The Catholic Church is no stranger to scandal. They’ve attempted to systematically wipe out entire religions, and covered numerous sex crimes committed within their church, but one of the most unforgivable things the Catholic Church has ever done has been to take part in Spanish baby trafficking. Throughout the 20th century the Spanish arm of the Catholic Church would steal newborn babies from their mothers and sell them to the highest bidder.
As far as church scandals go this is pretty high up there. Not only is this behavior absolutely abhorrent, it’s also in direct opposition to their faith. This Spanish child kidnapping rite, like so many Catholic Church crimes, proves that the people who rise to the highest places of power within organized religion care less about humanity are more about grabbing as much money and dominance as they possible can. Keep reading to discover the truth behind the truly insane rumor that the Catholic Church sells stolen babies.
It All Began In Post-War Spain
Following the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) General Francisco Franco became the head of the rebel Nationalist government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Under his rule Spain became a hermit nation similar to that of modern day North Korea. Anyone who fought against the Nationalists during the war or who held opposing viewpoints were punished – this includes anyone who wanted to have a child.
These people were known as “undesirables” and Franco believed that anyone with an opposing viewpoint or who lived beneath a specific wage line wasn’t fit to raise a child. The task of taking babies away from single mothers and families who didn’t fit into Franco’s idea of ideal citizens was given to a network of Catholic priests and nuns who did their jobs efficiently and without asking any questions.
The Church Stole The Babies Shortly After They Were Born
Rather than snatch babies from cribs at night, the Catholic Church went straight to the source when they decided to kidnap children. Directly after childbirth many babies were whisked away under the guise of routine testing and later their mothers were told that the baby had died. One mother who experienced this first hand explained to the BBC that she fell for this trick because she had been raised to believe that the church was infallible and that they would have no reason to lie to her. “I couldn’t accuse them of lying. This was Franco’s Spain. A dictatorship. Even now we Spaniards tend not to question authority.”
Many of the mothers who asked to see their child after hearing that it had passed away claim that they were shown the corpse of a child who had been frozen, or that was freezing cold.
The Babies Were Sold To Well-To-Do Families
After the newborns were stolen from their mothers most of them were immediately sold to couples who held beliefs more inline with Franco’s totalitarian and Catholic regime. These families didn’t just have the “right” set of core beliefs – they were also wealthy. Or at the very least they had enough money to buy a child in post World War II Spain. It’s likely that the adoptive parents weren’t aware that they were buying a child that had been stolen from its mother hours before, and many of the parents actually had their names placed on the child’s birth certificate. Allegedly the families were either led to believe that the infant’s mother had died in child birth or that the parents had given them up.
This Wasn’t A Small Time Operation
It may seem like it would be tough to carry out a country-wide, state-sanctioned, web of church backed kidnapping; but that’s where you’re wrong. These kidnappings started directly after the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, continued through World War II, and didn’t end until the early ’90s. Spain may be a relatively small country but it must have been noticeable to someone that children were disappearing at an alarming rate. Maybe people who brought up the numbers were squashed by the local government, or it’s possible that the Franco’s regime simply didn’t care if they were called out on their horrible crimes. Whatever the case many people believe that this web of Catholic kidnapping accounted for 15% of the total adoptions that took place in Spain between 1960 and 1989.
The Catholic Church Was Selling Babies For A Long Time
When the regulated system for child theft was put into place in 1939 it likely wasn’t designed to have an end game. Franco’s regime either felt like they were doing the right thing, or they were just being malicious. Either way, when an oligarchy comes into power they don’t have a back up plan. When Franco died in 1975 the church didn’t rethink their position of rampant child theft, and they didn’t rework the system that had caused so much pain. Instead, they dug in deeper into the social services system of Spain in an attempt to keep a stranglehold on the Spanish people.
It wasn’t until the late ’80s that the scandal was blown open when Juan Luis Moreno discovered that he was one Spain’s stolen babies. According to Moreno, the man who he knew as his father confessed on his deathbed that Moreno had been purchased from a priest in Northern Spain for 200,000 pesetas.
Priests Were Helping People Fake Pregnancies
When you think of the Catholic church stealing children and selling them to the highest bidder, you might imagine a nun running down a hallway with a baby, freshly ripped from its mother, and handing it off to the highest bidder. Well, that definitely happened a few times, but in many cases the church prepped parents for their child and helped them fake a pregnancy to keep friends and family from asking questions.
Speaking to the BBC, an 89-year-old woman named Ines Perez admitted that a priest helped her work out a fake pregnancy before she received a baby girl in 1969. She said, “The priest gave me padding to wear on my stomach.”
How To Sneak A Baby Out Of A Maternity Ward
Even though the Catholic church was working in tandem with Spain’s government it still shouldn’t have been so easy to steal a bunch of babies. Many priests and nuns who carried out the thefts went through a ridiculous series of steps to ensure that they weren’t caught. Priests and nuns would first falsify a birth certificate stating that the child had been born to the family who was paying for the baby, and then they would usually concoct a lie about why they were handing off such a small child before pushing the family out of the hospital – thus decreasing the risk of anyone being caught. One woman who received a baby from the Catholic church claims that she was told her adopted child was born premature, but that in reality it had probably just been born moments before. She claims that the doctor told her to put the baby in her car “between two hot water bottles.”
The Payment Plan
In many cases even when a family could afford to buy a child they couldn’t pay for it all up front so a payment plan was established. When Juan Luis Moreno’s father confessed on his deathbed that Moreno had been purchased from a priest he realized that his annual family trips to Zaragoza weren’t vacations – they were a contractual obligation. Moreno told the BBC that his adoptive father knew exactly what he was doing and that the church didn’t even try to hide its scam. “My dad was given a choice: boy or girl. They put it bluntly: This was a market for babies.” Moreno said that his adoptive father claims that the going price for a child at the time was twice the price of their family home.
No One Is Going To Get In Trouble For This
Despite believing that what they were doing was for the greater good of the Spanish people, General Franco and his regime knew it was wrong. After Franco’s death a series of amnesty laws were passed so that any crimes that took place while he was in power would never be examined in a court of law. Some prosecutors have decided to look into the thefts on a case-by-case basis, but that’s easier said than done. While there are some cases to go through, many children who were kidnapped and sold to families have decided not to come forward for fear their adoptive parents are seen as criminals. One person, a nun named Sister Maria Gomez, was brought to court for kidnapping but she refused to speak in court.
It’s Almost Impossible To Prosecute This Insane Crime
Aside from the lack of political will to prosecute for the crime, it is incredibly hard to prove in court the illegality of the case. A prosecutor in Madrid pointed out a few of the biggest issues with trying to prove wrongdoing in a case of systemic kidnapping. First, you can’t pursue a criminal case over a false birth certificate because the crime has passed the statute of limitations. And as far as the Spanish criminal justice system goes a false birth certificate doesn’t legally prove that a baby has been kidnapped. As it stands the Spanish Catholic church’s history of child kidnapping will go unpunished. The only thing that can be done is to remain vigilant against those in power.
Watch BBC’s documentary, “This World: Spain’s Stolen Babies,” below: