Irish Septic Tank Holds the Bones of 796 ‘Illegitimate’ Children Who Died in Catholic Home

Years after a Galway-area Catholic home for unmarried Irish mothers closed its doors, two boys playing on the grounds made a gruesome discovery:

… partially broken concrete slabs covering a hollow — a disused septic tank — “filled to the brim with bones.”

So began the latest scandal to swirl around the Catholic Church, an institution whose reputation in Ireland and elsewhere is in tatters due to a gigantic child sex-abuse scandal and the subsequent cover-up. Irish Catholicism was also rocked by revelations about the cruelty and exploitation that were endemic in the Magdalene Laundries, which I previously wrote about here.

The Galway bones turned out to be human and are thought to be all that’s left of almost 800 children who died miserably in the institution that was referred to locally as, simply, “the Home,” infamously run by Bon Secours nuns. The deaths occurred over a period of 36 years, between 1925 and 1961, the year the Home was finally shut down.

There do not appear to be death certificates for some of the children, which is why a police investigation is now underway. Where there are records, the causes of death have typically been recorded as “malnutrition, measles, convulsions, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis and pneumonia.”

Unwed mothers and their children lived at the Home surrounded by eight-feet-high walls, in overcrowded and sometimes squalid conditions. The child death rate at the Home may have been as high as fifty percent, a number also seen in other Catholic institutions that purported to take good care of “fallen girls.”

The Sean Ross Mother and Baby Home, portrayed in the award winning film Philomena this year, opened in Roscrea, County Tipperary in 1930. In its first year of operation 60 babies died out of a total of 120, a fifty percent infant mortality rate, more than four times higher than in the general population at the time.

Statistics show a quarter of all babies born outside marriage in the 1930’s in Ireland died before their first birthdays. As observers have remarked elsewhere, these were infant death rates from the 17th century.

In one year alone in the mid 1940’s in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in County Cork, out of the 180 babies born, 100 died.

Many who were warehoused at the Home near Galway died because of lack of nutrition and medical care.

A local health board inspection report from April 1944 recorded 271 children and 61 single mothers in residence, a total of 333 in a building that had a capacity for 243.

The report described the children as “emaciated,” “pot-bellied,” “fragile” with “flesh hanging loosely on limbs.” The report noted that 31 children in the “sun room and balcony” were “poor, emaciated and not thriving.” The effects of long-term neglect and malnutrition were observed repeatedly.

It will probably cheer some Vatican lovers that

… the “illegitimate” stigma was not confined to Catholics alone. Reports show that 219 infants died in the Protestant Bethany home in Rathgar, County Dublin between 1922 and 1949.

And “charity” this wasn’t, by and large. An adoption-rights advocate, Susan Lohan, told reporters that

“These were state-funded homes. Anybody who suggests the nuns were doing their best … they were not doing their best. They tendered for this business (and) wanted this business. They got a headage payment for every mother and child in their so-called care, which was greater at the time than the average industrial wage.”

While the mothers didn’t die at the same alarming rate as their children, they experienced pain and misery of a different kind:

Since there was simply no question of the birth mothers keeping their children — the shame was thought too ruinous — they lost all future claim to them. Their punishment was to work without wages for two or three years in atonement for their sins. In the homes they wore uniforms at all times, they had their names changed and they had their letters censored. …

In the few surviving black and white photographs taken at the site no child is smiling. Instead they simply frown at the camera, their blank stares suggesting the terrible conditions.

A local historian and genealogist, Catherine Corless, is trying to restore some honor to the almost 800 children whose remains were found on the grounds of the Home.

[A]s a schoolgirl Corless recalls watching an older friend wrap a tiny stone inside a bright candy wrapper and present it as a gift to one of [the institutionalized children]. “When the child opened it she saw she’d been fooled,” Corless says. “Of course I copied her later and I tried to play the joke on another little Home girl. I thought it was funny at the time.”

But later — years later — Corless realized that the children she taunted had nobody. “Years after I asked myself what did I do to that poor little girl that never saw a sweet? That has stuck with me all my life. A part of me wants to make up to them.”

