Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spain's stolen babies – More legacies of Franco & the Catholic Church come to light

Another reminder of the massive crimes of the twentieth century and their lingering after-effects. According to a BBC report:
Spanish society has been shaken by allegations of the theft and trafficking of thousands of babies by nuns, priests and doctors, which started under Franco and continued up to the 1990s.
This is startling. These baby-stealings began during the Franco dictatorship of 1936-1975, and represented one aspect of the long-time alliance between Francoism and the Catholic Church. But that part of the story is not surprising. (Nor is it unique. Kidnapped babies were also a specialty of the Argentine military dictatorship of 1976-1983, though on a much smaller scale than in Franco's Spain—and in the Argentine case, as far as I know, the Church didn't play any significant institutional role.) What is startling is that these practices may have continued after the end of the Franco regime.

Less surprising, I'm afraid, is the involvement of the Catholic Church:
The scandal is closely linked to the Catholic Church, which under Franco assumed a prominent role in Spain's social services including hospitals, schools and children's homes.
Some highlights are below. Or you can read the whole thing (including two video clips.

—Jeff Weintraub

==============================
BBC News
October 18, 2011
Spain's stolen babies and the families who lived a lie
By Katya Adler

Spanish society has been shaken by allegations of the theft and trafficking of thousands of babies by nuns, priests and doctors, which started under Franco and continued up to the 1990s. [....]

In 1971 Manoli [Pagador], who was 23 at the time and not long married, gave birth to what she was told was a healthy baby boy, but he was immediately taken away for what were called routine tests.

Nine interminable hours passed. "Then, a nun, who was also a nurse, coldly informed me that my baby had died," she says.

They would not let her have her son's body, nor would they tell her when the funeral would be.

Did she not think to question the hospital staff?

"Doctors, nuns?" she says, almost in horror. "I couldn't accuse them of lying. This was Franco's Spain. A dictatorship. Even now we Spaniards tend not to question authority."

The scale of the baby trafficking was unknown until this year, when two men - Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno, childhood friends from a seaside town near Barcelona - discovered that they had been bought from a nun. Their parents weren't their real parents, and their life had been built on a lie.

Juan Luis Moreno discovered the truth when the man he had been brought to call "father" was on his deathbed. "He said, 'I bought you from a priest in Zaragoza'. He said that Antonio had been bought as well."

The pair were hurt and angry. They say they felt like two dogs that had been bought at a pet shop. An adoption lawyer they turned to for advice said he came across cases like theirs all the time.

The pair went to the press and suddenly the story was everywhere. Mothers began to come forward across Spain with disturbingly similar stories. [....]

After months of requests from the BBC, the Spanish government finally put forward Angel Nunez from the justice ministry to talk to me about Spain's stolen children.

Asked if babies were stolen, Mr Nunez replied: "Without a doubt".

"How many?" I asked.

"I don't dare to come up with figures," he answered carefully. "But from the volume of official investigations I dare to say there were many."

Lawyers believe that up to 300,000 babies were taken.

[JW: I have to say that this mind-boggling figure strikes me as implausibly large, even if one takes into account the huge numbers of people imprisoned and executed during and after the Civil War, many of whom would have left orphans behind or, if they survived, could have lost their children while imprisoned. But what do I know? And even much lower figures would be horrifying.]

The practice of removing children from parents deemed "undesirable" and placing them with "approved" families, began in the 1930s under the dictator General Francisco Franco.

At that time, the motivation may have been ideological. But years later, it seemed to change - babies began to be taken from parents considered morally - or economically - deficient. It became a money-spinner, too.

The scandal is closely linked to the Catholic Church, which under Franco assumed a prominent role in Spain's social services including hospitals, schools and children's homes.

Nuns and priests compiled waiting lists of would-be adoptive parents, while doctors were said to have lied to mothers about the fate of their children.

The name of one doctor, Dr Eduardo Vela, has come up in a number of victim investigations. [....]

In 1981, Civil Registry sources indicate that 70% of births at Dr Vela's San Ramon clinic in Madrid were registered as "mother unknown".

Dr Vela stands accused of telling women their babies had died when they had not and handing over those newborn children to other couples for cash. [....]

Babies' graves have been dug up across the country for DNA-testing. Some have revealed nothing but a pile of stones, while others have contained adult remains. [....]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home