Child Abuse at Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries: Catholic Asylum Staff Robbed and Raped 30,000 ‘Wayward’ Girls For More than 100 Years

This story was hard to write. Hard to type, even. I had to unclench my fists a few times.

Twenty years ago, shock washed over Ireland. After the Catholic Church sold a parcel of a North Dublin convent’s grounds to a commercial developer, and the construction dig began, 155 bodies were discovered in unmarked graves. The place had been a Magdalene asylum for “wayward girls.” Apparently, inmates who met an early end had been buried in secret — many without a death certificate, without notification of parents or other family, and all without the dignity of even the simplest grave marker.

Initially conceived as rehabilitation centers for prostitutes, the Magdalene asylums — also known as the Magdalene Laundries for the “women’s work” slave labor expected of the residents — eventually grew into houses of horror. The girls, some not even teens, were forced to work seven days a week without pay. The short-term treatment intended by the founders eventually gave way to long-term incarceration. Though conditions varied from one asylum to the next, a strict code of silence was in place for most of the day throughout the Magdalene system. Long prayer sessions were mandatory.

Worse, for over a hundred years, beatings and sexual abuse are thought to have been endemic.


Continue reading my piece over at the Friendly Atheist.

Oz Priest: ‘Finders Keepers Losers Weepers’


When Clyde and Lesley Bevan were told the $6500 gold and diamond bracelet they had lost months ago had been found, they were delighted and grateful to the person who picked it up in a carpark.

Their happiness turned into incredulity when the finder told them he now owned the jewellery under a law that allows finders to keep unclaimed lost property after two months.

He said he would give Mr and Mrs Bevan the bracelet but only if they made a claim under their insurance policy and gave him half the payout.


The couple were surprised when they discovered the finder was a clergyman, the Rev. Terry McAuliffe, of St Paul’s Anglican Church in City Beach.

The Rev. McAuliffe, who said he was a former lawyer, explained he was simply offering to share his windfall with the Bevans.

“It would be nice to keep it but I felt it would be best to get it back to them,” he said. “They can get it back for 50 per cent.”

Ultimately, McAuliffe was overruled by his higher-ups, who made him give the bracelet back to the couple. They have apologized on his behalf.

[photo via the West Australian]

Destined for Death


In the rural village of Dadu in southern Pakistan, tradition held that Kainat Soomro’s own family should murder her, as her sexual assault had made her a token of disgrace.

You can stream the full documentary on PBS’s Frontline, or click the player below.

If the video doesn’t display properly, click here.

Priest and Catholic Teacher Jailed for Child Rape

In Philadelphia, Father Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero were sentenced to serious jailtime for child molestation.

A judge has sentenced a Roman Catholic priest to six to 12 years in prison and a former teacher to eight to 16 years in a sex-abuse case that brought down a Philadelphia church official.


The verdict supports accounts by a 24-year-old policeman’s son that he was sexually abused by the Engelhardt between 1998 and 1999 and Shero, a former sixth-grade teacher, in 2000 when he was an altar boy.

The victim’s 2009 complaint provided the hook for Philadelphia prosecutors to bring the nation’s first criminal charges against a U.S. church official for allegedly covering up sexual abuse by priests.

The same accuser has also brought down another robed pedophile.

The sexual abuse complaints [earlier] led to the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn, who had transferred Avery to the parish despite concerns he was a pedophile.

The Upstairs Lounge Gay Massacre Remembered — And Then Some

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the biggest LGBT massacre in U.S. history. The horrendous fire that tore through the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans, also claimed the lives of 32 patrons, including that of Bill Larson, the pastor of the city’s first fledgling gay church.

For me, this photo started my interest in the crime.


That’s Larson. He got stuck in the safety bars on the windows and burned alive while horrified passersby looked on. It’s one of the most indelible news pictures I’ve ever seen. It made me want to learn all there is to know about the crime.

Oddly enough, that wasn’t so simple. There wasn’t nearly as much written about the fire as you might expect considering the brutality of the attack and the large number of victims. Why? In large part because it happened in 1973, when gay people were still widely considered icky at best and god-mocking evildoers at worst. It seems for all the world that the news media, by and large, thought it better to pretend that gays don’t exist; and that journalists and politicians expressed their disapproval through silence. Consider:

The few respectable news organizations that deigned to cover the tragedy made little of the fact that the majority of the victims had been gay, while talk-radio hosts tended to take a jocular or sneering tone: What do we bury them in? Fruit jars, sniggered one, on the air, only a day after the massacre.

Other, smaller disasters resulted in City Hall press conferences, or statements of condolence by the governor; but no civil authorities publicly spoke out about the fire, other than to mumble about needed improvements to the city’s fire code.

Continuing this pattern of neglect, the New Orleans police department appeared lackluster about the investigation (the officers involved denied it). The detectives wouldn’t even acknowledge that it was an arson case, saying the cause of the fire was of “undetermined origin.” No one was ever charged with the crime

That’s from the piece I wrote about the arson for The Friendly Atheist, here.

Point of clarification: the fire may not have been a hate crime, and we shouldn’t jump to that conclusion. The most likely suspect was a frequent visitor to the Upstairs Lounge, a man with mental issues called Rodger Nunez, who may have been gay himself. There’s a persistent rumor that he was asked to leave the bar — and came back to exact a terrible revenge. We’ll never know; Nunez killed himself a year later.

