effect the speedy and appropriate distribution of redress to the women concerned. But there can be absolutely no ambiguity regarding the financial contribution to be made by the Church. There is now no hiding from the enormity of what these women suffered in the so called ‘care’ of these religious institutions.

Stripped of personal liberty

On the day in 1955 that Dr Halliday Sutherland visited the Galway Magdalene he met some of its seventy-three unpaid manual workers who lifted and toiled in the heat and wet doing laundry work for businesses, institutions and homes in Galway.  One woman told him she had been there for 25 years. He asked another if she liked the laundry.  She answered “yes” but according to Sutherland she did not look him in the eye. Later, he said, a nun told him that she was a bold girl.

“On Sundays they’re allowed to use cosmetics”, the sister-in-charge told him.

But…“Are the girls free?” asked Sutherland.

“Yes” said the nun.

“Can a girl leave whenever she chooses?

“No, we are not as lenient as all that.” said the Mother Superior.

Anne Ferris is the Labour Party TD for Wicklow and East Carlow.  She is also Vice Chair of the Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality.

Magdalene survivors to receive €11,500 to €100,000


Magdalene survivors to receive €11,500 to €100,000

By Joe Humphreys Wed, Jun 26, 2013, 20:24

From the link: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/magdalene-survivors-to-receive-11-500-to-100-000-1.1443375#.UcsskVXU5Fo.facebook

Government provides at least €34.5 million to compensate women held in laundries

Survivors of the Magdalene laundries are to receive lump sum payments of between €11,500 and €100,000 for their time spent in the institutions, the Government has announced.

Under a new compensation scheme, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said approximately 600 women were expected qualify for the ex gratia payments, and “crucially payment of these sums of money is not dependent on proof of any hardship, injury or abuse”.

Members of one group representing survivors have rejected the offer. Magdalene Survivors Together want all the women detained to be given a basic payment of €50,000 and one member has called on the Government to go back to the drawing board.

While Mr Shatter said it was impossible to give an accurate prediction of total costs as the number of validated applicants had yet to be established “my officials estimate the total cost of these lump sum payments would be in the range of €34.5 million to €58 million.

A woman who spent any time of three months or less would receive a lump sum of €11,500, and the amount then increases. For one year it will be €20,500 and for five years €68,500. The maximum payment is €100,000 for women were in a laundry for 10 years or more.

Women who are entitled to more than €50,000 through the scheme will receive a €50,000 lump sum, plus an annual payment calculated from the remaining sum, which would be paid weekly.

Allowing for this condition, “one off payments in the range would total €24 million to €40 million with total weekly payments amounting to €70,000 to €1.26 million annually.”

To minimise further legal costs, Mr Justice Quirke, president of Law Reform Commission, recommended that before accepting any payment, the woman should agree not to make any further claim against the State and should have access to independent legal advice.

Mr Shatter said it was in discussions with the Legal Aid Board on how to provide that advice.

Mr Shatter has met the four religious congregations which ran the laundries and told them they are expected to contribute to the compensation. “There will be great disappointment within Cabinet if the congregations fail to make a contribution,” he said. Mr Shatter would not put a figure on how much they are expected to pay. During talks with the orders, some nuns said they still care for more than 100 Magdalene survivors at their own expense. “They are making a contribution by providing them with accommodation and supports,” he said. “Of course they are going to incur expense and work has to be done in providing us with the verifying records that are necessary.”

Women who were held in one of the Magdalene laundries rejected the offer and called on the Government to go back to the drawing board. Members of

Magdalene Survivors Together want all the women detained to be given a basic payment of €50,000 for the emotional and psychological damage suffered, with additional compensation sought for work at the laundries. They also want all the money paid in one bulk, instead of an initial lump sum followed by weekly amounts making up the balance.

Maureen Sullivan, the youngest known survivor admitted to one of the laundries, said women were forced to work from morning till night — washing floors from 7.30am, in a laundry throughout the day, and then making rosary beads at night. “I think they totted it up all wrong,” she said. “They need to go back to the drawing board.”

