Photo Credits: Wholistic Maternal and Newborn Health
A woman filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus because a priest from that church forced her to give up her son for adoption decades ago. Kathleen Chafin alleged on Wednesday that a Jesuit priest named Thomas Halley forced her to give her son up for adoption. She’s seeking $10 million for damages and relief.
Chafin had spent decades searching for a son she says she never wanted to give up for adoption. When they finally did meet, her years of despair turned into anger at the Catholic Church and one of its priests, who she alleges manipulated her and then removed her son from a hospital room 50 years ago.
When the mother first initiated an investigation about the adoption of her son, in 2015, a summary of the investigation — which involved interviews of Kathleen and 16 others — said Halley’s actions “seem born of a desire to avoid scandal and find good homes for babies of unwed mothers.” It also concluded that the priest was beloved and respected in Omaha; that he did nothing illegal; that the adoption followed Nebraska law; and that there was not “sufficient evidence to conclude that the infant was forcibly taken ... ”
Chafin wasn’t satisfied with those answers but angry and frustrated. “The process of the investigation was full of the same lies and manipulation I have experienced all my life,” she said. “I was furious.” She wanted a more independent investigation into Halley, and she says she was never given a copy of the full report. The Church convinced her it’d be better to give her child up for adoption than raise him herself. “I have his words etched in my brain,” she said. “He made me sound like a slut, like a streetwalker, like the worst person in the world.”
One source says more than 1.5 million women were told to give up their children for similar reasons around this time. It’s literally called the “Baby Scoop Era.” Institutions such as the Catholic Church helped isolate single mothers and pressured them to sign away their children. The question is whether the Church really helped them or just put young women in a state of despair because they gave up their children.
Halley has since died, and Chafin’s first lawsuit over “adoption conspiracy” was dismissed due to it coming long past the statute of limitations. She’s now filing the same lawsuit in federal court hoping for a different outcome.