Spoiler Alert

I've just been to see 'Philomena' and please, if you intend on seeing this movie, don't read any further… SPOILERS ahead.

For those who haven't heard of it, it's a stunning movie, inspired by a the true story of Philomena Lee, a woman who at 15 was shipped off to one of the Magdalene homes for unwed mothers in Ireland to have her illigitimate baby. He stayed at the home with her, where she was allowed to see him for an hour a day, until he was adopted at age 3 by an American couple.

This movie is a wonderful summary of all that is terrible and all that is wonderful about our faith and it's history. Philomena was treated horrifically by the nuns (Sisters of the Sacred Heart) – she underwent a breach birth without a doctor, was held prisoner for the next four years (girls were not able to leave the convent after their babies were born unless they could pay the nuns 100 pounds (to cover the costs of their care), instead staying on to wash laundry and pay off their debt), she repeatedly visited the convent as a adult to try and track down her son but was told they had no idea where he was and that all records were destroyed in a fire. It becomes clear during the course of the movie that the nuns destroyed the records themselves in a fire to cover up the fact that they were selling these babies for 1000 pounds each to rich Amercian Catholic couples – no doubt with the very best of intentions.

What is also revealed at the end of the movie is that the nuns knew all along where her son was. He too had been visiting the convent over the years searching for his birth mother. He even visited it in his last months of life (after being diagnosed with AIDS) begging to be given her contact details and, after his death he asked to be buried at the convent so that his mother might one day find him. She now visits his grave regularly there. When asked why they had not told her of his wherabouts (literally a few metres from the office she sat in asking about him) she was told that she had sinned (as an unwed mother) and that it was punishment for her offence against God.

So, that is all that is tragic in our past. The Catholic Church does indeed have some shocking things to atone for.

But at the very end of the movie, Philomena also sums up all that is great about our faith. The journalist who accompanies her on her search for her son storms into the convent and lets fly at the nuns. He is full of rage and anger at what she has been through at the hands of these women. Philomena asks him to stop. He turns to her, incredulous, and says, "What? After all they've done, you're just going to do nothing?" She answers him, "No." Then she pauses and turns to the nun who has lied to her for all of these years. The audience of course thinks that she is going to let all of her anger out and tell this nun what she thinks of her. But instead she says, "I forgive you." And walks out.

It's obvious to all watching that Philomena has taken the hardest road. The easiest thing would be to hate these nuns, to scorn the Church and to tell everyone the pain they had caused her. Instead, she is never seen to say a bad word against them. She remains a commited Catholic and instead of hate, she chooses forgiveness. Very powerful stuff. I believe it was her years of commited faith and prayer that allowed her to be the amazing woman she is.

It's also inspired me to think differently about all of those people who use the Church's scandals as an excuse for why they are no longer practicing. Maybe this is just an 'easy' option for them. Next time I meet one I'm going to challenge them to forgive and see what their response is.




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    Comments: 48

    1. Lucia Maria January 8, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      Hi Mary and Martha,

      You might like to have a look at my post on the same topic: http://nzconservative.blogspot.com/2014/01/st-philomenas-church-in-new-plymouth.html

      A lot of what the nuns did that was considered not good was actually made up, as has come out since the movie was released.  The writer has admitted to artistic liscense.  It's basically been turned into an anti-Catholic propaganada movie.

      From the link at the bottom of my post:

      'The nuns from the convent featured "Philomena" also took issue with the film, however their complaints were directed at how their convent's specific actions were portrayed. Speaking to the Catholic magazine The Tablet (via The Independent), a nun from the convent named Sister Julie said the nunnery never destroyed the adoption records or made money on the adoptions it set up for the children of women like Lee, as was suggested by the film. She added that one of the film's characters Sister Hildegarde McNulty – who "Philomena" depicts as treating Philomena particularly scornfully – was actually very concerned with reuniting mothers like Lee with their children. According to Sister Julie, the filmmakers had informed the convent that they would be including and taking artistic license with Sister Hildegarde's character, even though McNulty died in 1995.'

    2. beyblade January 8, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      Hi M & M – Philomena decided to forgive in the movie however (I saw it last night) straight after that scene she changed her mind again and decided to make public her experiences.

      LM – you say that there was a lot of artistic license with this movie – I watched the Magdalene Sisters (pretty sure that's what it was called) a few years ago – a priest actually recommended it to me – and what struck me was the hostile undercurrents to sexuality within these female communities and I could recognise them because my mother used to act a lot like them – yes she was taught by the nuns and apparently was going to become one before my grandfather stepped in – for example I remember going to see Grease years ago along with my mother and sister and the whole trip back home was a diatribe against the musical and us girls enjoyment of it – we were 16 and 14 at the time, and to us it was just a romance.