Anyway, I put the topic on my calendar months ago, for publication on June 24, expecting it to draw little interest. I couldn’t see major news media covering it.

Happily, I was wrong. As of today, Google confirms, there’s easily three times the volume of coverage there was a few months ago. Time magazine, this week, has a pretty solid feature piece on the catastrophe. A new documentary film about the Upstairs Lounge, by the movie maker Royd Anderson,  just premiered. A news team at the New Orleans Times-Picayune produced both a written remembrance and a video piece. I was interviewed about my own story yesterday by a Washington DC radio host who has an audience all over the Northeastern U.S.

And … I just learned that my piece drew the highest number of page views I’ve yet garnered in my so-called blogging career — somewhere north of 250,000 (a quarter of a million) hits.

That’s wonderful. The horror of that day, and the stupid prejudice with which the gay victims were treated even in death, deserves to be remembered.

Padre Steals Church Bingo Money

Thou shalt not let thine flock’s money go unpilfered. It’s in the Bible. Somewhere. I think

A longtime priest at St. Helena Church on Cleveland’s West Side has pleaded guilty to stealing $176,000 from the Romanian Catholic institution, a prosecutor said.


The Rev. Andre Matthews, 54, used some of the money to pay credit card bills, buy cars and pay tuition for a family member to attend Cleveland State University, according to Assistant County Prosecutor James Gutierrez.

Gutierrez said some of the money Matthews stole was raised through church-sponsored bingo.

Parking for Jesus

Via Reddit.

newest submissions _ atheism

Pew: Religious Oppression on the Rise

Bad but not unexpected news for those of who’ve been following the events after 2011’s Arab Spring:

People who hoped the Arab Spring would lead to greater religious freedom across the Middle East have been sorely disappointed, and a new Pew study confirms that the region has grown even more repressive for various religious groups. … The Pew survey of 198 countries found that the share of countries with high or very high restrictions on religion rose from 37 percent in mid-2010 to 40 percent by the end of 2011.

Terry’s Posts on the Friendly Atheist

In case you missed these, I thought I’d bring you up to snuff on the articles I’ve published at the Friendly Atheist over the past week.

• Anti-Gay Mormon Activists Confront Their Prejudice After Learning Their Own Son is Gay.

• Gimme That Old-Time Religion: A Growing Number of Greeks Bow To Zeus, Apollo, and Hera.


• City of Evansville Approves Downtown Public ‘Art Exhibit’ of 30 Decorated Crosses.

• Archbishop Says Tax Avoidance is Sinful. If Only Someone Would Remind the Churches.

• Insane in the Brain: A Rare Video of Mass Murderer Jim Jones Preaching.

• Court Strikes Down New Hampshire’s Tax-Money-For-Religious-Schools Law.

• Infectious Diseases Strike Communities Where Vaccinations Are ‘Anti-God’.

• Free Parking for the Religious in This British Town, but Atheists Are Out of Luck.

• Why We Must Reject Special Treatment for Religious Employees.

Is This Cringe-Worthy Conversion Video Real?

Please, please, let it be a giant wind-up. If not, this makes me want to drink about a gallon of weed killer.

Friday Religion Roundup

• Pastor slips 14-year-old girl a mickey, rapes her while she’s unconscious.

• Dying priest accused of sexual abuse evades court, looks forward to his rightful spot in heaven.

• Anglican archbishop who chides others for not loving the poor enough lives in splendor — in an honest-to-god palace (pictured).


• Four men claim to have been groped by Rabbi Yona Metzger in cases stretching back to the ’80s.

• Pastor accused of planting video cameras inside a women’s restroom at church will face child exploitation charges.

• Church member accused of building a radiation machine to kill Muslims.

• Priest fled scene of accident he caused; two people dead.

In the New Egypt Created By Islamists, Blasphemers Keep Ending Up in Jail

I’m glad that thug Mubarak’s gone.

Too bad there’s now another thug in charge in Egypt — and this one is of the ueber-pious variety that produces people who are especially unpredictable … and extra dangerous. To wit:

This month alone, a Christian teacher in Luxor was fined $14,000 for insulting the Prophet Muhammad in class, a writer was given five years in prison for promoting atheism, and a Christian lawyer was sentenced to one year for insulting Islam — in a private conversation.

Blasphemy cases were once rare in Egypt, and their frequency has increased sharply since the revolution. More than two dozen cases have gone to trial, and nearly all defendants have been found guilty. At least 13 have received prison sentences.

The campaign is driven at the local level, where religious activists have also forced officials to suspend teachers and professors. In at least 10 cases, Christian families have been expelled from their homes after perceived insults.

Here’s a video that shows a crowd of Mohammedans trying to attack the suspect in one recent blasphemy case as he was being led from the courtroom.

The kicker: the guy is most likely completely innocent. Someone created a Facebook page using his name, and sent inflammatory messages from it.

Not that, in this day and age, it ought to be possible to be “guilty” of blasphemy.

Watch the followers of Allah in the video. Keep telling yourself that Egypt is one of the more moderate Islamic countries.

For this level of anger and hatred to burn out, we’re likely looking at centuries, not decades. Sad.