Some Criticize Philomena
for Being Anti-Catholic
by Barbara Free, M.A.
The Lost Child of Philomena Lee was originally published in 2009, not much
was heard about it until it inspired Steve Coogan to make a film in 2013. The movie,
entitled Philomena, was nominated for several Oscars and its success has
generated a heated debate among partisan critics about whether or not it promotes
Most notably, Kyle Smith, the film critic for the
New York Post, in his review on November 21, 2013, called the film a
diabolical-Catholics film, straight up, further characterizing it as an attack
on both Catholics and Republicans. In response, the Weinstein Group, the U.S.
distributor of the film, took out a full-page ad in various newspapers about a week
later with Philomena Lees Response to Kyle, which reads, in part,
Your review of [Philomena] ... as ...
a condemnation of Catholicism and conservative views [is] incorrect.
In a less well-publicized commentary, presented as an
interview with Raymond Arroyo, the host of The World Over,
a weekly program broadcast on the Eternal Word Televison Network on February 27, 2014,
Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, objected to the negative depiction
of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the nuns who ran the Roscrea Abbey, who, he said,
offered women and girls in a situation like Philomena Lees a better option than
the street. Donohue seems also to have taken the films (as well as
the books) depiction of events as literally true, despite the fact that, at the
outset of the film, e.g., it is stated that the movie was only inspired
by true events.
Stephen [Frears] ... story of Martin and me
searching for my long lost son ... is not a rally cry against the church or politics.
In fact, despite some of the troubles that befell me as a young girl, I have always
maintained a very strong hold on my faith.
... Stephens movie ... is meant to be a testament
to ... the undying bond that exists between mothers and their children, something that
Ive found time and distance have no bearing on. It is a testament to the
willingness to never give up on keeping that bond alive, even if all odds are pointing
you against it. It is also a testament to the fact that no matter how old we grow,
there is always a chance we will meet someone, however different from us, that might
impact our views on humanity and help guide us on a new, if perhaps unforeseen, path.
... Not everyone has to love it, or take much away from it,
but I speak on behalf of all of us in saying that what we dont want is its message
to be misinterpreted. ... Just as I forgave the church for what happened with my son, I
forgive you for not taking the time to understand my story.
Adam Pertman, adoptive parent, author, and blogger, with
the Evan Donaldson Institute, commented that there are still many Philomenas among us,
particularly in the U.S., where most women would have parented their children if they
could have, and he says more are created every day by way of closed adoptions and
closed records. He says that coercing or forcibly removing children from their parents
inflicts profound and lasting psychic wounds, even when it is necessary. In the film,
Philomenas treatment looked like torture to him, and he believes it does to birth
mothers everywhere, who certainly did not and do not forget and move on.
He is not denying the need for removing children from abusive situations, nor the fact
that many do relinquish willingly, and who do now receive the help they need. He also
points out that everyone, regardless of their origins or circumstances, deserves to know
who they are and where they came from. It is easy to say, Oh, well, that happened
over 50 years ago; times have changed and adoption is all lovely now. Unfortunately,
it isnt so different in many cases, and yet, there are many who believe that birth
mothers deserve to lose their children and must do penance by never finding them and
never being allowed to search or to have any information.
Other people, including adopted adults, birth parents, and
adoptive parents, have written that the film was very powerful for them. Some recounted
their own searches, some of which resulted in learning that a birth parent was already
deceased. Others said they felt they needed to publicize the past of these Irish
laundries more instead of keeping it a secret or acting like it wasnt a big deal.
Some said they found Philomenas continued Catholic faith an inspiration, that
shed risen above the mean, petty attitudes to which she was subjected by the nuns,
and that her courage brought about profound changes to Martin Sixsmiths life,
which, apparently, it did.
Philomena Lee was present at the Academy Awards ceremonies
in March, and did not seem to be in any way flamboyant. The film did not win any awards,
probably because there were several other excellent films also nominated in each category,
but for many who saw the film, especially those with adoption connections, it is a more
important film than any Oscar winner, because it portrays the truth, and is the first major
motion picture to show birth mothers as real people, not stereotypes of saints or evil
personified. Its the kind of film one might see over and over, and gain something
new each time. Even if it were fiction, which it is not, it would be true in a larger
sense, because it makes the loss of relinquishment and adoption real. Its not a
fairy story of Once there two parents who wanted a child and God chose this one
for them, and all lived happily ever after.
Excerpted from the April 2014
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2014 Operation Identity