      It would be interesting to know how much of it was true.

    3. Lucia Maria January 8, 2014 at 5:16 pm


      With a bit of searching I found two articles on The Magdeline Sisters

      The first from the Catholic League, who call it anti-Catholic propaganda (http://www.catholicleague.org/the-magdalene-sisters-anti-catholic-propaganda/).

      From the second (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/augustweb-only/8-11-42.0.html), and without seeing the film and doing just a cursory bit of research, this might very well be the key phrase:

      'In the case of The Magdalene Sisters, almost every critic agrees that "the Maggies," as they were called, were indeed mistreated by the church. But they also agree that the movie unnecessarily exaggerates the situation, rigging the movie to provoke audiences toward outrage instead of productive, balanced, and redemptive understanding.'

    4. Dominican January 8, 2014 at 7:17 pm

      The last acceptable prejudice – anti Catholicism.  Great  movie -NOT. Let  it be remembered that

      60 years ago it was extremely rare for an unmarried mother to keep her baby.  Adoption of these babes was the norm

    5. Teresina January 8, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      I can only speak from my experience with the Sisters of Mercy and they were lovely in the main – only one at secondary school was rather nasty – in fact the one lay teacher that I had at primary school kept us in the dark with blinds down most of the day.  On the other hand I have to say there were a lot of girls who were difficult – I certainly wouldn't have wanted to teach them.  They would make disparaging remarks about the nuns and were quite capable of lying as well.  What the nuns taught us about sexuality was to have self respect but of course there were those who didn't want any kind of discipline and wanted to do things their own way.  

      In the case of the Magdalene sisters apparently this is now being seen as a case of Catholic bashing as reported by Brendan O'Neill in the Telegraph:

      "The publication last week of the Irish government's McAleese Report on the Magdalene laundries has proved kind of awkward for Catholic-bashers. For if McAleese's thorough, 1,000-page study is to be believed, then it would appear that those laundries were not as evil and foul as they had been depicted over the past decade. Specifically the image of the laundries promoted by the popular, much-lauded film The Magdalene Sisters – which showed them as places where women were stripped, slapped, sexually abused and more – has been called into question by McAleese. This has led even The Irish Times, which never turns down an opportunity to wring its hands over Catholic wickedness, to say: "There is no escaping the fact that the [McAleese] report jars with popular perceptions."

      In the Irish mind, and in the minds of everyone else who has seen or read one of the many films, plays and books about the Magdalene laundries, these were horrific institutions brimming with violence and overseen by sadistic, pervy nuns. Yet the McAleese Report found not a single incident of sexual abuse by a nun in a Magdalene laundry. Not one. Also, the vast majority of its interviewees said they were never physically punished in the laundries. As one woman said, "It has shocked me to read in papers that we were beat and our heads shaved and that we were badly treated by the nuns… I was not touched by any nun and I never saw anyone touched." The small number of cases of corporal punishment reported to McAleese consisted of the kind of thing that happened in many normal schools in the 1960s, 70s and 80s: being caned on the legs or rapped on the knuckles. The authors of the McAleese Report, having like the rest of us imbibed the popular image of the Magdalene laundries as nun-run concentration camps, seem to have been taken aback by "the number of women who spoke positively about the nuns".


      There are many well known New Zealand women who credit the nuns with their successful careers: "'I've made my living out of the nuns. They set me up for everything I've done since', 
      begins Catherine Saunders in Jane Tolerton's Convent Girls".  I have heard Maggie Barry, Pam Corkery among others speak positively about their convent education.  I am most grateful for mine.  There will always be some who mock and embellish things and so I take a lot of what I read with a grain of salt – just as I did back then – even at an early age you could tell who were the ones going to land themselves in trouble and then cry about it.

    6. withhope January 8, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      Blimey, that movie was like, hilter in habits-watch-out. My mother's generation were schooled by nuns and had pretty much nothing but praise for hard-working personally concerned upright religious with an unbending sense of Christian responsibility.

