‘Philomena’ Draws Catholic Backlash

Judi Dench plays Philomena and Steve Coogan plays Martin in "Philomena."‘Philomena’ Draws Catholic Backlash

Catholic leaders call Judi Dench film ‘propaganda’ and question its accuracy


November 22, 2013

Judi Dench’s latest film “Philomena” is scoring rave reviews left and right. But it is also drawing backlash from some Catholic leaders, with Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights calling the film “pure propaganda.”

“A half-century ago, an Irish woman gave birth to a son out-of-wedlock, and gave him up for adoption; he was born in an abbey, a venue that allowed the mother to avoid being stigmatized,” Donohue said in a statement. “There is nothing particularly startling about this, other than the fact that film reviewers are now all aghast about the ‘horrors’ these fallen women experienced; many are making reference to the Magdalene Laundries.”

Donohue also referenced a lengthy piece he wrote attacking the claims made by other films inspired by the Catholic institutions known as Magdalene Laundries, as well as a New York Post review that calls “Philomena” a “hateful and boring attack on Catholics.”

“Philomena” is based on the true-life story of Philomena Lee (played by Dench), who was sent to a nunnery as a young woman for getting pregnant out of wedlock, where her son was put up for adoption and sent to America. Many years later Lee was put in touch with former journalist Martin Sixsmith, and together they went on a journey to find her son, which Sixsmith wrote about for The Guardian and later in a book.

The film does not call the convent that Lee lived in a ‘Magdalene Laundry’ by name, but has young Philomena (Sophie Kennedy Clark) toiling away in a literal convent laundry. The Catholic institutions known as “Magdalene Laundries” took in not only unwed mothers like Philomena, but women put out on the street for a variety of other reasons – from being prostitutes to suffering mental illness to being victims of abusive families. There they were required to work a number of years, sometimes until their families were willing to take them back or they found another way of getting on their feet, and often labored in dire conditions.

Such institutions were in operation throughout the 20th century until as late as 1996. But activists have only recently brought the plight of women at the Magdalene Laundries to the forefront, pressing not just the Church but also the Irish government for not intervening. In February Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny offered a full-throated apology on the behalf of the government for what the women suffered in the laundries. The Irish government also published an 1,000 page report detailing the labor and emotional abuse victims suffered at these institutions (physical and sexual abuse also happened, but was very rare, the report found), as well as the government’s involvement in them.

The nuns from the convent featured “Philomena” also took issue with the film, however their complaints were directed at how their convent’s specific actions were portrayed. Speaking to the Catholic magazine The Tablet (via The Independent), a nun from the convent named Sister Julie said the nunnery never destroyed the adoption records or made money on the adoptions it set up for the children of women like Lee, as was suggested by the film. She added that one of the film’s characters Sister Hildegarde McNulty – who “Philomena” depicts as treating Philomena particularly scornfully – was actually very concerned with reuniting mothers like Lee with their children. According to Sister Julie, the filmmakers had informed the convent that they would be including and taking artistic license with Sister Hildegarde’s character, even though McNulty died in 1995.

When speaking to U.S. News earlier this month, “Philomena” star, co-producer and co-writer Steve Coogan admitted to taking liberties with the characters and chronology of the events in Lee’s life. However he said that he didn’t intend to make a film “overly angry” at the Church. It’s worth noting [mild spoilers ahead] that while Coogan’s character Martin – a lapsed Catholic (unlike the real Sixsmith, who is not Catholic) – becomes increasingly angry at the Church when uncovering Philomena’s story, Philomena remains steadfast in her own Catholic faith. She ultimately takes the moral high ground, forgiving the nuns that separated her from her son, but also vowing to share her story with others.

“It was important to me that Philomena dignifies her own faith — the little person who dignifies the faith, not the institution itself,” Coogan told U.S. News. “The institution lets people down, not the individuals who are just quietly going about their lives and have this simple faith. So I wanted to make sure that they were respected.”

READ: The U.S. News Interview With “Philomena” Star Steve Coogan


Feefeen and more

The Adventures of Feefeen and Friends

A New Best selling six moving stories written by Irish author, Barbara Naughton. The story chronicles the wonderful Adventures of a heroic bear. From a scary haunted house to a hair-raising balloon ride, Feefeen and friends take you on a series of ‘furry’ interesting escapades. “Adorable characters, daring adventures, sparkling imagination Barbara Naughton is a gifted writer of Children’s stories” Patrice Harrington Journalist from the Daily Mail “A truly remarkable read” Niamh O’ Connor, Sunday World.