Corless has helped the story onto many a front page. She’s now fundraising for a permanent bronze plaque marking the site, inscribed with the names of all the children who died at the Home, forgotten in life as well as death — until now.

South Carolina Bible College President Nabbed for Slavery and Exploitation

The Good Book condones slavery and exploitation in multiple chapters and verses, so Reginald Wayne Miller, the president and founder of South Carolina’s Cathedral Bible College, can still be considered a true man of the Bible. But if the charges against him are true, there’s something else he deserves to be called: a felon.

Miller’s police mugshot

A judge put Miller on home detention and had him fitted with an electronic ankle monitor just days into an ongoing federal investigation. The probe allegedly revealed that the former pastor habitually forced foreign students to perform non-academic work on the campus and at his home for a pittance or for nothing; pay ranged from $0 to $50 a week. Prosecutors say that Miller retaliated against those who complained or refused, by blustering that he would cancel their student visas, in effect sending them packing to their country of origin.

“I don’t think we’ve identified all of the potential victims yet,” said Carrie Fisher, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case. Fisher said some victims may have already left the country and some may be former students who have yet to come forward. “Our investigation just started this week.”

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations filed a criminal complaint against Miller this week saying they have probable cause to charge him with forced labor, a felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years for each count. Investigators say Miller forced foreign students to work at the campus and his personal residence for as little as $25 per week. Miller threatened to cancel the students’ visas if they complained or didn’t comply with his demands, according to an affidavit filed this week.

Banner from the Cathedral Bible College website

Some of the students say that the school has no meaningful curriculum and that it primarily exists to trap vulnerable young people into years of forced servitude.

An affidavit filed this week with a criminal complaint against Miller outlines interviews Homeland Security investigators conducted with eight Cathedral Bible College students. Those students told investigators that the classes offered at the college “were not real” and the main focus of the school is having students work full-time hours at the school and at Miller’s home.

Federal law limits those on student visas to a maximum of 20 hours of work per week and that work must be an integral part of the student’s educational program. …

One student told investigators… that he was paid $50 per week for about 32 hours of work. Dr. Miller told [the student] if he did not like this work, he could go home or he [Miller] would call the Immigration and Naturalization Service,” the affidavit states.

Also,

Investigators said Miller misrepresented the school’s education, working and housing situations to foreign students who applied to attend Cathedral Bible College.

Pupils have complained about expired food and “long periods of time without any hot water, heat or air conditioning.”

It isn’t the first time that the man of God finds himself in trouble with the law.

In 2006, the Horry County Police Department charged Miller with lewdness and prostitution after Miller exposed himself to an undercover police officer in a bath house at Myrtle Beach State Park, according to a police report. Miller entered into a pre-trial intervention program and the charge ultimately was expunged.

(Thanks to Buckley for the link)

New York Prosecutors Say Rabbi and Accomplices Stole $12 Million from Disabled Kids

In some people’s interpretation of religious morality, kids have to get fucked one way or the other.

Four men, including a rabbi, were indicted on Tuesday on charges they stole millions of dollars from a taxpayer-funded preschool for disabled kids.

Rabbi Samuel Hiller, Ira Kurman, Roy Hoffman and Daniel Laniado from the Island Child Development Center (ICDC) were busted for allegedly siphoning off $12.4 million of the institution’s $27 million state-funded budget between 2005 and 2012, using the money for themselves and for other business interests.

“The public funds provided to [ICDC] were earmarked for special needs pre-schoolers with disabilities but instead were allegedly used by the defendants for their own purposes,” said Queens DA Richard A. Brown.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli commented that the fraud demonstrated “a brazen disregard for common decency and the law.”

Jewish Journal explains that

Not only were government funds stolen but thousands of special needs children, who have no way to fight back, have had their services denied in a cynical, cruel manner.

Hiller, the rabbi, appears to be the biggest thief of the quartet. He allegedly diverted millions to summer camps and to a private girls’ school where he is the principal (none are affiliated with ICDC), but he also wasn’t above pilfering $30,000 to pay for a plumbing job at his Queens home.