      As for caning on the legs and across the knuckles, I got this from long-haired hippie teachers in the 70s, when we learned happy little songs in class like, 'suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it if I please…the game of life is hard to play…'


      We had one teacher, Mr Para, had a cricket bat with nails driven through it. He used to twirl it in class and then smash it down on people's desks for effect. People used to have to bend over to the bat as well, wondering if it would be nails or wood, of course, as far as I know, it was never the nails.

      would anyone else like to share any dodgy teachers stories? I'd be willing to bet they'd sweep from memory and 'evil' nuns in habits with rulers.

    7. withhope January 9, 2014 at 12:21 am

      quick BF poll, if any is of the age where your teachers taught you, 'if ya happy and ya know it clap ya hands', did you also get taught the M.A.S.H theme song? seriously. hippies, vii, it all sort means mash to me.

    8. withhope January 9, 2014 at 12:56 am

      you guys are strict with the blog rites; slightly or radically off 'topic' during, before, or after Holy Mass, however, not so strict.

    9. Teresina January 9, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Withhope, a friend of mine tells me that a few years after Vatican II at school the nuns made them go through the hymnals and cut out all the hymns that were regarded as too sentimental: Soul of my Saviour, etc.  I guess that was the beginning of the hippie era which is still flourishing in Hamilton Diocese and the children at the school Mass sing clapping-type songs about "Our God".  I cringe when a priest at Mass says "our God" because it implies they accept that there are other gods.

    10. Werahiko January 9, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      Do you also cringe at the implications of the Lord's prayer, which implies, by your logic that there are other fathers in heaven? And how about the whole 'having no other gods before me' thing? Cringeworthy too? To say nothing of 'Our Lady' and "Our Lord".

    11. Teresina January 9, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      The title "God" is expressly referred to in the Ten Commandments.  I have never heard of "our God" before and I think it is totally against the first commandment to use that expression.  I also cringe when a man stands up in church in a local parish and prays to the gods of the trees.  No doubt he felt free to do that because of the use of the term "our God" in recent years.  Do you cringe at that Werahiko?

    12. Teresina January 9, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      I remind you Werahiko that there is only God and He is God of all not "our God" remember that.

    13. Teresina January 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      I remind you Werahiko that there is only ONE God and He is God of all not "our God" remember that.

    14. Werahiko January 9, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      I find it hard to believe that someone stood up and 'prayed' to the 'god of the trees'. If you are talking about Tane Mahuta, references in karakia are best interpreted in the same way as we would interpret someone saying in a prayer: 'let Justice prevail' or 'may Liberty come to our land'. Personification and the accompanying idiom of apostrope (calling on personifications, not the thing people leave out of possessives) are familiar in western and Catholic traditions, and can be recognised in Maaori tradition also. Maaori do not, and did not, have a belief in 'personal gods' in the same sense that catholics belief in the existence of the three persons of the trinity, or of angels. They personified elemental and life forces, and gave them names. These are not 'false gods' because they are not gods at all. There. An answer to your question. How about an answer to mine? :)

    15. Teresina January 9, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Unfortunately, the person did stand up and pray to the gods of the trees and, yes, the person was a Maori.

      I answered your question by saying "The title 'God' is expressly referred to in the Ten Commandments".  Mention of Our Father in the prayer is not the same as you are unlikely to start a prayer "Father who art in heaven" are you?  Whereas "Our God" implies that we have our own separate god as does the expression used by some priests "Go with your god" whatever that means.   I have read that the term "our God" is out of deference to other religions but priests using that term imply their acceptance of other gods.  We have only one God who is lord of all (no matter what religion) and titles of "Our Lady" and "Our Lord" are merely titles of endearment meaning that they are our Lady and our Lord over other lords and ladies on earth..  

    16. withhope January 9, 2014 at 5:45 pm

      Teresina said: 'a few years after Vatican II at school the nuns made them go through the hymnals and cut out all the hymns that were regarded as too sentimental: Soul of my Saviour, etc. '


      Blimey – that sounds a bit mentally unhinged. Traumatic and utterly wierd for the kids. What a world.

    17. Don the Kiwi January 9, 2014 at 7:55 pm


      I cannot agree with your understanding of 'Our God'.                                                                 Werahiko is right when he says "Our Father, who art in Heaven……' refers to the one true God.

       It is much more appropriate to say, "Our Lord" instead of "The Lord".

      "our" does not refer to an individual claim to God, but a collective claim. The One True God is Our God – not the god of the pagans, not the god of the secularists  – money or wealth, fame or public adulation; Our God is one of eternal and infinite Love and compassion, of eternal power and justice – who has commanded us to love and obeY Him in accordance with His decrees.

