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Irish Catholic nuns cleared of murder by AP

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About a month ago, several news organizations, such as the AP, Salon, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and even FoxNews, all reported about the horror -- horror, we say -- of 796 children buried in a septic tank in a Catholic-run orphanage, Tuam Home. No, they weren't murdered, despite some suggestions that they were starved to death.

It wasn't reported here because most of the articles seemed to consist of half-truths, rumors, hearsay, and generally unreliable reporting.

Good thing, too.

The AP.

In stories published June 3 and June 8 about young children buried in unmarked graves after dying at a former Irish orphanage for the children of unwed mothers, The Associated Press incorrectly reported that the children had not received Roman Catholic baptisms; documents show that many children at the orphanage were baptized.

For those of you who aren't familiar with standard operating procedure for the Catholic church, children get baptized, period. As fast as possible, usually. The implication being that the church couldn't be bothered treating unwed offspring as the same as everyone else. Which leads to ...

The AP also incorrectly reported that Catholic teaching at the time was to deny baptism and Christian burial to the children of unwed mothers; although that may have occurred in practice at times it was not church teaching.

Wow, AP, very nice. They misreported Catholic practices, and promptly declared "Well, it could have happened that way!" Stay classy, your dirt bags.

In addition, in the June 3 story, the AP quoted a researcher who said she believed that most of the remains of children who died there were interred in a disused septic tank; the researcher has since clarified that without excavation and forensic analysis it is impossible to know how many sets of remains the tank contains, if any.

Nice way to bury the lead. This isn't a retraction of a few details here and there. Looking through the original story, this reads like a a complete retraction. The septic tank angle is what made the story in any way unique. Children just thrown away. It was an Irish Holocaust! raved every single self-righteous son of a cur reporter. And now, nothing.

You want a mass grave in Ireland? During the famine of 1845-1848, mass graves were standard operating procedure because whole towns starved to death. If you think Iraq's mass graves were special, go to Ireland sometime. It's 170 years later, and they're still finding new graves.

The June 3 story also contained an incorrect reference to the year that the orphanage opened; it was 1925, not 1926.

That's just deflation. "Hi, our entire story was bogus from start to finish, and, oh, yeah, we made a typo."

This retraction, while a nice departure from "we're always right," really doesn't even scratch the surface of what went wrong here. Does journalistic neglect even begin to cover it? They basically started a rumor, and let it snowball. They didn't check, didn't verify, and waited days after the facts came out to correct it (see below).

At least with Fox News, their story focused on the reaction of Irish officials, though there are point where, as Fox put it, AP contributed to the story. That at least explains some of the stupidity in the article. Someone should be fired not only for the cut and paste journalism from the AP, but for writing that article the day after AP issued their retraction.

So what the bleep happened here?

Well, if you believe the Washington Post, in a CYA correction

Contrary to a great deal of reporting, including two stories published by The Washington Post, it doesn’t appear that there are 800 skeletons in a disused septic tank. Many of the early stories appear to have conflated two different sources of information. One comes from a local historian, Catherine Corless, who has discovered death certificates for nearly 800 babies and children at the home, which was run by the Bon Secours order of nuns from the 1920s to the 1960s. The other comes from two local men, who say that they found some kind of crypt beneath a concrete slab in the area containing a number of skeletons when they were playing as boys in the early 1970s. One of the men estimates that 20 skeletons were contained in the space. These two different sources have been conflated into the claim that a mass grave of babies and children was found in a septic tank. Corless, who appears to have been the crucial initial source of information, has since claimed: “I never said to anyone that 800 bodies were dumped in a septic tank. That did not come from me at any point. They are not my words.”

The Washington Post continues, trying to spin that the real story is about evil Catholics letting unwed mothers and their bastard children die of neglect. Go ahead and read it if you don't believe it. It ignores that life in the newly-formed Republic of Ireland kind of sucked. It doesn't suck half as bad as Angela's Ashes would have you believe, but it wasn't all unicorns and rainbows. There was poverty, the society was locked into an agricultural model for decades, and there are still some who have grudges against the original governing body because of those decisions. Those grudges might have been exactly what led to the rumors that created this story in the first place. And if that's the case, maybe someone in the news media would like to talk about unbiased sources. Maybe.

Maybe the Washington Post would like to discuss how this was allowed to happen for so long? Unattributed sources? A reporter who put words into Catherine Corless's mouth?

And the Washington Post correction you read above is excerpted from a June 9th article. The AP retraction is from June 20. The Fox article is from June 21. AP was allowed to get away with this for 11 days? Even the Washington Post, despite its correction, finding that correction in a simple search for "Ireland" was impossible. Searching for it with "correction Ireland" led to success. In short, you had to know that there was a correction in order to find it.

Seriously now, who at AP allowed this? Think about it: in a couple of weeks, it went from 800 babies thrown out without the benefit of sacraments into an old septic tank, to maybe one or two dozens skeletons in some crypt. The nuns are Nazis (Google "Irish Holocaust" and you'll see what I mean), uncaring to both the unmarried mothers and the souls of children who died under their care ... except there is a full list of the baptized over a 40-year period.

While the corrections are nice, how about an apology? From either AP, WP, or the Irish newspapers who went into vicious, violently anti-Catholic screeds? Time for some personal responsibility by the journalists who write this reports, especially when they went to print without any fact-checking.

Can we now issue another change? That AP will now stand for arrogance personified?

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