Prosecutors say that the other defendants used stolen money to pay for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and home remodeling.

The four are charged with grand larceny, identity theft, and falsifying business records.

The blog Failed Messiah has more.

(Image via Shutterstock. Dreidel drollery by Terry Firma, with apologies to AC/DC)

Jesus Himself Exposed Megachurch Pastor Bob Coy’s Adultery, and His Enthusiastic Fapping

Calvary Chapel, the Fort Lauderdale megachurch founded by Pastor Bob Coy nearly 30 years ago, will have to get by with a different shepherd, after Coy was found to have “committed adultery with more than one woman.”

Also, said Outreach Pastor Chet Lowe,

“[Coy] committed sexual immorality, habitually, through pornography. … Rest assured, God will not be mocked.

There’s no doubt who ratted Coy out:

“Your sins will find you out,” Lowe said. “Jesus, because he loved [Coy], exposed him publicly.”

Though readers of this blog probably know better, John Vaughan, director of the Megachurch Research Center in Springfield, Missouri, was eager to tell the Sun Sentinel that these kinds of situations are really, really rare.

Vaughan said despite a public perception to the contrary, ministers rarely get caught up in sex scandals.

It’s not nearly as epidemic as people think it is,” he said. “When it happens, it’s big news and people extrapolate.”

Still, church leaders are as prone as any powerful man to temptation. “There are a lot of beautiful Christian women,” Vaughan said. “A pastor, as a man, would have the same kind of temptation as a man anywhere else would.”

Even the Christian Post knows that those temptations are both plentiful and readily yielded to. Its headline about the Coy ouster asks if there is “an epidemic of moral failings” among men of the cloth.

I’ll say.

(Also posted at Friendly Atheist)

Former Pastor Jeff Eddie, Alleged Child Rapist, Is Afraid His Deeds will “Inflame the Public”

More children are alleging abuse by a former Alabama youth pastor accused of molestation:

Former Highland Park Baptist Church pastor, Jeff Eddie, is being held on $1,030,000 bond on 31 counts of sodomy, sexual abuse and possession of child pornography.

Jeff Eddie

Eddie’s attorney, Billy Underwood, tells the TimesDaily of Florence his client has waived a preliminary hearing because he “didn’t want to inflame the public with what would come out from the preliminary hearing.”

Alabama Bureau of Investigation Agent Brian Faulkner declined to elaborate on how many additional victims have come forward, but said the children were affiliated with the Muscle Shoals church, past churches Eddie was involved with, and retreats he went on.

Eddie’s case is expected to go to a grand jury next month.

Pastor Who Defrauded Flock Goes on the Run

He bilked nine people out of  more than $400,000 and caused one victim to lose her home. Now he seems to have decided that God wants him to be a fugitive from justice.

Difficult decision

Bruce Scott, 50, was seen by a traffic camera driving towards the motorway when he was scheduled to be sentenced.

The judge has ordered a warrant for his arrest … following [his] conviction for fraud and theft in November.

The pastor was expected to receive a jail term after he was found guilty with wife, Belinda, 43, of defrauding several people over 14 years.

The couple worked at the Covenant Church of the Cross,

where they met most of their victims.

[image via Eurweb]

Did This Pastor Hire Homeless People to Firebomb His Ex-Girlfriend’s Home?

On Saturday, Mark Lewis, a suspect in a bizarre case involving stalking, a possible murder conspiracy, and arson, was released on bail of half a million dollars. On Sunday, he was back in the pulpit, giving moral pointers to his unfazed congregants.

Lewis is the pastor of the Fellowship Baptist Church in Vacaville, California. The church had taken a number of  homeless people under its wing, and police believe that he asked three of them to firebomb the home of his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Nottingham.

Early last Thursday morning, the trio, sans Lewis, allegedly went to the residence, in which three adults and three children were asleep, and threw a molotov cocktail through a bedroom window. The occupants were able to extinguish the fire before it got out of control.

