News broke late last week that a mass grave had been unearthed at a former Catholic care home located in Ireland. Government representatives working on the investigation announced that up to 800 babies and young children had been buried there, following an initial report in 2014 that only alleged the existence of the mass grave.
The former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in the town of Tuam was run by Catholic nuns. It was a home for unmarried mothers and children. The home was in operation from 1925 to 1961, and many had suspected for years that there was a mass grave hidden on the site.
The analysis of the dead revealed that most of the remains studied so far were from children aged between 35 weeks and 3 years old. Many, it seems, may had been buried in the 1950’s.
Nuns running the home would take in unmarried pregnant women, but then separate the children from the mothers after birth. The nuns would then raise the children until they could be adopted, while keeping the mothers in a separate area of the property.
The remains of the children were found in various chambers below the property that were likely part of the home’s sewage system.
So for decades these Catholic nuns ran a home where they literally had hundreds of children dying. And what did they do? Did they seek outside assistance? Did they change their care practices? No. They stuffed the dead children into the sewer and kept on with their ways. A health inspection in 1947, found the children suffering from malnutrition, with 12 out of 31 infants examined being described as “emaciated and not thriving”. The home was also described as overcrowded, with 271 children and 61 mothers living there.
The nuns just kept shoveling the dead children into the sewer and saying their prayers. Oh yes, and they were also counting all their money. The link above to the Independent article also points out that these nuns were well paid by the government for the children and the mothers they took in. And they kept themselves mostly self-sufficient by tending multiple gardens on site, so one wonders what they did with all their money.
The home closed in 1961 because the town could not afford to renovate it. Yes, you read that right. Not because they were killing children in droves each year, but because their old building needed too much work. The nuns, children, and mothers were all relocated to other Catholic homes in the region. You can read about that on page 15 of this booklet from The Children's Home Graveyard Committee.
This tragic situation highlights a problem that Christopher Hitchens himself pointed out in his book God is Not Great: that we can never know the true number of people who have suffered throughout history at the direct hands of religion. We may be able to look at death counts for religious wars, or look through the history of witch trials, or religious persecutions, but we will never come close to knowing the true number of individuals who have been tortured or died at the hands of the devout.
As Hitch was so fond of saying, “Religion poisons everything.”