The Dark And Morbid Secrets Found In Most Colonial Nunneries

From the corruption of the Vatican, lavish popes willing to kill their adversaries, or the many cases of child abuse we still see today the dark side of the Catholic Church.

When I was a child, my family loved to tell me scary stories. Supposedly, these happened at every corner of Tlalpan, one of the most important colonial neighborhoods in Mexico City. Most of them were just nonsense and others were just different versions of urban legends. But, there are a couple of stories that, though they sounded like scary tales, happened to be true. One of them had to do with a secret passage between one of the many convents in the area and a seminar located a few blocks from my grandparent's house. The disturbing part of the story is not that the passages indeed existed, but what these had been hiding for many years. 

My father always told the story in which he had the chance to see what was below these ancient and imposing colonial buildings. According to him and some of his brothers, they adventured into the undercover passages of their hometown when they were altar boys. Passing besides tons of documents and objects that could have a huge historical value, they saw some sort of recipients that contained what they assure were human remains; remains of newborns or fetuses. My father has always said that it might have been the impression of the place or just the air of adventure, but he was sure he had seen that despite the fact that many told them they had got it all wrong. 

The truth is this is not just a story of one single kid. In fact, this story not only replicates all over the country, but in all the countries where the Catholic church used to rule. There are many cases of secret passages found under important colonial churches, convents, and monasteries that were used for many reasons. In most cases, these were made in order to take the nuns and priests directly to the church so that they wouldn’t have contact with the outside world. However, there’s been another theory, for more than a century, that states that these passages were in fact used by nuns and priests to fulfill their carnal needs. 

First, let’s see the facts and places that created these stories in Mexico. Around the 1860s, in the historical period known as the Reform Era, one of the main goals was to separate Church from State. The demolition or the expropriation of convents and monasteries became one of the "practical" measures to take power from them. Among the many surprises encountered in these acts, secret passages that connected local convents with churches and monasteries were found all over the country. Of course, this discovery led to all sorts of rumors, theories and legends like those that stated that priests and nuns had hidden colonial treasures underground or the one related to newborns and carnal desire. 

Now, to give it to my father and to validate what he says he saw, we have to admit that the Catholic faith has proved it is not as pious as they claim to be. Since immemorial times, we’ve heard about the corruption of the Vatican, lavish popes willing to kill their adversaries, or, nowadays, the million cases of child abuse around the world. These stories of children’s bodies found in convents and nunneries can be heard all over the Catholic world and they’re mainly the result of that stubborn insistence of portraying a holy institution with the moral (and even political and social) authority to impose a doctrine that is clearly a failure. We must also bear in mind that the Church is an extremely powerful institution in Mexico and, despite the many efforts of separating the state from this power, it's still an institution with a lot of influence and secrets.

I don’t doubt a bit that nuns and priests had sex. We’re all humans and sex isn’t something immoral. And, I understand that there's not enough material to proof these speculations. But, if the same story gets replicated over and over again through a huge country, there has to be some truth about it, or at least that’s what makes sense to me. Now, even if this was part of anti-Catholic propaganda made by the laic government (as established in the Christian forum I listed on the references), the hiding of fetuses or children’s corpses in churches and nunneries, can't be just an accidental discovery, one that has been found in other places of the Catholic world. 

For instance, a couple of years ago, news of over 800 bodies of babies and children were found in a convent in Tuem, Ireland. Not only it was disturbing, out of the obvious fact that we’re talking of almost a thousand children, but also because we’re constantly talked about the piety of religion, in this case, Catholicism. This encounters took over the news since it was hard to grab how a nunnery, in its tried to deal with the consequences of “forbidden” pregnancies, went completely against this image of saintliness of the institution.

So, let’s give it to the pious church that their members weren’t “sinners”, in terms that they had sex with each other. But, religious culture isn’t that different between Ireland and Mexico. The stigma of pregnancies outside marriage has been around everywhere. And, as my father and uncles were convinced about what they saw, there are many other people that have had the same unfortunate discoveries, so this theory of unwanted pregnancies doesn’t sound as far-fetched when you see proved cases like the one in Tuem.


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