You afforded Mr Cooney the luxury of a 1,000 word article on your main feature page (March 18th) to reply to a letter from me which you published on March 14th. I shall be much briefer in response.
Mr Cooney writes: "Mr Cantwell's picture of Archbishop McQuaid as being in tune with today's thinking on the respective rights of the parties to adoption relies on the pioneering but outdated researches of the late John Whyte . . .
Why outdated? The late Dr Whyte was a distinguished historian of recognised thoroughness and objectivity, who had personally interviewed Dr McQuaid about legal adoption in Ireland when preparing his book, Church and Slate in Modern Ireland. What he reported of McQuaid's views should surely be taken seriously and not simply dismissed as "outdated".
Unquestionably, Mr Cooney is right in stating that Archbishop McQuaid was very concerned about many other matters related to adoption, primarily, for example, the religious unbringing of the children; it would be strange if any bishop were not. But, nothing in Mr Cooney's article contradicts the integrity of the views of Dr McQuaid as reported at first hand by Dr Whyte, that the natural mother and child had rights which should be recognised in any adoption law. - Yours, etc.,
Catholic Press & Information Office,
Adopted Child's Religion McQuaid's Main Concern
The Irish Times - Monday, March 18, 1996 by JOHN COONEY
THE attempt by the Catholic Church spokesman, Mr Jim Cantwell, to present a posthumous image of Archbishop Charles McQuaid as a progressive champion of the natural rights of the mother and child in adoption cases - in his recent letter to this newspaper (March 14th)- is not in accord with the historical, record. That record shows his primary concern was the upbringing and indoctrination of children either in a Catholic home or a Catholic-run orphanage.
Nor does Mr Cantwell's assertion conform with the McQuaid directive governing the adoption by Americans of Irish Catholic children between 1948 and 1962, the subject of current controversy for the Department of Foreign Affairs.
As revealed recently in the Sunday Tribune, this directive divested a mother of all further rights to her child. It required the adoptive parents, Catholics of course, to promise to give the child a Catholic education. The adoptive mother had to prove that she was not using contraceptives, an obsession of McQuaid. It further demanded that the adoptive mother would give up work, an echo of McQuaid's anti-feminist contribution to the 1937 Constitution.
Mr Cantwell's picture of Archbishop McQuaid as being in tune with today's thinking on the respective rights of the parties to an adoption relies on the pioneering but outdated researches of the late John Whyte, rather than on recent revelations. Despite the refusal of the Archdiocese of Dublin to allow scholars access to the files covering Archbishop McQuaid's long reign from 1940 to 1972, significant documentation casting light on his imperious approach to Church-State relations is available for inspection in the National Archives, though not apparently by Mr Cantwell.
Had Mr Cantwell consulted these records, he would have not been so hasty to dismiss Dr Noel Browne's recollections of how Archbishop McQuaid "wouldn't allow" the introduction of adoption legislation in 1948. (The Irish Times, March 11th).
The records show that not only did Archbishop McQuaid block a proposal by Gen Sean MacEoin, the Justice Minister in the Costello government of 1948-51, he had also frustrated an earlier initiative in 1944-5 by Gerry Boland of Fianna Fail.
The absence of legal adoption in Ireland became a matter of public concern towards the end of the second World War, in view of the large number of orphans throughout the world and on account of a rise in Ireland in the numbers of illegitimate children who were born during the Emergency.
With Ireland ranked as one of the few countries still without an adoption law, the de Valera government made tentative steps to remedy this serious social omission in early 1944. In January, Mr S.A. Roche, the Secretary of the Department of Justice, sought Archbishop McQuaid's advice on "religious problems" involved in the adoption of "destitute children".
In March, 1945, the Archbishop delivered his opinion: while legal adoption was not against the tenets of the Catholic faith, he had not seen any proposal which would safeguard the faith of the children. "If your draftsmen can put forward such a provision it would be a matter of great interest to me," he wrote. "If my advice be sought, I should urge that no step be taken in respect of Catholic children - and you know what a proportion that category entails - without referring the matter to the Catholic Hierarchy.