Publication Date: July 2, 2012

This entails 6 great stories about a cheeky teddy bear, Feefeen Macrageen. From a scary haunted house to a hair-raising balloon ride. Feefeen and her Friends will take you on a series of ‘Furry’ interesting escapades. What does your 8 year old bear get up to when you turn your back?
Without Hope: A Childhood Ruined by the Man She Should Trust the MostWithout Hope: A Childhood Ruined by the Man She Should Trust the Most

by Barbara Naughton

Barbara’s father was a sadistic man at the best of times – his idea of fun was to kill the family dog by tying it to the back of his car and driving … Show synopsis
Why Can't I Speak
Why Can’t I Speak

In April 2002, Patrick Naughton appeared in the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, charged with raping his daughter Barbara Naughton. Mr. Patrick Naughton was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years in prison. At the sentence hearing, the Judge presiding over the case, Mr. Justice O’ Sullivan … Show more

Scannal – The Barbara Naughton Case

Barbara Naughton On the 17th of April, 2002, an Irish political colossus fell upon his sword. The man in question was Bobby Molloy.

Molloy had been a TD in Galway West for the previous 37 years, during which time he had represented two political parties and served in a variety of government positions. He resigned his position as Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal because of the perception that he had attempted to interfere in a criminal case which was before the courts.

Daddy, Please Don't - Barbara Naughton  The case in question was the serial rape of Barbara Naughton by her father, Patrick Naughton, over a period a nine years.This crime, which occurred in the idyllic Connemara townland of Camus, was of a particularly horrific nature. Patrick Naughton was tried between the 22nd and the 31st of October, 2001, and found guilty. While Naughton was awaiting sentence, an official in Bobby Molloy’s office made a phone call to Judge Philip O’Sullivan enquiring about correspondence from Naughton’s sister. The judge also received a call from the dept. of Justice asking whether he’d take a call at home from Molloy later in the evening. Judge O’Sullivan said he wouldn’t and terminated the phone call.

Mr Justice Philip O'Sullivan

Mr Justice Philip O’Sullivan.

In Court the Judge drew attention to the phone calls and all hell broke loose. Molloy announced his resignation as Minister and announced his decision not to fight the next election. It was an ignominious end to an otherwise respectable political career.
However, as time passed, the level of Mr Molloy’s involvement in the case became clearer. He had written repeated letters to the Minister of Justice asking for updates on unspecified requests from the defendant’s sister in relation to the case. There followed an exchange of fifteen letters between Ministers Molloy and O’Donoghue in which the Minister for Justice had finally to point out that he could have no role in a case which was being tried by the independent judiciary.

Bobby Molloy

Bobby Molloy.

And what of the victim who found herself in the eye of this political storm? What were her feelings when her traumatic story became the catalyst for the downfall of Molloy?

Scannal retells the tragic story of Barbara Naughton and recounts Bobby Molloy’s role in the court case. Was this interference in the judicial system or Irish political clientelism gone mad? We speak to journalist Fintan O’Toole, court reporter Tomas Mac Ruairi who covered the case, solicitor Andrea Martin and western reporter Brian McDonald.
We also hear Barbara Naughton, the victim at the centre of this tragic case, tell her story for the first time on television.

Click here to watch the programme…

Reporter: Margaret Martin

Producer/Director: Seán Ó Méalóid

State played important role in denying the adopted a sense of their origin

State played important role in denying the adopted a sense of their origin

State gave Catholic hierarchy extensive control over 1952 Adoption Act

Former Catholic Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid with Éamon de Valera. When the Adoption Act, 1952, was crafted, formalising the adoption process in the Republic, every line of the proposed Bill was sent to  McQuaid for his scrutiny. Former Catholic Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid with Éamon de Valera. When the Adoption Act, 1952, was crafted, formalising the adoption process in the Republic, every line of the proposed Bill was sent to McQuaid for his scrutiny.

Robbie Roulston Mon, Nov 11, 2013, 12:01

First published: Mon, Nov 11, 2013, 12:01  

Tracing legislation, to enable adopted individuals to identify their biological parents, has recently become a subject of debate, with TD Clare Daly, in particular, pressing Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald on the matter. In response to Daly’s questions in March last year, Fitzgerald agreed reform was very important and voiced her support for “the strongest possible legislation to deal with this issue” but warned there were constitutional obstacles.

In addition to the commitments of Fitzgerald and the parliamentary questions of Daly and other TDs, a number of organisations, such as the Adoption Rights Alliance, Adopted Illegally Ireland and Adoption Rights Now, are working to shed light on this issue, thereby dislodging another skeleton from the Irish church-State closet.
Adoption Act, 1952
When the Adoption Act, 1952, was crafted, formalising the adoption process in the Republic, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church was given an unusual degree of control even by the prevailing standards in the State.

