Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Lifestyles
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Inspiration for 'Philomena' meets Pope Francis, says she doesn't blame Vatican for her ordeal

Philomena Lee gives an interview at the end of a press conference in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, after her meeting with Pope Francis a day earlier and the Oscar-nominated film based on her story of trying to find a son taken from her 50 years earlier. One of the main criticisms of the Vatican in a U.N. report on sex abuse was the Holy See's failure to investigate the arbitrary placement of girls in church-run workhouses in Ireland, where their out-of-wedlock babies were taken from them and put up for adoption. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Enlarge Image

Philomena Lee gives an interview at the end of a press conference in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, after her meeting with Pope Francis a day earlier and the Oscar-nominated film based on her story of trying to find a son taken from her 50 years earlier. One of the main criticisms of the Vatican in a U.N. report on sex abuse was the Holy See's failure to investigate the arbitrary placement of girls in church-run workhouses in Ireland, where their out-of-wedlock babies were taken from them and put up for adoption. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY - The woman who inspired the Oscar-nominated film "Philomena," about an Irish mother forced to give up her son for adoption, says she doesn't blame the Vatican for her ordeal, despite a damning U.N. report essentially holding the Holy See responsible for such practices.

Philomena Lee spoke at a news conference Thursday after meeting briefly with Pope Francis and screening "Philomena" for Francis' personal secretary at the Vatican a day earlier.

Lee was sent to a Catholic-run boarding house in Ireland after she got pregnant as a teenager in 1952, one of thousands of young Irish women essentially incarcerated in shame for having had an out-of-wedlock child in the staunchly Roman Catholic country.

Lee's son was sent to the United States to be adopted when he was 3 and she never heard from him again.

On Wednesday, a U.N. human rights committee essentially held the Vatican responsible for such forced adoptions arranged by Catholic-run institutions in Ireland, urging it to investigate and compensate victims. The recommendation was contained in a scathing report on the Vatican's failure to protect children as a signatory to a U.N. treaty on children's rights.

Lee, however, said she doesn't blame the Vatican or anyone for what happened to her. In a remarkable demonstration of her continued faith, she said that in meeting Francis she actually felt that her sins for having had a child were finally forgiven.

"You were made to feel so bad about having a baby out of wedlock," she recalled. "I've carried the guilt inside for 50 years, without telling anybody."

"So I had such a sense of relief that I had been forgiven," she said.

Asked if the church should ask her forgiveness, for having taken her son away from her, Lee said she initially was bitter about what had been done to her, and that she did "lose my religion a little bit."

"But over the years, after such a long time — Anthony would be 62 this year — so how could I go through a whole of life holding a grudge? I've long since forgiven everything that did happen."

"Philomena" tells the story of how Lee set out to try to find Anthony, who died before they met. The film, which stars Judi Dench as Lee, has been nominated for four Oscars, including best picture and best actress for Dench.

Lee, her daughter and an Irish organization, Adoption Rights Alliance, are pressing the Irish government to release the files of some 60,000 women whose children were put up for adoption in those years, in a bid to help mothers and children reunite.

During the screening of the film to Vatican officials, Lee and others involved in The Philomena Project asked Vatican officials to press the Catholic Church in Ireland to release the adoption files that church-affiliated adoption agencies still keep.

The so-called mother and baby houses where Lee was sent were different from the better-known Magdalene Laundries, where young women were often sent to keep them out of trouble.

The number of children forcibly put up for adoption from the Magdalene Laundries pales by comparison to the tens of thousands taken away from their mothers at the boarding houses like the one Lee attended, said Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance.

___

Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Submit a Random Act of Kindness
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media