      He is OUR GOD; the God of all who believe in Him, and obey Him as He was revealed to us by Our LORD and saviour, Jesus Chrust – His only begotten Son, who lives and reigns with Him in the communion of the Holy Spirit – One God, forever and ever.

      OUR GOD.                                 


    18. Don the Kiwi January 9, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      Consider also……."My Lord and My God." – St.Thomas's declaration of faith that we still use today during the Mass. He is Our God collectively, and My God individually to all of us – He is not being broken down by simple human language.

      Our God Reigns.

    19. Teresina January 9, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      No, Don, once you put "our" with "God" you limit Him to we Catholics.  If you check on Google you will see muslims saying "Our God is the same as your God".  Therefore, they definitely see a distinction being made.   I have never heard a priest say "our God" until recently.  God was always referred to as God because he's not the God of Catholics, Christians, Muslims.  He is the one true and only God creator of the human race.

    20. Don the Kiwi January 9, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Tersina.

      I don't follow your line of thinking.  The Church holds to the scriptures, OT and NT.

      First Commandment.     " I am the Lord YOUR God………….

      Ps. 22      "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?……..

      Ps. 48.      " For this God is OUR God……………..

      Ps 113       "Who is like the Lord, OUR God…………..

      And the early Church father, St. Augustine in "The City of God" :     "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of OUR God………….

      I, in fact, prefer to say "Our God" and "Our Lord" in preference to 'The God" and "The Lord", because it personalises God to us, rather than some impersonal God, like the non-religious theists. We call ourselves "the people of God". Therefore, He is OUR God.

    21. Teresina January 9, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      Hi Don, well, why then has God only ever been referred to as God in the past not "our God" which is a recent development?  I have never before until the last few years or so heard a priest say "Go with your God" or "Our God is a great God".  If you say "our Queen" you are referring to Queen Elizabeth because there are many queens in the world and so you are distinguishing who your queen is.  But there is only one God and so there is no need to distinguish.  When God is referred to in the Old Testament as "your God" it was because the Israelites were in a land where there were many gods and God was making clear that He was the one and only God of Israel.  I can understand "Our Lord" because there are many lords and we are distinguishing that He is Our Lord but there is only one God and he is everybody's God – so if you have to use a possessive why do you not say everybody's God? There is no need for a possessive to be used with "God" and if you do you are giving the idea there is more than one god.   I am sure if you think about it you will get my reasoning.  For example, I have never heard a traditional priest say that only the modern kind or Protestants.

    22. Werahiko January 10, 2014 at 12:16 am

      Teresina, leaving side my comments, Don has clearly given examples of the use of the term 'our God' in scriture and the fathers. You then ask why this has not happened in the past. I think you should read his post.

    23. Teresina January 10, 2014 at 12:16 am

      Actually, Don, there are others (Protestants) raising the same issue in particular about one of the praise and worship songs "Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other.  Our God is Healer, Awesome in Power, Our God! Our God!".

      Here is one point they make: "Second, whose God are we talking about anyway?  How do we define “our” God?  Is this the Christian God but not the Muslim God?  Or the Protestant God but not the Catholic God?  Or the Driscoll Mars Hill God but not the Bell Mars Hill God?  Who is the inside group and who is the outside group?  (And who gets to decide?)".

      That perhaps clarifies what I am saying.  All the hymns referring to "our God" are generally of Lutheran origin or more latterly praise and worship type songs.

    24. Teresina January 10, 2014 at 12:22 am

      Werahiko, I suggest you read this post and see where even Protestants are having trouble with this term: http://www.aaronniequist.com/blog/?s=did+we+just+sing+that%3F

      Their thoughts: "

      I’m sure that the songwriter is a godly person with fantastic intentions, and much of this language is from the scriptures, butmight a song like this reinforce a belief that we are the right ones and everybody else are the wrong ones? Could it make us less willing to consider that God’s family might be a little wider than our specific tribe?

      To be honest, if the chorus was “God You are greater, God You are stronger…”, I wouldn’t have a problem.
      I absolutely believe that all those traits – great, strong, healer, powerful, etc – are absolutely true.
      But I just don’t think that “we” own Him."

    25. Werahiko January 10, 2014 at 12:55 am

      Teresina, words mean something, and the words you have complained of do not have the meaning in common or technical usage that you ascribe to them. And Exodus 6:7 (among others) makes it clear that God has no objection to being 'ours': And I will take you to myself for my people, I will be your God:

    26. Teresina January 10, 2014 at 1:19 am

      Yes, Werahiko, words do have meaning and I and others do not agree with you.  The definition of "our" :  possesive pronoun: our 1.belonging to or associated with the speaker and one or more other people previously mentioned or easily identified.

