Cardinal apologizes for church forcing mothers to give up babies

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, is seen at the Vatican in this 2014 file photo. In a program to be aired on ITV, he apologized to unmarried women pressured by the church to hand over their children for adoption. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, is seen at the Vatican in this 2014 file photo. In a program to be aired on ITV, he apologized to unmarried women pressured by the church to hand over their children for adoption. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

An English cardinal has apologized for the "hurt caused" to young unmarried mothers pressured by church agencies in the mid-20th century to surrender their children for adoption.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster expressed regret for the actions of the church in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when about 500,000 British women were encouraged to give up their babies for adoption.

Advertisement

"The practices of all adoption agencies reflected the social values at that time and were sometimes lacking in care and sensitivity," Cardinal Nichols said.

He added: "We apologize for the hurt caused by agencies acting in the name of the Catholic Church."

The statement from Cardinal Nichols comes at the conclusion of an ITV documentary, scheduled to be broadcast in the U.K. Nov. 9.

The film, "Britain's Adoption Scandal: Breaking The Silence," examines the experiences of women who were urged to give up their babies because they were unmarried.

According to ITV, some women were told that if they truly loved their children, they should hand them to the care of married couples.

Most of the adoption agencies involved were overseen by the Catholic Church and Church of England while the Salvation Army, a Christian charity, ran hostels for mothers and babies.

Lawyers acting for some of the mothers are calling upon the government to investigate the practice of adoption in the 30-year postwar period.

Carolynn Gallwey of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors told ITV: "These women were told not to speak about what had happened to them.

"But now they're entitled to have their experiences recognized, and the only way to do that is through a public inquiry," she said.

Adoption in the U.K. reached a peak in 1968 when 16,000 babies born to unmarried mothers were sent to new families.

The 1967 Abortion Act came into force that same year, and the rates of adoption declined sharply in subsequent years as abortion became more prevalent.

From March 2014 to March 2015, 430 children under the age of 12 months were adopted in the U.K.

The role of the church in adoptions in the 1950s was examined in the 2013 movie "Philomena," which tells the true story of the search by Philomena Lee for her son some 50 years after nuns in Ireland persuaded her to give him up for adoption.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Lisa Weber
1 year 10 months ago
It is good to see this necessary apology.

Advertisement

The latest from america

A Vatican source confirmed that a high-level Holy See delegation will travel to the Chinese capital for the signing and that a date has already been fixed for this ground-breaking event.
Gerard O’ConnellSeptember 18, 2018
Swiss Guards salute as Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston leave a meeting of cardinals with Pope Francis in the synod hall at the Vatican Feb. 21, 2014. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 
“The church has lost credibility in investigating itself.”
Jim McDermottSeptember 18, 2018
This economy is not working for human beings.
Brandon SanchezSeptember 18, 2018
Pope Francis leads a meeting with young people in Palermo, Sicily, Sept. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Even after revelations about sexual abuse in the church, 79 percent of U.S. Catholics—but only 53 percent of all Americans—hold a favorable view of Pope Francis, according to a Gallup poll.
Michael J. O’LoughlinSeptember 18, 2018