But Sally Mulready of the Irish Women Survivors Network, which represents around 60 UK based survivors, said it welcomed the scheme as a “fair, fast and just settlement, without endless lawyers and legal costs”.

She particularly welcomed the provision for enhanced pension which was fitting recognition of the time women spent working in the laundries.

The Sisters of Mercy ran two laundries, one in Dun Laoghaire which closed in 1963 and one in Galway which closed in 1984. It said its archives will be open for women to check how long they spent in the institutions.

The congregation also said it supported the possibility of mediation between nuns and surviving women. “We will welcome the opportunity for such interaction mindful that all Sisters who held positions of responsibility and worked in Galway or Dun Laoghaire are now deceased,” they said.

Other recommendations made by Judge Quirke include:

* Magdalene women will be granted free access to services — including GP, hospital care, drugs and dental counselling — by way of an enhanced medical card.

* All Magdalene women who have reached pensionable age will have income equivalent to the state contributory pension.

* Those who have not reached pensionable age will have income of 100 euro per week.

* All cash payments will be exempt from income tax and other taxes and will not be taken into account in means testing for social welfare or other benefits.

* A dedicated unit will be created to provide advice and support, assistance in meeting with religious congregations and social opportunities to meet other such women.

Irish church knew abuse ‘endemic’


Irish church knew abuse ‘endemic’

From the link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8059826.stm

An inquiry into child abuse at Catholic institutions in Ireland has found church leaders knew that sexual abuse was “endemic” in boys’ institutions.

It also found physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of institutions.

Schools were run “in a severe, regimented manner that imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on children and even on staff”.

The nine-year inquiry investigated a 60-year period.

About 35,000 children were placed in a network of reformatories, industrial schools and workhouses up to the 1980s.

More than 2,000 told the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse they suffered physical and sexual abuse while there.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, said he was “profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions”.

“This report makes it clear that great wrong and hurt were caused to some of the most vulnerable children in our society,” he said.

“It documents a shameful catalogue of cruelty: neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, perpetrated against children.”

The five-volume study concluded that church officials encouraged ritual beatings and consistently shielded their orders’ paedophiles from arrest amid a “culture of self-serving secrecy”.

It also found that government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.

The findings will not be used for criminal prosecutions – in part because the Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report.

No real names, whether of victims or perpetrators, appear in the final document.

Police were called to the commission’s news conference amid angry scenes as victims were prevented from attending.

One of the many victims, John Walsh of Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, said the absence of prosecutions had left him feeling “cheated and deceived”.

“I would have never opened my wounds if I’d known this was going to be the end result,” he said.

“It has devastated me and will devastate most victims because there are no criminal proceedings and no accountability whatsoever.”

More allegations were made against the Christian Brothers than the other male orders combined.

The report found child safety was not a priority for the Christian Brothers who ran the institutions, the order was defensive in its response to complaints and failed to accept any congregational responsibility for abuse.

Ritual beatings

The report said that girls supervised by orders of nuns, chiefly the Sisters of Mercy, suffered much less sexual abuse but frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said those who perpetrated violence and abuse should be held to account, “no matter how long ago it happened”.

“Every time there is a single incident of abuse in the Catholic Church, it is a scandal. I would be very worried if it wasn’t a scandal… I hope these things don’t happen again, but I hope they’re never a matter of indifference,” he said.

The commission said overwhelming, consistent testimony from still-traumatized men and women, now in their 50s to 80s, had demonstrated beyond a doubt that the entire system treated children more like prison inmates and slaves than people with legal rights and human potential.

“The reformatory and industrial schools depended on rigid control by means of severe corporal punishment and the fear of such punishment,” it said.

“The harshness of the regime was inculcated into the culture of the schools by successive generations of brothers, priests and nuns.

“It was systemic and not the result of individual breaches by persons who operated outside lawful and acceptable boundaries.