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Cops pulled over a suspicious-seeming car shortly after the attack.

Anthony Newbolt, 33, of Sacramento, Richerd Wright, 28, of Sacramento, and Kristen Broyles, 30, of Citrus Heights, were in the vehicle. Police said they obtained information and evidence implicating all three in the fire bombing on Chateau Circle.

Police said Newbolt and Broyles, both of whom had unrelated outstanding arrest warrants, told investigators that they had been staying at the Fellowship Baptist Church on Farrell Road in Vacaville because they are homeless. Police said the victim in the arson case has an active restraining order against the pastor of the church, Mark Lewis.

Nottingham broke up with Lewis last year.

Lewis, 39, was also named as a suspect in four separate incidents of harassment and vandalism against the arson victim since Christmas, police said.

Police said they seized evidence during the search, including a handgun and suspected methamphetamine. Detectives said they also found evidence implicating Lewis as a co-conspirator in the Thursday morning arson case.

So we have (1) a clear link between the alleged firebombers and the church led by pastor Lewis; (2) confirmation that they were in Lewis’ debt for letting them stay at the church; (3) police and victim allegations that Lewis was behind a campaign of stalking and harassment against Nottingham (which included damage to her car and a separate fire set to shrubbery on her property); (4) the fact that a terrified Nottingham had been granted a restraining order against Lewis; and (5) the police statement that as-yet unspecified physical evidence ties Lewis to the arson and attempted murder.

Why is Lewis even allowed back out on the streets?

His former lover has misgivings too, to put it mildly.

“That’s the sickest part about it, is that this man claims to be a man of God,” said ex-girlfriend Sarah Nottingham.

She says, ever since their breakup last year, Lewis has been trying to hurt her and her family. Nottingham says she has an active restraining order against the pastor for vandalizing her car and setting fire to her bushes.

I’m living in a nightmare. My kids are so scared. My son knows that this is his previous pastor that is threatening his mommy and his family,” said Nottingham.

In any normal business or organization, accusations such as the ones against Lewis would result in the suspect not showing up at work for a while, possibly until a trial conclusively establishes his guilt or innocence.

But Lewis, professing he didn’t do anything wrong (and we must remember that he is innocent until proven guilty), went right back to preaching, delivering his usual sermon on Sunday morning. It may have been about as memorable as the sermon before that:

Parishioners say the restraining order was served to Lewis last Sunday in the middle of a service, but say they don’t believe the charges and are standing by him.

The flock loves the pastor, that much is clear. And why not? I mean:

Pastor Mark['s] … love and excitement for Christ is contagious. Pastor not only preaches and teaches what God wants, but he lives it. … If you spend a few minutes talking to him, you’ll quickly realize that he is a man after God’s own heart.

I guess we’ll soon see about that.

Woman Slashes ‘Demon-Possessed’ Son’s Throat

From KFDM News in Texas:

A Houston-area woman has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for beating her 5-year-old son and slashing his throat in an effort to rid his body of demons.

A Montgomery County jury convicted Daphne Spurlock on Thursday of injury to a child.

The child’s father returned home in March 2012 to find him covered in blood. The boy spent a month in a hospital and then underwent many months of rehabilitation.

b517_bloody_evidence_chefs_knife

Spurlock, 45 at the time, told investigators she was reading the Bible with her son and realized he was possessed. She stomped on his chest and face and then cut him with a kitchen knife.

The jury heard the defendant’s insanity defense but still decided Spurlock knew right from wrong.

Ritual Circumciser Slices Off Baby’s Penis

When a Jewish circumcision makes the news or stirs discussion, it’s usually a metzitzah b’peh, wherein

mohels, after cutting away the child’s foreskin and tearing the membrane with their fingernailsplace their mouths on the boy’s penis to suck away the blood.

Metzitzah b’pehs are responsible for at least a dozen cases of herpes transmission — and two child deaths — in the U.S. alone.

But there are other risks to ritual circumcision, as the parents of a Pittsburgh infant found out. They are suing their mohel, Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg, because he accidentally amputated their son’s penis.

