NEW SHOCKER: Widespread Media Claims of Sadistic Abuse at Ireland’s Famed Magdalene Laundries Determined to be Completely Bogus

Brendan O'Neill UK Telegraph

Finally exposing the truth about Ireland's Magdalene Laundries: The UK Telegraph's Brendan O'Neill

For the past several decades, the media has told a story of how the Catholic Church in Ireland operated homes for troubled youth – the Magdalene Laundries – that were rife with unspeakable barbarity and unrivaled cruelty from the nuns who operated them. However, a new report thoroughly examining the famed laundries now reveals that the media's characterization of the laundries has been complete fiction.

Just a couple weeks ago, the Irish government released the independent McAleese Report, which sought to examine the country's role in the laundries, which operated for over two centuries until 1996. The findings are indeed eye-opening, and one of the only journalists to candidly reveal the report's discoveries is the UK Telegraph's Brendan O'Neill. Kudos to Mr. O'Neill for his honesty and good journalism.

The simple facts

Of the many scores of women who were interviewed for the report, exactly zero reported being sexually abused by a nun. None. Nada. Zilch. In a recent must-read blog post at the Telegraph, writer O'Neill explains:

"In the Irish mind, and in the minds of everyone else who has seen or read one of the many films, plays and books about the Magdalene laundries, these were horrific institutions brimming with violence and overseen by sadistic, pervy nuns. Yet the McAleese Report found not a single incident of sexual abuse by a nun in a Magdalene laundry. Not one. Also, the vast majority of its interviewees said they were never physically punished in the laundries."

These facts, of course, are in stark contrast to what the media has endlessly peddled about the laundries for decades: that these were places of rank horror, sadistic abuse, and torture.

The women speak

What about those characterizations in movies, television shows, stage plays, and newspaper articles of sadistic nuns beating the living daylights out of anyone who made the slightest misstep? As O'Neill explains, even the authors of the report seemed flummoxed by their own findings that such portraits were in fact bogus:

Magdalene Sisters fiction

PURE FICTION: A scene from
2002's 'The Magdalene Sisters'

"The small number of cases of corporal punishment reported to McAleese consisted of the kind of thing that happened in many normal schools in the 1960s, 70s and 80s: being caned on the legs or rapped on the knuckles. The authors of the McAleese Report, having like the rest of us imbibed the popular image of the Magdalene laundries as nun-run concentration camps, seem to have been taken aback by 'the number of women who spoke positively about the nuns'."


Then there are the words from the women themselves, those who actually lived in the laundries. Here is what one woman had to say about the media coverage over the past decades about the laundries:

"It has shocked me to read in papers that we were beat and our heads shaved and that we were badly treated by the nuns … I was not touched by any nun and I never saw anyone touched."

At this point, there is little doubt that the media has successfully portrayed the laundries in the most cruel and unflattering light to advance an anti-Catholic agenda. In fact, the truth reveals that Ireland's nuns operated these homes out of Christian charity as their vows called them to do.

Indeed, the media has some heavy explaining to do here. The media has recklessly and maliciously portrayed the Magdalene Laundries. O'Neill concludes:

"Catholic-bashers frequently accuse the Catholic religion of promoting a childish narrative of good and evil that is immune to factual evidence. Yet they do precisely the same, in the service of their fashionable and irrational new religion of anti-Catholicism."

Amen. And kudos again to O'Neill for finally getting the truth out.


  1. Orestes says:

    Mr O'Neil is a profile in courage.

    Thank you.

    The New York Times should be ashamed of itself.

  2. Ennoh says:

    It's pathetic how journalists and others find a sniff of a story (albeit made up) and find joy and satisfaction in blowing it up out of all proportion and apportioning blame to Catholic institutions.     I guess these so called journalists may even learn that it was all made up and wont apologise – wont retract what they have written – just look around for other stories to tell…

  3. Publion says:

    I have mentioned this historical instance before, but I’ll do it again. Richard Grunberger discusses it at length in his 1971 book The Twelve-Year Reich, pages 435-444.


    As soon as they were in power in 1933, the Nazis realized that a) the Church’s universalism as well as b) its emphasis on Christ as the prime model of what constitutes a genuine human (made in the Image of God) were obstructions to the regime’s vision of the True Aryan German. A human-being growing up in the Reich would have to conform to the regime’s – not the Church’s – definition of what constitutes genuine humanity. (In that sense, Nazism was fundamentally non-Christian, anti-Christian, and actually labeled itself a ‘new paganism’.) The Nazis wanted to get back to that era of Teutonic tribal barbarism before the first Christian/Catholic missionaries reached Germany in the early Dark Ages.