“Excesses of punishment generated the fear that the school authorities believed to be essential for the maintenance of order.”

The report proposed 21 ways the government could recognise past wrongs, including building a permanent memorial, providing counselling and education to victims, and improving Ireland’s current child protection services.

Magdalene Laundries


Magdalene Laundries

‘Magdalene Laundries’ was a giant laundry business run by Nuns (Sisters of Mercy) who forced young women into these asylums, torturing and using them for free labor. Held against their will, the girls were degraded, and manipulated into believing they had to be washed of their ‘sins’ for being “fallen women”. That is, for getting pregnant before marriage (including victims of rape), for being “too pretty” and “tempting to men”, mentally disabled, or if a girl was outspoken, strong-willed, or otherwise non-conforming.

The innocent ladies were forced to work endlessly without compensation, starved, and physically abused, denied of their rights and freedom. They also endured a daily regime that included long periods of prayer and enforced silence.  An estimated 30,000 women passed through Ireland’s laundries and the last asylum in Ireland closed on September 25, 1996. To-date, the “Sisters of Mercy” deny the abuse they have caused, but claim that the documents of many inmates have burned in “accidental” fires. The Irish government has done nothing about this. In fact, to-date the government claims the ladies were here “willingly”. Survivor testimonies prove otherwise.

Call for Magdalene survivors redress

Two advocacy groups have called on the State to issue a formal apology and to establish a redress scheme for survivors of the Magdalene Laundries.

The Adoption Rights Alliance and the Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) group said they wished to highlight the “unacceptable lack of response from both church and State in facing up to Ireland’s dark past in its treatment of vulnerable women incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries” and mother-and-baby homes.

The identities, history and heritage of their children were also taken away through the closed, secret adoption practices run by the Catholic Church, the groups said.

Director of JFM Mari Steed was in Dublin to participate in an RTÉ documentary about vaccine trials conducted on infants in those mother and baby homes without their mothers’ consent.

Ms Steed was born at the Bessboro mother-and-baby home in Cork in 1960 and sent to the United States for adoption in December 1961.

She was one of the more than 200 children involved in the vaccine trials conducted by then Burroughs Wellcome (now Glaxo SmithKline).

Ms Steed, the daughter of a Magdalene survivor, was one of more than 2,000 children secretly sent to the United States from Ireland for adoption.

She said she found the ethics of the vaccine trials “absolutely abhorrent”.

As well as the fact the women in the Magdalene homes were neither told about the trials nor asked for their consent, there had been no medical follow-up to check for after-effects.

Ms Steed said she had a “very happy” adoptive upbringing but had become curious and had sought to trace her blood mother in the early 1990s.

She had met with “harassment”, “lies” and “a road block” at every stage, she said. She was reunited with her birth mother in 2001.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance called for changes to the closed, sealed adoption process used here. Ms Lohan said this would not be addressed by the Adoption Bill, which is due to be passed into law shortly.

Ms Lohan said the Adoption Board was a “moribund” organisation, with no representation from adopted people on its board.

Claire McGettrick of the Justice for Magdalenes and Adoption Rights Alliance criticised the “stonewalling” by the Church and State in relation to the Magdalenes redress issue.

She said the Conference of Religious in Ireland had declined to meet the groups.

Representatives of the Justice for Magdalenes group met Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Seán Brady last June. He encouraged them in their efforts to establish dialogue with religious congregations.

Cardinal Brady said at the time it was a welcome opportunity to listen to the perspective of the group on “the story of the involvement of church, State and society in the former Magdalene laundries”.

The group’s representatives said today they were waiting for a further response from Cardinal Brady.

The Adoption Rights Alliance says there are more than 42,000, and possibly as many as 50,000, adopted people in Ireland.

In some cases in the 50s and 60s, children were adopted illegally from institutions, and their births were registered as if they were the natural-born children of the adoptive parents. The groups have no figures on the number of children affected.

