UN seeks Vatican probe of Magdalene laundries abuse

The UN has called on the Vatican to investigate the Magdalene laundries so those responsible for the abuse suffered in the institutions can be prosecuted.

In a scathing section of its report on the Vatican’s response to abuse, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said the Church has not taken the necessary steps and measures to “ensure justice for girls arbitrarily placed by their families, State institutions and churches in the Magdalene laundries”.

The UN watchdog stated that women were “forced to work in slavery-like conditions” and were often subject to “inhuman, cruel, and degrading treatment” as well as to physical and sexual abuse.

It said women were deprived of an identity, education and in cases food and medicine, while unmarried women and girls who gave birth before entering or while in the laundries had their children forcibly removed from them.

The watchdog called on the Church to investigate the Magdalene laundries, to ensure that those responsible are sanctioned and reported to the authorities so they can be prosecuted and to ensure all victims and their families are compensated by the congregations or through the Holy See.

Last May, the UN Committee Against Torture (Uncat), which forced the Government to investigate the Magdalene laundries, criticised the (Martin) McAleese report into them as “incomplete” and lacking “many elements of a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation”.

Responding to the latest UN criticisms, Justice For Magdalenes Research said the Catholic Church and the four religious orders that ran Magdalene laundries in Ireland have refused to accept unanimous survivor testimony that they were imprisoned and subjected to forced labour and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

“None of the orders have offered an apology to Magdalene survivors, nor have they contributed to the compensation fund. The Catholic Church has not made any attempt to instigate an internal investigation into Magdalene abuse, nor has it held anyone accountable for what happened,” said a spokesperson.

Director for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Mark Kelly said the report was a “devastating critique” of child protection failure of the Church, including those in Magdalene laundries.


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