AP: We were wrong on Irish babies-in-nun’s-septic-tank story

The Catholic League's Bill Donahue says the original reporting by AP and other outlets was "truths, half-truths, and flat-out lies."
Tue Jun 24, 2014 - 12:58 pm EST
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DUBLIN, Ireland -- The Associated Press has published a major correction notice undercutting its reporting on the recent claim that Irish nuns dumped nearly 800 bodies of babies in a septic tank beside their orphanage. The story was featured in media across the globe and created an international furor against the Catholic Church in Ireland.

The orphanage took care of babies given up by unwed mothers from 1925 to 1961, but in articles on June 3 and June 8, the AP said evidence pointed to a number of potential atrocities. 

In its correction, which was issued on Friday, the AP spelled out its errors, including one related to Church doctrine on baptisms.

The notice reads:

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

The consequences for the Church, especially in Ireland, were immediate and tremendous in light of the reporting by the AP, local news, and national Irish and British outlets. In the AP's June 8 story, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said there should be a probe of how the orphanage handled its responsibilities. The AP also reported that Martin wanted a probe that would have no involvement by the Church.

Prior to the AP's admission of error, America magazine and Forbes contributor Eamonn Fingleton, among others, had challenged the accuracy of the news agency’s reports.

In a scathing analysis, the Catholic League's Bill Donahue said the original reporting by the AP and other outlets was "truths, half-truths, and flat-out lies," and that "the public has been hosed."

The AP's June 8 article notes that the orphanage helped hundreds of unmarried, pregnant women during the time it was in existence, a critical line of care for women who were often abandoned by friends and family. 

  associated press, catholic, ireland, media bias

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