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Religious Tolerance logo

Roman Catholic church,and basic religious information

Baby kidnapping and trafficking activities
within the Roman Catholic Church

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Allegations of massive mumbers of newborns trafficked for profit:

The Toronto Star reports:

"Stolen babies have a long history in Spain. During the reign of General Francisco Franco (1936-1975) tens of thousands of children were stolen, beginning in the 1930s. Children were taken from left-leaning parents and placed with more politically suitable families to protect their 'moral education.' Others were taken from single mothers and given to 'proper' Catholic homes.

'In Spain, the precedent was really set during the civil war,' said Antonio Lafarga Sábado, [husband of Luisa Fernanda Marin Valenzuela, one of the mothers whose newborn was kidnapped.] 'But the weird thing is, it just carried on. It didn’t stop.'

As Spain became a democracy, those with access to newborns appear to have carried on the tradition because the trade was so lucrative. ..."

One woman has told reporters that in 1969, a priest encouraged her to fake a pregnancy until a child became available for purchase. And a man who drove babies' caskets to a cemetery in southern Spain says at least 20 of the boxes were far too light to hold children’s remains — or, for that matter, to hold anything at all." 1

Stories and rumors of a massive scandal involving "stolen babies" after the Franco regime had ended has rocked Spain early in the 2010s. Enrique Vila, a Barcelona lawyer who specalizes in adoptions estimates that during about three decades from the 1950s to the early 1980s, as many as 300,000 newborn babies were kidnapped, and either given or sold to adopting parents. This represents about 15% of all adoptions at the time! In some cases, the mothers were informed that their newborns had died. Some of them were given weighted caskets and were said to contain the body of their newborn. In three cases, caskets have allegedly been exhumed and found to be empty of human remains. In at least one case, a dead newborn was kept in a hospital freezer so that it could be thawed out and shown to mothers who had just given birth to convince them that her baby was stillborn.

The scandal and tragedy is not confined to Spain. Cases have surfaced in the United States, UK and other countries. It may be a systemic problem in the Catholic church, much like the sexual abuse of youths and children by priests and the later Church coverups.

On 2012-APR-02, testimony was heard in the first in what will probably be hundreds of cases involving priests, nuns, doctors midwives, and undertakers charged with kidnapping infants and selling them to adopting parents for profit. This case involved Maria Pilar who had just recently celebrated her 30th birthday, Lisa Torres, her mother, and Sister Maria Gomez Valbuena. Torres and Pilar alleged in testimony before a Madrid court that Sr. Valbuena, a nun in her 80's, organized the theft of Pilar shortly after birth in 1982. Valbuena allegedly told Torres that "Your baby is dead. You gave birth to nothing." 2She was allegedly later told that the baby had lived but was being taken away from her as punishment because she was born out of wedlock. Torres said that Valbuena had collected money from the adoptive parents but none was given to the mother.

Torres and Pilar had been aware of the kidnapping and had tried to locate each other for years. Torres had kept her baby's blanket and pacifier for years in the hope of returing them to her daughter. A televison program reunited them in 2011-JUL. Their relationship had been verified through DNA testing.

Local media have reported that there are hundreds of women who have claimed that Sr. Valbuena was involved in the kidnapping of their babies. Many are still searching for their children. By 2011-OCT, regional prosectors in Spain were investigating 900 cases. This number is rapidly escalating.

It is difficult to conceive of the pain felt by the mothers and their families as a result of the theft of their newborns. First, they would have to come to terms with the apparent stillbirth of their child and go through the grieving process. More recently they must be experiencing great stress suspecting that their child is still alive and probably somewhere in Spain. Also, mothers of newborns who had actually died must be suffering from great anxiety currently not knowing whether their newborn actually did did decades ago.

The Spanish newspaper, El Pais, reported that many of the abductions had ocured at San Ramon and Santa Christin hosptals.

In the Torres/Pilar case, Valbluena has been charged with illegal detention, forgery of public and private documents, threatening behavior, and coercion, and other charges. She was allegedly involved with about 3,000 adoptions a year between 1967 and 1983 -- perhaps 50,000 in total.

Torres told the media after her court appearance that she feels Valbuena deserves the: "ultimate punishment. ... It has been very, very hard. I have had to relive everything a second time. The questions the judge asked me have caused me a lot of pain. On another occasion, she referred to Valbuena saying that if she "... doesn't pay for it here, I know she will pay for it up above."

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One of the stolen children, Antonia Barroso, 43, cried himself to sleep every night until he was twelve years-of-age. Other children had taunted him that "Your mother isn't your real mother." A close friend, Juan Luis Moreno, told Barroso in 2008 of his father's deathbed confession. It revealed that they had both been bought as newborns from a Catholic priest and nun. DNA analysis revealed that he was unrelated to the mother that raised him, even though her name was on his birth certificate as his biological mother. When confronted with the data, his mother confessed that she had paid 200,000 pesetas (about US $1,700) for him as a newborn. He said: "That was the price of an apartment back then. My parents paid it in installments over the course of 10 years because they did not have enough money."

Barroso said:

"It’s shameful that Spain, which likes to presume to be a law-abiding society, one that wants to give the impression of being a democratic, modern society, should have had this going on. You basically have to laugh so as not to break out crying."

According to Global Post:

"The Catholic church declined to comment on the matter. The Spanish Confederation of Religious Orders, a prominent Catholic organization, declined to comment due to the ongoing investigation. But a spokesperson added that the cases are 'very unpleasant' and hope that the full weight of the law is applied to the perpetrators 'whether they were members of a religious order or not'."

The implication is that whatever crimes were committed by nuns and priests were by individuals without involvement or at least the knowledge of others in their order, or by the Catholic Church itself. It is difficult to see how such a massive operation could be successfully run without the involvement of some type of organized effort.

Barroso organized the National Association for Victims of Irregular Adoptions (ANANIR). The group maintains a DNA data base for parents who believe that their children were kidnapped and for individuals who suspect that they were trafficked as infants. By 2010-FEB, more than 1,800 people have joined the group. They have set up their own DNA bank. By 2011-OCT, they had been able to reunite five families.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Mary Vallis, "Searching for Spain’s stolen babies," The Toronto Star, 2011-NOV-08, at:
  2. Meritxell Mir, "Spain;'s stolen baby scandal," Global Post, Boston, MA, 2011-OCT-03, at:
  3. "Nun charged over 40 year baby kidnapping scandal," Herald Sun newspaper, Australia, 2012-MAR-17, at:
  4. Wendy Gillis, "Spain’s stolen baby scandal gets its first day in court," The Toronto Star, 2012-APR-04, at:

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Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2012-APR-04
Latest update: 2012-APR-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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