    Thus the regime had to paint Christianity and Catholicism as “un-patriotic”.


    The regime sought to pick a fight in Catholic Bavaria, trying to weaken the Church’s hold on the education of Catholic youth. In the years 1936-1937 monasteries and convents came in for especial attention in the regime’s campaign of vilification.


    In Koblenz, 267 Franciscans (out of a total of 500 in Germany) were charged with sexual offenses. Goebbels required all German media to follow the trial. Many were staffers at hospitals: the regime’s charges were that every time a Franciscan had to wash a bed-ridden patient (thus necessarily washing the genital area) a sexual-assault was committed. That made for a quite a number of ‘cases’ of sexual-assault.


    But the German people – even under Nazism – weren’t so easily to be hoodwinked and the trials petered out as the regime realized it was causing more embarrassment for itself rather than the Church.


    Nonetheless, during the life of the regime, hundreds of monks, priests and nuns wound up in concentration camps on this or that trumped-up charge.


    All of this was part of the concerted effort by the regime to remove a ‘rival’ source of meaning in the lives of the citizenry and their children.

  4. Mark says:

    And remember, folks, this is the same country that gave us "Kathy's Story," a tale of the abuse and suffering of a young lady in the Magdalene Laundries. Kathy O’Beirne claims she spent years as a slave to sadistic nuns and was raped by two priests.

    It was compelling stuff that found a willing audience of 400,000 readers.

    And a gullible one. The book was exposed as one big lie by respected journalist Hermann Kelly, who went on to write "Kathy's Real Story."

    It seems that, little by little, the real story behind the "Catholic abuse scandal" is being revealed, to the embarrassment of the anti-Catholic bigots.

    And it has a new title. The Truth Abuse Scandal.

  5. Delphin says:

    Ya know, you guys are really on to something here. Finally, after several years at the same Church (I bounce around a lot), the pastor is only now hinting at the antiCatholic bias of the NYT (aka "the old gray whore") and other outlets as regards the Pope's resignation. When I look around to observe attendees responses, I see a too-long neglected hunger finally being addressed. Catholic laity will step up to the plate if they see their Church leaders willing to do the same.

    We currently have a situation where our Church is not vigorously defending herself, but is instead capitulating to the secular environment rules of engagement on this matter, which is:" we repeatedly brutalize you and you offer no resistance and apologize (and payout)alot" (while calling on the laity to evangelize and even defend the Church). We need real leadership and a serious push-back, not only from the laity, but from our to-date too fearful Church leaders. My theory is that caucasian males in western nations have been successfully neutered by the secularists and no longer no how to defend, or God forbid, go on the offensive.

    And, this push-back could come from the "ladies" (religious). I like the idea of the women taking this issue on with the secular media. It's much easier to attack the priests, as the face of the Church (conservative caucasian males), than it is the women. The critics want the women to have a greater role in our Church? I agree, let's put them to work as ferocious defenders of our priests and our Church. Let's set our nuns/sisters up as the thin black/brown/blue and white line between our priests and the media.

    I don't know about any of you, but if I saw a Brigade of Mother Angelicas headed my way, I'd take a rapid fallback position!

  6. Mike says:

    "exactly zero reported being sexually abused by a nun" good for them, but is not being raped by male priest much worse anyways?

    • domenico says:

      none of the women reported to be raped by a priest; only one reported to be sexually abused by a lay person.




  7. Mark says:

    Delphin makes a great point – both in terms of us as lay people and what is required of us, and the point about women taking a more prominent role in defending the faith and fighting the good fight. This would totally disarm many of the deluded bigots who smear the Church as anti-women.

    On the Magdalene laundries story, I see that Catholic World Report picked up on TMR's report on B O'Neill's article.

    This is exactly what we need to be doing: spreading the truth.

  8. Mark says:

    For more on the truth behind the Magdalene laundries, read this excellent article by Mary Synon in the UK's Daily Mail blog section.

    Because truth will set you free.

