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

(UPDATED BELOW)

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.

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Update: In the days and weeks after this story burst onto front pages all over the world, questions have been raised about the nature of the infants’ ghastly resting place. There seem to be three different, mutually exclusive claims: that the space was an active cesspit at the time, which now seems unlikely; that it was a disused (stone-slate?) septic tank, perhaps cleaned and rededicated as a burial chamber; or that it was a purpose-built crypt which investigators and/or the media (or Corless?) wrongly presented as a septic tank. See also here and here. Which is it? When we have confirmation, we’ll write another update.

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)

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.

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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.

Pastor Caught Defrauding Medicare for $12M

A California church pastor is going to be admiring the inside of a federal prison for the next seven years.

Charles Agbu, 58, pleaded guilty last December to one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and money laundering, according to the Department of Justice, which also prosecuted his daughter.

Carson pastor Charles Agbu

Agbu, who had served as pastor of Pilgrim Congregational Church in South Los Angeles, admitted he submitted fraudulent claims for highly specialized power wheelchairs and other equipment through a medical supply company he owned and operated, prosecutors said. …

According to court documents, Agbu and co-conspirators submitted about $12 million in false claims to Medicare and pocketed nearly $6 million on those claims. He also admitted laundering cash when he transferred more than $10,000 of the illicit Medicare funds between various bank accounts, prosecutors said.

Pastor Says Sex With Boys Gave Them ‘Sexual Purity in the Eyes of God’

In Iowa,

31-year-old Brent Girouex was arrested on 60 counts of suspicion of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist.

The former youth counselor told police he did it to “help with homosexual urges by praying while he had sexual contact with [them].” He claimed the acts would give his victims “sexual purity.” …

Girouex is said to have told detectives “when they would ejaculate, they would be getting rid of the evil thoughts in their mind.”

Pastor claims sex with boys gave them _sexual purity in the eyes | www.krmg.com

The pastor is married and has four kids. He clearly takes his vows before God very seriously.

As is par for the course in cases involving clergy, Girouex won’t do any time behind bars.

Last week a judge handed down a 17-year prison sentence but promptly suspended it to allow Girouex to get sex offender treatment and probation. As long as Girouex doesn’t violate the terms of his probation, he won’t do any jail time.

What do you suppose the chances are of an openly secular youth counselor getting off with a mere slap on the wrist?

Drug-Addict Pastor Won’t Stop Robbing His Flock

When Tennessee pastor Rickey Reed found he didn’t get high enough on opium for the masses, he decided to try illegally tripping on pain pills instead. And who better to steal them from than the people who trusted him with their eternal life?

A Smyrna pastor caught on tape trying to break into a church member’s home for drugs in 2011 has been arrested again after police say he burglarized the home of another former church member in Antioch.

Rickey Alan Reed, 56, remained jailed Tuesday on $32,500 bond in Davidson County on a single count each of felony aggravated burglary and misdemeanor theft under $500. He was already on probation after pleading guilty in 2011 to aggravated burglary in Rutherford County, avoiding a four-year prison sentence by begging a judge for mercy, forgiveness and a chance to treat his addiction.

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But Jewel Proper, 70, said none of it worked. Instead she found him the morning of Aug. 8 standing in her Antioch home with her pain medication.

“I opened the back door and there he stood in the kitchen. I grabbed him by his shirt and I said, ‘I got you now, you ain’t goin’ nowhere,’ ” Proper said. “He kept saying, ‘Jewel, let me go.’ I said, ‘No! You stole my medicine.’ ” …

Reed was pastor of First Free Methodist Church in Smyrna until he was caught on video July 4, 2011, breaking into the home of Jean Harris, a member of his church. Harris turned the video over to Smyrna police, who have said they had seen similar allegations that he had broken into homes hunting for pain pills. 

“But, But… We’re Christians!”

Priceless:

Saskatchewan farmer Jim Taylor says he knew his marriage was in trouble, but he didn’t at first believe Mounties when they told him that his wife was planning to kill him.

Angela_Nicholson_of_Melfort_-_Google_Search

He was even more stunned when officers alleged that a man she was having an affair with was in on the scheme — and that the pair were also plotting to kill that man’s wife.

“They had to tell me about three times,” Taylor, 51, said Wednesday from his farm west of Melfort. “We’re a good Christian community so it’s really shocking to hear all this stuff.

A lawyer for the wife points out that she has no criminal record and — wait for it —

…described his client as a well-respected woman who goes to church.

That settles it then, right?

Priest Held in Jewelry Heist of Patron Saint

Gold fever wins from religious fever:

A Bolivian judge has ordered a 34-year-old priest jailed in the theft of the sumptuous collection of gem-encrusted gold jewelry that bedecked a statue of the country’s patron saint, the Virgin of Copacabana.

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Also under arrest in the case is the female owner of a hostel where the Rev. Jesus Cortes was lodged when the jewels disappeared April 22 from the basilica in the town on Lake Titicaca’s shore.

The jewels removed from the statue, which was carved in 1580, are worth an estimated $1 million.

Cortes was arraigned Wednesday. He lives in the eastern city of Santa Cruz and was helping out while the church’s pastor was abroad.

Authorities say Cortes was the only member of the church staff who was not mysteriously tranquilized the night of the theft.

[image via My Destination]