|The wall of the House of Good Shepherd, |
Huntington Avenue, Boston
The House of Good Shepherd was ensconced behind a long brick wall at 841 Huntington Avenue, in Boston, that ran along Huntington Avenue from Kempton Street for a quarter-mile, almost to the Brookline border, and from Huntington Avenue back almost another quarter-mile, to the Riverway. It was a bucolic area in the middle of what was soon-to-become urban decay.
It was ostensibly a school, and may have been one when it was first opened. By the mid-1960s, it was known as the place where bad girls were sent. In reality, it was an orphanage.
I knew some bad girls, but none of them ever went to the House of Good Shepherd.
Much is discussed in the media and around debating tables about the crime of priests diddling little boys. Almost nothing is said of priests who diddled or abused little girls, young women, and adult women.
After all, they are just women and this is America, so not much would be made of a woman being sexually abused. As we all know, if a woman is sexually abused she must have been asking for it. "Why was she there in the first place?" "Why was she dressed like that?" "She should have known something like this would happen." We've all heard those responses to hearing about a woman being sexually assaulted or abused. We may even have said or intimated the same thin ourselves.
Women being sexually abused int he Catholic Church is a non-story. it is neither sensationalized nor well-documented. It happened, possibly as much as boys and men being sexually abused by priests; but it is not an important story in America.
Women suffered a much worse fate in Catholic communities.
We all pretend that women aren't supposed to get married until they are married.
We all pretend that child-birth out-of-wedlock and shotgun-weddings are the result of our permissive lifestyle. The truth is that children have been conceived outside of wedlock sine the dawn of man. The notion that a woman is supposed to be married before she has sex, is a quaint and horrific myth that turns all sexually active women into sluts and 'girls who deserved it.'
Because that myth has existed for so long, many sexually active young women have been taken advantage of and abused by their parents and those whom they trusted the most.
I am not saying their parents sexually molested them, although there is a certain amount of statistical data that proves most women who are raped are raped by a family member: father, brother, uncle, or a close friend.
The betrayal that a sexually active young woman experienced, as recently as the 1980s, took place if she became pregnant out-of-wedlock.
There was a time, and if you are old enough to read this it may have taken place in your life time, when a pregnant girl was sent away to school. Generally a school far away from home. She would live there until she gave birth. The baby would be taken from her and sold into adoption.
I know we are not supposed to use the word sold when discussing adoption, but as soon as one penny changes hands, it is a sale. You can call that exchange of money an application fee, or an administrative fee; but, it makes the adoption a sale: cash and carry.
Young women would live for six or seven months, away from home, with no friends, in a Catholic "school," give birth, and never see her baby.
Catholic Charities would then find a lovely family with a lovely home and a lovely income in a lovely neighborhood.
The young woman would then be sent home, back to her local school, and everyone would act as as if nothing had happened.
Many of the infants sold into adoption were raised nearby their biological mothers; but, neither the adoptive family nor the biological mother knew each other and would have no way of knowing that for decades afterwards, the separated mother and child lived in the same area.
This happened because of federal laws enacted at the beginning of the 20th Century that forbid the transport of minors across state lines. These laws were intended to prevent "white slavery," which we know today as "sexual slavery." The laws are relatively successful, and an unintended outcome of their passage was the placement of adoptive children in the same state in which they were born.
The mother was a minor when she became pregnant, so she could not be transported very far away, off to another state; nor could the infant child be legally moved out-of-state. Also, transportation options in much of the 20th Century were still expensive, limited and archaic; so, it was not realistic to send the pregnant teenager or the infant child a very long distance.
Why would these girls give-up their babies?
Some/Many/Most of them did not want to give up their babies. I have actually never heard a woman say: "Oh, goodie, I can get rid of this kid." I don't think it happens that way. Ever. And if you want to isolate some urban tale about a woman who you heard once wanted to get rid of her baby, that does not make it a cultural imperative.
The girls were sent off to places like the House of Good Shepherd. Attended school classes, slept in dormitories with other pregnant girls, went into labor, delivered their child into the hands of a waiting nurse/nun, and as she cried to hold her baby, the infant was whisked out of the room and documented. The next lucky family on the list would receive a call, and within a few short days, the sale would be complete.
The new, childless mother would be left depressed and angry, alone, in a huge compound, now separated from the other pregnant girls, awaiting her time to "go home."
If you think this is a weird or uncommon story. Think again.
If you think my portrayal of the episode is melodramatic, then put your self in the shoes of the girl and think it through.
What the Catholic Church did to these women, with the complete cooperation of the girls' families, is a travesty. If you think it through, and I beg you to think it through, it sort of makes a teenage boy getting a blow job seem almost like a day in the park. I do not intend to diminish the horror of childhood sexual abuse; but I am in awe of the fact that the abuse of boys is such a scandal, but the abuse of girls is matter-of-fact.
There has been an amazing backlash against the Catholic Church for the abuse of boys and young men.
Nothing is ever said about this horrendous activity against girls and young women.
Fortunately, some in the media have tried to shed a light on this history.
The light will only shine long enough to expose the horror if you are wiling to point the light on it.
Think about this story.
Think about what happened to these girls and young women.
Think about those you know who were adopted. Think about their biological mothers.
These are not easy thoughts. And they should not be easy thoughts.
This was a travesty.
It needs to be more public.
See, Adopted or abducted?