Every line of the proposed Bill was sent to the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, for his scrutiny. McQuaid proofed the legislation and insisted “the safeguards must be such as the church considers sufficient to protect faith and morals”.

To ward off “the evils of proselytism” these safeguards sought to bar couples in mixed- religious marriages from adopting children, and more glaringly prevented the child of such a couple, for instance in the case of an orphan, from being adopted.

Similar restrictions were placed on children of no religion and children aged eight or more. In the case of a mother who changed her religion within a year of giving birth, a subsequent child could not be adopted until a year had passed after the change. This last measure was to safeguard against mothers switching their denominational adherence to find a suitable home for their child.

The Department of Justice also made sure no measure connected to the Adoption Act would enable traceability, and prevented the Department of Health from introducing reforms that would have provided a more straightforward, State-registered paper trail. The Department of Health requested that the adoption register include the county of birth, a proposal rejected by the Department of Justice, which argued: “The number of children involved would be so small in this country that in many cases such an entry would enable any person to trace with a strong degree of probability (and sometimes with certainty) the connections between the two entries by a comparison of dates, etc, in the register of adopted children and the original register of births.”

Thus the paper trail was to be burned as a matter of State policy.
Contradictory agendas
This was not the last time that these two departments would clash over the welfare of children, carrying an important lesson from the period: the State did not act as one on matters of church and State. Different government ministers, different departments and different civil servants pursued varying and often contradictory agendas.

When the Department of Health introduced reforms in 1957 that required adoption societies to notify public authorities before they placed a child with the intent of adoption, so that local authorities could inspect the prospective adoptive home,Catholic Social Welfare Bureau director and McQuaid’s point man on adoption issues Msgr Cecil Barrett was furious.

Barrett confided to McQuaid: “All the Catholic adoption societies objected strongly to this particular section as it cut right across the confidential nature of the work as provided for in the Adoption Act, 1952. I drew the attention of the Department of Justice and the Adoption Board to what had happened and it was the first either of them had heard of it. It was the Department of Health which was responsible for the introduction of this offending section.” Of the adopted child, he argued “legally its original surname is buried”.

Barrett concluded: “No substantial change should have been made without the approval of the hierarchy”. He had the 1957 reforms reversed in the Adoption Act of 1964.

In response, McQuaid sent Barrett his “very grateful congratulations”, and he also wrote to the minister for justice, Charles Haughey, to “express to you my own gratitude and the appreciation of the bishops for your courtesy and for the unfailing co-operation of the department [of justice] in all that concerns the adoption of children”.

The State played an important role in denying some its more vulnerable citizens a sense of their origin. Those who argue today that it has a commensurate duty to address this have a strong case.

Twitter conversation with Barbara

To be read in reverse chronological order.

Thank you, Bernard for rounding off the conversation with your presence and sentiment.

@Disildoforus @MarieTherese39 ladies sorry to interupt, heading off and just wanted to say thank you both for sharing, I was following you.

  1. @Disildoforus I never seem to shut up. Am so unpopular in certain quarters, to the point of getting constantly ignored by a group of people.

  2. @Disildoforus Remember, next time you feel down and out – which is going to be all too soon, now that the Xmas season will soon be upon us, try to get out.

  3. Cor blimey, I’d best change the subject. Hardly want counsellors following me. They cling to survivors like peas to a pod. Can be unnerving.

  4. So, I keep telling my stories in spite of them going on deaf ears. People want to talk about trivial things that don’t stir their emotions.

  5. People get frightened when survivors talk about their horrendous past lives in institutions, to the point that they don’t reply to comments. 

  6. @Disildoforus So, so painful. I just block it all out. I went down that road once, and it took its toll. People don’t want to know survivors.

  7. @Disildoforus Need much guidance. However, emotional stuff keeps me from furthering writing aims. Blockage and frustration is indeed such a hinderance.

  8. @Disildoforus I was given name of father. I went looking for him after she died in the 90s. No luck until recently. Discovered next of kin. However, it turned out that I had met some of them when I went looking after my mother died.

  9. @Disildoforus I was told as a teen in Goldenbridge that I once had a mother, but that she was dead. I went searching for a grave in my late 20s.

  10. @Disildoforus I was living in London, and she was living just a hundred miles away in Birmingham. I freaked out completely. Terrifying shock. Took years to come somewhat too.

