Saturday, September 24, 2011

Catholic Church to Apologise for forced adoptions

July 25, 20119:18AM

THE head of the healthcare arm of the Catholic Church says he is prepared to apologise to the victims of forced adoption practices dating back 50 years.

The flagged apology follows an admission by Catholic Health Australia that "a small number" of church-run hospitals and women's homes maintained unwanted adoption practices from the 1950s to the 1970s.

CEO Martin Laverty says he is prepared to front a Senate inquiry to make an expression of sorrow and regret if such an apology brought healing and comfort to the several women who had their new-born babies forcibly removed.

"These practices of the past are no longer tolerated, nor by today's laws, and are deeply regrettable," he said in a submission to a Senate committee investigating the Commonwealth's contribution to former forced adoption policies and practices.

Mr Laverty said his organisation only became aware of the women's experiences in June.

"We acknowledge the pain of separation and loss felt then and now for the mothers, fathers, children, families and others involved in the practices of the time," Mr Laverty said in the submission to the Senate inquiry.

"For the pain that arises from practices of the past, we are genuinely sorry."

In some cases, the adoption practices had "devastating and ongoing impacts" on families.

"There are likely to be people in our community who continue to live with pain and grief as a result of adoption practices of the past," Mr Laverty said.

Catholic Health Australia is prepared to support the setting up of a framework that would allow the victims of forced adoption to get access to personal medical or social work records to help contact lost family members.

It would also support a fund for "remedying established wrongs".

At least 150,000 Australian women reportedly had their babies taken against their will by some churches and adoption agencies.

Juliette Clough said she was just 16 when she was forced to give up her baby boy at a Catholic-run hospital in Newcastle in 1970.

"They just snatched away the baby," she told ABC Radio, adding at the time her ankles were strapped to the bed and she had been "gassed".

"You weren't allowed to see him or touch him, anything like that, or hold him and it was just like a piece of my soul had died, and it's still dead."

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