Reading Time: 3 minutes

I never thought I’d say this, but I think the Catholic church is actually relieved to be dealing with a scandal that, for once, doesn’t involve priests raping children with the protection of their higher-ups. How else to explain their abject contrition over the discovery that, in Australia, they abducted tens of thousands of children born to unwed mothers in Catholic hospitals and gave them up for adoption without consent?

Australia’s Roman Catholic Church has issued an apology for its role in the forced adoptions of babies from unmarried mothers during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, a practise that has been described as a “national disgrace”.

It is estimated that more than 150,000 young women across Australia had their children taken away at birth without their consent, often never to be seen again.

Women subjected to forced adoptions in Catholic-run hospitals have described being shackled and drugged during labour and prevented from seeing their children being born or holding them afterwards.

…”We acknowledge the pain of separation and loss felt then and felt now by the mothers, fathers, children, families and others involved in the practices of the time,” the apology said.

“For this pain we are genuinely sorry.”

Like the Magdalene laundries of Ireland, this horror had its roots in Christianity’s wicked theology of original sin and human depravity. Doubtless, young unwed mothers were assumed to be sinful, immoral, the “wrong” kind of people; and of course, in the church’s eyes, that meant they had no human rights and could be treated like slaves.

What’s remarkable is that this practice continued even after society as a whole had become more enlightened. The article mentions that, by this time, Australia offered state-paid benefits to single parents in recognition of the fact that there’s more than one kind of family. But even after the country as a whole had recognized that these less-conventional family relationships deserved protection and support, the Catholic church continued to act like a medieval dictatorship, treating women and children as if it was entitled to decide their fates with or without their consent, and splitting up mothers from their babies in the interests of forcing them into the “right” kind of family.

Now that the truth has come to light, the church’s tattered moral standing has taken another blow. I said earlier that they were contrite, but maybe I spoke too soon. After all, they’re still displaying their usual sense of entitled superiority, acting as if others should bear the burden of compensating the victims of the wrongs they committed:

As well as issuing an apology, the Catholic Church has called on the government [emphasis added] to establish “a fund for remedying established wrongs” and a national programme to help mothers and children who were harmed by the forced separations.

Notably absent from the church’s apology is any offer to help identify the people who organized and participated in this act of mass child kidnapping so that they can be prosecuted. Given the time involved, many of them are probably dead by now, but it’s an avenue that should at least be pursued. As with the child rape scandal, it appears that the Catholic authorities are willing to make a symbolic show of apology only as long as no actual punishment follows for any of their wrongdoing.

* * *

In other news, there’s this cheering story wondering whether the Vatican’s relations with Ireland have been permanently damaged. In the wake of the Cloyne report, public anger against the church is at a high-water mark, with some going so far as to hope that the church will follow the News of the World’s example and shut down permanently. And the Pope isn’t helping, with a stiffnecked response that can best be summarized as “How dare you peasants act so ungrateful after all we’ve done for you”.

Even when the facts of the situation would seem to dictate sackcloth and ashes, the church continues to take the path of defiance, acting as if it’s not subject to the laws of the nations in which it resides. Granted, opinions change so slowly inside the Vatican, they may not have realized that this is in fact no longer the case. But, I have to say, I’m very much looking forward to seeing the Irish government and people jolt them into the present!

DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...