- (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
Catholic League President Bill Donohue has claimed in a 16-page report that controversial news headlines of a "mass grave" uncovered in Tuam, Ireland of 800 infants from unmarried mothers that died at "mother and baby" homes run by the Roman Catholic Church are a "hoax" and causing "mass hysteria."
"To say that the headline
s of stories about the 'mass graves' are incendiary would be a colossal understatement," the report states, and points out titles such as "Ireland's Holocaust: Special Report on the Tuam Killing Field" (Sundayworld. com, 6/9/14); "Catholic Church Tossed 800 Irish Orphans into Septic Tank Grave" (washingtontimes.com, 6/3/14); "An Irish Catholic Orphanage Hid the Bodies of 800 Children " (salon.com, 6/4/14) and others.
Donohue clarified that he is not disputing the fact that between 1925 and 1961, 796 children died at the home in Tuam, which was documented by researchers looking into the treatment of unmarried mothers and their children.
The revelation made headline news around the world, and hundreds of people attended a vigil by the Justice for the Tuam Babies group, leaving teddy bears and children's shoes in memories of the victims outside the House of Representatives in Ireland.
Donohue disputes many of the headlines written about the case, however, stating that the records have not discovered such a "mass grave."
"More than any media source, the Irish Daily Mail bears the lion's share of the responsibility for igniting this faux controversy. On May 25, 2014, this newspaper ran a story, 'A Mass Grave of 800 Babies.' However, the first sentence written by the reporter, Alison O'Reilly, undercuts this monolithic headline: She said that 'a former home for unmarried mothers may contain the bodies of almost 800 babies.' (My italic)" the report states.
"Well, either there is a grave containing the bodies of almost 800 babies, or there isn't. In fairness to O'Reilly, editors determine the headline, not the reporter. As it turns out, no such mass grave has been discovered."
The Irish Catholic Bishops Conference, which has welcomed the investigation that has since been launched into the case, responded to a request for comment by The Christian Post on Tuesday regarding Donohue's report by linking to an article in The Irish Times from June. In the article, local historian Catherine Corless, who was quoted in a number of articles about there being a "mass grave" in Tuam, says that her words were misquoted.
'I never used that word 'dumped'," Corless says. "I never said to anyone that 800 bodies were dumped in a septic tank. That did not come from me at any point. They are not my words."
The article also takes a longer look at the history behind the "mother and baby" homes and the historian's research that highlighted the deaths.
In an interview with Irish Central on Tuesday, Donohue further noted about the homes where the children died: "Given the conditions the kids were in when the nuns acquired them, and given the fact that people in these homes died prematurely with these so-called fallen women in these homes and orphanages, I'm not doubting that at all."
He argued that there's still "an awful lot of exaggeration going on," and that the "hysteria" that has gripped Ireland, England and the U.S. over the story is "disturbing" because it shows "such an appetite to believe the very worst about these nuns."
In a previous statement, ICBC apologized to anyone that has been hurt by its past system, noting that the story has "shocked" the people of Ireland.
"It is disturbing that the residents of these Homes suffered disproportionately high levels of mortality and malnutrition, disease and destitution," the statement read.
"Sadly we are being reminded of a time when unmarried mothers were often judged, stigmatized and rejected by society, including the Church. This culture of isolation and social ostracizing was harsh and unforgiving. The Gospel calls us to treat everyone, particularly children and the most vulnerable, with dignity, love, compassion and mercy. We must ensure that all children and their mothers always feel wanted, welcomed and loved. Mindful of the words of Jesus, 'Let the little children come to me, because it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs', we apologized for hurt caused by the Church as part of this system"