  11. @Disildoforus Arrived on doorstep of host-family who took me out for brief period from Goldenbridge. Subsequently discovered SHE WAS ALIVE.

  12. @Disildoforus I bled inside when bi-racial survivor told me about her rejection. I could empathise having also knocked on host family door.

  13. @Disildoforus Yes, to be cognisant of each others loss would be most helpful. Loss of one’s parents is the most profoundest loss on earth.

  14. @Disildoforus Another one was bi-racial. She went knocking on her two aunties’ door to introduce herself. When they saw her, they instantly rejected her. Painful.

  15. @Disildoforus Another victim was constantly sexually abused by her own father as a child. Her case nearly brought the Irish government down. She’s written a book about the case. She also has written some teddy bear novels.

  16. @Disildoforus… Another one was left on a church doorstep along with her sister by their granny. She met her mother briefly as a 17 years old. I went cold when she told me that miserable story.

  17. @Disildoforus One survivor lost mother as a child. Father was involved in bike accident when he was en-route from Kildare to visit four of his children in Goldenbridge.

  18. @Disildoforus Yes, I’d surmise that your mother’s death is triggering his old wounds. He lost his father; you lost your mother. It’s so sad.

  19. @Disildoforus Unbelievable sense of release. We let all our past pent up emotions drift off  safely into the sea air. So utterly cathartic.

  20. @Disildoforus It happened so suddenly. You were bereft of any sense of absorption of your mother dying. It came like a thief in the night.

  21. @Disildoforus …It was very therapeutic. To be recommended to all angst-ridden folk, and those in mourning after the loss of their dear mothers. When a mother goes, it can separate siblings in a big way.

  22. @Disildoforus I once drove a group of survivors of Industrial “Schools” and a paedophile incest victim to Brittas Bay, Co. Wicklow. We ran screaming along the beach. It was rather surreal and hilarious. Again to the dancing scene in Brian Friel’s play and film, Dancing at Lugnasa.

  23. @Disildoforus I remember a highly trained trauma counsellor regularly telling me to go into a vast open space, and let off steam. ‘Shout your head off.’ She did it herself with her daughters.

  24. @Disildoforus You are momentarily just one huge, open, festered, painful wound. The onus is on hubby to take that into deep consideration.

  25. @Disildoforus It’s definitely the reason behind it. The grieving process takes such a long time. Even as long as 3 years. You are so raw. 😦

  26. @Disildoforus You’re still in state of grieving process. You’ve got very little emotional resources left, and will therefore easily fly off the handle. There’s a reason for it, so don’t worry about not being nice, it’ll all mend itself, and balance out eventually.

     View conversation

Mercy Convent goes under the hammer

The former Mercy Convent at Seatown Place. (12 Dec 2012 Margaret Roddy)

THE FORMER Mercy Convent and St Joseph’s Orphanage at Seatown Place are for sale with a reserve price which would hardly have bought an apartment at the height of the property boom.

Anyone with €275,000 to spare could purchase the historic building which is for sale through local estate agents REA Gunne Property, with Michael Gunne saying that it represents a great investment opportunity.’At today’s prices, it’s about the same as two town houses so it’s a great bargain, even if someone just sat on it until prices go up again.

The imposing three storey over basement building stands on a three-quarter acre corner site and is zoned for town centre mixed commercial use.

‘It has so much potential and could be used for a variety of purposes,’ says Michael.

‘It is widely recognised in the property industry that the market is actually ‘over corrected’ and this is due to the ongoing difficulty in securing the required finance,’ he continues.

‘ There has been a notable increase in activity over the last six to nine months proving things have at last ‘ bottomed out’.

‘Ireland is once again on the international radar for investors and a key factor in this, is value. We anticipate, however, that there will be little development in the short term and have factored this into our pricing of this extensive property.’

‘ The pure scale and prime location of this offering ensures profit to any investor and will no doubt raise a few eyebrows from astute would be purchasers, especially those who have a working knowledge of the commercial market . There are a number of obvious ways to immediately add value such as breaking up the holding into multiple units and applying planning permission and holding for a few years, or indeed simply holding will almost guarantee any investor a sizeable return.

For more in-depth details. See:



Embedded image permalinkH/t Sarcasm ‏@TheFunnyTeens

Would tweet this a hundred times if I could pic.twitter.com/ODJiJtICTX

Most survivors of Industrial “Schools” may not be able to personally relate their own experiences of a mothers unconditional love to that which is poignantly pointed out in the text of photo. However, most of them that I know would have gone on to be mothers themselves, and would have experienced first hand all the symptoms and love that is portrayed in abundance here.