      "Jo and I had our hair cut";


      So when children sing, "Our God is a great god" many will think of god as one of many and a Catholic god at that.

    27. Werahiko January 10, 2014 at 9:33 am

      You are shifting your ground. I am continuing to defend the priest who used the term 'our God'. I am quite happy to agree that "Our God is a great god" does not exclude the possible existence of other gods, although it does not state this. The same could be said of the first commandment, of course. Your dictionary definition makes clear the priest's intention, to make the point that God is associated with the whole congregation, jointly ans severally. That is entirely orthodox, and while it does not exclude all other possible interpretations of 'our', neither does it imply them.

    28. Teresina January 10, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Werahiko, I am not shifting my ground.  My original comment was: "and the children at the school Mass sing clapping-type songs about "Our God".  I cringe when a priest at Mass says "our God" because it implies they accept that there are other gods".  That's my impression when they say "our God" that they are distinguishing between gods.  Why do we need "our" with "God"?  It is completely unnecessary and it is added to distinguish – there is no other reason for it. 

    29. Werahiko January 10, 2014 at 10:56 am

      I accept entirely Teresina that this is your impression on hearing the words 'our God'. However, the inference you draw from the words is clearly not intended, as the scriptural references already given indicate. The next question is of course whether a priest, or someone writing a hymn for children should anticipate the impression you have of the meaning of these words, and edit accordingly. In my view the impression you have would be rare, if not unique. I would therefore not suggest to the priest that he change the words to 'God' and rather than he correct your impression when you raise it with him. I think the default assumption you should work on is that a Catholic priest is a monotheist, and interpret his words in that context, unless, of course, he says something like: 'There are many gods who exist as spiritual persons, of which our God is one'.

    30. withhope January 10, 2014 at 11:28 am

      wery said:  They personified elemental and life forces, and gave them names. These are not 'false gods' because they are not gods at all. 


      absolute dissembling smelly stuff. If you continue to believe this Wery you're jumped off the narrow path, and have no understanding whatsoever about how God moulded Israel to cleanse them of every last stain of paganism. It He hadn't we could never have the Immaculate Conception.


      Certainly the are numerous instances in scripture referring to Our God, the Lord Our God, etc in a clear context of God who IS God, not a demon/nature spirit that used take the attention of the ignorant who were then enlightened with the Gospel and so gave their attention to devils not more.

    31. withhope January 10, 2014 at 11:30 am

      just because some demons are labelled maori demons doesn't excuse them from being demons – elitist, somewhat in a totally perverse way.

    32. Teresina January 10, 2014 at 11:48 am

      As I point out above, even protestants are saying that to say "Our God" is defining a god of ours.  Why do you think it is necessary to put "our" with "God"?  It is a recent development in sermons.  Why?  I suggest it is because those priests who say that are distinguishing between the different religions and the gods of those religions.  That is plainly wrong because God is the one true God of everyone – including athiests and agnostics, Catholics, Jews, Protestants and Muslims.  In fact, if a priest says "Go with your God" and an athiest is present and his god is money then the athiest can easily accept that but if the priest said "Go with God" then the athiest will reject it because he doesn't believe in god, per se.

      Can you find reference to "Our God" in the New Testament other than a quote from the Old Testament?  The fathers of the Church when mentioning "Our God" are quoting the psalms and references in the Old Testament and as I said that was said to distinguish between the different gods that were being worshipped at the time.

    33. Werahiko January 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      Mark 12:29 – And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments [is], Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

      Jude 1:4 – For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

      Hebrews 12:29 – For our God [is] a consuming fire.

    34. Werahiko January 10, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      And while we are at it:ENCYCLICAL LETTER

      If we remove faith in God from our cities, mutual trust would be weakened, we would remain united only by fear and our stability would be threatened. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that "God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them" (Heb 11:16). Here the expression "is not ashamed" is associated with public acknowledgment. The intention is to say that God, by his concrete actions, makes a public avowal that he is present in our midst and that he desires to solidify every human relationship. Could it be the case, instead, that we are the ones who are ashamed to call God our God? That we are the ones who fail to confess him as such in our public life, who fail to propose the grandeur of the life in common which he makes possible? Faith illumines life and society. If it possesses a creative light for each new moment of history, it is because it sets every event in relationship to the origin and destiny of all things in the Father.