A local rabbi is being sued after allegedly botching a bris, the traditional Jewish circumcision ritual, and severing a newborn boy’s penis.

The incident detailed in the lawsuit happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill within the last year.

The Jewish circumcision ceremony was performed by Pittsburgh Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg – who is also a mohel.

Sometime during the bris, according to the lawsuit, Rosenberg severed the baby boy’s penis.

According to CBS Pittsburgh, the body part was reattached during an eight-hour surgery requiring six blood transfusions, and the boy was hospitalized for two months.

It probably won’t be known for years whether all is right with his genitalia, and whether his sexual functions survived unscathed. A certain amount of permanent nerve damage is highly possible.

On his website, Rabbi Rosenberg says he is recognized as a “certified mohel by the American Board of Ritual Circumcision.” His site also says “a doctor’s medical circumcision, usually performed in the hospital, is not considered valid according to Jewish law.”

Remarkably, absent any regulated standard for training or certification of ritual circumcisers, Rosenberg continues to perform the procedure.

[file photo via thefastertimes.com]

Iceland Halts Road Project to Protect Elves

Icelandic authorities have decided to halt a highway project out of concern that the new road will displace the local elf population.

Says the Independent:

Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project because it might disturb the creatures’ habitat.

The activists are particularly concerned about an elf church that sits on the potential site. … [T]he project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava.

The activists cite a cultural and environmental impact – including the plight of the elves – as a reason for regularly gathering hundreds of people to block workers from bulldozing the area.

I have to believe that the whole thing is a wind-up, a national running joke, a tongue-in-cheek folkloristic game played on outsiders.

Or not. When asked in a 2007 survey, 62 percent of Icelanders said they thought it was at least possible that the so-called Huldufólk (“hidden folk”) are real.

The best little Huldufólk nugget I found is this one, on Wikipedia:

Icelandic gardens often feature tiny wooden álfhól (elf houses) for elves/hidden people to live in. Some Icelanders have also built tiny churches to convert elves to Christianity.

Gnome more of this folly! In the interest of spreading rationality among the Icelandic elf community, I propose we finance itty-bitty libraries and stock them with teensy copies of Dawkins’ and Harris’s books. Who’s with me?

Pastor Defrauded Social Security For $150K

Screwing taxpayers out of $150,000? For more than 11 years, it was all in a day’s work for Pastor Pennell.

A former Brunswick [Maine] pastor waived indictment and pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to theft of government money.

Carroll Freemont Pennell, 69, of Cushing, Texas, admitted that he lied about the income he received from the Word of God Fellowship Church to continue receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. He also admitted that he instructed the church board to pay his wife, Glenna Pennell, the pastor’s salary.

Fraud-resized-600

In addition to theft of government money, Pennell was charged in August with conspiracy to commit Social Security fraud. He never entered a plea to the conspiracy charge because he was never indicted by a federal grand jury on that charge. The conspiracy charge is expected to be dropped when Pennell is sentenced. …

By pleading guilty to theft of government money, Pennell admitted that he received nearly $150,000 in illegal benefits between February 1999 and August 2010 when he converted to Social Security retirement benefits.

He could be looking at ten years in prison plus a quarter-million-dollar fine.

Pastor Swindles Home Depot Out of $111,000

I’ll let this story speak for itself:

A Queens man working at the Elmont (NY) Home Depot has been charged with using the company’s donation-matching program and a religious charity organization he controlled to steal in excess of $111,000 for his personal use.

A wooden cross over a stack of money with the words in god we trust besides it.

Alfred Williams, 57, was arrested by the Nassau County Police Department’s Crimes Against Property Squad as the result of a joint investigation with the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and Home Depot investigators.

He was arraigned on a sealed grand jury indictment, and charged with second degree grand larceny, second degree attempted grand larceny, two counts of first degree identity theft. If convicted, he faces a maximum of five to 15 years in prison.

Williams … is the pastor and president of a small religious organization named “Faith Without Walls International Ministries” (FWW), which he registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2004.