A Life of Servitude Behind Convent Walls

 Someone once said the only thing really new in the world is the history we don’t know. The Irish people are learning that right now and it’s a painful experience.

It began five years ago when an order of nuns in Dublin sold off part of its convent to real estate developers. On that property were the remains of 133 women buried in unmarked graves, and buried with them was a scandal.

As it turns out, the women had been virtual prisoners, confined by the Catholic Church behind convent walls for perceived sins of the flesh, and sentenced to a life of servitude in something called the Magdalene laundries.

It sounds medieval, something that happened hundreds of years ago, but, in fact, the last Magdalene laundry closed just over two years ago. And as the story was firstly reported in 1999, revelations have shocked the Irish people, embarrassed the Catholic Church and tarnished the country’s image.

From the front, the former Good Shepherd Convent in Cork looks like an exclusive private school, with a hidden history too heavy to tell. At the back of the convent, you can still see the skeleton of the washhouse, one of dozens of Magdalene institutions scattered across the countryside.

It was there that Mary Norris and Josephine McCarthy each spent three years of hard labor, enforced silence and prayer, after it was decided that they were in moral danger and unfit to live in Irish society.

Both had come from troubled homes, spent time in Catholic orphanages, and were sent out as servant girls, where they ran into trouble with their employers for staying out late. They were turned over to the nuns because it was suspected they either were, or were about to become, sexually active. Josephine says she was accused of having sex in the backseat of a car.

“And then the next thing I knew, I was with this woman on a train to Cork. And I was just brought up here. I was just told my name was Phyllis, and I’d work in the laundry,” said McCarthy, walking down the laundry during her revisit to the convent.

They were given new names by the nuns to help them break from their pasts. No one knows how many women were sent off to the laundries. The religious orders refuse to make those records available, but estimates range into the tens of thousands.

The church was the only authority under which they were held, as Norris explained. “I would have rather been down in the women’s jail. At least I would have got a sentence and I would know when I was leaving,” she said.

“It’s made me feel a horrible, dirty person all my life,” McCarthy added, when the two of them walked past the convent.

They were both teenagers when they came here, Norris in the 1950s and McCarthy in the 1960s. Their only crime was appearing to violate the moral code dictated by the church. At that time, it was the church and not the state that was the most powerful force in Ireland. There was no due process and no appeal.

According to McCarthy, the women got up about 5 in the morning, went to Mass, had breakfast, started work and then went to bed about 7 at night.

“That was it. That was our life. And we dare not ask questions,” she said. “And (the work is) very hard. You’d have to hand-wash – scrub. You’d have no knuckles left. Ironing – you would be burnt. It was just hard work.”

The choice of work was no accident. They were called “Magdalenes”, or “penitents”. By scrubbing, they were supposed to wash away their sins along with the stains on the laundry of the orphanages, churches, prisons and even the local butcher shop.

The income from their labor put a roof over their heads, food on their plates, and financed any other ventures the nuns might be involved in.

Besides washing all day, every “Magdalene” needed to pray out loud for her sins.

The laundries got their name from Mary Magdalene, the fallen woman who became one of Jesus’ closest followers. They began 150 years ago as homes to rehabilitate prostitutes. But by the early 20th century, the role had been expanded to care for unwed mothers and other young women the church considered to be wayward.

The stigma attached to illegitimacy and promiscuity was so severe that the woman was often thrown out of her home, driven from her community, disowned by her family. And for many, the laundries were the only things that stood between them and the street. Although few visual records could be found, some of the massive compounds are still standing.

One of the former Magdalene institutions in Waterford is now a college campus. Niall McElwee, a sociologist who teaches here, has written about the Magdalens.

He said girls could be sent to the institution by different people – parish priests, Catholic curates, family members and sometimes even the girls themselves.

Although some people knew the laundries existed, according to McElwee, what went on behind the convent walls was largely a mystery. It was a place to be feared.

“There would have been apple trees, for example. And this would be one place where children would not steal apples, mainly because they were afraid of what would happen to them if they got caught inside,” he explained.

