Magdalene Laundries: Society And The Catholic Church

1251 words - 6 pages

The 2002 film, Magdalene Sisters, written and directed by Peter Mullan, portrays the experiences of four young women who were sent to Magdalene laundries where they were expected to work to gain redemption through intensive labor, typically for the duration of their lives. These women were considered “fallen” for committing sins such as promiscuity, pregnancy out of wedlock, flirtatiousness and even for being victims of rape or incest. These inmates were beaten, dehumanized, humiliated and stripped of their dignity. This film, based on the documentary Sex in a Cold Climate, highlights the reciprocal influence of the Catholic Church and society that formed the views and treatment of women, ...view middle of the document...

One demonstration of distorted religious views occurs when Margaret McGuire revealed that she was raped by her cousin and her father decided to send her to the laundry feeling that she was unmarriagble and no longer honorable. This demonstrates that the church coerced individuals into ignoring human instinct to care for one’s child and to reject rape. The scene where Margaret’s mother is sorrowfully peering out the window as her daughter is leaving to go to the laundry communicates that individuals did not act on their emotions because their strong association with the church and their interpretation of its teachings. The church’s unchecked power and the distortion of Catholic teachings is responsible for overriding Irish individual’s inclinations that led to the perpetuation of these injustices.
The film not only portrays the robust influence of the church on the morality of society, but also on the inmates in the laundries who are abused to the extent that they conform to the views of the church. The character Una O’Connor escaped from the laundry to reunite with her family because of the injustices that she was facing at the laundry. Una’s father returned her to the laundry, assaulted her and told her that if she tried to escape again he would cripple her (Mullan). Despite her initial views that these laundries were inhumane and miserable places to be, she was coerced to forget her old life, become a nun and potentially perpetuate the injustices that befell her. Another example of the oppression of the church is the transition that some of the women face into believing that they deserved the cruel treatment they faced in the laundries. This occurs when Crispina looses her St. Christopher pendant. She is in despair as this is her only connection to her son and her sister, but she states that this is a consequence of her behavior and part of her penance. It is clear that some of the inmates at the laundries have internal struggles about their treatment s partially believing that they are deserving because of the societal influence that has been ingrained in them since birth. In the documentary Sex in a Cold Climate, one woman discussed life after her release and said she felt self-conscious as if everyone knew what she had done, because she had always been told she was a bad person. This demonstrates the depth of the church’s unrestrained influence that even manipulated the individuals who were victims of the system to believe that they deserved to be condemned.
Not only were the strict and coercive views of the church shown as influencing the inmates at the laundries, but also the nuns who were forced to grapple with expectations placed on them by the...

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