Lee is now an advocate and spokesperson for adoption rights. In February , she met Pope Francis to discuss the Catholic church's adoption policies. Her mother died of tuberculosis when Lee was six. Her father, a butcher, sent Lee and her sisters, Kaye and Mary, to a convent school and kept his sons at home. After Lee completed her formal education at the convent, she went to live with her maternal aunt, Kitty Madden.
|Published (Last):||18 February 2016|
|PDF File Size:||18.16 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||8.32 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
After becoming pregnant out of wedlock in Ireland in , a teenage Lee was disowned by her father and sent to live and work in a convent alongside other unmarried mothers. A distraught Lee watched from an upstairs window as strangers drove off with her child. For the next 50 years, Lee told nobody about Anthony.
It wasn't easy: Irish law makes it extremely difficult for adopted children to learn about their parents and birth records, and the nuns at the convent where Lee lived stonewalled her requests for information. Just as the nuns wouldn't give Lee and Libberton any answers about what happened to Anthony, Hess himself had journeyed to Ireland to ask about his mother—with no luck.
Last month, Lee partnered with the Adoption Rights Alliance to launch The Philomena Project, which will advocate for changes to Ireland's adoption-records policies and help connect mothers and children separated by the country's history of forced adoptions. When you started your journey a decade ago, did you ever think it would bring you to Washington? No way. So many people responded to the film, and a lot of them actually were women like me coming out.
People like Mari and her colleagues have been trying for years to get the government in Ireland to give people rights to their records. Is the project more about helping adopted children here connect with parents in Ireland, or about putting pressure on Ireland to change its policies?
Mari : Both. I think the response was very positive. Each and every one was different, but very positive. Have you had more success going the political route than through the Church? With the Church, you really will get nowhere.
If we have to go that route, we will. Have the ways the Catholic Church has changed in the past several decades made it any easier? Here in the States, we tend to get a lot more encouragement and sympathy. You just believed everything you were told. At the time they did it, they took me in, they gave me a home for my baby. They gave us a home. It was the Church that caused all the problems because the Church made a baby out of wedlock a mortal sin. So we firmly believed we were sinners. Were you worried people would take an anti-Catholic message away from the movie?
This is what happened. It was never, ever from the start meant to be an attack on the Church. Steve Coogan [who plays Martin Sixsmith] says the same thing. He never set out at all to make an anti-Catholic film. As mom said, yes, they did take her in. Where else would she have gone? But they kind of caused the problem in the first place.
They were part of the solution, but they were part of the problem. Did you feel surprised that so many people found your commitment to your faith inspiring? But I mean, Anthony would have been 61 last year. When he was adopted and taken away, I went to Liverpool, two years I stayed there, and then I went down and did psychiatric nursing for 30 years. You see so much hurt and pain caused by anger.
I was angry in the beginning, and I used to think, why did this happen to me? And then nursing the patients, sitting down and talking with them, helping them with their problems—it made my own slide into the background. I was upset and very sad and very hurt. But I just went on with life and got married and had children. Working with psychiatric patients, it helped me to heal a lot of the pain I had.
One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is the moment of forgiveness near the end. Steve asked a particular question of whether you forgive the nuns, and you did. Were the nuns as big of an obstacle in learning about Anthony as they appeared in the movie? They were very pleasant very nice.
Without those papers, there never would have been a book. She was delightful. How would we know? I worked in the laundry for three and a half years. They just knew it was the nuns who ran their business. Nobody really knew what went on behind the walls or dared ask. We were ostracized so much.
We had to lose our identities. I got a name called Marcella. For three and a half years, I was Marcella.
My brother, he was a young lad. He was 18 months older than me when I went to the home. He drove me when they discovered I was pregnant. He bounced him on his knees and hugged him and loved him. For years he felt so guilty. I went home in , was it? I went home and sat them down and told them. You came out to see me. I just had some new light switches. I remember it very clearly. But immediately I knew who this child was because we always had his photograph in with all the other family photos.
It would just be awful. Then it went to the Venice Film Festival and received such fantastic reviews. I started reading the reviews to mom, and we could see why people liked it. But it took other people to point us in the right direction. It was already such a tough, emotional movie to watch, it would have been a lot harder without those funnier moments.
And the whole of my life, all I wanted was to find him. Finding out he was dead was very hard, but at least I found him. I used to think over the years he could be in Vietnam, he could be on Skid Row. But once I found out how successful he was, then I was able to put my heart to rest and my mind to rest. At least he had a very good life and a wonderful partner. I believe that. I had given up going to mass and communion and confession. They had a Catholic mass every Friday morning.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. Skip to content.
Sign in My Account Subscribe. The Atlantic Crossword. The Print Edition. Latest Issue Past Issues. Link Copied. Women having babies? The forced adoptions across the country, I mean. Nolan Feeney is a former producer for TheAtlantic. Connect Twitter.
Philomena Lee campaigns to release secret adoption files
After becoming pregnant out of wedlock in Ireland in , a teenage Lee was disowned by her father and sent to live and work in a convent alongside other unmarried mothers. A distraught Lee watched from an upstairs window as strangers drove off with her child. For the next 50 years, Lee told nobody about Anthony. It wasn't easy: Irish law makes it extremely difficult for adopted children to learn about their parents and birth records, and the nuns at the convent where Lee lived stonewalled her requests for information. Just as the nuns wouldn't give Lee and Libberton any answers about what happened to Anthony, Hess himself had journeyed to Ireland to ask about his mother—with no luck.
The Catholic church sold my child
I t began with a chance encounter at a New Year's party in I was trying to leave, but a woman said she had a message for me. She knew I had been a journalist and she had a friend who wanted my help to solve a family mystery. I agreed to a meeting, and found myself embarking on a five-year quest for a man I had never met.
The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a 50 Year Search