The Associated Press has retracted key claims from its reports of an Irish Catholic home for unwed mothers supposedly burying hundreds of unbaptized infants in a septic tank. A correction issued June 20 explained that “the AP quoted a researcher who said she believed that most of the remains of children who died there were interred in a disused septic tank; the researcher has since clarified that without excavation and forensic analysis it is impossible to know how many sets of remains the [septic] tank contains, if any.” In addition, the AP said that it had wrongly reported that many of the children were unbaptized according to Church teaching. “The Associated Press incorrectly reported that the children had not received Roman Catholic baptisms; documents show that many children at the orphanage were baptized. The AP also incorrectly reported that Catholic teaching at the time was to deny baptism and Christian burial to the children of unwed mothers; although that may have occurred in practice at times it was not church teaching,” according to the statement. The organization also acknowledged that it had incorrectly identified the year in which the orphanage in question had opened. On June 3, the AP had broken a story claiming that a researcher had discovered the remains of hundreds of infants in a mass grave by a former home for single mothers near Tuam, Ireland that was run by Catholic nuns. The story had provoked widespread anger, and the local archbishop said he was horrified by the reports and encouraged a government investigation into the matter. However, critics of the report quickly began surfacing, claiming that the story was distorted and exaggerated. AP’s own source for the story, researcher Catherine Corless, lamented to the Irish Times that her work “has taken on a life of its own,” and said she never used the word “dumped” to describe the bodies being buried. In a June 22 opinion piece for the Washington Examiner, commentary writer T. Becket Adams slammed the AP, saying that it “did the public and the Catholic Church in Ireland a major disservice.” “The AP undoubtedly duped thousands of readers — readers who likely won’t notice the little-publicized correction — into thinking that a handful of Irish nuns behaved like monsters,” Adams said. “The narrative of child neglect and cruelty will stick, despite the story’s numerous inaccuracies, and it’ll likely stay that way as activist groups in the Emerald Isle increase their efforts to pull the Church to the left.”
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