    "Magdalene laundries: or how British-bred eugenics put Magdalene across the world":

  9. Publion says:

    In regard to the ‘mike’ comment raising the question about whether “being raped by a male priest [isn’t] much worse anyways”, the following thoughts:


    First, I certainly wouldn’t want to wade into the chaotic maelstrom of victimist and abuse dogma by trying to defend an assertion that any particular type of abuse is or is not worse than any other particular type of abuse. Not the least of the reasons for not wanting to do that being: all the dogma in these matters is conveniently bivalent – you can find the dogma on both sides of the problem and no way to distinguish or decide. (This characteristic, I have always thought, reflects the propagandistic manipulative goal of appearing to be’ thought’ while yet basically ensuring that the game is sufficiently rigged that you will come to the Correct conclusion no matter how you slice the cake.)


    Second, of course, not even the most reliable confirmed list of allegations we have – from the John Jay Reports – indicate many ‘rape’ allegations by those “male” priests.


    Third, the larger significance of the Irish report is this: it establishes the clear possibility that many other aspects of the Catholic Abuse Matter are equally unfounded and thus that readers must factor in that possibility before drawing any reliable conclusions. Consequently, I would be on the lookout for those who would attempt to minimize the significance of the Irish report by trying to float the idea that being raped by nuns isn’t such a big thing anyway (so let’s all Keep The Ball Rolling). What the Irish report reaches here is the entire reliability of the Catholic-Abuse ‘Narrative’ to begin with, both in the Content of the Narrative (innocent victim, rapacious priest, cheeribly collusive and enabling hierarchy, utterly irreparable and extensive life-wrecking damage) and in the Method by which that Narrative or Framing has been imposed (by whatever congeries and synergies of assorted special-interests).


    The Henneberger article from WaPo (linked-to a comment above) has some interesting bits, but still presumes a conflation between an allegation and a confirmed instance of abuse.


    But it also, I think, raises an interesting point: JP II, who was a priest during the Nazi era and a bishop during the Soviet era, had seen more than enough instances of regimes trying to whomp-up sex charges to get rid of pesky priests and a Church that was obstructing the regime (the Soviets, taking over Poland as part of their deal with the Nazis in 1939, made clerics and nuns a proscribed and suspect political class by definition and – not needing to keep as much of an eye on public opinion as the odious Nazis – simply put them in concentration camps along with their lists of doctors, lawyers, professors, military officers, and all others whom Stalin felt were in a position to publicly resist the Soviet regime in Poland). Many did not survive. So JP II was certainly rational in wondering whether he was not seeing the same game-plan being run by the secularist-liberalist elements in the US in the 1980s and since.


    And – I will say again and again and again – given what ‘evidence’ has arisen in trials and so-called ‘secret documents’ released so far, I still can’t say that JP II was entirely wrong.


    Lastly, I will concur with Henneberger’s quotation from Ratzinger/Benedict XVI that he wanted to see “filth” removed from the ranks of the priesthood. While that rather forthright and vivid European characterization may jar an American reader at first sight, yet I think we have seen in the cases of the three priests discussed in a prior LA article here, that there were among the numerous ranks of Catholic clergy some few individuals who were certainly repellent in their actions and needed to be removed. That was accomplished, even before 2002, and by the Church or the AOLA themselves – even if not with the script-satisfying rapidity Americans would like to see.


    But at the same time – and I don’t think I am contradicting either then-Cardinal Ratzinger or Benedict XVI here – I will insist that no priest be considered ‘filth’ simply on the basis of undemonstrated allegations. Nor will I accept the blanket ‘proscription’ of all clergy as an abusive-class or an offender-class simply on the basis of allegations or guilt-by-association or by any other of the means by which regimes so often try to immobilize, undermine, or otherwise eliminate those individuals or organizations considered to be threats to the regime’s intentions.


    In that regard, I recall an exchange between – if I recall correctly – one of the famous British Mitford sisters and Stalin himself at a dinner party during the war: she asked the polite monster “When are you going to stop killing people?” To which, after a moment’s gravid pause, the benign monstrosity replied with a gentle, shruggy candor: “The undesirable classes never liquidate themselves”.


    I think that this ‘undesirable class’ dynamic has played more than a small role in the (still so woefully under-documented and under-demonstrated) Catholic Abuse Matter.

  10. Publion says:

    I followed Mark’s link to the Catholic World Report site’s discussion of the Irish report on the Magdalene Laundries.


    A couple of thoughts.


    First, I point out the Catholic approach to the plight of these unmarried mothers and ‘fallen’ women. Give them a safe and stable living environment, overseen by mature women; and give them an income-producing task that also provides a social benefit, also overseen by mature women (the Sisters). And this was long before even classical Liberalism, let alone the ‘liberalism’ of today.