    35. withhope January 10, 2014 at 2:29 pm

      and while we are at it, all pagan respect for demons is a worship of false gods. Don't be decieved. Christ didn't some to make peace with the devil, or lies, or convolute peoples faith. 


      ' Could it be the case, instead, that we are the ones who are ashamed to call God our God?' I think you've misunderstood what Teresina is on about. Is seems to me her approach is one of clarity and respect. As this country  sinks further and further into the convolutions of paganism, athiestism, religious indifference etc. we need to be clear Who we are worshipping. Despite the machinations of a couple of recent Popes, the Magisterium down the ages has been clear that the God we confess is a Trinity of Three Divine Person, yet One God Almighty. The second person of the Trinity, the Incarnate Son of God, the Word made Flesh, is denied by Jews, Muslims, masons and on and on. No once can 'confess' the True God, who will not confess the Holy Trinity.

    36. Werahiko January 10, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      So Withhope, if someone refers to 'Mother Nature' are they talking about a demon? If not, what are they doing, and how do you distinguish this from the Maori practice of referring to the atua tuturu, or personifications of various aspects of nature?

    37. Teresina January 10, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      Werahiko, Our Lord there is quoting Deuteronomy 6:4 and the wording in the Duoay Rheims translation (which is a translation from the Latin Vulgate) is quite different: "And Jesus answered him: The first commandment of all is, Hear, O Israel: the Lord thy God is one God. 30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment."  No mention of "our God" there at all.   

    38. Teresina January 10, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      As Withhope points out it is a matter of clarity that there is only one God.

    39. Teresina January 10, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      Werahiko, the way the term "Mother Nature" is used these days is no longer just a poetical term.  You have groups who believe that nature exists separately from God and that in fact there is no god only nature.  Wiki defines Mother Nature: Mother Nature (sometimes known as Mother Earth or the Earth-Mother) is a common personification of nature that focuses on the life-giving and nurturing aspects of nature by embodying it in the form of the mother. Images of women representing mother earth, and mother nature, are timeless. In prehistoric times, goddesses were worshipped for their association with fertilityfecundity, and agricultural bounty. Priestesses held dominion over aspects of IncanAlgonquianAssyrianBabylonianSlavonicGermanicRomanGreekIndian, and Iroquoian religions in the millennia prior to the inception of patriarchal religions".

      When you say "the Maori practice of referring to the atua tuturu or personifications of various aspects of nature" are you saying that these practices are  merely poetical?  If not then they fall under paganism as Withhope points out.


    40. Benedicta January 10, 2014 at 5:28 pm



      As the posting is about this movie I would like to comment that…

      I won't be going to see it. I am sorry that she and her child suffered…there is no excuse when one considers the sanctity of life, the dependence of infants on their mothers (and fathers)  a bond which is sacred, and the divine command to love God and one's neighbour. In Philomena's case as history attests ad nauseam that neither God nor one's neighbour is ever very well served.

      BUT I want to point out four things from my own experience as a student nurse in the 70s and one from my own family history and a final comment:

      1) A woman I came to know as firm acquaintance told me her story as a pregnant woman in her early 20s a few years prior to me meeting her. She was unmarried and put the baby up for adoption. As a patient at Wellington Hospital she felt 'roughly handled' because she was unmarried.

      2) Another closer friend was in the same predicament and also had the baby adopted by a nurse at the hospital she had met prior. She also felt 'roughly handled' during her delivery (not involving in anyway the adoptive parent to be).

      3) As a student nurse in the Wellington area I spent quite some weeks in maternity (which generally I loved). The charge nurse was married to a specialist doctor and was a strict individual. At that time unmarried mothers putting there babies up for adoption signed the first stage toward that at 11 days after the birth of the baby. I think the process finished around the end of the babies first year all going smoothly. Until the mother signed that paper the baby was hers and no one else's. Regardless of this precious time of 11 days (mothers mostly stayed in for a week or so after delivery at that time) when the mother had the chance to come to know her baby and find peace of mind in whatever decision she made this Charge Nurse refused to let these mothers have their babies 'rooming in'. They were restricted in seeing their babies and for the most part were not allowed to see their babies. In so far as this Charge Nurse could frustrate the mother she would. Having a Specialist husband (with clout and influence in the hospital no doubt gave her to power to do as she liked).

      4) A young maori mother who had had three babies when not married and had now delivered a fourth was threatened by her obstetrician that he would sterilise her if he saw her again. I might add she was very upset by his threat and seemed a person who was loving and caring but leaned on her family who had placed all her babies within their own kin.

