Saturday, 16 August 2014

Chile: Priest involved in irregular adoptions

While Argentina is well known for the stolen babies during its dictatorship, there have been allegations of irregular adoptions in other countries, such as Spain and now Chile.

The Catholic Church in Chile has confirmed that priest Gerardo Joannon was involved in the adoption of two babies without the knowledge of their mothers in the 1970s or 1980s, and also that he had an "inappropriate relationship" with one of the women. He apparently even conducted masses for "dead" babies whom he in fact knew to be alive.

The pattern seems to be that single pregnant women were pressured to give up their children for adoption, and if they refused, they were told that they had died during childbirth and the children were given up anyway.

The Church wanted Joannon to go to Spain on retreat but Chile has now said he cannot leave the country while police investigations are ongoing (good!).

The situation in Argentina was even more brutal and also less ambiguously linked to the military junta. There, "subversive" prisoners who were found to be pregnant were deliberately kept alive in detention centres until they gave birth and then murdered, while their babies were sold or given away, usually to families regarded as "good" or with military connections.

In Chile, it remains to be seen whether the practice of taking babies from women deemed "inappropriate" mothers was widespread; I think this certainly can't be ruled out. I'm sure it would be more convenient for the Church and the State if Joannon turned out to have been acting more or less alone, but this may not be the full story. Even without an organised "baby-stealing" plan, it is also possible that the atmosphere in Chile at the time - conservative, authoritarian - made it extremely difficult for vulnerable people to question or stand up to representatives of the Church, who judged that they had the intervene in the children's future.

Investigación por adopciones irregulares confirma participación de Gerardo Joannon en dos casos (La Tercera)
Chile's Catholic Church Says Priest Stole Babies for Adoption (Newsweek)
Chilean priest probed after 'stolen babies' scandal (BBC)

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