    Second, I note the concept that is called the Noble Lie. This is derived from Plato in the Republic: there are ‘myths’ or ‘lies’ that elites tell – and according to Plato must tell – in order to maintain social harmony and to advance necessary agendas for the polis.


    This idea has been most recently picked up by the political thinker Leo Strauss, who asked the realistic question as to whether any government or regime or state can ever exist in a condition of pure truth; must such a governing entity not rather engage in the telling of ‘lies’ – but good lies – for the purpose of furthering its agendas and keeping social consensus?


    It is only a short slide to a ‘pragmatic’ (as in American Pragmatism) conclusion that if a ‘lie’ leads to a good result, or (another big slide downwards here) is at least intended by the government/elites to have a good result, then the lie is ‘good’ anyway. This of course undermines the concept of ‘lie’ being by its very nature evil.


    The Catholic Church has wrestled with this conundrum for two millennia: when can a regime (or individual) do evil in order to achieve good? Does the goodness of the intent or of the result thereby erase the fundamental toxicity of the initial lie?


    This conundrum is a prime example, I would say, of the Original Sinfulness that afflicts humanity in this historical dimension of ours: the mystery of primal or fundamental evil that afflicts us gets a ball rolling on a crooked axis and it continues to spin throughout historical time and events, creating more variations of itself and apparently requiring yet even more lies to somehow plaster over the cracks the whole shebang has created and continues to create. Yet each lie deployed to try to ‘fix’ things simply creates more evil consequences.


    To insist on absolute purity – in any individual’s or in any government’s life – is contrary to the Gospel idea of letting the wheat grow with the tares until the Master of the Harvest comes along to make the final winnowing. But to leave very much room for ‘acceptable’ lies fosters the commission of the evil of lying by individuals and by governments, which fosters great moral derangement.


    And, as the Church has long recognized, human beings have a rather queasy tendency to justify (in their own mind, at least) whatever evil they intend to commit as being ‘good’ or in a ‘good’ cause; we need only recall that Fascism, Communism and Nazism all began with the highest of stated intentions – and, as is well known – on the basis of those highest of good intentions, all manner of death and destruction were claimed to be justified.


    Without getting into a drawn-out philosophical discussion here, I will simply say that the Church has always realized that this human dimension is a moral minefield and both individuals and officials must have some of the temperament and skills and attitude of bomb-disposal techs as they go about the very serious job of figuring out what path of action to take. This is, of course ,hell and gone from the traditional American and ‘liberal’ optimism and the lethal combination of youthy Boomer goo-goo ‘optimism’ and revolutionary ruthlessness that have done so much to derange American politics (and government behavior) in the past half-century or so.


    Over and above all of that, of course, is the Church’s abiding concern for order and stability, for limits and defining-Shapes, in order to provide humans with a supportive framework for a moral life.


    And again, I think it becomes clear why the Church would be considered a serious obstruction to any regime that subscribed to Noble Lies. And not simply noble-lie ‘foundational myths’ but also the outright lies that governments nowadays consider right and necessary to be telling their citizenries.


    That article also refers to the stunning responses of some readers when apprised of the fact that the lurid and shocking tell-all book by a self-proclaimed ‘victim’ of the Magdalene Laundries was quite possibly untrue: ‘Well, it was a good read anyway  – Harry Potter wasn’t real either, but it was a great read’.


    I include at the bottom of this comment a link to an article in Salon magazine about which I commented on January 1 of this year: two noted American literary reviewers (Laura Miller and Daniel Mendelsohn) discussed the “reality problem” in American writing nowadays.


    I quote from my comment on the 1st of the year:


    “And they are supported by some readers who say that even if the ‘memoir’ wasn’t really truthful, yet they found the story inspiring.


    All of which leads the two lit-critics to discuss “the reality problem” in literature today: what does it mean to write a phony memoir? Are there downsides? Do the authors and/or readers realize that there are downsides? Do they care? And if not, why not?


    In regard to the phony-memoirs they are talking about in the interview, Mendelsohn says that if you want to write about experiences you never had as if you had actually had them, then Fine … but that then makes your work a novel and not a memoir.


    I share this because although it is a discussion among two literature critics about matters having completely to do with literature, there is a dot to be connected with matters specific to the TMR site. And it becomes clear that in the past few decades the entire dynamic of the phony-memoir clearly seems to have become widely spread in American culture.”


