kurt_w wrote:...but it's a reminder of how dangerous it is to let any group operate without public scrutiny and oversight...
After years of resistance, I have just started reading 1984 - much better than and absolutely nothing like the way it has been described in popular culture but I tell you this sentence of yours could have been plucked right out of it.
Good for you. You don't seem to be getting the book's point, though, as evidenced by your next paragraph:
Yeah, yeah, we should have them scrutinized -- watched over, say. We should 'keep an eye on them.' Yeah, yeah, they can't be trusted, see, maybe if everyone in the world were kept under constant surveilance where their actions could be monitored at all times, by jove...
That's so far removed from my comment that it's not even in the same universe. Your misappropriation of 1984
probably has Orwell spinning in his grave.
Let's recap: the Franco regime was a dictatorship
, like a very weak-tea version of the regimes in 1984. The Catholic Church in Franco's Spain likewise was a more or less unquestionable, unchallengable authority.
My point was that unquestionable, unchallengable authorities are dangerous
. The ability of ordinary citizens to investigate and question the doings of powerful authorities -- be they governments or state-established religious hierarchies -- is essential to a free society and is the best possible guard against abuses of power by those authorities.
This is the complete opposite of your implication. I'm not remotely referring to the use of surveillance by
the authorities to control the public. If you can't understand the difference between citizens' oversight of government and other powerful institutions, vs. government's surveillance of its own citizens, you probably ought to be starting your reading program with something a bit simpler than 1984
Seriously, it needs to be said: there is almost nothing to back almost 100% of these allegations up but a series of random instances and rampant insinuations [...]
There's quite a bit of evidence, though the exact number of cases is certainly speculative. (I will edit the title of this thread to better reflect the uncertainty about numbers.) Here's a brief summary (from Lisa Abend's story in Time
There appear to be two distinct phases of baby theft that occurred in Spain during the 20th century. The first, which was not only approved by dictator Francisco Franco but also promoted by his government as a means of "improving" the Spanish "race," was politically inspired. [...] "The state considered these children [of dissidents] in need of re-education," says University of Barcelona historian Ricard Vinyes, who has written a book on the subject. "It was actually proud of these efforts and would publish the results of how many children had been 'welcomed' annually."
Based on the documentation he has uncovered, Vinyes estimates that tens of thousands of children were taken from their parents during a campaign that lasted until the end of the 1940s.
Then, once the political/ideological motive for stealing babies began to subside, a new set of motives appeared: financial and spiritual. Catholic hospitals could take babies from women they perceived to be spiritually unfit -- unwed mothers, irreligious mothers -- and sell them to "good" families that wanted to adopt. In the eyes of those who were involved in this scheme, it was good for everyone: the babies would be raised by "better" parents, the most "deserving" families would get to adopt children, and the hospitals would get a new source of income:
In what appear to be thousands of cases throughout Spain, individual doctors and nurses — many of the latter nuns — took newborns from obstetric wards and sold them to prospective adopted parents. That's the claim by victims who, in many cases, can support their theory with death certificates that have clearly been falsified or cemetery documents that contradict what parents were told at the supposed time of death [...]
In each case, the woman gave birth to what she believed to be a healthy child, only to later be told that the infant had died and that it was impossible to see the body. Those babies were then allegedly sold to couples who paid, on average, the equivalent of $8,000. And the people accused of doing the selling are in many cases the very doctors and nurses who had delivered the babies. This is according to testimony given to lawyers and journalists by people who unwittingly bought the babies — many were told the charges were to cover the mother's expenses. [...]
There are government records from the Franco years, clearly falsified paperwork from hospitals and cemeteries, sworn testimony by unwitting adoptive parents, large numbers of suspicious sets of paperwork all signed by the same doctors, even a gravedigger who told prosecutors that he was ordered to bury "hundreds" of empty baby-sized coffins
over a decade. There's at least one case where DNA shows that a supposedly "dead" infant was perfectly healthy and was sold to another family. The Spanish government has recently established a program for more widespread DNA tests, though it will be difficult to find matches except in the relatively rare cases where there is a prior indication of which mothers and which children were the likely victims so as to establish who ought to be tested.
And, to bring this back to my comment about the dangers of putting authorities -- be they dictators or bishops -- above question, here's the closing quote from an (excellent) NY Times story
about the investigations:
During the Franco regime and in its immediate aftermath, “you simply didn’t challenge what an official told you,” said María Luisa Puro Rodríguez, a former tobacco factory worker who claims that her newborn was abducted in 1976 from a Malaga hospital. “We now thankfully live in a society where it is normal to question what we hear,” she said. “I’ve learned this bitter lesson and am now ready to fight all the way to find out what actually happened.”