      These were not Catholics nor Catholic hospitals but our Public Hospitals. At that time there was a sense of shame for women to have their babies at Wellington Public as the 'ship girls' had their babies there…respectable women had their babies at St Helen's. I wonder how the 'ship girls' fared?

      My own family history in Scotland around 1900 reveals a strong and good family of mining stock and religious in the Church of Scotland. My great grandfather I have enormous respect for the stability he gave my family in trying times through many serious circumstances. He never failed them. As a widowed miner of eight children the middle daugther called Jessie at 13 years of age was sent into service in a nearby town. I don't know what happened but I am certain that she was an innocent young girl and well loved by her family. At just barely 14 years she gave birth to a baby girl called Agnes in the nearby local hospital. I think Jessie could hardly, like Philomena no doubt, have barely understood what was happening to her. I have seen her hospital records etc and can attest to the story that my grandmother never mentioned no doubt for the shame of it. Such was the view of things. Jessie and Agnes were taken home by my great grandfather (thank you great grandfather). At that time he would have had to appear before the Kirk of the town and explain what had happened to his daughter. The morals of the poor where for public scrutiny. Baby Agnes and Jessie are both in the census for Scotland at great grandfathers house but after Agnes first birthday she disappears from history. What happened to her? I don't know. Was she adopted? Did she die (I don't think so). I truly don't know. I do know that Jessie never married and later returned home to her father after being in service and he nursed her with a terminal illness for two years. I don't think she would have gone home to him as a forty year old if she had anything against great grandfather.

      Such were the times…how do we judge them? I don't know….they did their best. I see Philomena's story like this. Perhaps other characters interfered like the Charge Nurse paid by our secular state taxes…for the better you see. Such is human judgement.

      BUT MY FINAL COMMENT IS THIS….I will hate the hypocrisy of filmmakers and elected or official commentators of the British persuasion in particular when the want to haul the Catholics in particular over the coals. Why…..? because they are hypocrites and despisers of the poor and dejected. They have NEVER apologised to the poor of Britain for the Workhouses….where married couples, the elderly, children and babies were cruelly mishandled and rejected by society. It is an official outrage that haunted those like my ancestors that filled them with dread and shame that they or their children or parents could end up in such a place.

      So hang the film Philomena! The sheer scale of trauma and tragedy wrought by the British government and the 'good' public is shocking. GK Chesterton made a point in a similar vein of disgust…when headlice became a problem….the government ORDERED the hair of young girls of poor families to be cut off.

      I am sorry for Philomena but I am sorrier that the official government of Britain can get away with such abuse and not even get a mention for sheer scale and audacity…Magdalene Laundries if they be such shocking places would have only learned it from the British…I don't think the Italians set them up?



    41. withhope January 10, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      If you're seeing a 'personification of an aspect of nature', W., you're seeing a demon. there's a reason people can be too scared to cut down that old tree because it's ''lived' in. If you go ahead and cut it down and you don't use the name of Christ to send the inhabitant somewhere infernal, one will probably have a lot of trouble unless one brings in an elder, to pacify the thing and give it a new 'home.' Maoridom is still very close to it's pagan bequest, perhaps that bequest to a larger extent is still intact.When you say referring to – its still a very practical relationship, and as Teresina said, it's not some innocuous metaphor. There's a reason the Prophets went about destoring the Asherah trees. There's a reason the temple became, (and indeed 'sanctuaries become), defiled. It happens by inviting that which is foreign to the sacred, and while nature is good, as God saw, a Temple was needed to set aside sacred things. This is why outdoor Masses are a scandal and utterly opposed to authentic Judeo-Christian sacred practice. "Sacred things are always protected by barriers, walls, limits, boundaries." 

    42. withhope January 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      Benedicta said: They have NEVER apologised to the poor of Britain for the Workhouses….where married couples, the elderly, children and babies were cruelly mishandled and rejected by society.


      We're are taught to have short memories, these days. 


    43. Lucia Maria January 10, 2014 at 6:47 pm


      Brilliant comment that will hopefully bring this thread back on track.

    44. MaryandMartha January 10, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      Thank you Beneficta for sharing your personal stories. Absolutely fascinating. Personal stories told without exaggeration and from the heart are more powerful than any Hollywood blockbuster. I wonder what happened to little Agnes?


