Shocking Story – How the State and the Church colluded to steal babies

published on November 17, 2011

Spain’s stolen babies and the families who lived a lie
By Katya Adler BBC News, Spain

Spanish society has been shaken by allegations of the theft and trafficking of thousands of babies by nuns, priests and doctors, which started under Franco and continued up to the 1990s.

I first met Manoli Pagador in Getafe, in a working-class suburb of Madrid. She was attending a meeting for people affected by the scandal Spaniards call “ninos robados” – stolen children.

She has three daughters and lots of grandchildren, but she has never got over the loss of her first-born – a son – nearly 40 years ago.

She had come to think she was crazy for believing he was alive, instead of dead and buried as hospital doctors had told her.

“Now,” she said, gripping my hand tightly. “Look around the room at the other women here. All like me. The same background. The same experience. I’m not mad and my family finally believes me.”

In 1971 Manoli, who was 23 at the time and not long married, gave birth to what she was told was a healthy baby boy, but he was immediately taken away for what were called routine tests.

Nine interminable hours passed. “Then, a nun, who was also a nurse, coldly informed me that my baby had died,” she says.

They would not let her have her son’s body, nor would they tell her when the funeral would be.

Did she not think to question the hospital staff?

“Doctors, nuns?” she says, almost in horror. “I couldn’t accuse them of lying. This was Franco’s Spain. A dictatorship. Even now we Spaniards tend not to question authority.”

The scale of the baby trafficking was unknown until this year, when two men – Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno, childhood friends from a seaside town near Barcelona – discovered that they had been bought from a nun. Their parents weren’t their real parents, and their life had been built on a lie.

Juan Luis Moreno discovered the truth when the man he had been brought to call “father” was on his deathbed.

Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno took their story to the papers – and opened the floodgates

“He said, ‘I bought you from a priest in Zaragoza’. He said that Antonio had been bought as well.”

The pair were hurt and angry. They say they felt like two dogs that had been bought at a pet shop. An adoption lawyer they turned to for advice said he came across cases like theirs all the time.

The pair went to the press and suddenly the story was everywhere. Mothers began to come forward across Spain with disturbingly similar stories.

‘Approved families’

After months of requests from the BBC, the Spanish government finally put forward Angel Nunez from the justice ministry to talk to me about Spain’s stolen children.

Asked if babies were stolen, Mr Nunez replied: “Without a doubt”.

“How many?” I asked.

“I don’t dare to come up with figures,” he answered carefully. “But from the volume of official investigations I dare to say there were many.”

Lawyers believe that up to 300,000 babies were taken.

The practice of removing children from parents deemed “undesirable” and placing them with “approved” families, began in the 1930s under the dictator General Francisco Franco.

At that time, the motivation may have been ideological. But years later, it seemed to change – babies began to be taken from parents considered morally – or economically – deficient. It became a money-spinner, too.

The scandal is closely linked to the Catholic Church, which under Franco assumed a prominent role in Spain’s social services including hospitals, schools and children’s homes.

Nuns and priests compiled waiting lists of would-be adoptive parents, while doctors were said to have lied to mothers about the fate of their children.

Read detailed story @
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15335899

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