    And less than two months later now, we are seeing here in the exposure of the lies about the Magdalene Laundries yet another massive example of a disregard for truth; victimism, especially as it has applied to the Catholic Abuse Matter, has apparently become very attracted-to and attached-to its own version of the Noble Lie: if it’s a story that gets people worked up over what we claim is a problem and a ‘crisis’, then it’s-all-good and let’s not quibble over ‘details’ of the specific truth of this or that allegation.


    And we are also seeing how enterprising persons (and organizations) will surf that ‘justification’ for their own purposes (and subsequent enrichment).


    But worst of all, I think what we see here is a profound decline in the moral sensibility and acuteness of many members of the public, who seem far more interested merely in whether they are entertained or ‘excited’ by a ‘good story’ – regardless of whether the story is true or not.


    And when a government actually takes a hand in nurturing or enabling these ‘stories’ and this general dynamic of conceptual and moral derangement, then a truly lethal dynamic is set in motion. And for any Citizenry, especially for a Citizenry in a putative democracy, this dynamic cannot end well.


    We don’t read the Harry Potter novels to figure out public policy and law; but that is precisely what is at stake in the Catholic Abuse Matter (and in so many aspects of victimist-law ‘reform’ generally): we are reading these stories (or ‘lies’, if you want to sharpen the point a bit) with an eye to making fundamental changes in law and policy.


    Many, it seems, can’t see the difference between Harry Potter and the ‘stories’ about Catholic Abuse.


  11. Clare says:


    "Let not your heart be troubled,"–Hope it is okay to quote Sean Hannity!!

    Nurses have had HBO's "Nurse Jackie."  BTW, one nurse I know thought so highly of

    her favorite priest, she invested hundreds of hours to defend his good name.  I hope

    the media never targets anyone except themselves.

  12. Shamrock says:

    When may we expect an apology from the MSM? the NYT's? Don't hold your breath. The propaganda machine of the Nazi-Socialist-Communist against the Church ( their one true opponent) has been picked up by the lapsed Catholics and dissident Catholics and other apostates and atheists,  who are no less bent on destroying the universal Catholic Church that is standing in the way of women priests, watered down liturgies, married priests,as well as the  gay agenda for same sex marriages, abortion on demand and *brave new world* technologies introducing sub-human species that would dwarf Frankenstein.

    • jim robertson says:

      P.S. The Irish had their own Facist party the" Blue Shirts" who wore blue shirts as a special devotion to the Virgin. I knew the grandson of it's founder. The Irish helped bomb London by lighting the route from Dublin to London for Nazi bombers.

      So Erin Gobraugh, learn anything yet?

  13. Delphin says:

    Bottom line: the infamous legend of the Magdalene Laundries were the [sexual] fantasies of antiCatholic bigots.

    Isn't it interesting how the issue gets distorted by "slimemold" in order to impune entire ethnic, racial and religious groups in an attempt (albeit, failed)  to suit their own particular du jour grievances?

    The Laundries scandal, such that it wasn't, was/is the product of sickened hearts and souls.

    Such is the priest scandal - that isn't.

    The filth that infects the deviant and radical homosexuals loins, also infects their minds.

    And, the leftists' facade continues to crumble….

    • jim robertson says:

      Darlin' Why not keep your purient sex obssesed mind off of my "deviant and radical homosexual loins". Believe me I don't think about yours, ever.

  14. Delphin says:

    Until my taxdollars are no longer targeted and expended by/for the ills of your loins, I will continue to criticize the deviant lifestyle that caused, and still promotes the scourge. You need to "pay for your play" out of your own oft-too-deep and usually over-stuffed pockets. You boys are usually pretty flush in the old cash department, but CHEAP. And, remind me, again, what exactly is it that your lifestyle contributes regarding the greater good of society and continuation of the species (within context of tax burdens)?

    Keep your pur-loined practices and problems out of my Church.

    So, what about those Laundries (or, are the called loindries in your neck of the woods)?

    Haven't heard a peep, cheep or screech out of you, yet?

  15. says:

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

    I will be closing this thread. Thank you.


  1. [...] No Conscience Clause for Those Opposed to Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ – M. Teahan Abuse at Magdalene Laundries Determined to be Bogus – The McAleese Report Shocker You’ll Not Hear about in the MSM [...]