“Some people are arguing that these were prisons. At least in a prison, people had certain rights and responsibilities that were certainly taken away from the women within these walls.”

Quoting from one of the religious people, McElwee said in those days, “every effort was made to try and locate these girls.” Therefore, even if the confined girls wanted to escape, it would have been very difficult. At the Magdalene institution in Cork, Norris and McCarthy were locked behind 20-foot brick walls, topped with shards of broken glass that were mortared into the concrete.

The only way out was to be claimed by a relative who was willing to take responsibility. McCarthy recalled that they were watched 24 hours a day. And the chances of being claimed was slim, too.

“My mother didn’t know where I was. My sisters didn’t know where I was. Nobody knew where I was,” said Norris.

In some cases, inquiring family members were told that the church had found their missing relatives in other cities, and with new names, they could be difficult to locate.

Norris was finally released when an aunt in Boston began making inquiries. McCarthy was rescued by a brother in London.

She said, “When I left, they gave my brother an envelope with three 10-shilling notes in it. And my brother asked the nun what it was for, and she said, ‘That’s the payment for working.’ And my brother wasn’t very nice. And he just tore it up and threw it back at her.”

At that time, 30 shillings was about $3.20.

According to McCarthy and Norris, the experience was hardest on unmarried mothers. Their children were taken from them at birth and placed in orphanages, sometimes within the same compound. Both of them remembered a woman who could see and hear her child. “She couldn’t even talk to her; she couldn’t smile at her. And that was her daughter, her baby daughter in the orphanage,” McCarthy recalled.

Most of the babies were eventually adopted, some by good Catholic families in the United States.

Vincent Browne, founder of Magill magazine, is one of Ireland’s most respected editors and journalists. He believes what happened to those “Magdalenes” have a lot to do with people’s attitudes on sex and women.

“That part of the veneration of the Blessed Virgin has been to accord a status to virginity,” he said. “To some extent, women who had had sex, within or without marriage, were regarded as unclean and – and as less than perfect.”

Browne said the nuns believed that through suffering and hard work in the laundries for the greater glory of God, they might find salvation in heaven.

“And I suppose a lot of conscientious Catholics were going to be preserved for the hereafter, even though their lives on Earth was going to be harsh and difficult,” he added.

When the last laundries finally closed, most of the Magdalenes had nowhere to go. Many of them now reside in group homes and convents around the country. For example, a convent in Dublin still holds some women now being cared for by the same nuns who once confined them.

The association that represents the nuns, or the Conference of Religious of Ireland, declined an interview. It, however, provided CBS a statement saying, the Sisters accept the part they played in this regrettable era and asked that it be examined in context. The statement also admits that many former Magdalenes had painful memories and welcomed the opportunity for them to speak with us.

But when the CBS reporter knocked on the door, he was told, “There’s no one to speak.”

“I think the attitude at the moment is to batten down the hatches and hope to God that the scandals over-blow and that the media take up some other cause,” said McElwee.

The story of the Magdalene laundries is but the latest blow to the prestige and power of the Catholic Church in Ireland, which no longer dominates the political agenda. The church, perhaps afraid of litigation and a movement to win some sort of compensation for the women, has remained silent.

The only church official who was willing to discuss the laundries was Willie Walsh, Bishop of Killaloe.

He said, “I think we ought never to be afraid of truth. I think truth is a fundamental Gospel value.” He agreed that in some ways, the values of Gospel could not be reconciled with the treatment that some of these Magdalen women received.

For now, the women must be content with small victories. Norris petitioned the sisters of the Good Shepherd in Cork to at least list the names of the Magdalenes who had been buried in unmarked graves behind the laundry. The nuns complied.

“I, who lived in that society, have a deep sense of shame at the wrong that has been done to them,” said Bishop Walsh. “I would see an obligation in us to make some effort to make our reparation for the wrongs that were done to these girls. It’s not just a matter for the nuns, or for the religious orders. I think it’s a matter for all of us in society.”