HE message from the Archbishop's palace in Drumcondra was not lost on Mr Roche. In his memorandum to Mr Boland, he feared that if the Archbishop of Dublin was not in favour of the proposal, the hierarchy would not be likely to accept it. "I suggest therefore," he informed Boland, "that we should drop, for the present at any rate, any idea of introducing legislation which would enable the courts to make orders transferring to adopters parental rights and duties in regard to adopted children".
Appending his ministerial approval to this advice, Boland wrote: "I agree that it is unlikely that the hierarchy would be more favourable than the Archbishop, so we had better drop the matter."
Boland in 1945, like MacEoin in 1948, had backed off when confronted with Archbishop McQuaid's demands for absolute Catholic Church control over the terms of proposed adoption of Catholic children. McQuaid's primary concern was religious proselytism, not the advanced psychology of individual rights.
However, when Boland returned Justice after the collapse of the Costello government over Noel Browne's Mother and Child scheme, availed of a new opportunity to introduce adoption legislation - but on McQuaid's denominational terms.
More single-minded than the politicians, the Adoption Society had lobbied Cardinal John D'Alton of Armagh in 1950 to take a more flexible approach than that of McQuaid. This overture resulted in the formation of a hierarchy sub-committee consisting of five bishops, led by the universal McQuaid!
IN January, 1952, this sub-committee came up with the formula desired by McQuaid. "Legal adoption, if it be restricted within certain limits and protected by certain safeguards, is consonant with Catholic teaching. A child's right in respect of faith and, morals must be protected by such safeguards as will assure his (sic) adoption by persons who profess and practise the religion of the child and who are of good moral character"
This episcopal wording paved the way for Mr Boland to introduce a Bill in the Dail. Clause by clause was vetted by McQuaid's intermediary, Father Cecil Barrett, culminating in the Adoption Act, 1952, which contained the condition requiring that adopting parents were "of the same religion as the child and his parents or, if the child is illegitimate, his mother". The measure prevented the adoption of orphan children of a mixed marriage and it prohibited couples in a mixed marriage from adopting a child.
Ironically, in 1974, the year after Dr McQuaid's death, a new Adoption Act formally repealed the religious clause after the High Court had ruled it to be unconstitutional. The clause dictated by Dr McQuaid was found to discriminate against Protestants. It was not an instance of advanced social thinking, as erroneously argued by Mr Cantwell.
The Irish Times - Thursday, March 14, 1996 from JIM CANTWELL
Sir, - I read with interest Dr Noel Browne's letter (March 11th) in which he states that the former Archbishop of Dublin, Dr McQuaid, "wouldn't allow" legislation for adoption. Dr Browne puts it rather melodramatically: "He (the Archbishop) wouldn't allow Mr McKeown's (the Minister for Justice's) compassionate attempt, for the first time to allow for the adoption into loving, caring homes of these pathetic infants in the dreadful industrial schools and infant orphanages".
This is unfair to Archbishop McQuaid. Indeed, it seems that, in the matter of the respective rights of the various parties involved in adoption, the Archbishop was very much in tune with today's thinking and probably out of tune with the received wisdom of his own time.
The evidence for this is contained in the objective account of Archbishop McQuaid's view by the historian Dr J. H. Whyte. The following passage from his book, Church and State in Modern Ireland. first published in 1971, has a contemporary relevance: "I am in a position to state that the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr McQuaid, was consulted about the adoption issue by both General MacEoin and his predecessor in the Department of Justice, Mr Gerals Boland, and when consulted, advised against legislation. This issue, however, is one which I have had the advantage of discussing in interview with the Archbishop of Dublin, and I can also say that his view point was a good deal more nuance than the bald statement that he advised against legislation might suggest.
"Dr McQuaid was not opposed in principle to legal adoption. He was aware that the Catholic Church accepted it in other countries, and for that matter, that it is recognised in canon law. It was with his approval that the Catholic Protection and Rescue Society had been pursuing since 1945 the policy of arranging de facto adoptions for the children in its care.
"But he did feel that the advocates of legal adoption, in their zeal to safeguard the rights of the adopting parents, tended to overlook the fact that the natural mother and child had rights too, which must equally be safeguarded in any legislation. He did not feel, in 1950, that a solution which reconciled all these rights had yet been found. He also considered that public opinion required more preparation".
Catholic Press and Information Office,