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Australian prelate questions forced-adoption claims

Catholic World News - July 26, 2011

An Australian prelate is questioning claims made in a senate inquiry that 150,000 single mothers were forced to give up their children for adoption between the 1950s and the 1970s. Archbishop Barry Hickey made his comments following an apology by the CEO of Catholic Health Australia.

Stating there was “little evidence” of the practice, the Archbishop of Perth said that “the Sisters of Mercy have said that it wasn't their policy to do that, but you can't control everybody I suppose.”

“What they think is that in many cases it was the parents who put the pressure on,” he continue. “They all claim they did not put pressure on girls to have an adoption but they did say it was the normal thing, the normal expectation.”

“However, I have heard of unfeeling comments made by priests to pregnant girls that may well have caused them to give their babies up for adoption,” Archbishop Hickey added. “If that was the case, then I do apologize sincerely for their insensitivity.”

Following the publication of his comments, the archbishop issued a statement.

“While it is true that I had little evidence of forced consents to adoption, I realize that many of the young women at the time were not clear that their consent was required,” he said. “Many were confused, feeling powerless during their pregnancy for fear that their baby would be taken from them.”

Archbishop Hickey added:

Consent obviously became submerged under the weight of other issues being discussed. With the involvement of their parents, priests in some cases, and the Sisters, I can well understand that they felt that others around them were making the decisions.

Adding to all this the painful years of grieving for their lost baby, I can only say how sorry I am that they had to go through so much pain and anguish.

The truth needs to come out. It must be faced. Please let us know what we need to hear.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Jul. 26, 2011 9:34 PM ET USA

    I grew up in the 50s, 60s and 70s/I don't think anyone would think it was 'okay'then or now to simply take a mother's baby. Pray for these women and their 'lost' children, pray for the fathers, pray for those who facilitated this tragedy, and pray for those who must deal with these events that their hearts will be filled with understanding and compassion. Do not make the same mistakes here that were made in dealing with the sex abuse scandal.

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Jul. 26, 2011 8:57 PM ET USA

    In those years it was a given, if you had a child "out of wedlock", you gave your baby up. The pregnancy was considered scandalous, kept secret, in most cases. There were "homes" for unmarried mothers to hide in until they gave birth. Few girls had their parents' support in raising an "illegitimate" child. At least, that was the climate in the U.S.

  • Posted by: stpetric - Jul. 26, 2011 6:29 PM ET USA

    Abp Hickey's comments have the ring of plausibility; the situation he reconstructs accounts for the outplacing of thousands of babies without ascribing malevolence or quasi-criminal behavior to the authorities of the time.

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