    45. MaryandMartha January 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      **BeneDicta – sorry for the error… posting from my phone

    46. Benedicta January 10, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      Thanks M&M.

      Yes I wondered and still wonder what happened to her. The fact my great aunt went back to her father later in life tends to imply goodwill between them. So I just think both of them made the best decisions at the time…unless of course little Agnes became ill…but I can't find any record of her death.

      I have to say it was a little shock to find this story (amongst a few others!!).

      A slight diversion to say that I like many others feel the tie of kinship to many I have never met. Their stories are my stories. This must come through in Philomena (a film I haven't seen!)….that the intense tie between mother and son is never broken even though they hardly knew each other. That doesn't mean the memories or even subsequent meetings would be welcome or peaceful but they still deeply matter to how we come to know who we actually are.

      So there is also a hypocrisy unearthed perhaps in films which cast moral aspersion on this particular aspect….the separating of mother and child….and yet in the same way and through the same media would promote the benefits of IVF and surrogacy in various life stories as ways to help overcome the pain of infertility. But in essence it essentially achieves this by separating the biological parents or parent from the baby or negates the essential role of mothering in carrying a baby to term.

      Its all so strange. With Philomena – wrong has been done to her and to her son….in life stories of IVF, surrogacy etc no bond exists which can't be broken and reconstructed by science and this isn't a wrong but for those who ask for it a right. But the child? Are these children the future Philomenas? The ones suffering because of profound loss from ties forced apart?

      More hypocrisy…

      I don't know much about the Magdalene Laundries or how we can achieve a moral utopia without suffering…but I think it rank injustice to pick and choose between a few Irish nuns enculturated in Catholicism reeking of Jansenism and essentially formed in the social systems of the British. Does the British government, in its rabid treatment of its own people, claim a lesser moral authority than the Catholic Church? That would be an admission of monumental proportions considering ALL its acts are signed by the Royal Head of State and the Church.


    47. Rubyshine January 13, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      Went to see Philomena today, and what I found most interesting was not so much what the Catholic church may or may not have done wrong, but the interplay between Philomena and the journalist, and how they were both presented.

      As I see it, Philomena is presented as a bit of a simpleton with a deep faith. The journalist considers himself a bit of an intellect with no faith. Yet in many ways she is shown to have a better understanding of the more important things in life. There are some lovely scenes where she basically questions what he has, and where his snideness has gotten him.

      I was also drawn to the journalist because when it first occurred to me that I believed in God, I recoiled from the idea because as someone who prides themself on being logical and scientific, it's just completely unscientific. I think a lot of people struggle with the idea of religion because there is no "proof" and as a culture we are encouraged to think critically, and seek proof.

      This exchange:

      Philomena: Do you believe in God, Martin?
      Martin: [Exhales] Where do you start? I always thought that was a very difficult question to give a simple answer to. … Do you?
      Philomena: Yes.

      I think is particularly lovely for summing up that belief in God really is that simple, and that perhaps the modern world is endlessly over-complicating things.

      By the end of the film the journalist has clearly come to appreciate and respect Philomena's faith, and again for me it was an appreciation of other people's faith that started to draw me in to the idea of God.

      The underlying idea of not judging someone is a nice take away from the film. On the surface we think Philomena is a simple elderly lady, who we learn has a depth of understanding, emotion, and embraces her who her son is. She is neither shocked nor judgemental of him being gay, and simply accepts the person he is, the person she always knew he was, which of course is a key idea of who we believe Jesus to be.

      So yes you could say it's anti-catholic film, but I really don't think that's the most interesting thing about it. There will always be lovely nuns, and horrible nuns because there will always be lovely people and horrible people, it's just the nature of humans. It's like the Dan Brown book, "Angels and Demons" yes a priest goes crazy and kills the pope and it's all about how much the church hates science, but dig beneath that and there are some really thought-provoking passages on things like why science needs religion.

      I appreciate that many/most readers and viewers will just see the surface of any text, but I'm glad I went to see it.

    48. Benedicta January 14, 2014 at 6:30 am

      That sounds like a fair commentary Rubyshine. Before this posting came up I had read a review by Francis Phillips (I think) in Catholic Herald UK and she also was content with the emphasis being on Philomena's response and so on.

      I think many many Catholics are a bit tired of the overall themes chosen….corrupt Church etc. I was watching Robin Hood last night, some anyway and have saved it for later, and the Church comes off badly again (at least in the beginning…I haven't finished it). I also watched Pillars of the Earth in the last four or five months and the most evil character was the Abbot…not to mention every other crazy monk and Bishop. I like the main female character which is why I continued to watch it.